Tomato Salad 2 ways

tomato_stackHello, summer. Hello, summer heirloom tomatoes and your delicious, beautifully colored, lumpy shaped form. Is there any better fruit (yeah, fruit) than the fresh, summer tomato? I think not.

I just finished reading Tomatoland and learned way more than I ever intended about the tomato industry. Tomato agriculture actually has quite a sad and shocking history. Ever had a bright, red tomato in the dead of winter? Chances are that tomato was harvested by a slave. Modern-day slavery is alive and well in many produce industries, but none more than what was depicted in this book in the Florida tomato agriculture. Thankfully, steps have been taken to abolish slave labor and provide better wages and housing for farm workers, and that story is well documented in the book. But there’s still a long way to go.

Also well-documented in the book is the stringent checklist of attributes a tomato must possess to be deemed worthy by the Florida Tomato Committee, none of which is taste. Is the fruit the right shape? Check. Is it the right size? Check. Is the fruit the right color? Check. (By the way, nearly all tomatoes are picked when they’re green and then stored in a warehouse where they’re treated with ethylene gas to give them the red color we’ve come to cherish. Exception being organic tomatoes.) Has optimal taste been ensured? Um…uhhh…. No. The answer is no. Taste is almost never a factor in the cultivation of tomatoes. Ever had a mealy, bland tomato? I bet it looked beautiful because it passed all the other points on the checklist.

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Portobello and poblano enchiladas

enchilada2The kitchen is back up and running after taking a little break from cooking the last week or so. Terry had gum surgery, which pretty much left her diet limited to yogurt and anything else that requires little to no chewing. Then Charlie had his teeth cleaned and had a couple benign fatty tumors removed. Needless to say, there has not been a lot of appetite to go around lately.

Since everyone’s feeling better today I pulled out this recipe that I found a while ago. I made a few modifications that I think made it even better. If you wish to keep it vegan, you can follow the original recipe or just skip the jalapeno cream. I’ve never had a cashew-based sauce, but I bet it’s probably not too bad. I’ll put that on the list of things to try another day.

This was goooo-oood. The corn adds a little more color and pop of smoky flavor to the mix. You’ll definitely get a couple different types of heat, but they’re not so overwhelming that you can’t taste the freshness of each of the vegetables. You can have fun with the presentation, too. I put the avocado sauce down first and layered everything up from there.

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Cheese stuffed Portobello mushrooms

You want something easy and flavorful? This is it right here.

I found this recipe from Food & Wine and knew it was what we were going to eat at some point over the Memorial Day weekend. Equipped with fresh Portobello mushrooms from the farmer’s market, I went to work slicing, dicing and prepping.

The recipe is actually for a burger. I say don’t even bother with the burger part. These babies taste so good on their own, adding a hamburger bun seems like a sin. The filling is deceptively rich, and eating this as a burger would likely not leave much room for dessert, if there were any to be had. The filling has a versatile flavor that could be used on its own as a sauce (just add a little bit of heavy cream and perhaps some white wine and reduce it), serve it over vegetables or heck, even pasta. Oooo – or maybe even as a risotto! Now that would be good.

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Grilled corn and fire-roasted poblano risotto

Today I was inspired by a leftover ingredient from last week’s ancho-honey glazed tofu steaks. I have a whole can of chilies in adobo sauce to use before they go bad, so I based this entire dish on using the leftover sauce.

I thought it might be fun to try a southwestern/Italian fusion dinner. Lots of southwestern dishes use rice as the base, so I chose risotto. Plus, it was a great excuse to grill corn, even if it is a little premature for the season. I lucked out today because the corn I picked up was totally awesome and flavorful. Roasting the peppers over an open fire in the kitchen was pretty fun, too.

At first I was just going to use the adobo sauce as-is, but it packs a lot of heat that I didn’t want to over-power the rest of the flavors. Enter the trusty Greek yogurt. That worked well because risotto dishes are often finished with cream, so this was going to do the trick just fine.

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Ancho-honey glazed tofu steak with black bean sauce and tomatillo salsa

Ever since we got back from Vegas, I’ve had a dish I ate at Mesa Grill on my mind. I’ve been dying to try cooking it so this weekend seemed like as good a time as any! Especially since it was the perfect excuse to clean up the grill and put it to use for the first time this season.

This version is hardly complete, I’m missing two of the sauces (roasted red pepper and jalepeño crema), but the flavors were still really good. If you don’t want to fire up the grill, you could use a grill pan or broil the tofu.

I’m definitely making this one again – it’s got a lot going on, but it’s totally worth it!

cilantro-oil

Cilantro oil

tofusteak-2

Finished dish

Recipe modified from Food & Wine

Ingredients

Ancho honey glaze:

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Cilantro oil

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • ¼ cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime

Black bean sauce (the original recipe calls for raw beans which need to be soaked. I didn’t have time for that so I used a can.)

  • 1 can black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 large chipotle chile in adobo, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup water

Tomatillo salsa

  • 2 small tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeño
  • Juice of one lime
  • Cilantro as much or as little as you prefer
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion

1 14 oz package extra firm tofu
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill. (Or you can use a grill pan.)
  2. Combine ingredients for the bean sauce in a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined.
  3. Transfer bean mixture to a saucepan, add salt and pepper and heat on a low flame, about 8-10 minutes or until warm. Be careful to not let it burn!
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the tofu into two equal pieces and set over paper towels to drain the water. Coat the tofu steaks with the vegetable oil and season each side with salt and pepper. Place on the hot grill and cook on each side for about 2 minutes. After each side has been cooked, brush the glaze on the steaks and cook an additional 2-3 minutes each side.
  6. To make the salsa, chop all of the ingredients, mix in a bowl and coat with the lime juice. This can be done ahead of time and can be stored in the fridge.
  7. To make the cilantro oil, combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until well combined. Strain mixture through a sieve, discarding any cilantro leaves that are left behind.
  8. Plate the dish by spreading the black bean sauce on the plate, then the tofu steak. Top with the tomatillo salsa and drizzle the cilantro oil around everything.

Cavatapi with squash, chiles and hazelnuts

It feels like forever since I cooked a meal! We were in Las Vegas for a quick vacation earlier this week and I was looking forward to some sun, roulette, and of course, food! Everything we ate was to die for. We revisited Rao’s for their delicious shrimp scampi but the star of the trip was dinner at Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s place in Caesar’s Palace. Holy cow was that food good! I had the ancho chile honey glazed salmon and Terry ordered a special vegan chile relleno. Deliciousness all around. You can bet that I will be replicating that salmon dish fairly soon.

Also, since we returned, we received our first delivery from Blue Apron. The package was waiting for us when we got home and I have to say it was like opening gifts on Christmas morning. Every ingredient comes perfectly portioned out, clearly labeled and there are also these adorable ‘goodie bags’ that package up the garnishes and smaller ingredients for each dish. Each recipe also comes with detailed, easy to follow instructions that you can keep in case you want to make the dish again. We’ve had 2 out of the 3 meals so far and both have been really good. I’m not sure how long we’ll keep up with the service, (we got this first delivery as a gift subscription) but for now, it’s fun and exciting to get to play with some new ingredients.

Feeling very inspired by the amazing food we had in Vegas, I was ready to get back into the kitchen. I opted for this pasta dish, which may be a little out of season, but nevertheless, I was dead set that this was going to be our dinner.

The surprise in this dish is the mint. I wasn’t sure how the flavor was going to come through, but after one good bite with all of the elements on it, the mint totally stood out. If you make this, don’t skip the mint! This was so good we practically devoured the entire thing.

My one recommendation would be to shorten the amount of time they say to cook the butternut squash. I would cook it for about 3 minutes instead of 5 because by the time everything was done, the squash was a tad over-cooked.

Delicious!!

cavatapi

Recipe from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. fresh orecchiette or other fresh or dried small pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ small butternut squash, peeled, cut into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup blanched hazelnuts
  • 4 Tbsp. torn fresh mint leaves, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out hazelnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop; set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, just until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Immediately add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to keep garlic from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms.

Add pasta to skillet with squash and sauce and toss to coat. Add lemon juice, ¼ cup Parmesan, 2 Tbsp. mint, and remaining ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved hazelnuts, more Parmesan, and remaining 2 Tbsp. mint.

DO AHEAD: Hazelnuts can be toasted 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.