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Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

Summer’s Bounty

One of the best things about summer is the sheer amount of produce available! Here in Connecticut, summer squash, leafy greens, and berries are flooding our markets with color and flavor and fragrance. A recent trip to Edge of the Woods yielded a bounty of summer’s finest — kale, rainbow chard, eggplant, and tomatoes.

It’s these tomatoes that inspired our dinner tonight. Beautiful, bright Jersey grown yellow and red tomatoes were the star. The key to taking simple salads like this truly over the top is to use all good ingredients. When you’re only using a few ingredients, use the best you can get your hands on. Every ingredient will stand out, so every ingredient should shine. (Keep in mind that good ingredients don’t have to break the bank; these tomatoes were only $2/lb!)

We tossed these tomatoes gently with some crumbled feta cheese, then heaped onto a bed of spinach. We used a pinch of New Zealand salt, a drizzle of Modena balsamic vinegar, and finished it off with a 2011 Spanish olive oil and a grinding of black pepper. (Again, as fancy as all of these ingredients may sound, they don’t have to be expensive. We buy our olive oil and balsamic vinegar at Costco, which has excellent, affordable Kirkland brand ingredients.)

Tomato Feta Spinach Salad

Two tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. feta, crumbled
Two handfuls of spinach, washed
good olive oil, good balsamic vinegar, good salt

Gently toss tomatoes and feta. Spread spinach onto serving plate. Heap with tomato-feta mixture. Top with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

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Fresh pasta, of the rustic variety

Tonight was a big threshold, like crossing the Rubicon.  Never would we have considered making our own fresh pasta–from scratch!–but after seeing Mark Bittman’s recipe we couldn’t contain ourselves.  There were three other contenders on the menu for dinner tonight, but I don’t even remember what they were any more.  It’s hard not to be inspired by fresh pasta that takes active time of …about as long as dry pasta takes to boil.

A big part of the appeal of making our own pasta was the ability to replicate the shapes we ate on our honeymoon in Amalfi.  One of the local pastas is scialatielli, which is like a short, thicker, chewier linguini.  Our best meal of the entire trip was definitely at Meme where we had Scialatielle alla Scoglio, which was said pasta in a fresh tomato sauce with fresh shellfish.  We went back twice. And ordered the same thing twice. We brought home with us two 500g bags of scialatielli, but those are long gone.  (Note: I’ve often opined that I would gladly exchange half of the gelato we consumed in Italy for a bag of pasta each time; my partner does not agree.)

Now, I’m sure there are pasta purists out there who are going to scoff at what we did.  We didn’t use semolina flour, and we used a food processor.  Maybe in a few years I’ll grow out of this recipe (doubtful), but in the meantime it’s so simple I’m seriously considering making pasta again tonight.  Fresh pasta, unlike dry pasta, is loaded with eggs, which gives it a chewier texture and better flavor.  The ingredients are: lots of eggs, flour, a little water.  Vroom vroom in the food processor, squeeze together and let sit.  Roll out and shape.

We, of course, used half whole-wheat flour.  I suspect that you could also add lots of different flavorings to the dough, like herbs or maybe spinach, for example.  I think you could probably use a stand mixer for the vroom vroom part, and you could certainly mix by hand using the classic “well in the middle” approach.  We’re just not going to.  And you really do not need a fancy pasta-shape-maker or roller.  A rolling pin did just fine, and a pizza cutter did, too.  In fact, we are strongly of the opinion that the more “rustic” shaped the pasta, the better the texture.

We paired our quasi-scialatielli simply: with roasted garlic and grape tomatoes, romano cheese, cracked black pepper, and olive oil (if we had only had wine!).  When the meal ended we both agreed that the only appropriate thing to do next was to drink a glass of limoncello.  More than anything we’ve cooked since, this meal really took us back to many evenings of delicious pasta and fresh seafood, and sipping limoncello from our balcony, and looking out over the Mediterranean and the night-lights of the Amalfi coast.

So here’s to many new shapes, textures, and flavor combinations as we all make our own fresh pasta for years to come.  And may we forge new memories to go with each dish.

Fresh Pasta

3 egg yolks*
2 eggs
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350F.  Toss garlic (5 cloves? more?) and tomatoes with olive oil and salt and roast in oven until tomatoes blister–but do not burn–about 30 minutes.

Into food processor put flour and all eggs.  Pulse until mealy.  Add water, slowly (maybe 1/4 cup?) until dough begins to form.  Empty onto cutting board, squeeze together, and dust with flour to keep from sticking.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes.  Cut into quarters, flour some more, roll out with rolling pin, and cut into whatever shape your heart desires (consistency might be a good plan, though).  Cook in boiling water until tender, about 1 minute.

* Note from the gelato-insistent-partner — With all the leftover egg whites, you can make coconut macaroons! Post (and recipe) to follow shortly.

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