Tomatoes Archive

Thursday, September 6, 2012

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

Okay, I know that despite everyone being back to school, people actually showing up to the office again, like, to work, again and Labor Day being but a blip in the rearview mirror that summer isn’t really over yet — it’s hot, the days are still relatively long and, no, I will not put my sandals away. But I can’t help it. As soon as the first day of September, one of my favorite months, arrives, my brain becomes fiercely rooted in all things fall. I grab cardigans on the way out the door. I crave soup. I walk right past the peaches at the market so I can get to the new apples instead. And I turn on the oven again to make deep, bubbly, and more filling meals.

sliced, then diced eggplant
salting and draining the eggplant

I have mixed feelings about traditional baked pasta dishes. I mean, if you show up to my place with a foil casserole dish of your grandma’s baked ziti, I will probably leap in your arms with relief because I don’t, in fact, always feel like making dinner. We will devour it; everyone will go to bed happy and my son will probably wonder why his mama can’t just cook like that. But I would probably never mix a pound of cheese or tub of ricotta into a casserole dish — it’s all too much, too heavy. And so, when I spied a baked orzo dish, with eggplant and just a modicum of mozzarella from Yotam Ottolenghi (sadly, not from his new cookbook out next month, because I am totally out of order), I knew it was everything I’d ever hoped and dreamed for in baked pasta — balance (there’s are pillows of eggplant throughout), comfort (there are decadent cheese pulls stretching from every forkful, a delightful term I learned from this article) and ease (like the easiest macaroni-and-cheese I know how to make, you don’t even need to pre-boil the pasta).

fresh oregano, I like you

Continued after the jump »

Friday, August 24, 2012

mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes

broiled feta with tomatoes and olives

A few summers ago, I discovered what I consider to be one of the greatest things that has ever been placed over oiled grill grates on a beachy summer evening, preferably while a glass of rose trickles condensation down your hand: grilled haloumi cheese. Maybe you’re Greek Cypriot or better versed in the world of grill-able cheeses than me and are nodding silently right now, lucky enough that this is old news. Or maybe you’re confused because I just said grilled cheese and really? There is nothing new about two slices of white bread fried in butter until the gooey orange runs over the crusts and your freak-of-a-toddler won’t touch it. But, of course, this is an entirely different kind, no bread, no butter and absolutely better in summer than any other time.

a big block of bulgarian feta
a basket of pretty tomato marbles

Haloumi, the star of the saganaki show, is like the hardest feta you’ve ever seen, and quite rubbery when cold. I bet that made you really hungry, right? But the thing is, when heated, it becomes tender in the center but not runny; it doesn’t fall apart, just blisters and sighs. The easiest way to eat it is sakanaki-style, with lemon juice, black pepper and pita bread. But my favorite way is finely chop a salad of fresh tomatoes, olives or capers, red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar and spoon it over the grilled haloumi slices. You dig in immediately and wonder where it has been all of your life.

halved cherry tomatoes

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

zucchini rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

As promised, I am here to aid you with you midsummer afternoon’s zucchini nightmare, er, bounty. But please, just because I try to help people who weren’t wary enough of friends bearing baskets of zucchini doesn’t mean that I should be mistaken for someone who never lets zucchini expire on her watch. I went away for the weekend and left my last haul to meet a terrible end in my kitchen. Let this gratin be my zucchini repentance.

sliced zucchini
lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini

I started making this zucchini rice gratin a few years ago. At the time, well, rice wasn’t my thing. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it, just that it never, ever occurred to me to make it, which likely related to the fact that I burned it 100% of the time I made it, which led to pot-soaking and -scrubbing and a plague about our apartment known as a Grumpy Dishwasher. It hardly seemed worth it for a bit of rice. I’ve since figured out that nearly every package of rice lists the wrong amount of water (I always need more) and that on the gas stoves I’ve had, even the thinnest wisp of a flame, the lowest I can make it before the burner goes out entirely, will cook my rice in about 2/3 of the suggested time. I share these tips just in case any of you out there also need to go to Rice Remedial School, though you guys seem smart. I bet you’ve got this figured out already, and long before you wrote a cookbook that uses it no less than three times.

mixing rice, onions, herbs, parmesan

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar

might have bubbled over a little

Lest you think I spend any part of my days doing Important Things — preparing, and totally not at the last second or haphazardly, for my only child’s second birthday, or for his first week of pre-preschool; assembling warm, wholesome meals for his lunch each day; meeting my manuscript deadline; dealing with the shoe bomb that went off in my closet, etc. — it’s only fair and honest that I tell you that I’ve spent a significant portion of the last year considering ways to merge grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in a single vessel.

ready to roast
in to be processed

In a way, though, it relates to all of those things (well, not the shoes). There’s something very back-to-school-ish about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and because it’s still September, if you’re lucky, you can still get some tomatoes worth eating, and if not that, at least worth cooking down. In my imagined intersections of grilled cheese and tomato soup, I dreamed of grilled cheese croutons in one-inch rounds but rejected it for being overly precious. I considered grilled cheese bread bowls, but never worked out the logistics. But it was when I revisited the ne plus ultra combination of cheese and soup — French Onion Soup — this past spring that I knew unequivocally that the very best solution would be to simply broil an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich on top of a bowl of tomato soup. The only thing left to do was to wait (and wait, and wait) for the slim overlap of tomato season, soup season and a gloomy, rainy week. And that, my friends, brings us to today.

pulsed roasted tomatoes, so good

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 8, 2011

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

One of the things I’ve been fiddling around with last year is the idea of making bruschetta without, you know, bread. I shared a Thanksgiving-inspired version last November, but was itching for a late summer spin on it when I created this. I’m the kind of person who would happily eat appetizers for dinner any day — I’m pretty sure if I had nobody else to feed, I’d have subsisted on nothing but pan con tomate, blistered padrons, pink wine and Gossip Girl season one reruns the entire month of August — but it doesn’t really cut it with a family of three.

ricotta salata, salty love

Instead, I spend a lot of time throwing things together for the sake of being a grown-up, a grown-up who doesn’t really have an excuse (such as, she hates cooking or doesn’t know how to cook, etc.) not to make dinner but still forgot to make it again, and quite often, these meals involve some element of roasting the bleep out of well-seasoned vegetables high heat cookery. For the kid, that usually suffices but we grownups get bored more easily, and it’s from that boredom that I started making small, finely chopped and loudly flavored salads and spooning them on top of my roasted vegetable du jour. In this case, it’s eggplant with a Mediterranean-ish topping. We found it completely addictive and less heavy somehow than eating the same on pieces of toast.

alone in the kitchen with an eggplant

Continued after the jump »


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