Archive for the ‘Tomatoes’ Category

The soup that will warm your soul

When the leaves begin to turn shades of rust, orange and yellow I get inspired by one simple dish that can always be turned out in a short time in my kitchen.

Tomato Bisque is a perfect combination of local tomatoes, onion, basil and some freshly chopped chives from my herb garden.  And, don’t fret – local tomatoes can still be found at local markets and if you are lucky some growers also grow hydroponic tomatoes.

This is a recipe that will become one of your favorites this fall – I assure you!

Tomato Bisque
1 med onion-thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
4 large tomatoes, stewed in Italian seasonings
1 bay leaf
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Croutons and Parmesan Cheese for garnish

In heavy saucepan, sauté the onion in butter for 5 minutes.  Add tomato, bay leaf, brown sugar, basil, cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes.Remove bay leaves and cloves. Puree rest. Strain if you want a very smooth soup. (I like the little pieces of tomato) Add cream, milk and heat well, do not scald.

Serve sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and croutons.

Stewed tomatoes you ask?  Here is a simple way to stew and can your own tomatoes.

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Light and Fresh Pasta Meal

Ever have those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking?  I do, we all do – but instead of reaching for that frozen pizza or calling for take-out, turn to some of my quick and easy meals to help sooth your soul!

Tonight was one of those nights in the kitchen for me. We were all hungry, but didn’t feel like making a meal that would take forever, so we opted for a quick pasta dish. Garden tomatoes and basil, capers, olives…and some grilled chicken breast. Talk about a light and healthy meal and oh so delicious!  But, you better hurry out to the market to take advantage of the tomatoes and basil still available….fall is coming on fast.

Try this recipe for a weeknight meal- you won’t regret it!

McConnell Fresh and Light Pasta
3 cups Penne Pasta (whole grain)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, diced
2 T. capers
1/2 cup garden tomatoes, diced
15 basil leaves, chopped
1 lemon squeezed
3 T. olives oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced

Toss everything in a large bowl and serve with toasty french bread!

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Looking for an easy kabob recipe incorporating fresh products from the farmers market – The Market Lady has you covered!  Here is our video from the Marshfield Farmers Market visit.

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Sweet Corn Relish

Looking for as easy way to make your own corn relish?  I’ve got you covered with my mother’s recipe for Sweet Corn Relish.  If you have an upcoming family reunion or BBQ, be sure and try this recipe.  The best part is you can make it ahead to save you time in the kitchen.

Sweet Corn Relish
3 ears of fresh sweet corn
2 plum tomatoes
1 small red onion
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
Salt & pepper, to taste

Start by husking the corn and removing all the fine silky threads. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds with your finger. Chop the onion up finely and gather up the rest of the ingredients to have ready.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt and cook the corn for approximately 2 minutes. Drain and remove the kernels from the cob using a paring knife or a small chefs knife.

Once you have all the kernels off, combine them with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix everything together. Taste and adjust seasoning with the salt and pepper.

Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This should make about 3 cups of relish and can last in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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Pepper Jelly

My mother and I make Jalapeno Pepper Jelly every year to give to friends during the holidays.  Straight out of our garden we pick  peppers and prepare the kitchen for jelly making.  This takes quite a bit of time, but is worth the wait.  You can find the recipe we use here.

Most folks only know one way to consume this delicate and spicy jelly- with cream cheese and crackers.  Yes, that is one of my favorite ways as well, but there are a lot of other options to be aware of.  Such as using the jelly as a marinade or basting sauce for pork and chicken.  Pepper Jelly is perfect with grilled meat – give it a whirl this weekend.

You can find many local farmers selling Pepper Jelly at area markets, made from peppers from their own gardens.  Ask your farmers what their favorite way to use Pepper Jelly is- I bet they can provide a wealth of knowledge.

Here is one of my mother’s favorite recipes that uses her homemade jelly as a baste.

Jalapeño Pepper Jelly Glazed Chicken with Corn and Zucchini
Recipe from 1997 Gourmet

6 plum tomatoes (about 1 pound)
1 pound zucchini
1 cup packed fresh coriander sprigs
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper jelly
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
2 tablespoons cream cheese

Prepare grill.

Seed and chop tomatoes and cut zucchini into 1/2-inch pieces. Finely chop coriander. In a heavy skillet cook onion in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, corn, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

While corn mixture is simmering, prepare chicken. In a small saucepan melt jelly over moderate heat, stirring, and remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon juice and chili powder and divide jelly mixture between 2 small bowls (to prevent the potential contamination caused by uncooked meat juices). Pat chicken dry and brush with jelly mixture from 1 bowl. Season chicken with salt and grill on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals until just cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. With a clean brush, coat chicken with jelly mixture from other bowl.

Stir cream cheese into corn mixture until melted and stir in coriander and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve corn mixture topped with chicken.

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We celebrated my father’s 68th birthday this weekend – it’s bewilders me to say that my father is 68 years old. I still look at him like he is my young father and it’s hard to imagine that he will turn seventy soon.

But, he might be 68 years old – and acts like a kid.  He keeps active on our family farm, could probably out walk me and kicks back for a good laugh constantly.  He says, “keep your mind young,” which he does do.  And, “keep your body healthy,” which he also does.  Eating out of our large garden and reaping what he and my mother sow.

I prepared a celebration dinner for him which included: filet mignon, roasted squash and zucchini with feta, grilled sweet corn with a spicy chipotle sauce, grilled eggplant and tomato stacks and southern red velvet cake.  It was quite a feast for us all!

Below you can find the recipe for the eggplant and tomato stacks, which I found from EatingWell.com.  This is a great site if you are looking for fresh and healthy recipes that taste amazing.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks from Eating Well

Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks
from Eatingwell.com
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant (3/4-1 pound), cut into 6 rounds about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
6 teaspoons prepared pesto
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, each cut into 3 slices about 3/4 inch thick
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 6 thin slices
6 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to medium-high or place a grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.

Use 2 teaspoons oil to brush both sides of eggplant slices; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Grill the eggplant slices for 5 minutes. Turn; continue grilling until tender and marked with grill lines, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large platter.

Spread each eggplant slice with 1 teaspoon pesto. Top with a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf.

Drizzle vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the towers; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 2, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Heirloom Tomatoes from the Farmers Market

It’s tomato season and farmers markets are busting with colorful arrays of tomato varieties.  I’m going to be sharing secrets to finding the perfect tomato and I’ve got a tomato dish that is simply delish.

How to Buy Tomatoes
-Don’t worry about tomatoes with weird shapes. Even cracked skin is okay, but leaking juice and soft spots are not.
-Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size.
-Smell Tomatoes should smell earthy and tomato-y, never musty or flat
-Taste This is where farmers market shopping really pays off – you can often taste the tomatoes before you buy them.

How to Store Tomatoes
Treat tomatoes gently. Heirloom tomato varieties, in particular, tend to be quite fragile. So don’t pile the tomatoes in a bag where their weight will squash one another, and always pluck vine-ripening tomatoes off their vines (or the vine stem off them) to avoid having the sharp vines poke holes in your precious cargo. But above all never refrigerate tomatoes (one of the biggest mistakes many make). Temperatures under 50° turn tomatoes mushy and mealy.

Now that we know how to choose tomatoes and store them properly – let’s get cooking!

One of my go-to’s in the kitchen for an easy recipe is always homemade tomato sauce.  And, making your own homemade sauce is simple and healthier- as the canned and jarred stuff (which is okay for a substitution occasionally) is full of added preservatives. 

1.) Get Your Tomatoes Started
Both large and small tomatoes work great for sauces – like beefsteak and plum.  First, you will need to remove the skins of the tomatoes.  The easiest way to do this would be to par boil them.  On the bottom of the tomatoes, cut an “X”.  Then, place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds or until the skin begins to come loose.  Remove the tomatoes from the water and place in an ice bath (large bowl of ice water).  Once the tomatoes have cooled, remove the skins and chop the tomatoes.

I make a couple batches of par boiled tomatoes and then freeze the cored, peeled tomatoes to cook sauce in the winter as well.  This will allow you to savor the tomato season year-round.

Classic Tomato Sauce

2.) Your Seasonings
When it comes to seasonings I like to say recipes are just “roadmaps” to guide you, but that you don’t have to follow.  I typically add onions, garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil – which are tomato sauce basics. But, feel free to also add parsley, thyme,red wine,  fennel seed and even bay leaf.  I also try and use fresh herbs from my garden, but remember if you use dried herbs use less because the dried version is much more potent.   Want some more zing to your sauce, then try a couple shakes of red pepper flakes.

Saute the onions and garlic, then add the par boiled tomatoes and roasted 3 roasted carrots.  (Yes, carrots.  I always add roasted carrots to my sauce.  I have found it makes a richer tasting sauce.) Add the other ingredients of your choice and cook on medium for about 40 minutes, until thickened.  I puree my sauce in a blender for a smoother sauce, but you can leave in chunky.

Season with salt and pepper.

3.) Store Your Sauce
I freeze my sauce in gallon freezer bags and I also can my sauce throughout the summer.

Savor tomato season year-round with your own homemade tomato sauce.  Check out your local farmers market for a variety of tomatoes to get you started!

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