Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

I know that in the last post, I said I would tell you about a cake with rosemary, but cherry tomatoes are a special, seasonal, short-time-only situation, and needed to be addressed soon. Cake season goes on forever.

For the most part, I’ve been just eating this year’s summer produce out of hand, like snack food, whether it be snap peas from the farmer’s market or green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes from my own garden. I just haven’t been exploring new recipes or even doing much cooking (except for these favorites and a few summer squash favorites). I have been doing a little chopping and tossing, salad style, and I went back to this simple vinaigrette that I hadn’t made in years.

This really is just a basic vinaigrette with chopped tomatoes stirred in, but don’t underestimate the contribution of beautiful summer tomatoes. You could use whatever tomatoes you like, even sun-dried tomatoes if you want to make this out of season, but I prefer the texture and style of little pieces of cherry tomato. I used a fairly mild, locally produced red wine vinegar, which makes a less acidic dressing. Like any other homemade dressing, however, you can adjust the vinegar and seasonings as you like. You could also add some fresh herbs, particularly slivered basil leaves, if you happen to have some available.

This dressing is good on green salads, and since there’s already some vegetation in the mix, you don’t need to have much more in that salad than some crunchy greens. Recently, I used it to make a bean and olive salad, which was fabulously delicious. I just tossed it over a bowl of white beans and chopped olives. Simple and easy, but still seasonally lovely.

And I’m still working on the post about that cake. Stay tuned.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

This dressing is good on green salads or on heartier salads like the white bean salad with olives pictured above.

You could use another kind of tomato here, or add fresh herbs to taste.

1 medium-size garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
a few grinds black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup cherry tomatoes, chopped

1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, onion, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir together and let stand about 15 minutes.

2. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is well-emulsified. Stir in the cherry tomatoes. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning or vinegar-oil balance as desired.

Makes a generous ½ cup dressing. Use right away.

Other recipes like this one: Basic Vinaigrette, Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Recipe Love

It’s hard to think of testing new recipes when I have so many old favorites that I only make at this time of year. Anything requiring fresh tomatoes, corn, or summer squash only gets revisited in the late summer, and I look forward to the chance to revisit those fantastic and fresh recipes.

This year, I have a good tomato crop in my little backyard raised-bed garden, so I’m eating as many of them fresh as I can. I’ve also got a good handful of cucumbers coming along, so I feel pretty much compelled to make my light and easy version of Gazpacho.

I’m also hoping to get to this Tomato and Beef Stir Fry, which is soooo good. It’s one of rather few beef recipes you’ll find in The Messy Apron Archives, but one of my favorite uses of my favorite vegetable.

And since the cherry tomatoes in my garden are also doing well (I usually plant Sun Gold cherry tomatoes which are delicious and prolific), I recently threw together Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Olives, and can’t wait to make it again. 

Unless, of course, I decide I’d rather make this Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlicky Chickpea Sauce. Since I’m armed with this method of roasting cherry tomatoes, whether it’s to make the delicious Roasted Cherry Tomato and Olive Galette in the same post, or to toss with pasta, I won’t worry about growing too many of those savory little jewels. By the way, the roasted cherry tomatoes freeze well, so I can use them to re-create my favorite summer flavors when summer is just a memory.

I don’t grow my own corn, but there’s a glut of it in the markets right now, and it’s delicious. Even though simple corn on the cob is classic and wonderful, I couldn’t wait to make Pasta with Yellow Squash, Corn and Bacon.

It’s still delicious and I still totally love it. Perhaps I’ll also have some time left in corn season to make the somewhat similar Pasta with Zucchini, Corn and Fresh Mint. (I’ve got lots of mint in the garden!) Up next, though, I’m hoping to make Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon.

So, you can see how it’s hard to find time and space in the calorie budget to try new summer recipes, when there’s so much I already love! And I’ve only been talking about recipes that feature a few special summer ingredients here. What about plums or apricots, or bell peppers? And where would I even start with greens (perhaps here or here)?

Well, I did explore some new territory by making a simple but interesting cake featuring rosemary recently. I’ll tell you about that one soon.

Happy summer! Happy loving!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes

This is what I have time for.

Time and energy and, happily, tomatoes. I love tomatoes, and so I try to grow them and this year is going pretty well. I love cooking, and so I try to make it happen every day and right now, well, let’s just say I’ve really come to appreciate pure simplicity.

I talk about pasta tossed with seasonal ingredients a lot. It’s one of my two go-to suppers for busy times (stir fry is the other), and I rarely use a recipe. Even if I look at a recipe first, I tend to use it as a guideline or collection of ideas. For that reason, this post on a simple fresh tomato and pasta toss is free of rigid recipes.

All I did here, was start some pasta boiling in the usual way, then cut up some garlic (about 4 cloves) and cook it in a little olive oil in a large skillet until it started to brown (actually, mine got a little too brown, but who’s watching?). I then added about 3 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (heirlooms from my garden: Brandywine and Black Krim), salt, and a splash of white wine. I cooked this down to a soupy sauce, just a few minutes, added a small handful of chopped fresh basil and a few grinds of black pepper, and stirred in the drained cooked pasta. I swooshed that all around to coat the noodles and stirred in some finely grated parmesan cheese. Each serving that I spooned into a pasta bowl got an additional sprinkle of cheese.

This dish was beautiful and delicious. I was exhausted when I sat down to it, but its bright flavors gave me some life while its warm heartiness gave me some comfort. My only regret was that I was out of bread (not even a bagel in the house!) and had nothing to sop up that wonderful, delicate sauce. Not about to let it go, however, I drank it straight from the bowl.

This is all you need to do for a simple supper or quick lunch or midnight snack. It’s a celebration of late summer when fruitful bounty comes in plump, red, buxom costumes. It’s a celebration of having enough home-grown tomatoes to feel like it’s okay to cook a few instead of just eating them fresh. It’s a celebration of having enough energy to cook for yourself instead of relying on some quick processed junk. It’s a celebration of being wise enough to appreciate some simple moments at the end of a hectic day. Add a little glass of wine with dinner and it’s just a celebration. What more do we need?

One year ago: Simple White Cake with Berries