Pan con Tomate

After a truly memorable dinner of tapas and wine at Cúrate in Asheville, I took a momement to briefly thumb through their cookbook on my way out of the restaurant. While I did not take enough time to really absorb the photos and recipes, one page stuck with me. Their recipe for Tomato Bread included a description of rubbing garlic and halved tomatoes directly on toasted bread. Beautifully simple and  rustic.

A couple months later, I picked up the vegetables from our CSA one evening and I was handed a brown paper bag full of fresh tomatoes. My first thought was to make a red sauce for pasta, but then the recipe for Tomato Bread stirred in my mind. Not remembering the specifics, I searched the Internet for Pan con Tomate (tomato bread).

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Here is my take on Pan con Tomate:

First, make a small cut in the bottom of the tomatoes. Then, grate the tomatoes into a bowl, discarding the skin. The small cut helps start the grating process, otherwise the tomatoes slides along the grater rather ineffectively. The skin generally remains intact and is easy to remove from the top of the grater. Season the tomatoes with salt and minced clove fresh garlic to taste. I used about a half teaspoon salt and one clove of garlic to about two cups of grated tomatoes.

Slice a baguette in half longwise horizontally, then slice each half into 2 inch wide rectangles. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and broil it until browned. Rub a clove of garlic over the crispy bread and spoon the tomatoes over it. Finish with a light sprinkle of salt and a light drizzle of olive oil.

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Because Pan con Tomate is such a simple dish, the quality of the ingredients is very important. The tomatoes needs to be fresh and ripe. The olive oil should also be good quality. When done well, the dish should invoke feelings of eating at the beach or traveling the Iberian Peninsula.

Pan con Tomate makes a great tapa or a light dinner. It also goes well with a larger spread.

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Tomato Soup with Roasted Fennel and Chickpeas

Tomato soup with roasted fennel and chickpeas

I love community supported agriculture (CSA). For a couple of dollars each week, I get fresh, local produce that is in season, and I support my local economy. It also forces me to diversify my cooking and to be creative. For example, this past week we received savoy cabbage, kale, a fennel bulb, spinach, lettuce, carrots, and one lonely beet. The savoy cabbage and carrots were destined for Asian Rotisserie Chicken Salad (a recipe from http://www.CookSmarts.com). The spinach and lettuce are destined for green smoothies. There are numerous options for the kale. But what to do with fennel and a beet?

Fennel and a beet
What do you do with a fennel bulb and one beet?

I searched through my pantry for inspiration and came up with this idea for a soup made with the fennel, the beet, the kale, and a couple of pantry staples.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium beet
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas, drained
  •  3 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (32oz) carton low sodium chicken stock (vegetable stock would work also)
  • 1/2 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Trim any stalk from the beet. Coat the beet with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon of each). Wrap the beet in aluminum foil and put it in the oven. The beet should roast for 45 minutes to an hour, which is plenty of time to make the rest of the soup.

Toss the chopped fennel and the diced onion with two teaspoons of olive oil. Spread the fennel and onions evenly on a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 12 minutes. Stir the fennel and onion mixture and roast for another 5 minutes. Stir the vegetable mixture again and add the chickpeas. Roast the fennel, onions, and chickpeas for 10 minutes.Roasting the fennel like this really helps mellow its flavor. Remove the pan with the fennel, onions, and chickpeas from the oven, but let the beet continue to roast.

While the beet roasts, heat a tablespoon of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil together in a 6-quart dutch oven over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add in the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. The garlic should be a golden brown, but not burnt. Add in the dried chili flakes (you can add more if you prefer a spicier soup). Cook for an additional minute, then stir in the crushed tomatoes. Add in the balsamic vinegar. Let the tomato mixture cook for 3 minutes, then gradually stir in the chicken stock. Add in the lime zest and lime juice, the dried oregano, and the dried basil. The lime zest and juice adds a brightness to the soup that enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.

Add the roasted vegetables and chickpeas to the soup. Turn the soup down to low heat and let it simmer while the beet roasts. Once the beet has finished roasting, remove it from the oven and let it cool 10 minutes. Once cool, peel the outer skin from the beet, chop the beet, and add the chopped beet to the soup.

As a quick snack, I stole a slice of beet and put it on a Melba toast with a hunk of Mizithra cheese. Not a bad little snack to enjoy while the soup cooks.

Beet and Mizithra
A quick bite of beet and Mizithra on toast

Return the soup to medium heat and add the chopped kale. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper).

Tomato soup with roasted fennel and chickpeas
Tomato soup with roasted fennel and chickpeas

Once the kale has wilted into the soup, it is ready to serve.

A bowl of soup full of CSA vegetables
A bowl of soup full of CSA vegetables

Tomato Pie

The most recent edition (July/August 2011) of Food Network Magazine features a Heirloom Tomato Pie on the cover. Inspired by fresh tomatoes currently in season, I decided to make this heirloom tomato pie for dinner.

Tomato Pie and Food Network Magazine
Tomato Pie and Food Network Magazine

I followed the magazine’s recipe with only minor changes. Jill and I do not typically have mayonnaise on hand, so I substituted that ingredient with sour cream. I also forgot to add the caramelized onions to the cheese mixture, so I topped the pie with them instead.

The recipe is moderately labor intensive because of the homemade crust, but the final result is definitely worth the effort. The homemade crust holds up to the juices that cook out of the tomatoes much better than a pre-made crust. The fresh tomatoes, I used UglyRipe, yellow, and green tomatoes, provides a meaty, but slightly sweet filling for the pie. Next time, I will use another type of tomato in place of the green tomatoes because they stayed firmer than the other tomatoes after being cooked (this is why green tomatoes are usually fried). My favorite part of the pie is definitely the caramelized onions, which add significantly to the depth of flavors in the dish.

If you can, I highly recommend that you pick up some heirloom tomatoes from your local farmers’ market and make this pie this weekend.

A slice of tomato pie
A slice of tomato pie

Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta Bake

This dish is a recipe I created based on several ingredients that I happened to have and needed to use. I harvested three Japanese eggplant and a bowl full of heirloom tomatoes from my garden and wanted to use them while they were still fresh. Also, while visiting our friends Joshua and Erika Spence over the 4th of July, we stopped at the Winter Park farmers market and bought whole wheat mafaldine pasta from the Pappardelle’s Pasta stand. I had been waiting for the perfect time to use the pasta and decided not to wait any longer.

Ingredients
The ingredients

To make this dish, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 3 zucchini, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • Tomatoes (I used three medium-sized tomatoes and five small, slightly larger than cherry tomato-sized, tomatoes), quartered
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow pepper), chopped
  • 8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 26oz jar pasta sauce (I used Field Day Organic Roasted Garlic pasta sauce)
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta (I used mafadine, but a farfalle, ziti, or rotini would work well too)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Then add the eggplant and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes.

Eggplant
Eggplant fresh from my garden

Add the diced tomatoes to the pan and cook for another five minutes, stirring gently to distribute the heat. Add salt and pepper.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes from my garden

Stir in the jar of pasta sauce and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the vegetable mixture for 10 to 15 minutes minutes, stirring occasionally.

Vegetable mixture
The vegetable mixture before adding the pasta sauce

Prepare the pasta according the the directions on the package while the vegetable mixture simmers.

Pasta
Dried whole wheat mafaldine

When the pasta has finished cooking, add the pasta to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and cover with the vegetable mixture. Stir to mix well.

Pasta and veggies in a baking dish
The pasta and veggies in a baking dish

Top the pasta and veggies with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Mozzarella Cheese Topping
Mozzarella Cheese Topping

After adding the mozzarella cheese topping, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese turns a light golden brown color.

The cheese has turned golden brown
Bake until the cheese turns a light golden brown color

Serve and enjoy.

Finished dinner on a plate
Enjoy!

This dish is reminiscent of a spaghetti casserole, but the tomatoes make the sauce is a bit more vibrant than I typically find in a casserole and the whole wheat pasta complements the dish well without dominating the flavor. The whole wheat pasta also holds up well with the hearty sauce and vegetables.

Zucchini and Tomato Risotto

When we went to Georgia for my Grandma’s birthday, we received an abundance of zucchini my parents grew in their bountiful garden.  Not totally sure what to do with all of the zucchini, Jill and I started looking through cookbooks for inspiration. I came across a recipe for risotto. While I did not make the recipe I found, I did get inspired to make a risotto. This is my blending of two classic foods:  zucchini with tomatoes and risotto.

To make this risotto the way I did, you will need the following ingredients:

Ingredients on display

  • 1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 5.5 oz tomato Juice
  • 5 shallots, finely diced
  • 5 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chardonnay
  • 15oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese

To create the liquid for the risotto, I poured the vegetable broth, tomato juice, and liquid from the can of diced tomatoes into a pot over medium heat. Before the liquid began boiling, I turned the heat down to low and let the liquid simmer.

In a large skillet, I heated a nice glug of olive oil over medium heat. I didn’t measure the olive oil, but it was probably about 2 tablespoons. I sautéed the shallots until they were soft and add the zucchini and Chardonnay. I cook this for about 5 minutes, while stirring often.

Zucchini and Shallots
Zucchini and Shallots

I then added the arborio rice and cook the mixture for another minute. I added about a cup of the warm vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid to the zucchini, shallot, rice mixture and stirred until the liquid was absorbed. I then added about a half of a cup of the liquid and stirred until it was absorbed. I did this until all of the vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid was absorbed. I then added the diced tomatoes to the risotto and stirred for a few minutes.

Risotto Cooking on the StoveI turned the heat down to low and seasoned the risotto with salt and pepper. I then shredded parmesan cheese over the top of the risotto.

Risotto plated

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Jill’s favorite food is eggplant. At least it was last time I checked. Combining her love for eggplant with her childhood stories of watching David the Gnome while eating tomato soup, I ventured to make this recipe. I also had the good fortune of being given some fresh eggplant my parents grew.

This recipe begins with ingredients shown below:

Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock
Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock

The two japanese style eggplants from my parents garden were supplemented with an Italian style eggplant from Publix. Olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro (from my garden) and goat cheese are not shown in the photo.

After slicing the veggies in half, they were all seared in a little olive oil before going into the oven to roast.

Searing the eggplants

After about 25 minutes in a 350 degree (F) oven, the roasted veggies should be caramelized nicely. After making this recipe the first time, I could definitely roast more garlic. Much more garlic.

Roasted Veggies
Roasted Veggies

Before pureeing the vegetables in a food processor, the eggplant pulp should be pulled away from the skin. If your vegetables have roasted enough, this should be easy to do. Blend the roasted vegetables in a food processor with some of the chicken broth until smooth. Pour the puree into a pot over medium heat. At this point, it probably will not look overly appetizing and will resemble baby food like the photo below.

Roasted Vegetable Puree
Roasted Vegetable Puree

As the puree heats up, gradually add more of the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. I ended up using a total of four cups of chicken stock, including the stock used while blending the vegetables. After incorporating the stock, the soup looked like this:

While the soup simmered, I decided to add goat cheese. I lightly browned the goat cheese in a small amount of olive oil, but would probably add unheated goat cheese next time.

Warmed goat cheese
Warmed Goat cheese

To finish things off, I added cilantro from my garden to the soup as a garnish and served.

Soup in bowls
Soup and Goat Cheese Garnished with Cilantro

This recipe was adapted from “Charred Eggplant-Tomato Soup with Cilantro” from Cat Cora’s cookbook Cooking from the Hip.