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Tomato Breakfast

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tomatoes2011.jpgOnce, in Spain, we were having breakfast and the guy next to us started rubbing big, hunking tomato quarters all over his toast, rubbing them until the skin came off in his hand. Then, he dumped salt, pepper and olive oil on the mash and ate it.

Later, we went out for tapas, and the whole table next to us started smearing tomatoes onto bread. We'll have one of those we said, of course, and soon my entire family was squeezing the meat out of the tomatoes with the help of the nap of the crusty bread.

If the skins won't come off -- meaning the tomatoes are old and not very good -- this isn't the method. But with my summer crop of tomatoes hanging so alluringly on the vine, they and great olive oil are the perfect candidates to go on my Seeduction bread, toasted.

This year we grew six different types of tomatoes. Eating one type per piece of bread really helps clarify the taste memory of each of these. Pictured are the small SubArtic Plenty, a small breed that does alright in cool temperatures and flourished through our cold July. They have never gotten very big for me, and aren't true early tomatoes so they are not my favorites for practical reasons, but their taste is clean, clear and sweet with just a hint of tart.

Thumbnail image for FiorentinoTomato.jpgThe heavy ribbed tomato on the left is a Costoluto Fiorentino, with a very sweet and very tart taste. Very meaty and the skin comes off nicely even when tucked in crevices. I didn't give these plants enough of a sunny home, so the ones that are ripe now are smaller than I hoped. Some more promising fruit is still on the vine.

To the right is the Black Russian that has produced so well for me this year. They riped with a purplish top on the green fruit then turn a deep violet red. The meat is equally saturated with color. The taste is sweet, only slightly tart, with a meatiness that hits the top back arch of the mouth like a steak does.  


BikeSpeerColfax.jpgHot days. So many tomatoes.

 tomatoOpalkaSm.jpgI picked the first few plum tomatoes. We have nine (4  San Marzano Redorta; 5 Opalka) plants in all and we hope they will make enough paste to last us all year. We've never grown the Redorta, and the Opalka were grown from seeds I saved from last year, so I wanted to try them before I bothered to store the lot. This first batch of plums, I made into gazpacho.

Sunday afternoon gazpacho for after the U.S. Pro Cycling finale in Denver August 28 - a perfect excuse.

We'd had a few Sierra Nevada beers up at the race finish, but were all pretty hungry after riding around to find the best race viewing positions. The food at the event looked good, but there wasn't that much shade, and besides I had the gazpacho made.

gazpachoMeal.jpgHere's what I did on the day before: dropped six tomatoes in boiling water. Turned the heat off below them, and pulled them out one at a time. Removed the skin, which I put in a stainer over a bowl. Then, I opened the tomatoes and scooped out the seeds, which I also put in the stainer. I cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowls with a chopped green (somewhat spicy) pepper, a garden-fresh cucumber diced, a red onion, a few tablespoons of basil, 3 small minced garlic. The tomatoes were making a juice while all the other chopping was going on, and I went out to the garden to see if there was something else.

chinesecucumber.pngFound a Chinese cucumber that is a cross between a zucchini and a cucumber. (This vegetable must be peeled because it has a fussy skin of little hairs all over it's exterior. My friend Sandy brought these seeds back from Chinatown last winter.  We grew them not knowing what they would turn out to be.)

To all the chopped vegetables I added about ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 cup water, 2 Tbs of dry white vermouth and the water that the tomato seed and peel made.  Just before I served it I added about a dozen ice cubes and let the gazpacho sit out at room temperature.

Martha was assigned the wine for this afternoon, after-race meal, and found that gazpacho is the wine pairer's nightmare. She brought a couple of Spanish reds (a Rioja and its cousin, a Tempranillo) and they were perfect.

CherryPeppers.jpgWe started with some previously marinated eggplant (with parsley/garlic/red pepper) and some green bean marinated in rice wine vinegar.  

We bought a pizza crust from a local pizzeria, Abo's, on the ride home. Stretched it into several pieces and grilled them. First on one side, then flipping them, and adding some chopped garlic, basil and rosemary from the yard. Then we grilled some eggplant rounds. When they were marked well on both sides we piled on cheese and a tomato slice. These were the garnish in the gazpacho that we served with the grilled pizza crust. Enough for six people. There were six of us and we had to share two pieces of leftover piece of semifreddo. It was cold and very frozen, and felt great on this hot afternoon.



Boeuf Bourguignon

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beef-two-stages.jpgBeef Stew in Red Wine - Super any Sunday
Made this at least a day ahead. Day of - Go skiing, make the rest of the Super Bowl buffet or read a book and know that your Boeuf Bourguignon is getting better in the refrigerator. Just warm and serve.

beef-b-veggies.jpgCarefully, we follow Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1. Except we start by frying a piece of bacon in the Le Creuset because we don't have lardons (Bacon's flavor adds depth, salt pork works, too, but if you don't have it skip it. It the bacon is too salty, boil it for a few minutes and then pat dry before frying). Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove bacon. Heat the oil and 1 Tbs. olive oil to almost smoking. Brown 1.5 lbs of beef uncrowded on all sides. We used a package of stew meat from the freeze and it was cut a little smaller than we prefer. Julia suggests 2-inch cubes. This amount is perfect as a complete meal for two or serves four with other courses.

Put browned beef in a bowl with 1 Tbs of flour and a little salt and pepper. Brown 1/2 onion and a carrot in the Le Creuset, then return the meats to it, and cook uncovered in the middle of the oven for 4 minutes. Toss and return to oven for another 5 or so minutes. This browns the flour and forms a nice crust on the meat.

beef-burgandy.jpgRemove. Turn the oven temperature down to 275. (I know this is low but low is slow is perfect for Denver dryness and altitude). Stir in 1.5 cups of a good red wine (a pizza wine will do, but better won't hurt) and enough stock so the meat is barely covered. Add 1/2 Tbs of tomato paste, 1 clove garlic, thyme and 1 bay leaf. And the bacon. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and set in the lower third of the oven. Check to make sure the liquid only simmers and let it go for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when it pierces easily with a fork.

 When the meat is cooked, we use a slotted spoon to take out the big chucks of onion and carrot. They've already given up their flavor. We add mushrooms and small white onions to the casserole and let it cool, uncovered. Then cover and refrigerate. Just warm up slowly in the casserole before serving. 

Roasted, boiled or mashed potatoes are great to help soak up the sauce, but bread, pasta or rice work, too. If you want a green vegetable, peas are great. Julia suggests you serve a young, full-bodied French wine with this dish, and she's right, of course. 
MenuCard2010.pngTo enjoy making and eating a multi-course meal as an alternating gift for each other. My husband and I made that our goal  when we started -- 10-years ago -- our current New Year's Eve dinner tradition. I'd make a little 'amuse bouche' or something to start and pick a drink to go with it. Then my husband would make a small first course and put it with another wine, and vice-versa until we'd had soup, a little main course, maybe a salad - some course to make it even - and dessert. Variety - and pleasure - was what we were after, and each of these courses was very small. Hopefully, wine was left in each bottle.

Then one New Year's Eve, friends who were stranded by snowy-road closures came to dinner. Each of us took a turn in the kitchen making a course to go with a wine, which is more easily finished with 5 to 10 friends than by just the two of us.

Since then we haven't really cared if it was just us, or anyone else that wanted to join it. This year, the menu was basically our doing -- great friends did join in --  so I can be brutally critical of how it turned out, starting with the Persimmon Sorbet.

The persimmons taste is fruity but subtle, and dry with an almost chalky taste. In an unripe fruit it's all chalk and inedible. The vodka and lemon added just the right brightness, and the vanilla made the aroma.

We served this in wine glasses with a sparkling Vouvray from Marczyk's Wines. The wine was subtle -- like the persimmon's fruitiness -- and dry, which is something unique to persimmons. These understatements worked to set the scene for the next courses and settle everyone to the table after tasting stand-around food. The smell of the Vouvray was stronger than champagne and with the vanilla in the sorbet was almost a focusing agent. The little fried sage leaves reminded us that savory food was to come.

We had offered a very short martini of vodka infused with olives to start and it was okay, but probably too much. We also opened a sparking Syrah that someone said was like grape juice. This should have been saved for dessert. A dry champagne would have been the best choice with hors d'oevres. But the sorbet erased all that.

And the next course was the star. Steuart made the stock for the lobster bisque with shrimp shells and vegetable peels that we save in the freezer, and with the skin from the salmon. When the lobster was cooked and added it was the smell of the sea. He thickened the bisque, not with heavy cream, but with pureed canned pumpkin. This was garden pumpkin so no salt or sugar was added and it's flavor was lighter than cream's. We'd just bought some Tasmanian Pepperberries at Savory and this taste was the sparkle in this star. A few whole pepperberries were placed on a dollop of Creme Fraise on the top of the soup. It looked great, but when you actually eat the pepperberry, which is strong but sweet, your mouth goes a little numb. The white wine was overpowered by all this and our best choice pairing with this course would have been a completely dry champagne or San Pellegrino. Except for the dwarfing of the wine this was the gift of the night.

For the main course, the fish monger at Whole Foods had cut up two very similar fillets of farm-raised Norwegian salmon. He removed the skin and we took it home for the stock of the bisque. We're leery of farm fish, but he said this fish ate better than most Americans, so we gave it a try. The wild Sockeye we'd used in our last en croute was very lean and a little too dry surrounded by the pastry. Perfect timing would make the sockeye work fine, but I knew I'd be busy on New Years eve, so this was a great choice. I made the pastry with butter instead of the ground suet I'd used last time and the dough was much easier to work, but maybe not as puffy if that's how one judges puff pastry. Between the two fillets of salmon I put thinly sliced onion and mushroom -- raw. With the sockeye I'd sauteed them in advance. The farm salmon, no saute, entry into a hot 450 degree oven, turned down to 350 degrees, and 45 minutes made it hassle free. We let it rest somewhere warm until we served it. Depending on this rest time and how warm it will be you could cut down the cooking time, but this salmon was pretty forgiving.

Steuart's Bearnaise sauce was great on the potatoes and any bits left on the plate were great with the salmon. Two kinds of crispy at once -- the pastry outside the salmon and the Parmesan cheese on the potatoes gave your brain something to play back and forth with as this course was eaten. And inside each was the strong salmon flavor contrasting the homey blandness of great potatoes. Green beans weighted the green side of the color pallet and Steuart had sprinkled on out favorite pepper from Savory -- Aleppo -- but it was just too much. Savory's beautiful white pepper was already on the potatoes. Live and learn. Another reason it was too much was that the light red Valpolicella (Madonna di Como) was already a strong addition to this complex course, pulling everything together nicely.

Next, we just ripped open a clam of mixed greens and dressed it with a reduction of Balsamic vinegar mixed with a little olive oil. Less is more.

The cheese and crackers gave us a moment to finish up the wines open on the table. And the fresh bread Steuart had made (Bittman's No-Knead).

Pat brought an unfrosted chocolate cake that was perfectly light in texture, dark in color, rich in chocolate flavor and delicately dusted with powdered sugar. It invited in coffee, more champagne and the New Year.

Dukkah, the dry dip

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Hot Day Lunch
dukka.jpgThe excuse to get together was to take pictures of food. Food like the Egyptian dip called Dukkah.

It has all the flavor of a dip, concentrated so a bland thing like a chip or cracker compliments and carries it, but Dukkah is dry. No gooey skin to form while it sits out at the party, and it stores well as a leftover. It's as easy as putting out chex mix only it tastes fresh and crunchy, and has a smell that's the best part of a taco seasoning package.

Michele made the dip, some grilled asparagus (she'd picked it while running on a trail near her house in Boulder) and a hollandaise and a lemony mayonnaise to go with it. Beth took the photographs and I ... did the talking.

Dukkah
Adapted from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
1 cup sesame seeds
1 3/4 cups coriander seeds
2/3 cup blanched (skinned) hazelnuts
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper (I like using Aleppo)
 
Put each nut/seed on a separate tray & roast them separately in a 325 degree oven till they begin to color & give off a slight aroma.  Do not let them become too brown, you will need to watch carefully.  Put them together in the food processor with the salt & pepper & grind until they are finely crushed but not pulverized.  Be careful not to over blend or it will become a paste.  You want more of a crushed, dry blend.  Add more salt if needed. 

Serve with pita bread cut in pieces and very good olive oil. Dip the pita in the oil, then dip in the Dukkah.

Fruit Salad Mothers Day

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A Mothers' Day Herb Fruit Salad:

fruit-tarragon.pngSpring Tarragon Salad with Fruit

The tarragon has come back in my garden and its sweetness, because it is so young, makes it so mild that I added it with some garden mint to the fruit salad I made for Mothers' Day Brunch.

It's simple, but the best fruit salad I've had in a long time.


Peal and chop fruit, such as cantaloupe, mango, peaches, etc. into bite sized pieces. I used mango, cantaloupe, avocado and apple.

Zest and then squeeze a Meters lemon. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the best local honey until it dissolves. Add chopped tarragon and mint. Add this to the fruit.

Add more delicate fruit like berries just before serving, and toss all to incorporate the fruit and the lemon-honey dressing.

We packed the fruit and dressing in containers, carried berries in another container and rode to our friends house. Nice tossing was had by all.
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Spanish Tortilla

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spanish-tortilla-frittata.png
A tortilla in Colorado is a flat bread made of corn masa or wheat flour. In Spain, it's a unfolded omelet or what I've heard called a Frittata.

The Basics of the Frittata:

Beaten eggs poured into a skillet, vegetables/additions added and it's baked until the eggs are set.

Potatoes go with Frittata, much more than a delicate French omelet because I don't have to ease the setting eggs over onto themselves, don't have to worry about a heavy cube of potato making the whole thing a mess. For this Frittata, we added green beans, mushrooms, sauteed onion and a little cheese to the cubed potatoes. Five beaten eggs were poured over the vegetables, and it was cooked in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, then broiled until brown.

The final step is sprinkling with a little exotic paprika from Savory Spice shop. This frittata along with the savory biscuits served 5 easily.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

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¿Qué Cocinas? a Summit County, Colorado Cooking ShowJannineYolanda.jpgraeAl.pngtortilla-ball.jpgtortillas-formed.jpgtortilla-press.jpgtortilla-cooked.jpgtortilla-tacos.jpg

Lights and cameras are on the 'talent' at my friend's stove. We're the audience, in the living room, watching the productions of Summit County TV's ¿Qué Cocinas?. Jannine Walldan and a mother-daughter team will be making guacamole that stretches the precious avocado, fish tacos using homemade corn tortillas and healthy cookies.

Jannine and Cecillia Belardi Thompson started the cooking show in 2007 for the Healthy Lifestyle effort of their organization, Summit Prevention Alliance. According to the new director of SPA, Kari Read, the show is funded by a Colorado grant from the Office of Health Disparities, but the grant runs out in June.

On each show Jannine and guest cooks make a meal using healthy ingredients, low in fat, high in fiber in both Spanish and English. Their aims are to show how to update traditional recipes to be more healthy, to show how simple it is to cook and how to save money  .... fresh, simple and pleasurable. Just like the mission of Taste Imagine.com.

For example, to double the output of a traditional guacamole recipe, these cooks added frozen peas. Mash the avocado with the same volume of peas, squeeze ½  a lime over the mixture. Add a little salt, finely chopped cilantro and tomatoes. Mix. The peas give the mixture a nice sweetness, and the strong taste of cilantro reminds you to appreciate the avocado and the tomato when you're lucky enough to get some on your chip. On the show, they mixed everything in a blender because they wanted an even consistency. I mixed it by hand with similar results but with islands of tomatoes, which is how I prefer my guacamole.

When you watch Yolanda, on Channel 10 in Summit County, you will realize how easy corn tortillas are to make.  Two cups Masa Harina and 2 cups nearly boiling water. Mix. Knead a little. Add more masa, if too sticky. Break into 1-inch balls, roll round and press in a tortilla press - between a heavy sheet of plastic. The plastic is the secret to getting a moist tortilla that doesn't stick to the press. The press pictured here was purchased in Guadalajara, and everyone in the room was jealous of how beautiful it looked and worked. Yolanda then rolled one out by hand that was nearly as nice. So, if you've got no room to store a tortilla press. Use the plastic on a counter, and roll by hand. Fry in the lightest amount of oil possible until the tortilla puffs a little and shows some golden brown.

The women then fried a couple of pieces of Tilapia, made a quick cabbage salsa and feed the family of cooks, crew and our small studio audience. For more recipes from ¿Qué Cocinas? visit the website for the Summit Prevention Alliance.



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Spinach Calzone

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FoccaciaPizza.jpgI wanted to make a spanikopita but did not have any phyllo pastry. I had the ingredients to make a pizza crust and decided to make a spinach pie -- part Italian part Greek. Serve as a light main course for dinner or as a party dish cut into slices.

 

Spinach Calzone

Dough:

2 tsp. dry yeast

1 c. warm water

2 T. sugar

3.5 C flour

1 T salt

¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

Filling:

Fresh spinach about 1 lb

2 heads of roasted garlic

cottage cheese

Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 pinch nutmeg, to taste

salt and pepper


Make the dough: dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.

Using a food processor, add the flour, salt and water and extra virgin olive oil. Mix it up and knead to the desired consistency by hand. Put the dough in a plastic bag and let it rise in the fridge. Let the dough come to room temp before trying to knead.

 

Make the filling: put the clean spinach in a sauce pan with a cover and cook on low heat until wilted. Pinch into a colander and let it sit and drain.

After garlic has roasted for about 40 minutes in foil and cooled, squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skin into a mixing bowl. Chop cooked spinach and add to roasted garlic. Stir in cottage cheese and parmesan, stir in raw beaten egg. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

 

Take dough out of fridge and let come to room temp. Preheat oven to 375 f. Divide dough in half and roll out each half to about ½ inch thick.

 

Put  one half of dough on a cooking sheet. Put filling onto dough and smooth out to about 1 inch in depth. Place second half of dough on top of spinach mixture. Roll the bottom selvage up around the top and crimp to seal edges. Brush with egg wash, salt and pepper.

 

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, rotating for even baking. Let it rest before cutting.

Serve with a tomato salad.

 

Seafood Stew

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seafood_stew.jpgIt's February, so Steuart is making a hearty seafood stew. Mussels were on sale -- so we took a pound of those, and abouta 1/4 pound of shrimp, fresh barramundi also on sale at WholeFoods, and a calamari steak. All together,  we spent less than $10 on fish and that made enough stew to serve four people.

The broth was created by, first, sauteed the onion, garlic and bell pepper, then adding a can of tomatoes and about 1/2 can of water. Steuart let that simmer while he watched a little of the Winter Olympics.

vegetable-stock.jpgtomato-stock.jpgseafood_stew_calimari.jpgseafood_stew_shrimp.jpgseafood-stew-mussels.jpgSeafood Stew
-1/2 onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic
-1 bell pepper (this, or a few mushrooms, a mild chili pepper) chopped coarsely
-1 tsp dried oregano (or herbs de Provence) and 1 tsp. fresh parsley
-1 14 oz.  can tomatoes
-1  c. water
-1/3 lb. ($3) unpeeled shrimp (8 shrimp)
-.25 lb.  ($1.75) calamari steak
-.25 lb. ($2) barramundi skinless
-1 lb mussels
-1 tsp. flour
-1 Tbs. olive oil
-2 Tbs. fresh parsley


When we were fifteen minutes from the time we wanted to serve the stew, Steuart lightly floured the calamari steak, and cooked it quickly in the pre-heated olive oil. (Burner on medium).

He peeled the shrimp and kept the shells. They are waiting in the lid for the pan he's using to cook the calamari.

After the calamari cooked for a minute on each side, he removed it. Added the shrimp shells and 1/2 cup of water. This will make a flavorful broth so there is no need for a canned fish stock or clam juice. While this simmered, he chopped the calamari into cubes.

A quarter cup of white wine was brought to a boil with a clove of garlic and the mussels tossed in. These should cook just until they open. The ones that don't should be discarded. The shrimp, fish are added to the vegetable stew, then the mussels and wine, and stock strained from the shrimp shells.  Let the last minute additions warm up a minute while you chop some fresh parsley to put on top, and open the wine.

We drank a 2007 Valpolicella made by Cantina del Castello. This is a medium bodied Italian wine from the Venetto region. Winter and tomatoes are to key to why a red will go well with this stew. But the delicate tastes of the different fish can be overwhelmed by a heavy red.

 

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