Thursday, August 8

Fresh Tomato Sauce

When summer tomatoes are at their peak, there's no better way to use them than in homemade sauce

I was one of those unusual children that never liked ketchup. Or any tomato-based condiment, including tomato sauce. My dad used to make big pots full of homemade tomato sauce that we’d keep in the freezer and I would never eat it, opting for buttered noodles instead. But my tastes have changed, and last weekend I found myself making my own red sauce. I’m so focused on heirlooms at this time of year that I forget how good (and inexpensive) the regular tomatoes are at the farmers market. For about $5, I was able to get everything I needed to make homemade tomato sauce and a bonus of fresh tomato juice (did somebody say Bloody Mary?). The tomatoes require some prep work, but if you have a leisurely afternoon in front of you it’s actually quite therapeutic. You’ll be left with a fresh, flavorful, perfect tomato sauce that’s great in pasta dishes, baked with chicken or fish, or just eaten alone with some crusty bread. It’ll keep in the freezer for a few months too.

Fresh Tomato Sauce:
  • Cut a small shallow "x" in the bottom of 4.5 lbs. of tomatoes* and place in boiling water for 30 seconds.
  • Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Rub off the skins.
  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters, place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, and squeeze the tomato seeds into the strainer, letting the juices collect in the bowl. Remove any tough core.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a pot.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened but not brown.
  • Add in 3 minced garlic cloves and cook for another minute.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of sugar.
  • Cook over a medium-low flame for 35-40 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.**
  • Stir in 3 tbsp. fresh sliced basil.
  • Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze.

Makes about four cups
*Any large variety works. I used beefsteak.
**I like a smoother texture so I used a potato masher to break the sauce up finer.

Wednesday, August 7

One-Pot Tomato Farro with Sausages

This recipe from Smitten Kitchen could be the ultimate easy weeknight meal. Throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot and watch them turn into a beautifully balanced meal of healthy grains coated in a fresh and light tomato sauce. I added some browned Italian sausage here for more flavor and bulk, but I've also made a vegetarian version and added more tomatoes and it was equally delicious. Leftovers reheat very nicely, making this a must have lunch for my new routine. 

One-Pot Tomato Farro with Sausages:
  • Combine 1 c. farro* and 1 3/4 c. cold water in a pot.
  • Add in 1 pt. halved grape tomatoes, 1/2 thinly sliced onion, 1 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of red chili flakes, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Bring the whole pot to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until farro is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed.**
  • Meanwhile, add 1/2 lb. crumbled Italian sausage to a hot pan and break up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Cook sausage until browned and cooked through.
  • Stir the sausage into the cooked farro, along with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp. fresh torn basil, and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
  • Divide onto plates and enjoy.

Serves two-four
*It's important to use semi-pearled farro that cooks in about 30 minutes.
**If you find that you still have a lot of liquid, just drain some off.

Monday, August 5

Jalapeno Corn Soup with Seared Scallops

This spicy summer corn soup is great with seared scallops for supper or on its own as a side dish

Jalapeno Corn Soup with Seared Scallops

Life has been really crazy the last few months (and to be honest, even longer, since planning a wedding was no small feat). Part of why it's been so hectic is that I decided to leave my job - where I've been going everyday for the last four years - and work for a new company. Besides the obvious learning curves that come with any new job, one of the biggest changes is that I have to provide my own breakfast and lunch most days. This has made leftovers even more important, and I've been planning my weekly dinners around things that keep and reheat well for lunch the next day. Soup is an obvious choice, and this jalapeño corn one was perfect for dinner with seared scallops and on its own for leftovers the next few days. It's definitely spicy, but the sweet corn and meaty scallops help to balance it out. 

Jalapeño Corn Soup with Seared Scallops:
For Soup
  • Melt 3 tbsp. of butter into a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and 2 diced jalapeños* and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until softened but not brown.
  • Add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in the kernels from 9 ears of corn and cook for another 5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Pour in 4 c. of low-sodium chicken broth, 4 reserved corn cobs, and 1/2 c. heavy cream.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Bring soup to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the corn cobs and discard them.
  • Carefully pour the 3/4 of the soup into a blender** and puree until smooth.***
  • Return pureed soup back to the pot with the remaining chunky soup and stir to combine.
  • Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.****
For Scallops
  • Heat 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet until very hot.
  • Add in 8-12 large scallops and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until caramelized.
  • To serve, place a few scallops in a shallow bowl, then top with the soup.

Serves four-six (main course)
*I used two and kept most of the seeds in and it was very spicy. You can remove the seeds or just use one jalapeno if you don't want it too hot.
**Or use an immersion blender if you have one. Be careful blending hot soup because it can cause your blender to explode.
***If you want, you can strain the soup after blending to get an even smoother texture.
****Soup can be frozen for a few months for refrigerated for several days.

Thursday, August 1

Shrimp and Burst Tomato Linguine

One of the things I remember from our honeymoon in Venice was that every pasta dish contained some fresh chopped tomatoes even though it was never listed as such on the menu. It always surprised me, and it always tasted really good. This dish is just a simple shrimp scampi that's kicked up a notch with fresh baby grape tomatoes. The tomatoes are left whole and are cooked until they just start to soften and burst but still retain a lot of their freshness. That, plus pasta, shrimp, and a garlicky wine sauce are my idea of the perfect summer dinner. Drinking cold white wine with it is not optional.

Shrimp and Burst Tomato Linguine:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1/2 lb. of pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 3/4 lb. of peeled and deveined shrimp and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until pink and opaque.
  • Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and leave the olive oil in the skillet.
  • Add in 1/2 diced onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add in 1/4 c. dry white wine and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add in 1 pt. of grape tomatoes, a pinch of red chile flakes, and a pinch of salt and reduce the heat to low.
  • Cook for 8 minutes, pressing on the softened tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon until they burst.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add the pasta, the cooking liquid, and the shrimp to the skillet with the tomatoes and toss to combine.
  • Taste for seasoning, then divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two-three