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Cooking with end of summer tomatoes and garden herbs.

At this time of the year in the North East home gardeners are probably pulling out their tomato plants. The fruits are getting smaller, there are worm holes in them and the plant is an eye sore. I would say hold off a little bit more to give the remaining green tomatoes a chance to get a little bit bigger. I’ll share a green tomato recipe later. For now, what to do with the small misshapen, flavorless orange-red tomatoes? How about cooking them with some insipid grits? Two negatives make a positive, right? 

I would hear over and over again my friends say their single most hated dish was grits. I bought some to check it out. The instructions were to practically cook it in butter and smother with cheese. That sounded like a one note dish. I love carbs so I knew I was going to love grits. It was so easy to think of flavoring it with grilled tomatoes, herbs and lots, I mean lots of salt. That is how I like it and this South Indian girl eats far more grits than any Southern girl, I am sure of it!

There is no recipe as such for the tomato grits. Prepare grits according to package instructions [In just plain water, no butter please]. Slice or cut tomatoes in half and arrange in a baking dish. Drizzle a good quality oil,  and broil on high till brown spots appear on the tomatoes. You can then turn the tomatoes over and blister on the other side though I skip this step most of the time, like today. Plate the grits, drizzle some olive oil, add the broiled tomatoes, garnish with basil and other herbs of your choice. Salt liberally. Add pepper, pepper flakes or dashes of hot sauce, whatever  you prefer and enjoy. You won’t be a hater anymore!

Food Notes.

  • You can make this totally fat-free. Broiling tomatoes releases a lot of  juices which is very syrupy and mimicks the texture of oil. No need to drizzle oil on the grits either. It doesn’t take away from the taste as the broiled tomatoes are so flavorful.
  • I added basil, chives and thyme as a garnish to my grits.
  • I only use a glass, ceramic dish for broiling/grilling the tomatoes so I can confidentally consume the run offs. Can’t say the same if I were to use a regular metal sheet pan.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

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I’ve been cruising along and enjoying the ride these last 6 months. I’ve browsed through many different blogs, appreciated some seriously good photography, experimented with new ingredients and cooked up a storm, more than ever before, in order to put tried and tested recipes in my blog and the other sites I contribute to.
Having gone with the flow, I think I may want to navigate a little bit more purposefully. For sure I want to improve my photography skills and maybe even explore the history of food in different cultures. However for now I want to focus on one area in this blog. Developing recipes for children of all ages. A lot of people ask me for vegetarian ideas for kid’s school lunches that don’t involve 2 slices of bread and the usual suspects in between. So I thought it would be a great idea to do a monthly post on children’s breakfasts, lunches and snack ideas. Maybe some recipes that  kids can cook along too with their parents? Maybe cooking ideas for kids in college dorms? Having posted a couple of times on the Meatless Monday site I thought it would be fun to do kid friendly recipe posts for this website so there can be options for parents who might be wanting to get their kids on board. Coz I don’t see Sammy answer to his mom’s call to “Come and eat your sprouted quinoa honey”!
This post is also very special to me. My lifelong friend, who lives in India, recently asked me to give her suggestions for an Italian pasta dish she could cook in her ‘traditional Tamilian kitchen’. So S, this one is especially for you.
Specialized ingredients are hard to find in India or would involve a trek to the only market in the city where it may or may not be available at all times. So this recipe is something that anybody, anywhere can make, the only two tricky ingredients could be celery and fresh basil leaves. The celery can be left out and fresh basil could be substituted with dried basil, Italian herbs or dry packaged soup mix.                                                           

So here is a no chopping, no stirring, easy, kid friendly

Child’s Play Spaghetti Sauce

6  medium ripe tomatoes, 2lbs/900gms

3-6 cloves garlic

1 tbs good quality olive oil or a mild cooking oil

Salt and pepper to taste

5-6 large basil leaves, roughly torn or 1 tsp dried Italian spice mixture

 

Preparation

Take a wide enough pan to hold all the tomatoes in a single layer. Scoop out the ‘eye’ of each tomato and insert the garlic cloves into the tomatoes through here. Start the pan on a low to medium heat and add a table spoon of oil. Then place the tomatoes scooped side down on the pan. Push the cloves really deep into the tomato so it doesn’t burn on contact with the pan. Put a tight fitting lid on the pan and forget about it for the next 10-12 minutes. The tomatoes steam cook and the juices released ensures the tomatoes don’t burn as long as the heat is on low or medium.                    

When you remove the lid after about 10 minutes you will see the tomato skin have split.  

                                                                                                                       

If you want, you can pull the skin off very easily with a pair of tongs, or you can leave them on if you are going to puree the sauce completely. I remove the skins as I process it minimally. 

                                                                                                                                                                  

Now pick up each whole tomato and put them top side down on the pan for the other side to cook and put the lid back on. From this step on you might want to take over the cooking from over your child. Give the tomatoes another 7-10 minutes on this side.

Turn the stove off and mash the tomatoes carefully with a potato masher or use an immersion blender [which is what I use] to get the consistency you desire, chunky or smooth. Alternatively put the whole thing in a blender and puree. Then add the torn basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste and turn the stove on again and cook the sauce till it is bubbling.                             

I remove all the garlic cloves before blending the soup as I prefer the sauce with just a mild garlic perfume. The garlic cloves can also be floated in the sauce, it will certainly make a pretty sight. Or remove the whole cloves from the sauce and use it to rub it on your grilled bread.

This sauce should be easy enough for a teenager to whisk up right? Next let’s make the

Meatless Balls

1 Tbsp oil + oil for shallow frying

1/4 Cup each of very finely chopped onions, celery and carrots

¼ Cup unseasoned toasted bread crumbs [not Panko]

1/2 Tbs dried Italian seasoning or dried basil

1 Cup cooked lentils

1/4 Cup cooked rice

1/4  Cup boiled potatoes, mashed to a creamy consistency.

1 Tsp salt

Everything measured, packed and heaped

A few basil leaves for garnish[optional]                                                                                                                                      

Please see my earlier post here and follow all the steps with a few changes brought on by changing a few spices. Instead of forming patties make about 12-16 balls.                                                                                                                    

Shallow fry these meatless balls for a few minutes [about 7-10] till they are golden brown all over. Just remember not to move the balls in the pan until they are done and release easily on their own. Otherwise the balls will stick to the pan and the crispy exterior will not form.

Now add  the golden brown meatless balls to the bubbling sauce and let it cook for a few minutes and then turn the stove off. Garnish with basil if using and serve with spaghetti.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

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