Tag Archives: tomatoes

Pasta with corn, tomato & cheese

17 Sep

My friend Peter is what you might call “an acquired taste.”

He is brash, opinionated, often insulting to those who cross his path. I have never met a person with less skill in editing their own words. Which is saying something considering the place I am from.

This is one of the reasons the man is my friend. I never have to wonder where Peter stands on any issue. He is, without apology, who he is. I admire and respect that.

It also doesn’t hurt that he can grow vegetables better than anybody that I know. With few exceptions, virtually every seedling that I plant in the spring has its beginning in Peter’s greenhouses in the dead of winter. On the property around these greenhouses you’ll find fruit trees of all types, as well as a large field where Peter and his wife Claudia grow potatoes, tomatoes and, of particular interest to us here, sweet corn.

A couple weeks back Peter texted saying that the corn in his field was ready to be picked.

“Come over today or tomorrow and take as much as you want,” he wrote.

Before I could answer Peter was back with the kind of snarky blather that is more his custom.

“Oh, and grab a few ears for your girlfriend Marc while you’re at it.”

See what I mean.

Now, Marc is a regular companion of mine, I’ll admit, but he certainly is not my girlfriend.

He isn’t even a girl. I checked with his wife Beth just yesterday to be sure.

Nonetheless, my mission was to score a couple dozen ears of corn and so the next day my girlfriend and I were trudging through Peter’s corn field stocking up.

Which is how this pretty swell concoction of pasta, tomato, corn and ricotta salata came to be.

We start out, as we do with so many good things, sauteeing some garlic (three or four cloves) and a little hot pepper in a good bit of olive oil.

Once the garlic has softened (but not browned) toss in your tomatoes. We’ve got around three cups’ worth of fresh garden tomatoes here.

The basil plants have been growing wild this year. I figured a handful of them wouldn’t hurt.

You can skip this step if you like. For some reason, probably because I am incapable of thinking about corn without thinking about butter, I found myself adding half a stick just for the hell of it.

You’ll need to give it a taste, of course, but after around 15 or 20 minutes of medium-to-high heat the tomatoes are likely to have turned into a respectable sauce. At which point you can add the corn (around two cups here, blanched and cut from the cob) and lower the heat to a slow simmer.

After the corn has warmed a bit (maybe a minute or two) add a half pound of ricotta salata, cut into small pieces.

Then immediately add your pasta and incorporate.

I blanched and froze a bunch of corn and will try this with canned tomatoes in the dead of winter, when Peter is in his greenhouses getting a jump on spring.

Roasted sauce with short ribs

27 Sep

I’ve been cooking fresh tomato sauce for weeks now and so there’s plenty in the freezer to last me (and the usual suspects; you know who you are) through the year. Recipe? Fuhgeddaboudit. I wing it every time, which means that every batch of sauce, 10 or so in all this summer, has been different. The last couple batches have been especially tasty and feature whole bone-in meats, like the pork butt from a couple weeks back and now these beef short ribs.

This sauce uses up the last of my garden’s tomatoes, even a few that didn’t ripen. I won’t bore you with the details of using green tomatoes, or the roasting process in general, as we’ve covered the topics before. For the background here’s the Roasted Green Tomato Sauce recipe and here’s another Roasted Tomato Sauce that combines both ripe and green specimens. These chopped-up garden tomatoes filled my largest metal bowl. I’m guessing it’s around 8 or 10 pounds’ worth of tomatoes.

Again, winging it is highly encouraged around here. To start a sauce don’t be afraid to be creative. I’ve used huge leeks, hunks of diced-up prosciutto ends or pancetta, a piece of speck I’d been neglecting in the fridge, all kinds of things. But four items you gotta have, in whatever amount you like, are carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

This is 2 pounds of beef short ribs (bone-in). Generously coat all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. (As I mentioned earlier, a whole pork butt would get the exact same treatment throughout this process should you decide to go that route instead.)

Pour plenty of olive oil into whatever oven-ready pot you’ll be cooking the sauce in (mine is a 13-quart dutch oven), brown the ribs and then remove and set aside.

Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic, along with whatever fresh herbs you like, and saute until they’ve softened. NOTE: You’ll also see that there are several anchovy fillets in here. I always use them because they add a depth to the flavor; plus, I don’t need to add as much salt. And no, you can’t taste the anchovy in the sauce. Use it, don’t use it, makes no difference to me.

Add half a cup to a cup of red or white wine (I often use a dry vermouth) and allow it to reduce.

Then return the ribs to the pot.

Add your tomatoes, mix everything up, cover and put in the oven preheated to 350 degress F.

When the meat is very tender (2 hours ought to do it but poke at the meat with a fork to be sure) remove the ribs and set aside to cool. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degreees F and return the pot to the oven for another 30 minutes or so, or until the sauce’s consistency is to your liking. If the sauce is already the consistency you like then don’t bother cooking it any longer.

After the ribs have cooled enough to handle, shred off all the meat.

All that’s left to do now is add the meat to the sauce and mix thoroughly.

Oh, and boil yourslf some pasta to go with it.

But I’m pretty sure you knew that already.

Almond & tomato pesto

16 Feb

Not all pesto is green, you know.

This Pesto Trapanese, from the town of Trapani in Sicily, is adapted from the recipe in Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made in Sicily.” I was tasked with doing the pasta course for a dinner a few evenings ago, and this wound up being a pretty big hit.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, either. All we’re talking about is almonds, fresh tomatoes, garlic and mint (yes, mint, not basil). The only thing that’s cooked is the pasta.

Lightly toast around 1/2 cup of almonds in a 350 degree F oven for several minutes, then chop.

Mix the chopped almonds with four garlic cloves and either pound together using a mortar and pestle or run through a food processor. I did a little of both here, and made sure not to make the mixture too fine. If you prefer things smoother, even completely smooth, that’s okay too; just run it through the food processor longer.

In a mixing bowl place the almond/garlic mix, 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh mint (Locatelli’s recipe calls for three times that amount of mint), around 1 pound of skinned and diced fresh tomatoes, and a good hit of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Incorporate all the ingredients and then stir in around 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to use a good quality oil. Since the pesto isn’t cooked the flavor of the oil is important.

Mix the pesto with your pasta of choice (this is homemade fettuccine). And don’t discard all of your (well-salted) pasta water, because you may need to add some of it to the pasta if it’s a little too dry. After plating top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and serve.

FOR MORE RECIPES: Click here for my Pasta Recipe Index; click here for the Vegetarian Recipe Index.

Semi-dried cherry tomatoes

1 Oct

I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong: This is not a summer recipe, meant for those of us who either grow or can get our paws on garden-fresh cherry tomatoes. All year long I see cherries at the markets, and so this is a condiment that can be made at any time.

All you need to do is preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Put the tomatoes in an oven pan, or even a tray if you prefer, and into the oven they go.

Around six hours later I took this bunch out of the oven.

They were still on the plump side, but had dried plenty enough for my taste. You can certainly allow them to dry longer or shorter if you like; it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

After the tomatoes have cooled, put them into a container with a couple cloves of garlic and any herbs that you like (I used rosemary, thyme, oregano and some marjoram, and I also added a little hot pepper). Then fill the container with a good olive oil and you’re done. I recommend allowing them to steep in the oil for at least a day or two before using (I add the tomatoes to sandwiches or just eat them with bread by themselves), and they’ll keep in the fridge for a while.

Okay, so this is a good recipe for summer, when the local cherries are abundant. But it’s October. Do you really want to wait months and months before giving it a try?

Time to plant the tomatoes

20 May

Nobody asked me but… I decided to throw a couple cents into this season’s tomato-planting discussion. (Whaddaya mean, you weren’t discussing it! You have looked at a calendar, yes?)

My best advice on getting tomatoes started is this:

Buy plants that are around a foot tall and that have plenty of suckers growing from the lower portion. This one is around 11 inches, and has plenty of leaves and suckers throughout the entire plant.

Why is that so important? Because the first thing I’m going to urge you to do is cut off all that beautiful growth, about halfway up the stem, in fact.

Then dig a deep enough hole to bury the stem to the first sucker that’s left.

Yes, your plants will look pretty scrawny compared to when you bought them at the garden center. But your odds of having a more productive plant just got a ton better than had you dropped the plant into the ground as-is. What’s happening here is that all those areas where you pruned will develop into a more substantial root system for the plant, which makes it stronger and, in turn, able to produce better fruit.

One other thing: Tomato plants don’t require frequent watering, so unless you live in a dry climate, try and leave the things alone until they need moisture. Under normal conditions I only water my tomato plants (20 or 30 of them, and all different varieties) a couple times a week.

I’ll shut up now.

Uncooked cherry tomato sauce

30 Aug

This will be the last time I mention fresh garden tomatoes this year.

I promise.

Thing is, this uncooked sauce gets overlooked all the time. And it shouldn’t. It’s got great flavor and only requires an ability to cook, well, a pot of water. For the pasta.

The three main ingredients are tomatoes (I use cherry tomatoes but any kind will do), garlic and fresh basil leaves.

Just slice the tomatoes, tear apart the basil leaves and dice a garlic clove (go easy here, as raw garlic is pretty potent stuff), then season with salt and pepper and douse with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil.

Mix in some cooked pasta (strozzapreti here), then top with grated cheese.

That’s it.

Until next summer.

Fresh garden tomato risotto

19 Aug

I can’t keep up with my tomatoes this year. A dozen plants have produced hundreds of tomatoes, and the season isn’t over yet

They’re everywhere, I swear.

These red and yellow things are also inside my head, and in a big way. Just the other night, as I stuffed a lamb leg and sipped on a sparkling rosato, the mountain of just-picked Big Beefs and Sungolds seemed to command me to rethink the evening’s dinner plans.

“Maybe you ought to do something with us tonight,” is about the gist of what I thought I had heard voices saying. “Fer chrissakes, Meatball. Lamb? Really?

“Okay, okay, pipe down,” I said (aloud, yeah; I get that way around ripe fruit sometimes). “You look like you’d make a real nice risotto. Some of you do anyway.”

And they did.

In fact, I encourage all of you fresh summer tomato lovers out there (you know who you are) to get on this risotto while there’s still time. It is not my recipe. (My hands were full with the lamb course, remember?) The risotto was crafted by a very able associate of mine, and be assured that it (like the person who prepared it) is top notch.

Trust me on this.

Fresh tomato risotto

6 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, sliced
1-1/2 cups Carnoroli or Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken stock, or as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
A handful of cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of yellow and red, halved
A few mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Heat 4 Tbsp. of butter and the olive oil in a deep saute pan, and add the shallot; saute over medium-high heat until wilted and gently brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and toss to coat in the oil and onions; continue cooking over medium-high heat until the outer coating of the rice becomes slightly transparent, about 4-5 minutes.

Turn up the heat slightly and add the wine; cook for a few minutes until the wine is absorbed. Add the tomatoes, chopping and tossing with a wooden spoon, until they are pulpy.

Reduce the heat to medium and begin adding the stock, about 3/4 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until the rice absorbs almost all of the stock. Continue adding stock and stirring, until the rice is almost al dente, about 18-20 minutes. Regulate the heat so that the stock is absorbed, rather than cooking off.

Taste the rice for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, stir in the cherry tomatoes and mint, then add the final 2 Tbsp. of butter and stir vigorously to incorporate the butter throughout the rice.

Serves 4-6