Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

More vegetable-centered meals

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This time of year, vegetables are abundant and make up the bulk of our diet. Recently I wanted to put together a meal cooked on the grill using only vegetables that can easily be found at the farmers’ market. The kitchen stays cool, and people who don’t have a garden aren’t left out. If you need to accomodate vegetarians and vegans at your table, this meal can have everyone at your table happily eating the same thing, with no need for special plates.

The only remotely exotic seasonings that you’ll need are Spanish smoked paprika, readily available as Pimenton de Vera at The Spanish Table and other specialty grocers, and some capers, preferably the kind preserved in salt.
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The Joys of Summer: pizza on the grill

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About this time of year, we have some days when it’s too hot to plan dinner. All afternoon we’re listless and have no appetite, then the sun goes down, the air cools off, and we’re hungry. Nothing was planned ahead, but we still want a delicious and healthy meal. Pizza on the grill is custom-made for those times. july 2009 040

Made with beautiful ripe tomatoes and basil from the garden, this is a celebration of summer. This version is vegetarian.

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The Joys of Summer: Simple Lunches

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There are few things I love more than leisurely weekend lunches eaten on our back patio, with good food and sweet surroundings. I don’t like to fuss in the kitchen for these meals, though, and in this season there’s no reason to. With tomatoes and basil in the yard or at the farmers market, a bottle of olive oil, and a good loaf of sourdough bread, you’re set.

First, catch your tomatoes. Meaty beefsteak types are delicious here, but you can use any really flavorful tomato, including ripe sweet Sungold or Green Grape cherry tomatoes. If you have bland and blah tomatoes, do something else with them; this demands great tomato flavor. If you don’t bake your own bread, get a good loaf of crusty sourdough or a crusty baguette; in our area the baguettes from Sage Bakehouse are hard to beat. Make your basil into pesto according to your favorite recipe or use my own favorite below. During the summer, I usually have some pesto handy, and it will keep a day or two without much loss of flavor, making this truly fast food. It’s also good for a mixed group of omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans.

You’ll need (at a minimum) half a big beefsteak tomato or one regular tomato or at least a dozen cherry tomatoes per person. When you’re ready to eat, slice the tomatoes and spread them out on a plate. A lot of juice will probably run out on the cutting board. Make sure to pour it onto the plate. Juice is half the point here. Drizzle with pesto and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Drizzle on a little of your best olive oil. Slice the bread and toast or grill it. Bring the tomatoes and bread to the table on two separate plates, with a small plate for each person. The lucky eaters will need a spoon to scoop tomatoes and juice onto their crusty bread. They will also need to be sufficiently at ease to shamelessly rub their bread into the delicious juices on the tomato plate. Have plenty of napkins handy.
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The First Tomatoes

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A grill offers wonderful vegetable cooking options. It’s a pity that most people only cook meat on their grills, because grilled vegetables make wonderful and satisfying summer meals. If you are a grilling enthusiast, or would like to become one, I highly recommend the elegant cookbook by Francis Mallmann Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. My husband, the family grill-wallah, was intrigued by the directions for Burnt Tomatoes, and set out to make a great tomato sandwich. All the hot work stays outside, and your kitchen is spared. Of course you can buy tomatoes at the Farmers Market if you don’t grow them yourself, but if you plant a few around your house, you’re likely to realize why they were grown as an ornamental even back when they were thought to be poisonous.
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The Greens of Spring: Greens Enchiladas

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This recipe makes no claims to be authentic Mexican, but it’s healthy and delicious, so enjoy it for what it is. It’s certainly in the Mexican spirit of making use of what comes along. I should mention that the idea came from Rick Bayless’s famous “greens tacos,” so thanks, Rick. I used mild and velvety blanched nettles for the greens . See my earlier post on nettles if you aren’t familiar with them.

For two servings:
6 corn tortillas
A little oil for pan-frying the tortillas
1 cup blanched mild greens; Swiss chard, spinach, mallow, nettles, or a combination.
1 pint Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa; see my  website Recipes page under “tomatoes,” or substitute your own favorite cooked salsa. Raw salsas like Pico de Gallo won’t work here.
¼ pound grated Monterey Jack cheese
¼ pound Cotija cheese (or use extra Monterey Jack for a milder flavor)
½ cup chopped cilantro

Fry the tortillas briefly, or cook them on a comal if you prefer. Set them aside. Chop the greens well, mix with 1 cup of the salsa, and heat to a full simmer, stirring frequently. Spread ¼ of the greens mixture on each of two tortillas, and scatter a bit of cilantro over. Top each with another tortilla, and spread with the rest of the greens mixture and sprinkle on a little more cilantro. Top each stack with one of the remaining tortillas, spread the tops and any exposed edges of the stacks with the rest of the salsa, and top with a mixture of the two cheeses or just with shredded Monterey Jack. Bake at 400 degrees until hot and the cheese is melted. You can brown it briefly under the broiler, if you wish. Serve garnished with the remaining cilantro.
This makes a wonderful lunch or light supper. For a more filling dinner, top each stack with a fried egg. Good with beer.
In the picture above, some calendula petals are scattered around with the cilantro. They don’t have much flavor, but add a lovely sunny color.