3 mouthwatering tomato recipes

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

Normally, late August is the time to lament the end of tomato season in my garden. But thanks to a late start to summer this year, my tomato plants are just now starting to produce. This past week, I ate my weight in cherry tomatoes. I’m a “pluck it off the plant and pop it in my mouth” kind of tomato eater but sometimes a few lucky tomatoes actually make into my house. When that happens, I like to try delicious ways to incorporate them into dinner.

There are around a eleventy billion tomato recipes floating around the internet and, while most of them are OK, they often lack the wow factor that homegrown tomatoes deserve. So, when I’m looking to cook up a delicious and easy meal with my homegrown beauties, I turn to one place: The Smitten Kitchen blog. It’s clear that Deb Perelman, the mastermind behind the blog, has a deep love for tomatoes. Search for the word tomato in her blog and you get around 2000 results. For me, three of those recipes stand out from all the rest. If you are dealing with a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, try one of these recipes. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

  • Scalloped tomatoes with croutons – This is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever eaten. And to think, I almost let my phobia of wet bread stop me from trying it. The trick for me is spreading the mixture out in a thin layer in a large casserole dish so the croutons dry out while baking. Do not skip the poached egg! 
  • Mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes – You can use any feta with this recipe, but I recommend treating yourself to a high quality hunk of the salty Greek treat. You won’t regret it.
  • Roasted tomatoes and cipollini – Simple ingredients and easy to make, this dish packs a huge amount of flavor. I serve mine over black beans.

Now, please excuse me while I run out to the local Greek store for feta. In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite way to use homegrown tomatoes.

Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto

Garlic scape and basil pesto

Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto on Instagram

If you follow Emmet Street Creations on Instagram, you know that I have been somewhat obsessed by a culinary delight known as a garlic scape. Last fall, I planted around 30 cloves of hard neck garlic in my garden for the sole purpose of harvesting the scape.

The garlic scape is the flower that grows from the bulb of hard neck varieties of garlic. As it grows, it forms a graceful curl.

Harvesting the scape allows the plant to put its energy into growing the bulb. The scape has a very mild garlic flavor and can be used in any way that garlic can be used. I’ve roasted them whole with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, diced them to add flavor to roasted asparagus and I’ve frozen a bunch for future use.

So far, my favorite way to use them is in pesto. You can make pesto with only the garlic scape, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan. But, I love basil pesto so I incorporated basil as well. For a twist, I used almonds instead of pine nuts.

Garlic scape and basil pesto

10 to 12 garlic scapes, roughly chopped with the bulb removed

1 cup tightly packed basil leaves

1 cup chopped almonds

1 cup parmesan cheese

1/2  to 1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the first 4 ingredients to a food processor or blender. (I used my Vitamix.) Start blending on a low speed and gradually add the olive oil until the pesto is a creamy consistency. I ended up using the entire cup of olive oil but you may prefer less. If needed, increase the mixing speed to fully incorporate the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve this immediately on pasta, as a spread for bruschetta or as a fancy homemade pizza sauce. It also freezes very well. I plan to use my left-over pesto the next time I make my quick and easy pesto salad.

 

 

Heart of palm salad with cherry tomato and avocado

Heart of Palm SaladIn November, I took a trip to Costa Rica.  While I went for the flora and fauna, I was pleasantly delighted by the food. Rice and beans for breakfast? Yes, please. Freshly juiced oranges, mangos, papayas, and pineapples any time I want? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I could have eaten my weight in avocados and fried plantains.

My first dinner in the country was the Talamanca salad at La Luz restaurant in The Alta Hotel. Talamanca, I learned from our friendly waiter, is a canton (or county) in Costa Rica, not an exotic fish or vegetable. The salad consisted of avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, a creamy basil yogurt dressing and the most romantic sounding vegetable I’ve heard of, heart of palm.

I obsessed about this salad the entire trip. As soon as I returned home and unpacked, I started looking for recipes online so I could recreate it. I found a recipe by Patricia Jinich on The Splendid Table that seemed very close, though it uses a bright lime vinaigrette instead of the basil-yogurt dressing.

I’ve made this salad several times and have made some minor changes along the way to suit my tastes. I cut the oil from 4 to 3 tablespoons and use only olive oil. I substitute basil for the oregano. I leave out the pumpkin seeds, although I’m sure they would add a delightful crunchy texture. Pine nuts might also work well.

This salad is light, refreshing and surprisingly filling. We’ve eaten this as a main course several times and have been completely satisfied.

Talamanca inspired heart of palm salad with tomato and avocado

Adapted from Avocado and Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad by Patricia Jinich via The Splendid Table

For the salad:

1/4 small red onion, finely chopped. Use less or leave out completely if you don’t like onions.

1 can whole hearts of palm, sliced into rounds

2 ripe avocados

1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or, for extra flavor, roast an ear of corn on the grill and remove the kernels)

For the vinaigrette:

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

Black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk it well.
  2. Add the chopped onions to the vinaigrette and set aside. I like to let the onions soak to remove some of their oniony bite. If you like that oniony flavor, then skip this step.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except the avocado.
  4. When you are ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette and onions over the salad and mix well. Divide the salad into bowls and then add the avocado. This will ensure the avocado is nice and green when you serve it. Keep one of the avocados to use with leftovers later.

Has a vacation ever inspired you to create a new dish at home? Let me know in the comments section. I’d love some new cooking (or vacation) ideas!

Cooking curiosity: What is heart of palm?

Hearts of palmImage credit: Hearts of palm by Joel Kramer, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

What is heart of palm?

Heart of palm is the inner portion of the stem of certain types of palm trees. These trees grow in tropical climates with Costa Rica being one of the largest exporters of heart of palm to the United States.

What does heart of palm taste like?

The texture of a heart of palm is firm and crisp. It has a mild flavor that tastes similar to artichoke.

What are the nutritional benefits of heart of palm?

Heart of palm is important to staying healthy, by providing several key vitamins and minerals that support growth and immunity. Heart of palm contains 2% of your recommended daily intake of zinc which supports immunity and wound healing, vitamin C (4% of your recommended daily intake) and manganese (20% of your recommended daily intake), is a mineral important to bone building and wound healing.

How do you use heart of palm?

Heart of palm is typically eaten raw as a salad ingredient, it can also  deep fried or added as a crispy treat to a stir fry. Have you gotten your hands on some fresh heart of palm and don’t know how to get started? Here are some recipes using heart of palm:

What you about you? Do you love heart of palm? What’s your favorite way to eat it? 

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slaw

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slawI love tacos. They’re the perfect thing to throw together when you’re busy and want a fast, easy and tasty meal. If you pick the right ingredients, they’re pretty darn healthy, too.

These tacos definitely fit the bill. They do require some forethought, since you need to give the ingredients some time to get to know the marinade and dressing, but it’s definitely worth the effort to plan ahead. Your reward will be a healthy, flavor-packed dinner. You’ll get a hit of sweet and sour from the citrus and vinegar and hint of nuttiness, thanks to the seasame oil.

What about you? Are tacos a go-to menu item in your house? How do you make yours?

Vegan Tacos with Asian Slaw

Makes 6-8 tacos

6-8 6″ flour tortillas

Sriracha (optional, but recommended)

For the slaw:

2 c. shredded cabbage

6 radishes, julienned

1/4 c. carrots, julienned

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 t. sesame oil

1 T. brown sugar

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

Put cabbage, radishes and carrots in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic and ginger. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

For the tofu:

16 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed to get rid of excess water (if you’ve never pressed tofu, see this article)

1 c. orange juice

1 t. low-sodium soy sauce

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Slice tofu in half (lengthwise to maximize the surface area) and set aside. In a container large enough to marinate the tofu, mix all remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

After marinating, remove tofu and pat dry. Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick and place on to lightly greased baking sheet. Heat oven to broil setting and put baking sheet on the rack directly under the broiler. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until they start to brown on the edges (cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the level of moisture in the tofu, so keep a close eye on it).

When the tofu is to your desired doneness, remove from oven and assemble your tacos! Warm the tortillas and top each with slaw and tofu. If you like yours a little more spicy, drizzle with sriracha (you’ll be glad you did).