Tag Archives: tomatoes

Chilled Soup for Dr. Suess

10 Apr

Chilled Tomato and Yellow Pepper SoupAt the end of the month I will be catering a large VIP event for the school that I work for. The PTO holds an annual auction that has an option that allows you early access to the event plus cocktail and appetizers. In the the past this event has been catered by the PTO. Usually a parent steps in and takes on the job. However, this year, they’ve asked for my help.

I’m very excited for the opportunity. You see, I have also donated a dinner party to be auctioned off at the event. Last year, my dinner party sold for $800. And that was without anyone tasting my food. This year, since I’ll be doing the event prior to my dinner party coming to the table for bidding, I’m hoping to raise at least $1000 for the school.

I’ve been given free reign of the menu, with one catch. The theme of the auction is Dr. Suess and so the foods should be colorful and whimsical. On the menu I have things like; green eggs and ham (wasabi deviled eggs with crispy prosciutto), Bratwurst sliders, Black bean and green chili empanadas, a fruit and brie display, cheese ravioli with deconstructed pesto, chilled shrimp with bloody Mary cocktail sauce, and the recipe I tested tonight, chilled tomato and yellow pepper soup.

I always love being at events that pass soup. I’ve had tomato soup served in martini glasses with a pimento cheese garnish, gazpacho, and minted pea soup. There are the fruit soups (a.k.a smoothies) and other chocolaty liquids served in mini bowls or shot glasses. I just think it’s refreshing and unexpected. I knew I wanted to do a colorful soup and I knew I wanted it to be layered. I love chilled tomato soup. It’s light and refreshing and so different than the thick cloying tomato juice that you are probably thinking of. I also love yellow peppers. They are sweet and juicy and taste delicious. Viola! The soup concept was born.

For the Tomato Soup:
2 large beefsteak tomatoes
1/2 garlic clove
1/2 med shallot
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Concasse 2 beefsteak tomatoes
Step 2: In a hot saute pan, heat 1/2 a medium shallot and 1/2 garlic clove
Step 3: When the garlic and shallot start to become arromatic, add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes
Step 4: Puree in a food processor
Step 5: Season to taste
Step 6: Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour

For the Yellow Pepper Soup:
2 large yellow bell peppers
1/2 garlic clove
1/2 med shallot
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Roast the shallot and yellow peppers in the oven for 30 minutes
Step 2: Put the peppers and shallots in a plastic bag and zip shut until the peppers are cool enough to handle
Step 3: Peel the peppers and add everything into the food processor
Step 4: Puree in a food processor
Step 5: Season to taste
Step 6: Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour

Gently layer the tomato soup on top of the pepper soup. I like to serve soup for a crowd in shot glasses. It’s fun and little so your guests don’t feel like they are eating too much before the main meal. I garnished with basil oil and a few leaves. On the night of the event I think I’m going to garnish with chive oil since the basil oil has a tendency to blacken if not properly pureed.

I think this one is a real winner.

Always thinking of the next meal


You say tomato, I say dinner

16 Aug

With summer on it’s way out there are a few things you can count on. First, the “back-to-school” commercials start their haunting jingles. Second, your grill has burned more charcoal than a first semester art school. And, third, you have run out of ideas for all of the tomatoes coming out of your garden.

I like to think of tomatoes as my go to flavor all year. They impart sweetness, acidity, and color to every dish that they are added to. But, Summer tomatoes are special. Because Summer is their season, tomatoes are allowed to fully ripen on the vine. This means that their sugars have fully developed and the acids have mellowed. They become deep red in color, as opposed to the redish pink color Winter tomatoes have. Once you start eating your ruby beauties it’s like an addiction. You just can’t get enough! The problem is, what do you do with your tomatoes once you’ve had your fill of sauce, salsa, soup, salads and sandwiches?

The key here is rethinking your processes. If you’ve make 6 versions of cooked tomato sauce, try a raw version:

Raw Tomato Sauce

2 large beefsteak tomatoes, grated
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons high quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate for 4-8 hours or overnight. Serve over cooked pasta.

Or try to put a new twist on an old favorite. Use creamy goat cheese instead of mayo on that sandwich. Hollow out your tomato halves and use them to bake eggs in. Then eat everything together for a light easy breakfast. Give your usual BLT a kick in the pants and add roasted red peppers or pesto. Dry your tomatoes in the oven for 2 hours at 300. Stash in the fridge coved with olive oil. These will keep for a week (if you don’t eat them) and are perfect for pasta, salad or a quick snack.

The only thing that tomatoes don’t really take well to is freezing. Well, freezing before cooking that is. Tomatoes have so much water in them that when you freeze them, the sharp ice crystals puncture and cut all of the structure  in the cells of the tomato flesh. When you thaw them, the tomatoes are flavorless and have an unpleasant mushy texture.

If you have more tomatoes that you couldn’t possibly finish, consider 2 things. First, donations to all your tomato-less friends are nice (wink wink, nudge nudge) and second cook before you freeze. The cooking process breaks down the cell structure of the tomatoes like freezing does, but the heat does it in a good way. But cooking the tomatoes, you release the juice quickly. The heat causes the water to evaporate and concentrate the flavor (i.e. yum.) After cooking your tomatoes for at least 15 minutes you should be safe to freeze them. But do it quickly and seal them tightly.

The best way to preserve summer’s bounty is to can. Canning is to be tackled in another post, but you run less risk of damaging the flavor of your tomatoes when you can. Plus, there’s nothing like finding a jar of tomatoes in your pantry mid-November and thinking fondly of summer fun.

Always thinking of the next meal


Buccantini alla finnochiona, a mouthful that tastes great!

17 Jan

A quick recipe… no real back story here. I was just in the mood for pasta and came up with this. Enjoy…

Buccantini alla finnochiona

Serves 2

8 oz buccantini pasta
1/4 pound finnochiona (fennel spiked salami)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and julienned
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté fennel in 1 tablespoon oil until caramelized. Deglaze pan with orange juice and add in sugar. Cook until the juice is reduced. Add in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Reduce by half and puree. While the pasta is cooking, add the remaining oil into the same pan that the fennel was sautéed in and then add in the finnochiona. Let the fat render for about 2 minutes and then add the shrimp to the pan. Cook the shrimp until all the pieces are pink and almost opaque. Add the puree back in to the pan and then add the remaining water. You can add more water if you need to; you are looking for a consistency of warm maple syrup. When the pasta is cooked, toss with the sauce and meat. Garnish with a fennel frond.

Always thinking of the next meal


Inspiration in strange places

1 Aug

So tonight’s dinner was inspired by a classic drink, the Bloody Mary. I love taking flavors that I know work well together and making something completely original with it. So here’s the recipe:


Bloody Mary Roasted Shrimp over Polenta

for the polenta-

1/2 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup polenta
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

for the shrimp-

1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup green beans
6 shrimp
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
salt and pepper to taste

Start the polenta by bringing all the ingredients except the polenta and sour cream to a boil. Quickly wisk in the polenta and continue to wisk until the grains are cooked through. Wisk in the sour cream and season. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl toss the shrimp, beans, and tomatoes with the spices and hot sauce with a drizzle of oil. Roast the shrimp and veggies for 10-15 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque. Once the shrimp is cooked, toss with the horseradish and salt and pepper. Pour the polenta in a serving bowl and top with the shrimp and veggies. Serve hot…

I love making recipes like this one. It really does taste like a bloody Mary. The key ingredient is the celery seed. You can make this as spicy as you want… just add more hot sauce. The green beans in the dish came from the pickled beans that you sometimes get in a Bloody Mary. I guess you could use celery, but I’m a big fan of the beans. Next up… something inspired by a piña colada 🙂

Always thinking of the next meal


It’s all Greek to me!

26 Jul

So I was asked o bring a salad to my cousins bridal shower. The parameters? WHATEVER I WANTED! The only thing I was my cousin wanted chick peas on the salad. I originally thought about making a Mediterranean salad with roasted red peppers and artichokes, but not knowing the tastes of the masses I thought I would go a little less fancy.

Most people like Greek salad so I thought, why not. When making salad for 30 people the best idea is to keep it simple. A few ingredients that work well together and make a big flavor impact. With Greek salad this is easy to do. As with all salads you want to seek a balance of sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, acid and spice. Greek salad embraces all of these elements.

IMG_0695Here’s how I balanced the flavors in the salad.

Sweet: Sundried Tomatoes

Salty: Feta cheese/olives

Soft: Chick Peas/Feta Cheese

Crunchy: Cucumbers/Onions/lettuce

Acid: Peppers/dressing/tomatoes

Spice: Peppers/arugula

The dressing is also a very powerful element in a salad. For a Greek salad this is where the acid, and herbal notes come into play. The dressing recipe follows, but important flavor components come into play through the dressing. Oregano, lemon, and red wine vinegar are in the dressing and play a key role in Greek cooking. Here’s the dressing recipes:IMG_0697

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Try this salad out it’s definitely a winner on a hot summer night. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for a little boost of protein.

Always thinking of the meal


Salt is salt… right?

22 Jul

Salt is not just salt. Salt is an enhancer, the key to unlocking the best flavors that food has to offer. So if salt is the enhancer, then is there a way to enhance salt? The answer… YES! By mixing herbs and other flavors into the salt you can make it even better. For lack of a better word, you can make a “compound salt.”

You can really add whatever you want to salt to give it extra flavor. Fresh herbs work great especially if you grill a lot. A herbed salt will not only make you meat sing, but will add a kick of flavor to otherwise one note grilling. Since I’ve previously made a compound salt with herbs, I thought I would try something else.

I am prepping a Greek Salad for my cousin’s bridal shower and as part of that is a marinated tomato. I had to peel the the skins off the tomatoes in order to maximize the marination and I was left with the skins of 7 tomatoes. Really I could have just thrown them out, but now I have a wonderful tomato salt that I can use on fish, steak or vegetables.

Here’s the recipe:

Tomato Compound Salt

Tomato Skins of 5-7 tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup salt

in a food processor combine the salt, pepper and tomato skins. Spread the salt on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 250 for 30 minutes or until the salt mixture is dried out but not brown.


Give this one a try… it’s really easy way to jazz up the same old same old.

Always thinking of the next meal