In celebration of the finale of Top Chef Masters, and the premiere of the new season starting up in Las Vegas, as well as the general hype that seems to be surrounding food media these days, what with Julie/Julia hitting the theaters, I was planning to write a whole series of food-based posts. I wanted to have them all composed and ready to be published in my absence while I was traveling to my family's cottage in Pennsylvania last week. Alas, I was lucky merely to get some laundry done and some bags packed before we hit the road. The cottage gets three channels on the tv if you're lucky, and cell phone coverage is spotty, so you can imagine there are not many wireless signals to pick up. Therefore, food week has been rescheduled for this week!
First, I'd like to share with you, as promised, some of the dishes and recipes we have been enjoying with the bounty from O's garden.
1. Oven Roasted Tomatoes
For two days straight while J. was traveling, I lived almost exclusively on oven roasted tomato sandwiches. Using the first cherry tomatoes from my own plant, as well as some vine ripened ones I bought at the store that were threatening to go to mush, I tried this technique that was mentioned in the local newspaper. Basically, you cut the tomatoes into wedges (just halve the cherry tomatoes), spread them out on a cookie sheet (I lined mine with foil to make cleanup easier), and drizzle them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake them in the oven at 200 degrees for at least six hours, until they are shriveled up, but still maintain their shape. I also put a bulb of garlic in with them, but it did not get as done as I would like, so I'd probably advise doing this separately at a higher temperature.
You can store the tomatoes in a tupperware container in the fridge for several days at least. I was planning on making sort of a bruschetta with them and some goat cheese, but then found that they were delicious if I put them on some bread with a little bit of butter and stuck the whole thing in the toaster oven for a little bit. I topped the sandwich with some basil before eating.
2. Linguine with Tomatoes, Baby Zucchini, and Herbs
I first tasted this recipe at my brother and sister-in-law's house. They were serving it as a side with some pork chops on the grill, but noted that they had also enjoyed it as a main dish. After I got the recipe from my brother (if you didn't click on the link, it's from Food and Wine, but seriously, you need to click on this link.) This is a super easy, fresh fresh tasting sauce that can be thrown together very quickly. We had it last evening minus the zucchini, and mixed in some grilled chicken and green beans as well. Every vegetable on our plate, including the herbs, came out of our garden. This will be a staple recipe in our house for a while to come.
3. Refrigerator Pickled Hot Peppers
As I mentioned in a previous post, the peppers that are coming out of the garden are spicier than I had anticipated. While they would be great in salsa, I could probably only use one or two for each batch, and I have quite a few more than that. They are a little too spicy to just throw on a sandwich as is. So, I thought I'd seek out a way to tone down the heat and increase the flavor by pickling them. I don't really have it in me to attempt a full scale canning operation, and don't have quite that many peppers to justify it anyway.
I found this recipe for pickling the peppers in a refrigerator method, which means you prepare them and store them in the fridge rather than on the shelf. It was very simple, just involved slicing the peppers and boiling some water, vinegar and salt together. I used a combination of the small cherry peppers and a couple of the larger green peppers, and also threw in some green beans, because I had picked some that day and there weren't enough for a side dish for a meal. I just used an empty pickle jar to pack them in, and also added some dill that I got from my mom's neighbor.
J. enjoys them on his sandwich wrap creations for lunch, and I like the green beans right out of the jar. They remind me very much of these pickles that J. and I used to eat at Crowley's, the bar where we met. One of the guys he meets there to watch football brings them in and serves them spread out in a disposable foil pan. They are both tart and spicy, and while they are much hotter than I really can stand comfortably, I could never resist eating a few more than I should.
4. Green Beans with Bacon and Onions This is the kind of recipe that almost seems to cancel out the healthy goodness of the fresh produce you're bringing in from your garden, but it's one of our all time favorites, one that J. grew up eating. If you aren't familar, basically, you just chop up some raw bacon, throw it in a sautee pan with some sliced onions (I like to use red ones for the color and the flavor they offer), and stir them around over medium high heat until the bacon is crisp and the onions are softened. Throw the green beans in (you can steam them a little first, or you really don't have to -- they are better if they are crunchier here), stir a bit, and serve. Great with anything from the grill.
5. Roasted Herbed Potato Salad in Mustard Vinaigrette
I made up this recipe a week or so ago when I knew we were having flank steak, but hadn't yet thought about a side dish. I had some redskinned potatoes and some sweet potatoes, so I chopped them up into about 2 inch chunks, spread them on a cookie sheet with a little oil, salt and pepper, then put the in the oven at 450 degrees for about a half hour.
While they were cooking, I mixed up some brown mustard with a splash of olive oil and several tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
When the potatoes were done, I put them in a big serving bowl, and tossed them with the potatoes, along with some fresh herbs. I used rosemary, basil and dill. I was afraid it would be a bit too much with both the basil and the dill, but it ended up tasting quite good. There was perhaps a bit too much of the vinaigrette, so I'd probably use less next time, but it was tangy, yummy, and easy. It would be good either hot or at room temperature.
In addition to the vegetable pasta last night, we also enjoyed some fresh peaches sliced up for dessert. The peaches came from the orchard now owned by my mother's cousins in Pennsylvania, and they were the first I've had all year that were ripe when we brought them home, and actually tasted like something. The whole meal was the taste of summer encapsulated. All that was missing was some corn on the cob, and while I don't have a patch of that in my backyard, there's a farm only fifteen minutes away that is growing and selling it for us for at least a week or two longer.