Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

Freshpasta.jpgI have a pretty great life and lifestyle. I am incredibly fortunate and really don’t have many things to complain about. But every now and then I am going to have a bad day, whether it be due to stress at work, homesickness or just general annoyances. I am going to get stressed, angry, sad, tired and I have the cheapest and most effective form of therapy to get me through those bad days…. PASTA MAKING!

The process is so familiar, repetitive and calming that by the end when I am more than likely sitting down to a giant bowl of delicious fresh pasta I am back to my regular happy self.

The recipe we use for the pasta is one that my mother gave me and it is slightly ridiculous. Promise not to laugh!! The measurements are very much open to interpretation. Going by feel is the best way to make sure it is just right…. This can take a little practice.

Well and eggs.jpg

Onto the kitchen counter measure out 1 pound (450 grams) of plain flour. Make a large well in the middle of the flour so that you can see your counter top. Add into the well 5 eggs (3 medium, 2 large). To this add 1 capful of olive oil (what size cap you ask? What cap? – these are all very good questions!) and ½ an eggshell of water. (which eggshell – the large or the medium? Another excellent question!)

I will answer these questions, as best I can, shortly.

With all the ingredients in the well, using a fork I gently start drawing the flour from the edges of the well into the center. This slowly starts to form the dough. The tricky part is not to break the well walls and end up with runny egg and flour all over your kitchen floor (Yes, I have done this before!).

Once it has started to form a ball I coat my hands in flour and doing the final mixing by hand. The trick is not to over mix/knead the dough and end up with tough pasta. Just mix until it is completely incorporated and is one solid ball. Then just wrap and set it aside for 30 minutes to rest.

While the dough is resting let me answer the questions from earlier. I generally use the cap of my olive oil bottle which is around 1 tablespoon of oil. You can always add a smaller amount and add more later if the dough is too dry. As for the eggshell full of water, I usually just use the most complete looking shell, it probably close to 1 tablespoon of water but again, use an eggshell and just add a little more if it is too dry. I both of these circumstances it is best to use smaller amounts and have to add more than add too much right at the start!

Dough.jpgThe dough has rested, now it is time to roll it out. I cut the ball into six pieces to make them more manageable. My parents recently bought us a new pasta maker since our previous one just randomly started chewing up the dough, when this was happening it wasn’t the most calming exercise. (I think it got bent being transported from Australia to Phoenix when we moved!).

However, with our new pasta maker things are going smoothly again. We run the each piece through the machine from the widest setting to the second last. I don’t want it too thin for making fettuccine, when I make ravioli or agnolotti it go for the thinnest setting. Once rolled through I set it aside to dry a little while I run the other pieces through.

Once I have my long pieces I run them quickly through the fettuccine attachment and twist them into little nests to dry. We usually will store at least ½ of the pasta in a cool dry place to use later but will always whip up a quick meal with some while it is still really fresh. By the time we are ready to cook I am feeling a lot better, covered in flour and with a mess of a kitchen to clean up but I am definitely happier!

We were lucky enough earlier in the summer to have some delicious cherry tomatoes growing in our garden. So while the pasta was cooking in some boiling water I cooked about 20 tomatoes in some olive oil and garlic, added some fresh basil and thyme (which at the start of summer I had growing in the garden). I only cooked them for a couple of minutes before adding the cooked pasta to the pan and mixing everything together. YUM!

So easy and delicious with the fresh pasta, plus you actually get to appreciate all the hard work the pasta was because you can really taste it with such a simple accompaniment. After a bowl of this I am definitely feeling better and though it probably takes about an hour from start to finish it’s a delicious and productive way of making me feel better!

Roasted tomatoes and mushrooms.jpgJ. and I decided we would have our own little private Christmas celebration yesterday. This way we didn’t have to cart presents to Australia and we get to continue some of our own traditions.

As part of our early Christmas celebration J and I wanted some roasted vegetables with our lamb (post still to come). Usually when were are having a roast dinner, whether it is chicken, pork, beef or lamb we go with the traditional roast veggies, pumpkin, sweet potato and potatoes. We had already decided to do something different with the potatoes (again, stay tuned for that delicious entry!) so I had to come up with something new for our other vegetables.

Now, I love J. and he eats pretty much anything I put in front of him but when it comes to vegetables he hasn’t really progressed in the last thirty years. Sorry, that may be a little unfair, he eats salads now if we drench them in dressing and I have also convinced him sweet potato is delicious when covered in gravy… it’s all about small steps.

So in the endeavour to make something he would happily eat I really had to think. In the end I made Roast Tomatoes with mushrooms and red onion.

First I cut 7 delicious red roma tomatoes in half length way, laying them skin side down in an oven proof dish. I peeled, quartered, and then quartered again a large red onion. While wiping away the tears (I react really badly to cutting onions) I scattered them around the tomatoes. I then washed and dries a small container of button mushrooms and scattered these around the tomatoes and onions.Onions and rosemary on top.jpg

That is all the vegetables so now for some additional flavor. I peeled and halved 4 cloves of garlic and put these into the dish. I broke up 2 large rosemary sprigs and scattered those across too. Lastly I seasoned with salt and pepper, quite generously before drizzling olive oil across everything.

I put these into a 420F degree oven for 30 minutes.

When these came out they smelt delicious. The tomatoes had somehow become sweeter and more tomatoey. The onions though softened had held their shape and taken on the tomato and rosemary flavor. The mushrooms were juicy and delicious. Then it was the critics turn to try them.

J. thought they were excellent and really enjoyed the medley of vegetables. I like this recipe because compared to other vegetables it is quick and doesn’t take hours of peeling… I really hate doing that sometimes. I was happy with the outcome and now have another type of roasted vegetables I can make that J. will love!

Chutney Gift.jpgThis is just a quick post about the other edible Christmas gifts I gave to friends. A while back I made giant pot of spicy tomato chutney. Being who I am I shared it with a bunch of people including my two soon to be bosses. Both of them took a strong liking to it. Using it with cheese, fish and chicken.

I decided as a Christmas gift for them I would bottle up some of the chutney. I bought some nice decorative looking pickling jars… they only cost $1.50 each so what a bargain is that! I filled both jars up with the yummy delicious chutney, sealed them and decorated them with blue bows.

I played Santa on Tuesday and delivered these yummy gifts. They were so excited and happy to receive them, not to mention surprised. Both of them had plans for the chutney and I am pretty sure it won’t last long. I might have to make a new batch in the New Year when I start my new job.

What an easy, affordable and cute gift… one that was so well received!

You can check out my original blog post here or get the recipe here.

I was lucky enough to get given by a friend a giant box of yellow cherry tomatoes. She had got them for a few dollars at a farmers market and offered them to me since she knows I have been doing lots of cooking to fill my free time. So with this giant box of tomatoes I thought I would make a spicy tomato chutney for sandwiches, cheese & crackers and hot dogs.

I had never made a chutney of any kind before so this was going to be a bit of a challenged. I did some research to find some different recipes. There are lots of variations on the ingredients, some use capsicum (red bell peppers), white onions, green onions and all kinds of different spices. Then there is the different mix of vinegars and water. After reading some I came up with my own combination, keeping it simple because the tomatoes were so very delicious.

So here is my made up recipe. In a large pot I put 1 cup of red wine vinegar and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar. I added to this a tablespoon of cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 cups of sugar. Stirring this until the sugar dissolves and vinegar is starting to boil.

Next I added my 3 pounds of cherry tomatoes, I halved these but I think in the future I would quarter them. I also add 2 finely chopped red onions. I used red onions because I think they have a sweeter flavor and are less overwhelming in something like this. I also put in about 10 finely chopped thai chillies. This might seem a lot but they were small and there are so many tomatoes.

I brought all of this to a boil again and put in 2 big chunks of peeled fresh ginger which I meant to take out but are now sitting in ine if the bottles! Will have to watch out for those. When it was boiling nicely I reduced the heat so it was a slow simmer and just let it simmer away for 3 hours. Make sure you stir it frequently to make sure nothing is sticking and move the tomatoes around a little bit.

It made the house smell delicious and J. came home from work curious about the smell that had taken over the house.

I was really happy with how this turned out. I got three large bottles of chutney out of this and if I had smaller ones I would have used them as little giveaway gifts. It does make a large amount but then I did have a lot of tomatoes to use, I would recommend halving or even quartering the recipe if you are buying ingredients just for home. We are going to be eating a lot of chutney for a long time.

It is delicious but it is very tart and if you prefer more of a sweet taste in your chutney and relish add some raisins or something for a touch of the sweet. We like the tart flavor as it combines so well with the spice and sweetness of the tomatoes. I think this was just the perfect spiciness and worked so well with some cheese and crackers. I can’t wait to try it on bread with some fresh ham. Not bad for the first time I think!