I have to be honest. I don’t create many fusion dishes. I’m not sure I have the expertise of any one genre so firmly under my control that I feel able to mash two of them up together. Before this recipe, I’d never tried it at all. That I can remember. And no, using spaghetti noodles in ramen instead of Udon noodles doesn’t count.
This was very much an attempt to use up fresh produce without it going bad and without getting bored of the same flavor combinations. While I could possibly eat nothing but tomatoes and basil all summer long, I fear that Señor may crave more diversity than that. Actually, I could probably convince him to eat just tomatoes and basil for a week or two. But still. That’s not very well-balanced now is it?
We both love Mexican food, thus our taco bar wedding reception. That taco bar was delicious and friends have told me they’re still dreaming about the amazing food. For real, she just said it this weekend. I wouldn’t lie about something so serious. And in all honesty, we are STILL eating through the leftovers. We had a small guest list and we had 20 percent of our responded guests not show. So we had a ton of leftovers. We’re almost done with them but the overwhelming amount of taco meat, tortilla shells and refried beans in our freezer definitely affected our desire to make tacos.
This recipe was my best attempt at bringing delicious Mexican food back into our lives without it looking or tasting anything like the beef, chicken, beans and rice in our freezer. It totally worked. In the heat of summer, I used canned beans instead of boiling my own. I didn’t have to plan this recipe in advance, I just dumped everything together and off we went. The corn had been roasted on the grill a few days earlier and was caramelized and smoky. The cilantro and basil were both about to turn. And thankfully, tomatoes are a staple of both cuisines. Which is maybe why I love them both so much? Or maybe that’s unrelated and it’s just that they’re awesome. That’s probably more likely.
In this dish, roasted grape tomatoes make most of the ‘sauce’ that covers the noodles, beans, corn and herbs. In the effort of full disclosure, this was delicious as a hot main dish and the a cold lunch the next day. This is also a super easy recipe to feed a bunch of dietary restrictions. Gluten free? Swap out the whole wheat noodles for brown rice noodles. Vegan or lactose intolerant? Skip the cheese topping. Delicious and versatile. I love that.
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles
20-30 grape tomatoes
2 cobs roasted corn (approximately 1 cup of kernels)
1 can black beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash of salt, black pepper, cayenne
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Heat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees. Be sure to let the noodles drain for a few minutes before tossing them with the dish to keep excess water from creating a soupy dish.
Prepare the noodles according to package directions.
While the water is heating, place the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven or toaster oven for roasting. I prefer the toaster oven because the tomatoes sit closer to the heating element and finish roasting much faster. The tomatoes are ready when the skins are shriveling and there is some liquid on the foil.
Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs of corn.
Drain the beans and rinse well. Let drain for five minutes to remove any excess liquids.
Place six ounces of water in a glass measuring cup. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir and microwave the mixture for 45 seconds.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Heat on medium. Add the water and spice mixture. Toss the black beans and corn in the skillet until the spices are fragrant. Add the noodles and roasted tomatoes to the skillet and gently toss to incorporate. Adjust spices as necessary.
Tear whole cilantro and basil leaves off a clean bunch of each herb. When the pasta is just about ready to serve, remove from heat and toss a handful of both cilantro and basil with the dish.
Serve immediately; garnish with fresh cilantro, basil and shredded cheese.
I guess it’s officially fall when I have a fridge full of veggies and instead of chopping them into a salad, I’m pulling out my stock pot. I love soup, so I guess I have to embrace the seasonal change for what it is. A chance to make a lot of different soups and put some twists into old favorites.
Strictly speaking, Ratatouille is not a soup per se. It’s generally sauteed vegetables covered in a tomato sauce. It’s cooked slowly and the sauce is not canned tomato sauce, but the sauce from roasted or sauteed tomatoes. The dish is often baked after the veggies are sauteed and it’s sometimes a filling or topping on rice, pasta or bread. Delicious, absolutely. But I was looking for something that stood on its own, perhaps with a hearty broth. To be completely honest, I had been itching to get my stock pot out and this was the perfect opportunity.
Ratatouille is a peasant dish that food snobs often argue about. What’s the right way to serve it, make it, eat it. What are the ingredients and how must you prepare it? Everyone from Julia Child to Wikipedia has an opinion on Ratatouille. The beauty of a peasant dish is that, in all likelihood, there is no wrong way to make it. Undoubtedly this dish evolved with the realization that summer and fall harvest veggies could be cooked together to make a very hearty meal for very little money. It was true in the 18th century and it’s still true today. I doubt very much that any two Ratatouille dishes are the same. I would guess though, that they’re all really yummy.
Ratatouille generally consists of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell peppers, carrots, garlic and herbs. I had the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic, but no zucchini. I had stuffed it earlier in the week and hadn’t replaced it yet. I did have potatoes though, so I swapped those two items. Although zucchini would have been delicious too, the pot was so full of delicious food it didn’t really matter.
I decided before I started cooking that what I really wanted was a roasted veggie soup. Too often vegetable soups are just plain broth with lots of veggies cooked in boiling broth. This can be delicious but it can also get old. Vegetables take on a completely different and delicious flavor when they’re roasted. The skins get crisp and a little charred. The insides are sweet and there’s a smoky flavor that you can’t get without high temperatures. And potatoes are always best when they have a bit of brown on them. So instead of just dumping everything into broth, I started by roasting bell peppers and onions. I cooked the potatoes in butter and olive oil over medium-high heat right in the stock pot. I roasted the tomatoes. I cooked the potatoes and eggplant in chicken broth and eventually added in the roasted vegetables. I added a healthy dose of garlic and a few shakes of smoked paprika and let it all boil into a warm, savory soup.
I burned my tongue tasting it. I added some aged cheddar, thinly sliced to the top. I buttered some bread. I burned my tongue again. Senor grew impatient waiting for it to cool and had to add an ice cube. I added an ice cube too. It was too good to wait. No one complained of being cold even though it was only 50 degrees outside.
1 large eggplant, cubed
2-3 pounds small potatoes, quartered
4 tomatoes, cut into pieces
1-2 onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
Garlic, sea salt, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika
Chop peppers and onions into small slices. Place on a foil-lined tray and roast at 450º for 15-20 minutes.
While the peppers and onions are roasting, add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil to a stock pot and heat over medium-high heat. Chop the potatoes into quarters and dump into the pot as you go. Use small potatoes or, if you only have large ones, chop them into pieces small enough for a spoon. Stir the potatoes every few minutes to prevent burning. Partially cover the pot with the lid to help the potatoes soften. Be careful not to drip any steam condensation into the pot or you will get splattered with hot oil.
Chop the eggplant into large cubes. Toss with sea salt and let stand in a strainer. Toss occasionally. Before adding to the pot, rinse well with cold water.
When the potatoes are well-browned, add the eggplant and chicken stock. Turn the heat medium and cover. Stir occasionally.
When the peppers and onions are slightly roasted with black char marks and slightly wrinkled skin, remove and set aside. Add four chopped tomatoes to the oven/toaster oven and continue roasting.
Once the eggplant has softened and the broth starts to thicken, add the peppers and onions. Add the tomatoes once they are roasted. They don’t have to be completely done, a slight roast throughout will do.
Stir the entire pot and add generous portion of garlic, either fresh or powdered to the pot. Add sea salt slowly. Be sure to let it dissolve and give the broth a taste to see whether more is needed. Add about a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a small pinch of crushed red pepper. Let the entire pot simmer for ten minutes.
Taste the broth one more time and adjust seasoning as needed. Spoon up each bowlful and let sit at least ten minutes before eating. Top with cheese and serve with bread if desired.
Summer and even early fall are a time for eating ripe tomatoes straight out of your garden. If we’re very, very lucky, we have so many tomatoes that we honestly don’t know what to do with them all. Last week I made salsa. This week I made stuffed zucchini. I’ve made this dish twice now and I think it has earned a place on the permanent rotation. It’s easy, cheap, and screams summer. As I sit worrying about frost and gardening death it puts a smile on my face, just knowing that the heart of this dinner was fresh out of my garden. All of the tomatoes came from my own garden. The zucchini came from Mom and Dad’s garden.
One of my most beloved summer lunches/snacks/meals is toasted tomato/cheese sandwiches. This dinner is a nod to the glorious nature that is the perfecting blending of melted cheese and fresh, juicy tomatoes. Stuffing the whole shebang into a zucchini is a great way to use cherry tomatoes when you have an over-abundance. The pictures you see here use whole-wheat bread crumbs which are okay, but not my favorite for this. They tend to resist the juices and don’t get soft enough. If you use whole wheat, add a 1/4 cup of water to the stuffing mixture. You want the stuffing to be soft and squishy before you bake it, not dry and crumbly. You can use any cheese you want.
The pictures make it look like it’s going to taste a bit like pizza but it doesn’t. It’s that fresh tomato taste that stars in this show. No zesty pizza herbs and spices necessary. Save those for winter when you’ll have to get your tomatoes out of a can.
30-50 small cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 small can of very low sodium tuna (optional)
Heat the oven to 400º. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seed of the zucchini like you would a pumpkin. Use the spoon to scrap the zucchini into a ‘boat’. Discard the seeds and scrapings, or if you’re crafty, save them for something else.
Place the zucchini face down on the oven rack for 20 minutes. While it cooks, prepare the filling.
In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and 1/3 of the cheese. Stir together until well mixed. If you want, add the tuna now as well. The tuna isn’t really necessary, but is nice if you’re looking to add some protein. It balances well with the tomatoes and doesn’t overwhelm the flavor at all.
If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add a few tablespoons of water. It should easily form a ball in your hand.
Remove the zucchini from the oven using tongs. Place them right-side-up in a 9×13 baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the boats, pressing it into place and creating a flat top.
Top each stuffed zucchini half with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture is hot throughout.
Serve with chopped pineapple and relish the last few days of summer.