It’s the unofficial start to summer and you know what that means: dining alfresco! Whether it be picnics, backyard BBQ’s or lunch hours outside on a bench while soaking up a little sunshine, this grain salad with it’s rainbow of colors has you covered.
It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables. If you are trying to eat a little cleaner and healthier, grain salads are for you! The satisfying chewiness of whole grains, the crunch of fresh veggies, the freshness of herbs and the zing of red wine vinegar make this salad a home run.
You know when you get a craving for something & you just have to make it? Well, I had wanted to make a tomato tart for a little while and finally got around to doing it. This post started out something like “with summer produce in full swing and a variety of perfect tomatoes available, blah, blah, blah…”
Don’t get me wrong, I could yammer on about produce with the best of them. I am a big fan of it, in case you didn’t know and let’s be honest… tomatoes are pretty amazing right now. Especially if you can get your hands on some of the gorgeous heirloom varieties. This post was supposed to be light-hearted and fun. But, life isn’t always light-heart and fun, is it? I know that some people probably just let out an audible groan… and that’s ok. If reading about things that aren’t happy and fun isn’t in your plan today, I understand. You are excused. This is about something a little deeper than a tomato tart. Thank you, wonderful farmers for providing the gorgeous tomatoes for this tart, but we are on to a more pressing issue…
I have a couple of friends that are vegetarians and had wanted to have them over for dinner so I thought “Well, this is perfect timing!” I will make the tart, have them over, open some wine and we will have a perfectly delightful evening. Only, it didn’t happen that way. Life rarely happens the way we think it will, does it?
I had been dreaming about travelling to Spain for nearly a decade, so when I finally landed there back in April of 2000, I cried. The moment my feet touched Spanish soil, I was almost in disbelief. I was so overwhelmed that I could not contain my pure joy. It felt as if the entire universe lined up and planted me exactly where I was supposed to be for that one perfect moment. I wanted for nothing.
When people ask that hypothetical question “If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” My answer has always been: travel.
After everyone has been taken care of; debts paid off, college funds set up, etc… I would pack a bag, get on a plane and be a gypsy for a little while. Those experiences would be priceless.
I enjoy experiencing different countries through their food, culture, traditions, etc. It reminds me that we are not all that different from one another. I had been studying the language, history and politics of Spain and Latin America since I was 14 years old. I was more than ready to be fully immersed and gain experiences I could not get from a book, no matter how much I studied. Everything was different: the food, the language, the sounds, the smells… and I couldn’t have been happier.
My first stop was a little tapas place in Barcelona. I knew Spanish food, or at least I thought I did back then. There were the obligatory patatas bravas, croquetas and of course the tortilla espanola, but I was in Catalunya and the menu was written in Catalan, not Spanish…
I was home visiting my family and was freshly out of culinary school. I mean
green. I hadn’t really worked in kitchens yet other than as a stagiaire or
“stage”, which is an intern (read: free labor).
I’m not really sure where the brilliant idea came from, but I had it in my head to make fried green tomatoes. Keep in mind, I’d never eaten them nor made them but off I went to
gather green tomatoes and make them. I had no reference point, so I didn’t know
how thick or thin to cut the slices.
So, I took to the kitchen with my tomatoes in hand and proceeded to make what one could only technically classify as fried green tomatoes.
They were tomatoes. They were green. And they had been fried.
Looking back at the first attempt to reach beyond my comfort zone, so full of enthusiasm, as all
new culinary grads are, I wince at what I made. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a handle on it now.
I still struggle with failure as I’m sure we all do. I don’t want to look stupid or fail at something.
But, isn’t that how we learn and grow? Our failures tend to teach us more than our successes in my experience. I’m learning to let go of that a little, although I’ll be the first to admit that my competitive spirit will never disappear and the fear of embarrassing myself in front of people is still quite real.
With that, I give you the following recipe… southerners need not correct me. I’m sure you
make it better.
1 1/2 - 2 cups breadcrumbs (any kind you have on hand)
pinch cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
oil for frying
optional: dried herbs
Combine flour, garlic powder, cayenne and paprika in a shallow dish and whisk together. Set aside.
In a separate dish, whisk eggs and buttermilk together.
In a third dish (it will be worth the dirty dishes, I promise) combine breadcrumbs with a little salt and pepper and any dried herbs if you are using. I throw in about a tablespoon of dried oregano or thyme if I don't have seasoned breadcrumbs.
Lightly season tomatoes on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge through flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Then dip into egg mixture and coat with seasoned breadcrumbs.
This next step most people find annoying, but I have found it essential. Place on a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 - 20 minutes. This allows your coating to adhere to the tomatoes. I do this when coating anything I am going to fry. You know how disappointing it is when your breading falls off in the pan or as soon as you cut into it? Let it rest beforehand and that will be a thing of the past.
After the tomatoes have hung out and gotten acquainted with each other, it's time to fry.
Heat a large skillet with enough oil to go about 1/4 inch up the side. Heat oil on medium high heat (350 degrees with a thermometer) and carefully slide tomatoes slices into the oil, dropping them in away from you, not toward you. If the oil splashes, it will not splatter you, but the back of the stove.
Fry until GBD (Golden Brown Delicious), remove and place on a bed of paper towels to absorb excess oil.
As many of you are fully aware, I have an exploding tomato population. I went a bit “Little House on the Prairie” thinking I needed to sow all my seeds to get me through the long, hard winter on the farm apparently. Well, now… I am reaping what I have sown. PUN. FULLY. INTENDED.
It’s mass chaos back there. I think the tomatoes get together in some sort of secret society at night while I’m sleeping, plotting to overthrow me. One day I may wake up to them all crouched down waiting to pounce (think: Lord of the Flies). OK, clearly I’ve gone off on a tangent… Continue reading →
If you are a tomato person, you will want to check back here from time to time and here’s why: I have an exploding tomato population. As someone said to me a few days ago, this is not a bad problem to have!
So let me just tell you now that for the next few months, there will likely be a number of recipes here using tomatoes… Salsas, tomato tarts, tomato jam, tomato soup, etc.
Sometimes I am hesitant to put recipes here that I think will be too simple or maybe you just won’t find that interesting. Recently, there was a discussion amongst a few of my foodie friends regarding the subject of “overdoing” food.
Example: a cookie inside of a brownie inside of a cupcake inside of a pie, then deep fried and topped with caramel and chocolate sauces, whipped cream and sprinkles.
Obviously this is a gross exaggeration, but you catch my drift. Continue reading →
Labor Day has passed and thus marks the unofficial end of summer (moment of silence, please).
Once again, it is time to put away the bathing suits and sunscreen. No more tousled beach hair, salty lips from the sea or digging your toes into the sand. Summer fruits and vegetables are still here for a few more weeks and I try to get every last bite I can before they disappear until next year.
Tomatoes will soon be those pale pink, insipid, cellophane-wrapped globes trying to pass for the real thing and even though we know better, some of us will buy them anyway… only to be thoroughly disappointed.
I usually make a last-ditch effort this time of year to get the last of the summer produce before I am limited to root veggies. Fall produce is wonderful and I love it, but there’s nothing like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corn, etc. during the summer months.
This salad makes wonderful use of what most people grow in their gardens, so if you are lucky enough to grow some of your own veggies, you may not have to go farther than your back yard to get your ingredients!
This is about the time of year when people who are lucky enough to have prolific gardens start to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gorgeous bright red tomatoes and beautiful zucchini that their loving care has yielded. A problem I’d like to have, quite honestly…
Growing up, my grandparents next door neighbors had a garden behind their house. By the end of July, it was practically bursting at the seams. Every summer we were the grateful recipients of brown paper grocery bags filled with tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden. The trade off was the newspaper. One of us was sent next door to give them the paper every day after my grandparents had read it and in turn, every few days he left a bag of fresh from the ground veggies on the back porch. Not a bad arrangement.
If you find yourself overrun with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, etc… this recipe is perfect! It utilizes all of the wonderful produce of summer in a healthy vegetarian dish that is… well, super yummy.
Ratatouille can be eaten warm, at room temperature or even cold. It is substantial enough to stand on its own or it can be served alongside roast chicken or tossed through your favorite pasta.
I have sandwiched it in a crusty ciabatta roll for lunch or served it on sliced, toasted baguettes as an hors d’oeuvre with a glass of wine. This recipe is the epitome of summer, there really is no wrong way to enjoy it.
It’s finally summer and you know what that means… picnics, barbecues and long days at the beach.
This pasta salad is perfect for taking on the go. It is light, yet substantial and dressed in a light vinaigrette, so no worries over gloppy mayo sitting out in the sun.
I love this particular pasta salad because of all the veggies in it and you can even add more… broccoli, julienned zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, red bell pepper, summer beans, etc. would all be great in this salad. The beauty of summer is that so much fresh, gorgeous produce is available!
One of my goals in summer is to avoid turning on the stove most days… The black tar roof of the building I live in is my ceiling, need I explain further how I have come to understand what a roast chicken must feel like in the oven?!
It is (almost) officially summer and that means lighter meals. Most of us love cooking and ALL of us love eating (please tell me it isn’t just me), but let’s be honest for a minute… Wouldn’t you rather be outside instead of stuck in front of a stove on a blissfully perfect summer day?
This pasta dish comes together in record time. From start to finish it’s about 15 minutes and then it’s off to the beach or hanging out in the backyard. There is no heavy sauce here, just a light “vinaigrette” that comes together from the oil of the sundried tomatoes & artichokes, a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of starchy pasta water.
A few big handfuls of spinach give it color and make a healthy addition to the pasta. Spinach is rich in iron and the nutrients are more easily broken down and absorbed by your body with the addition of fresh lemon juice (and it’s just good!)