Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tomatina: A Tomato Fest (Tart and Soup)

A few years ago my husband and I took our (then) six-week old son to Spain. We travelled to Barcelona, Figures and Valencia. The food was incredible, the architecture was magnificent, and the people were kind. Let me tell you, Spain is my kind of country. 
Anyway, not too far from Valencia is a little town called Buñol. And every year, around this time, Tomatina takes place. Tens of thousands of revelers hit the streets and pound each other with tomatoes. 

The festival is in its 64th year, and I'm hoping that next summer we can go...maybe as a layover on the way back to the United States after we visit my brother and his family? It's a thought.

Well back here in Colorado I've got enough tomatoes to hold my own little Buñol-style festival in our backyard. But not wanting to be wasteful (and thinking it wouldn't be a good idea to pummel Otis, Theo and Omar with the season's bounty), I thought it best to turn them into these two dishes: a Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart and a Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup.

Motherhood got in the way of me grabbing the tart after it baked for 40 it was slightly burnt, but it was still delicious! The soup was pure perfection. Tomatoes this time of year are simply amazing and I've got lots of them on hand. 

I’m also happy to report that my own tomato plants are finally starting to produce some fruit. I am so excited! Unfortunately we are moving in just a few days, so I will have to pick what is ripe and hope the rest don't die when I attempt a re-planting-transplant-procedure.  (If anyone has any tips on how to transplant tomatoes successfully, please, oh please, let me know!) We've got Green Zebras and Black Krims (or are they Black Zebras?). I can't remember because the little sign/name tag became sun bleached. I guess I'll be able to tell once they grow a bit more. I'm looking forward to trying lots of tomato recipes over the next few weeks...they just keep coming and coming! 

If you're in Colorado, check out some of the tomato festivals that are happening this weekend. Now nothing can compare to the scale and scope of Spain's festivities, but you can pick-up delicious produce, support local farms, taste some inspired dishes and have a great afternoon. I'm thinking about heading over to Ollin Farms on Sunday (Sept. 2), but we will see how the move goes. Boxes and tomatoes, boxes and tomatoes….
And so it goes! Enjoy.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart (Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times, with Pâte Brisée/ Tart Dough recipe courtesy of Dorie Greenspan)
Serves 6
Pâte Brisée/ Tart Dough, chilled for 3 hours, and then rolled out in to a 10 inch pie pan (no par-baking)*

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped basil 
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 eggs

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 10-inch tart pan and line it with the pastry. Keep in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

2. Brush the mustard over the bottom of the dough. Slice the tomatoes and arrange over the mustard in concentric circles, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the herbs.

3. Beat together the eggs and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the tomatoes. Drizzle on the olive oil. Place in the oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
* Note: The original recipe uses this recipe for the pastry: 1 yeasted olive oil pastry (1/2 recipe). I decided to use a dough that I've used many times, mainly since I had all the ingredients in my pantry and didn't have to buy anything extra. I also wanted to go with something that I’ve deemed "fool proof."

* * *

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup (Adapted slightly from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics)

Serves 5-6
3 tablespoons good olive oil 

1 1/2 cups chopped red onions (2 onions) 

2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped 

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves) 

4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (5 large) 

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 

1 1/4 tablespoons tomato paste 
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves 

3 cups vegetable stock, homemade or good quality store-bought

1 tablespoon kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 
(add more to taste, original recipe uses 2 teaspoons) 
1/2 cup heavy cream 

Julienned fresh basil leaves, for garnish 


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender. 
Add the cream to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, discarding only the dry pulp that’s left. (I don't have a food mill and so I used an immersion blender and it was just fine.) Reheat the soup over low heat just until hot and serve with julienned basil leaves and/or croutons.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In Instagram: The Denver Botanic Gardens

Today we spent the afternoon at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I used my cell phone (and the Instagram app) to capture some of what we saw. For more on Kizuna: West Meets East you can check out this post (with recipe for Black Sesame Otsu). Happy Wednesday!
 {From the Edible Garden}
{Margaret Kashakara on exhibit.}
Not a bad way to spend the afternoon!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cooking from the Pantry, Part II: Ginger Fried Rice (and Boulder Farms)

I'm up to my eyeballs in boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap. Our third bedroom is fast become a staging ground for our impending move, which is less than 2 weeks away (eek). I'm trying to get as much done as possible. This way, when my husband gets here, we can do some hiking in the mountains and head over to the farms near Boulder. Of course there are tons of things to do in the city as well (like a date night at the retro- Lakeside Amusement Park , the Sunnyside Music Festival and 'Now Boarding' at the Denver Art Museum), but sometimes I like to hit the road and get out of town. 
This morning I got a little bit of packing done and then we spent the rest of the day outside --this weather is absolutely spectacular. You can feel it; fall is just around the corner. That, my friends, makes me downright giddy. The cooler nights are wonderful, and while the sun is still really strong during the day, we now have a respite from the oppressive heat of June and July. Those heat waves seem to be behind us. (And hopefully those wildfires too.) This weather gives me a serious case of perma-smile. 
So, we went back to Boulder for a little hike and to check out a few farms that we had never visited. Our first stop was Cure Organic Farm, which has a great farm store. I picked up some wonderful looking produce (included in today's bounty: tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, beets, peaches, carrots, and leeks)...
...and then we fed the pigs and saw the ducks.
I  have to tell you (and this might sound strange coming from an vegetarian who grew up in a kosher home), but I totally love pigs. There was a little part of me that wanted to take one of these guys home, but I think that we've got enough on our plate right now...and I'm not sure a) how keen the farm would be to give us one of their porcine friends, and b) how keen my husband would be having a pig roaming around our backyard...
I though about asking if the pigs had names, but then decided not to. That's because the last time I was on a farm and asked, "What's the pig's name?" the response was "Bacon Bits." I was horrified. I've learned it's better not to ask questions if you don't really want to hear the answers. 
We read David Wiesner's "Three Pigs" almost every night, so Otis was really excited about these guys, um, gals. 
Our second stop was Munson Farm, right across the street from the Cure Farm. There I picked up white corn, Palisade Peaches, and some watermelons that looked like perfectly shaped bowling balls. There were also Zinnia flower beds that were "cut your own." 
When we got back to the house I decided to do a little cooking. A new restaurant called Uncle opened in the Highlands and, according to Eater, it's "Momofuku-esque." Reading the review got me thinking about a Momofukufor2 recipe I had seen for Ginger Fried Rice (adapted from Mark Bittman). I had pinned it on my recipe board a while ago, but never got around to making it. So last night I cooked up some rice, since the recipe calls for day-old rice. I had the rest of the ingredients on hand (either in the fridge or the pantry) and included my recent farm purchases-- eggs and leeks. 
I thought this recipe would work well as an installation for my "Cooking From the Pantry" series-- where I try to use up ingredients from the cupboard-- in this case, rice. 
I think I'll be making this one again and again. It's tasty and simple. So here it is:
Ginger Fried Rice Recipe (Courtesy of Momofukufor2 blog, adapted from Mark Bittman at the, adapted from Jean-George Vongerichten.)
Serves 2
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried
2 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.
Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil (or maybe even just 1 so it's not too oily) and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season lightly with salt.
Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.
In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.
Divide rice among two dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and enjoy hot.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cooking from the Pantry, Part I: Heidi Swanson's White Bean Dip with Almonds and Rosemary

{This is a little back story...}
A few weeks ago I decided to take Otis and Theodore to the zoo. We identified all of the animals and learned about their critical habitat. And we talked to some of the zoo volunteers about the conservation efforts that are underway to protect the orangutan (this would be a good place to tell you that before law school I toyed with the idea of being a primatolgist). We ate soft serve ice cream too. Then Otis turned to me and said, "this was a great day, Mommy." I smiled and agreed. 
When we came back to the house (the one we've been renting for the past year), there was a very large, red "FOR SALE" sign on the plot. I gulped. D'oh! That was not what I wanted to see. An expletive-fest ensued.
A few days later our rental, along with the house next door, was sold to a developer. Lickety-split. In record time. I knew what was coming next...
The demolition is slated for next month and a luxury duplex will replace our cute little 1920's home in the Highlands. Well, it's not really ours, but I do feel attached. 
I'll spare you the details, but let's just say we are on the move (again). We need to box up our things and be out in 2 weeks. Thankfully, we found another place to rent for 6 months. (Relief! Joy!) And yes, I know what you're thinking, our family moves around a lot. Indeed we do.
Using the move as inspiration, I decided to do a little series called "Cooking from the Pantry." I'm going to select recipes that use ingredients I already have stocked in the cupboard. This is my best effort to use up some of the things that have been sitting around, collecting dust.
This white bean spread, from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day, is the first installation in my little series. I have a few cans of white beans, a big bag of sliced almonds, rosemary from our garden, garlic from the market and a few extra lemons. There is nothing I need to buy. Perfect.
I really like this spread and it's simple to make. The toasted almonds add a bit of crunch and there's some nice citrus flavor from the lemon and zest. You can serve the dip with pita chips or some sliced bread. Just be sure to add lemon and salt to taste. This is a nice recipe if you want a bean dip but aren't in the mood for hummus. 
Stay tuned. My next installation of "Cooking from the Pantry" will be Polenta with Green Chilies and Cheese! (Of course I hope to do a seasonal post on tomatoes as well. They are ripe, ripe, ripe!)
Have a great day. I'm off to start packing... 
White Bean Spread with Almonds and Rosemary (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day)
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 15 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained (I used Cannellini)

3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed (I used about 1 teaspoon more)

1/4 to 3/4 cup hot water
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Over medium-low heat, slowly warm the mixture until the oil just barely starts to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Pour the oil through a strainer and discard the garlic and rosemary bits.
In a food processor, combine the beans, two-thirds of the almonds, a scant ½ teaspoon salt, the lemon juice, and two-thirds of the rosemary oil. Pulse a couple of times to bring the ingredients together. Add the water 1/4 cup at a time, pulsing all the while, until the mixture is the consistency of thick frosting. You might not need all the water; it really depends on how starchy your beans are and how thick you’d like the spread to be. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice or salt, if needed.
Scoop the spread into a serving dish and make a few indentations in the top. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and the remaining almonds and drizzle with the remaining rosemary oil. Serve with pita chips.

{To toast the almonds: Place the nuts in a single layer in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Toss them around every couple of minutes, until fragrant and toasty. Don't walk away; if you do, set a timer so you don't forget. You can burn a batch of nuts very quickly!}
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