Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Tomato Salad

Tomatoes are proliferating the farmer's markets and particularly my CSA these last few weeks. I have received over 20 pounds of tomatoes in the last month. No Joke.

In my weekly CSA, there has been a regular sort of three different tomatoes:

The Roma tomatoes are a meaty, egg- or pear-shaped tomato that has few seeds and is a good canning and sauce tomato. I did not use those for this salad, but just made a tomato sauce and stored it in the fridge for later use. The orange tomatoes, similar looking to cherry tomatoes taste like starburst candy that just explodes with natural sweetness in your mouth. The Beefsteak tomatoes are the largest from the variety, hence the name. Typically used in sandwiches because of their large slices. Since I am not a sandwich eater, I used the beefsteak tomatoes for this salad.

Now this is an incredible tomato salad but there are two things to remember if you want to wow your guests with something so simple. The first is that you should try to get a mixture of different, tasty, local (if possible) tomatoes in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Second, the flavor is brought out by salting the tomatoes, so don't skip this bit. Some people get worried about putting this much salt on their food, but the bulk of it will drip off, leaving you with really beautiful, intensely flavored tomatoes.

If you can get hold of some dried flowering oregano then do, as it has the most heavenly flavor. Feel free to use the dried stuff that you get in a little container, but it can taste a bit like sawdust when compared to the fruity, fragrant flavor you get from the flowering variety. Oregano is also great to grow in the garden. This salad is from Jamie Oliver's recipe, called "The Mothership Tomato Salad"

  • 2 1/4 pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good pinch dried oregano
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped

    1. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and others into uneven chunks. Straightaway this will give you the beginnings of a tomato salad that's really brave and exciting to look at and eat. Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a good pinch of sea salt. 
    2. Give them a toss, season again and give a couple more tosses. The salt won't be drawn into the tomatoes; instead it will draw any excess moisture out, concentrating all the lovely flavors. Leave the tomatoes in the colander on top of a bowl to stand for around 15 minutes, then discard any juice that has come out of them.
    3. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle over the oregano. Make a dressing using 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, the garlic and the chile. Drizzle the tomatoes with enough dressing to coat everything nicely.
    4. This is a fantastic tomato salad, which is totally delicious to eat on its own. It's also great served with some balls of mozzarella or some nice, grilled ciabatta bread.


    Storage Facts: Tomatoes should never be refrigerated until they:
    • have been cooked
    • have been cut or put into a raw dish like a salsa
    • are fully ripe and would spoil if left further at room temperature

    Place tomatoes stem end up, and don't put them on a sunny windowsill to hasten ripening. Instead, put tomatoes in a sealed paper bag with or without ethylene-producing fruit such as bananas. Ripe tomatoes will hold at room temperature for two or three days. Ripe tomatoes you've refrigerated to keep from spoiling will taste better if you bring them to room temperature before eating.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Mixed Vegetables and Tofu in Lime Ginger Sauce (Vegan, Gluten Free)

    It's South Asian night at my home with this sweet lime ginger tofu stir fry. I used string beans, red and green peppers, baby corn and broccoli, but you can use what ever veggies you prefer. The tofu is lightly fried to a crispy outside and a moist center that just explodes with a symphony of sweet ginger and garlic and punch of lemon and lime. Tofu is one of those legumes that just absorbs flavor like a sponge and can be morphed into anything you embrace it with.  Serve over hot jasmine rice and reserved marinade.

    Servings 4

    1 16-oz package extra-firm, water-packed tofu
    1 (12-oz) bag Fresh Stir Fry Veggie Medley (or cut your own – whatever veggies you like!)
    2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil (any light-tasting oil)
    1-1/2 tablespoons water

    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup lime juice
    1/2 cup soy sauce (Gluten Free)
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    teaspoon minced ginger
    teaspoon toasted sesame oil


    1. Drain tofu; cut into 6 slices width-wise. Press tofu for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.

    2. Mix ingredients for marinade; Cook over low heat in a saucepan and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve approx 2/3 cup for sauce, 1/3 cup for actual marinade.

    3. Cut pressed tofu into cubes (6 cubes per slice). Place in a glass dish or plastic zipper bag; pour the 1/3 cup of marinade over the tofu. Marinate for at least 1 hour; preferably 4-6.

    4. Heat 2 TBSP oil in large skillet or wok over medium/medium-high heat. Remove tofu from marinade.

    5. Make sauce: Add reserved marinade to a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 2 minutes to reduce a bit and concentrate the flavors. Continue to stir until sauce starts to thicken; reduce to low heat. Sauce should lightly coat the whisk.

    6. Cook Tofu: Add tofu to hot pan, being careful to not overcrowd. You’ll probably need to do it in 2 batches. Resist the urge to touch your tofu cubes until they are golden brown on one side – then use tongs to flip. Once golden brown on both sides, remove from pan. Add veggies to pan (you might need to add a bit more oil) and stir-fry until bright and tender-crisp.

    7. Combine: Return tofu to pan with veggies. Add enough sauce so that everything is lightly coated, but not drowning in sauce.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Tuscan White Bean Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free)

    Old fashioned comfort foods are back in style with this modest pot of beans in a creamy tomato base soup. Of course, some of us never stopped cooking with dried beans, for we know that they are handy (they store nearly indefinitely), reliable, inexpensive, practical, and extremely good for you. In short, they're indispensable.

    Dried beans need to be soaked in water for several hours before cooking, so on a bleary day when there are gray cloud outside saying "stay in", head to the kitchen, fill up a pot water, and toss in some beans. Hours later when the beans are ready to be cooked, this hearty soup will feed 6 people or you're lucky enough to be serving only two or three people, you'll be able to store nicely for a few days in the fridge. You will have a ready made hearty meal when you come home from work starved.

    Dried cannellini beans or other white beans, garlic, onions, carrots and celery create a thick white puree at the heart of this country style Tuscan soup.

    Serves 6


    1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or other white beans
    1 bay leaf
    5 tablespoons olive oil
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    1 carrot, finely chopped
    1 celery rib, finely chopped
    3 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    3 cups boiling water
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    Olive oil to serve

    1. Pick over the beans carefully, discarding any stones or other particles. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Then soak in large bowl of cold water for several hours or overnight.
    2. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water. Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and return the beans to the pan, cover with cold water and bring to boil again. Add the bay leaf and cook for 1-2 hours until the beans are tender, Drain again. Remove the bay leaf.
    3. Puree about three-quarters of the beans in a food processor to create a smooth paste.
    4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and cook until it softens. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes more, until they are soft but not mushy.
    5. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme. Cook for 6-8 minutes more, stirring often.
    6. Pour in the boiling water. Stir in the beans and the bean puree. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    7. Serve the soup in individual bowls sprinkled with a little olive oil.

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