Tag Archives: Tomato

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta Salad

I had my first taste of Hillside Farms‘ baby Roma tomatoes last summer, at the beginning of my local food adventures.  The moment that first Juliet tomato burst in my mouth was an epiphany. It tasted like sunshine, sweeter than any tomato I’d ever eaten.

I had been skeptical about the locavore movement until then, but with that one bite I finally understood what the “eat local” hoopla was about. A year later, I’ve certainly bought into the local food movement. And my heart still pitter-pats every time I see Hillside Farms’ Juliet tomatoes in my Local Box.

If I don’t eat them straight out of the package, I enjoy using Juliet tomatoes in a simple pasta salad with pesto dressing. I almost always have goat cheese and the ingredients for homemade pesto in my fridge during the summer months, and this salad is one of my favorite things to cook on nights when Juliet tomatoes arrive in the Local Box.

This salad is as versatile as it is easy to prepare. I’ve added olives, chopped green onions, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, grilled chicken breast, and even chopped raw baby squash to this salad, all with good results. It’s a terrific base for whatever I’m craving along with those sweet little tomatoes from Hillside Farms.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes (serves two as a main dish as written;  serves more if you stretch it by adding more veggies or meats)

1/2 lb. farfalle, penne, or conchiglie pasta
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
4 ounces goat cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare pesto sauce by combining basil, grated cheese, olive oil, and minced garlic and one teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse for about 90 seconds, until pesto is uniform in texture. Set pesto aside until the cooked, drained pasta is cool to the touch. After that, mix the pasta and pesto sauce in a serving dish.

Put the goat cheese in the freezer for a few minutes while you slice the cherry tomatoes in half. (Chilling the soft cheese makes much easier to break up later.) Add the sliced tomatoes to the dressed pasta, then use a butter knife to chip the cold goat cheese into the salad. Gently stir the finished salad to combine all the ingredients and chill it for at least an hour in the fridge before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”


Poetic Potato and Chickpea Curry

I spent most of my work day today thinking about musical form and rhythm, and researching poetic forms. So when I got home and started writing about this curry recipe, a limerick happened!

There once was a mild chickpea curry.
That I liked to make in a hurry.
With potatoes and rice,
Tomatoes and spice,
It’s so easy there’s nary a worry.

Then, a haiku:

Potato curry,
Yellow and satisfying,
Tastes good over rice.

Now I can’t write about this dish– or much else– without it turning into a poem, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. I hope that you enjoy this super-easy, mild curry!

Potato Chickpea Curry (serves 4)
3 yukon potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained)
1/2 cup skim milk or rice milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
cilantro to garnish
4 cups cooked basmati rice*

Put chopped potatoes in a large pot with a lid and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot and saute the garlic and yellow onion over medium heat until they are very soft. Add the cooked potatoes and remaining ingredients and stir. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and allow the curry to simmer for 15 minutes before serving over rice. Garnish with cilantro.

*I’m terrible at cooking rice, so I always ask my husband Rami to do it. He found this great instructional video “Perfect Basmati Rice” over at Show Me the Curry, and it’s his new favorite method.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with raw tomato sauce

When I Googled “Raw Tomato Sauce” and came across Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe for an easy, no-cook pasta sauce, I thought it might be too good to be true. I love her radio show, and the recipes posted on the website usually work well for me. Still, who would guess that raw tomatoes, a few herbs and a little olive oil could come together to create such a fresh, flavorful sauce for pasta? And in less time than it takes to heat up a jar of sauce on the stove? I didn’t, but I’m glad I gave her recipe a shot. It’s a weeknight winner, especially with fresh, early spring tomatoes from Gundermann Farms and green garlic from Texas Daily Harvest.

Tomatoes from Gundermann Farms

For my own version of this dish, I stuck to Lynne’s ingredient list pretty closely and altered the method to fit my busy schedule. Instead of basil, I tossed in a handful of the tops from my green garlic (shallot tops would have been nice, too). And to save time, instead of dicing the tomatoes by hand as she suggests, I gave them a rough chop and tossed the pieces along with all the other ingredients- even the garlic clove- in the food processor.  One minute of whirring later, voilà! Pico de pasta sauce.

To serve, I tossed the raw pasta sauce with two servings of just-cooked spaghetti and grated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over the top. The heat from the spaghetti warmed the sauce through and melted the cheese.

I’m not going to lie, the pasta sauce probably would have tasted better if I had basil on hand to use in addition to the green garlic tops. As it was, it was a quick and easy  dinner that dirtied just two prep dishes total. It’s hard to argue with that! I’ll probably add this recipe, or variations of it, to my regular weeknight rotation going into summer. As soon as I find a version that sticks, I’ll share it with you! Until then, here’s Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe.

Red Enchilada Sauce

Like most Austinites who’ve been here longer than a few years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of Tex-Mex cuisine.  I love comparing notes with fellow foodies about which restaurant’s margaritas, salsas, and enchiladas are the best in town, and although we rarely agree, it’s a nice way to build up a good appetite.

There are several excellent bloggers who write extensively about Tex-Mex home cooking; my favorites are superstars Lisa Fain of Homesick Texan and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. Though neither writer is based in Texas, their recipes demonstrate that staples like tacos, enchiladas, and burritos lend themselves beautifully to the peppers, greens and tomatoes that grow nearly year-round in Austin. As I’ve experimented with their recipes and others, I have learned that most Tex-Mex food is easy to prepare with everyday ingredients and tools in your kitchen. Take for example this vegan enchilada sauce. If you can use a knife, a stove, and blender, you’ve got what it takes to make killer Tex-Mex.

Half of the sauce from this recipe will cover a 9×13 pan of enchiladas, leaving the rest for whatever creative use you can dream up.  Here are some of my favorite things to do with enchilada sauce, besides topping enchiladas:

At breakfast

  • over a few fried eggs with tortillas
  • with soy chorizo and grits (vegan!)
  • with melted cheese, scrambled egg and chorizo on a tostada shell

At a party

For dinner

Whatever you decide to do with it, I hope you enjoy this simple, healthy enchilada sauce!

Red Enchilada Sauce (yields about 6 cups sauce)
1 yellow onion
3-5 mild or sweet peppers, any variety
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2, 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers
1, 15-ounce can vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cumin

To prepare sauce: dice onion and peppers. Peel and mince garlic.  In a large sauce pan, cook onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they are very mushy, about 15 minutes.  Increase heat to medium and add tomatoes, vegetable broth, chili powder, salt, and cumin. Stir to combine. Cook sauce, covered, for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool before processing it in a blender until smooth. Store finished sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Texas Tailgate Chili

All week I’ve been looking forward to adapting this chili recipe to make use of the local, fresh produce and protein I have on hand.  I made several changes and the finished product is delicious!! I substituted fresh pintos and tomatoes for the canned ingredients in the original recipe, plus I added a 1/2 bottle of Shiner (local beer, of course!) and used a mix of local ground turkey and pork sausage instead of factory-farmed beef.

This chili been simmering on my stove for about 2 hours now, and it’s still going strong.  It should be mighty flavorful in time for the Texas Tech beatdown tonight at 7:00.

Texas Tailgate Chili
1.5 cups fresh pinto beans
1 onion, chopped
1.5 lbs ground meat (I used turkey thighs + pork sausage)
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
6 large garden tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (I used these since I didn’t have more fresh beans on hand)
3 Tbs. canned organic tomato paste
1/2 bottle Shiner beer
1/4 c. chili powder
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

The preparation is pretty basic.  First cook the pinto beans in a medium-sized saucepan.*  Brown the meat in a separate, large soup pot.  Chop the vegetables and add them to the meat mixture as you go.  Start with the onions and peppers and work your way to the more delicate tomatoes.  Be careful to get lots of tomato liquid (tomato snot, as my sister in-law Tara calls it) into the pot so you’ll have enough cooking liquid in the chili. Add the tomato paste and stir.

By the time you finish chopping  all the vegetables, the pinto beans will likely be tender.  Drain those and add them, plus canned beans, to the pot. Next pour in that beer!  Add seasonings and simmer for at least half an hour.  I plan on keeping my pot of chili on the stove on low for most of the day so the flavors are really developed for game time. Serve over tortilla chips, baked potatoes, hot dogs, or on its own with chopped raw onions and shredded cheddar cheese.  And Hook ’em Horns!!!

* Don’t be intimidated by fresh beans! To cook: them rinse them very well under cold running water.  Put them in a saucepan and cover with plenty of water. (Beans should be submerged, plus a few inches of water.) Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes.  Drain.

My Favorite Summer Sandwich

Summer is technically over.  It is Fashion Week in New York.  All my favorite cooking magazines have recipes for slow-cooked stews, and Starbucks is selling pumpkin lattes.  Hobby Lobby has set up 14 aisles of Christmas ornaments.

Here in Austin it is still 95 degrees.  So screw all that.

For now  I’m clinging to the benefits of Texas’ warm weather: fresh local tomatoes and herbs!  This summer I conjured up this wonderful sandwich to use up an abundance of local tomatoes and garlic chives, and both ingredients are still growing strong here in Texas.  They should stick around until it’s cool enough to sleep with the windows open, so we’ll be enjoying this delicious summer sandwich for at least another six weeks!  I count it– with Texas football– as one of the best parts of Autumn in Austin.

Tomato Cream Cheese Sandwich with Garlic Chives (serves 4)
8 slices of bread
4 roma tomatoes, or whatever you’ve got in your garden
1 bunch garlic chives
1 8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper

1. Hold the bunch of garlic chives tight with one hand, like a ponytail. Use scissors to snip them into a bowl.  Snip snip snip! The tighter the “ponytail” of chives, the easier it will be to snip uniformly.

2. Once chives are snipped, add the softened cream cheese. Fold the mixture together until the chives are evenly distributed.

3. Spread the cream cheese on both slices of bread, slice the tomatoes, and make the sandwiches the usual way.  I like mine with lots of salt and pepper, but Rami takes it straight.

This garlic chive cream cheese mixture keeps for about a week in the fridge in an air-tight container.  Once we run out of tomatoes or bread, we use the extra cheese mixture to make garlic chive mashed potatoes.  (Those are decidedly un-summer-y, so we imagine it is snowing outside when we eat them.)

How I Conquered Lady Cream Peas

The first week I ever ordered a Local Box from Greenling, I got Lady Cream Peas.  I had never heard of Lady Cream Peas, and I had no idea how to cook them.  I cowered from the peas and cooked other, more familiar things until the peas went bad and I had an excuse to trash them.

The next time around I was determined to Do Better and I turned to the internet for answers.  My old standby allrecipes.com didn’t have a single recipe, but lucky for me there are lots of local food  bloggers talking about fresh field peas!  Your Vegan Mom has a good recipe if you need to feed a crowd, and WestCoastWine.net user Zachary Pearson posted a simple recipe that uses basic pantry spices.  My favorite picture-by-picture explanation of the peas is from the blog Mommy’s Kitchen.

Now that I’ve had Lady Cream Peas or their cousin, Purple Hull Peas, six times this summer, I’ve had plenty of chances to perfect my own version of this southern staple.   I like my recipe since it uses lots of veggies that typically come in the Local Box with the peas, and because it is filling as a atand-alone entree along with some skillet corn bread.   This recipe also uses a smaller quantity of peas than the others I found online: one snack size Ziploc bag full, or about 1.5 cups.

Lady Cream Peas

About 1.5 cups fresh Lady Cream Peas
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds & ribs removed, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
4 slices thick cut applewood bacon, chopped (optional)
about 2 cups of chicken or veg. stock or water

In a heavy-bottomed (hee hee) saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat. (If no bacon, start with a Tbs. olive oil.)  Once the bacon grease begins to render, add the garlic, onions, and peppers.  Add tomatoes, stirring constantly, after the onions begin to turn translucent.  Once all the veggies are tender, add the peas and enough stock or water to cover things.  Bring the liquid to a boil and cover.  Simmer, covered, for 30-60 minutes*, until beans are velvety, creamy, lady soft.  Serve in a bowl with the cooking liquid and a wedge of skillet corn bread**.

*FYI, I have noticed some slight differences in cooking time between the purple hull and lady cream peas, so watch out for that if you decide to get adventurous with yer cow pea varietals.

**Lady Cream Peas NEED to be served with corn bread.  Not any mushy fluffy crumbly boxed cornbread either.  Dense, southern style skillet corn bread is best since it will soak up the delicious cooking liquid around the peas.  Do not mess around with the cornbread/creampea symbiosis.  Just make the cornbread while the peas cook or else you will regret it forever and ever.  Or until the next time you make peas, whichever comes first.