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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Stuffed Eggplant

Over the past few years, eggplant have grown exceedingly well in my garden. This is a good thing, given how much Jill and I both like it. Experimenting with new ways to prepare eggplant, I came up with this simple, delicious stuffed eggplant recipe.

The first step in preparing the stuffed eggplant is to roast the eggplant. Slice two eggplant in half lengthwise. Season each of the four halves with salt and pepper. Drizzle the eggplant liberally with olive oil and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. In a 400 degree oven, roast the eggplant for 20-25 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant have a nice golden brown color. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let them cool.

Roasting Eggplant
Roasted Eggplant

While the eggplant cools, brown a pound of ground beef in a skillet. I used ground beef because I made this while Jill was out of town. I’ll probably make it with ground turkey next time. Stir in a can of diced tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic and oregano). Use a spoon to scoop the roasted eggplant flesh out of the eggplant skins, being careful to avoid tearing the eggplant skin. Mix the eggplant flesh into the ground beef. Season the mixture with about two teaspoons of Turkish seasoning (or a blend of salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, and coriander).

Browning beef and stuffing eggplant
Stuffed Eggplant

Crumble a little bit of goat cheese (about an 0.5 oz) into the mixture and stir to help bind the ingredients together. Stuff the eggplant skins with the mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake the stuffed eggplant in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mozzarella melts and bubbles.

Stuffed Eggplant
Stuffed Eggplant

Although this recipe was completely an experiment to begin with, it turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve prepared in a while. The meal was quick, tasty, and only used a couple of ingredients. The most time consuming part of this dish is waiting for the eggplant to roast, but you can save time by prepping the other ingredients during this time. The Turkish seasonings infuses the ground beef with flavor and complements the eggplant. With several more eggplant currently growing in my garden, I will be making this recipe again and will continue to experiment with new eggplant recipes.

Rainbow Farfalle

A few months ago, Kaitlin and I were wandering around World Market (love that store!) and I was captivated by a box of rainbow farfalle. Farfalle, also know as bow-tie pasta, is one of my favorite shapes and, even better, the unique colors of the pasta came not from food coloring or dye but natural sources like beets, carrots, and spinach. I drooled over the box but ended up not purchasing it, only to be surprised when I received it as a gift for my birthday! Thanks, Kaitlin! Here is Artie’s recap of the delicious dinner he made the next night:

These fun bow-tie pastas had such unique multicolored striping, we didn’t feel that covering them in a jar of pasta sauce would do them justice. Instead, I opted to serve the pasta with an assortment of vegetables that mimicked the colors of the pasta.

Rainbow Farfalle
Rainbow Farfalle

To mimic the red, green, and beige stripes on the pasta, I decided to serve the pasta with tomatoes, zucchini, and chickpeas.

Vegetables that mimic the colors of the pasta
Vegetables that mimic the colors of the pasta

While the pasta boiled in salted water, I sautéed a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil over medium heat. I added diced pre-cooked chicken sausage and  sautéed until the edges started to turn light brown and crispy. I added diced zucchini and a can of peeled plum tomatoes. I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil.

Chunky Homemade Pasta Sauce
Homemade Pasta Sauce

When the mixture cooked long enough to soften the zucchini (about as long as it took the pasta to finish cooking), I drained off the excess liquid from the sauce (the canned tomatoes can be a little big juicy) and gently folded in the pasta. The dish was topped with freshly grated parmesan.

Rainbow Farfalle with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Sausage
Rainbow Farfalle with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Chicken Sausage

With the rustic taste of the hearty vegetable sauce and the playful colors of the pasta, this rainbow farfalle dish affirmed the quote by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”