Archives for posts with tag: tomatoes

The word from the Met (England’s weather agency) is that summer is officially over.  I know that the autumnal equinox isn’t for another 17 days, but according to the experts, the temperatures are going to be cooler and we’re going to get rained on for the next couple of weeks.

So, now’s the time to start thinking about what to do with the last of the summer veg patch.  If you have tomatoes that have gone red but still don’t feel completely ripe, use them up making a jam or chutney – it’s incredibly easy and will absolutely make your Christmas table!  (if you can wait that long).  It’s great with a nice sharp cheddar or as a condiment for burgers or grilled chicken, nice and tangy with a touch of heat.

Make it now and let it mature for about a month before serving – this recipe will make 2-3 jars.

Tomato and Chili Jam

  • 2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/2″ thick piece ginger (about 1″ wide), peeled and microplaned
  • 3 chillies, trimmed, seeded and minced (more if you want extra heat)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and microplaned
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar

Pour everything into a non-reactive pot (stainless steel works well, but I use Calphalon and it does fine).  Bring it to the boil and reduce it slightly so that it’s not a rollicking boil, but is bubbling away, then let it cook and cook and cook – it’ll take about an hour until everything is reduced and … well … jammy.  When it’s getting thick and looks like it should only have about 30 minutes to go, put your jars and jam funnel into a 200 F oven to warm up and do any final sterilization.  When it’s nice and thick, spoon into the warm, sterile jars and put the lid on nice and tight, and let cool.  Let it rest in a cool, dark place for a month (at least) to let it mature.

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Woke up this morning to about an inch and a half of snow.  Now, I feel that I need to explain something – I’m from the South.  Even though I’ve lived in Washington, DC, and Connecticut, I still have a Southerner’s mentality about snow – which is that it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying “sleep in!  relax!  go outside and play with the dog if you must, but otherwise, take a load off inside where it’s warm and dry.”  I somehow managed to fight that urge and made it in to work – but, then schlepped my way back home around lunch.  The snow was bucketing down by that time and one of us needed to make sure we were here to take care of the Wondermutt.

Which leads to a question I’ve always had – what is it about snow that makes dogs generally lose their mind?  I took ours up to the field near our house and let her off her leash and she was like a child just let out of school, bounding through the snow drifts, sticking her nose all the way down in it and then doing that great thing that dogs do where they crouch down on their front legs and dare you to chase them.  So I obliged her and we ran around like total nutters until I couldn’t feel my ears.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, if you ask me!

So, for obvious reasons, I needed something to warm me up when we got back home.  I’ve always loved tomato soup and think it’s a cure for all but the worst cases of frostbite.  This recipe is based on the one I linked to on Epicurious – while it was an okay start for a soup, I thought it needed a kick in the pants.

Red’s Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

  • 4 lbs tomatoes, halved
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, still in their skins
  • 2 red peppers, seeded and cut into eighths
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup cream (or 1/4 cup creme fraiche and 1/4 cup skim milk)

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Use parchment paper to line a large rimmed baking tray (or 2, if you need the space) .  Spread out your tomatoes (cut side up), peppers and garlic, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake about an hour.

When the tomatoes are nearly done, start to cook your onions.  In a large pot, heat a little olive oil and the butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes as the butter is melting and swirl to infuse the butter and oil with the heat of the pepper flakes.  Add the onions and cook until softened.  Add the oregano and mix well.  When the tomatoes are done, add the tomatoes, peppers and squeeze the softened garlic out of their skins.  Mix well then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Use a stick blender to puree in the pot or puree in a standing blender in batches.  Bring back up to the heat and add the cream – once added, do not let boil.

Serve with your favorite kind of grilled cheese sammich!

don't you feel warmer already?

When I was a kid growing up, the week before Thanksgiving was a study in organized chaos.  My mother worked as a nurse, so it wasn’t like she had a full day to make pies and treats while we were out of her hair – basically, every evening after dinner was a couple of hours of baking and assembling dishes for the Big Event. 

So, asking mom “what’s for dinner?” the Sunday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving Week was … well … a bit of a red rag to a bull – particularly as we got closer to mid-week.  While she had her repetoir of hey, presto! dishes, feeding 3 kids and one hungry dad must have been more aggro than she needed or wanted.

I wish she could have known about Aztec Soup and quesadillas – it’s such an incredibly easy and tasty meal and it’s so NOT a Thanksgiving meal that it’s a great way to feed the masses without feeling like you’re pre-empting the dinner that you want to be special.  I go whole hog and make my own guacamole and salsa, as well, which I’ll include here (because I’m telling you now, it is the best guacamole recipe you’ll ever try – take it from one who used to hate the stuff until I had this recipe).

I really like the soup because, despite its name, it isn’t going to blow the top of your head off with heat.  In fact, it’s rather mild – it’s something you could serve as a first course without worrying that everyone would be too full to eat a main course after.  And, it’s something you can faff around with – add tortilla chips to it, add chunks of avocado, serve it with a few crumbles of feta – it’s incredibly flexible. 

The soup is adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen, and no, it isn’t made with real Aztecs …

Aztec Soup

  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, small dice
  • 1/2 red pepper, small dice
  • 2 red chillies, seeded and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 6 thighs, skinned, trimmed and cubed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Tomato salsa

In a good sized pot, heat the olive oil over low-to-medium heat, adding the onions, pepper and chillies to slowly sweat and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant, then season with salt and pepper, add the stock and chicken, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Just before you serve, add the zest and juice of the lime, then, in each bowl, add a tablespoon of tomato salsa.

Tomato Salsa

  • 1 basket cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1 chilli, seeded and minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped fine
  • Juice of 1 or 2 limes (depending on how juicy they are)
  • Handful of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

What can I say – put everything in a bowl and mix, then taste to adjust the seasoning (the salt, especially).

The World’s Best Guacamole.  Ever.

  • 4 ripe Haas avocadoes, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • good tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, minced
  • handful chopped cilantro

I learned this tip from Nigella – in a cup, dissolve the salt into the lime juice while you’re peeling and pitting your avocado.  Then, in a bowl, mash the avocado with the salty lime juice, but leave it half mushy, half chunky.  Add the pepper, chilli, garlic and cilantro and mix well.  Check for salt.

And, in any of these, feel free to add more chillies if you want a little more fiyah – the amount I put down will give you a little heat, but is mostly mild.

good weekend eatin’!
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