Archives for posts with tag: Tomatoes

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This is the first in a series of guest blog posts. This week I’m delighted to introduce Jill Ulicneya Brooklyn-based photographer and food lover. You can find her latest photos and drawings at jillieu.tumblr.com and at Instagram via @jillieu.

There used to be a wonderful Italian cafe on Bleecker Street named Scali, which I would frequent for its incredible vegetarian pasta e fagioli soup. Six dollars would get me a generous serving of steaming hearty tomato, white bean, and pasta goodness along with a crusty piece of bread. Since they closed in 2012, I haven’t found a better lunch deal nor have I found a pasta e fagioli that compares to theirs.

Now that winter is here in New York, I’ve been dreaming about a reunion with this soup. After researching, I found countless methods for pasta e fagioli, but nothing that sounded quite like Scali’s version. This is my attempt to recreate my old favorite.

Note: many recipes suggest cooking the pasta in the soup. I chose to cook it separately because I didn’t want the pasta to absorb too much liquid since I prefer a brothy soup.

Pasta e Fagioli

40 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
1 small rib of celery chopped
1 bay leaf
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley
5 fresh basil leaves torn
1 15-ounce can of white beans
12 ounces small pasta, like malloreddus or ditalini
Parmesan (optional)
Salt
Pepper

Soup Directions

Heat a large pot with two tablespoons olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaf to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook for five minutes on medium heat or until onion is tender.
Add canned tomatoes (do not drain), vegetable stock, red pepper flakes and dried parsley and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf (do not discard) and use immersion blender to blend ingredients to preferred smoothness.
Return bay leaf back to the mixture and add basil leaves and white beans.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Pasta Directions

Fill a medium pot with water and set to high heat.
When the water begins to boil, “salt it like the sea” as my pasta nerd friend says.
Add the pasta and cook until pasta reaches preferred state
Drain the pasta.

To serve, place pasta in individual bowls and ladle the soup on top.
Grate some fresh parmesan over the soup and enjoy!

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It’s no secret: I am possibly cooking my way through the entirety of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. I’ve blogged about a couple of the recipes here—Lentils with Broiled Eggplant and Preserved Lemons; and from his earlier book Plenty, Hummus & Ful, Caramelized Garlic Tart. This month’s Recipe Lab at the New York Times is even focusing on Jerusalem and soliciting fan favorites. I’ve been meaning to write in.

I was flipping through Jerusalem the other day before shopping at the food co-op. I had almost settled on the Helbeh—a honey-soaked, fenugreek-infused cake—when I remembered the outside temperature (97 F) and how much I have been avoiding the oven. I stumbled next on a recipe for Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad, a gorgeous mélange of crisp vegetables that are all currently in season, accompanied by chickpeas coated in spices then quickly fried in olive oil. Served with greek yogurt it seemed like the only other thing I’d like to eat in this heat other than cold watermelon. (Check out Bittman’s Watermelon All Day Long in this weekend’s Times’ Magazine.)

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You need to get a head start on this the night before by soaking 1/2 cup chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of baking soda. The next day, as the chickpeas are cooking, you can assemble the rest of the salad. I improvised and bought what looked best at both the co-op and the farmer’s market—crunch Kirby cucumbers, local radishes, an assortment of cherry tomatoes from Hepworth Farms, purple scallions, cilantro, and parsley. It’s that time of year in the Northeast when you can’t really go wrong in the produce department if you stick to buying locally.

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I’d love to serve the salad as brunch for friends, along with some good pita and homemade hummus. To the salad you could add a salty cheese like feta; or maybe even watermelon!

Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Salad

1/2 c dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
2 small cucumbers
2 medium or large tomatoes, or a small basket of cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound of radishes
1 red pepper, seeded, with white pith removed
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, peeled
1/2 cup scallions (green or purple), chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar (such as sherry, champagne, or combo white and balsmic)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
Yogurt (optional)
salt and black pepper

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water with a pinch of baking soda. (In this hot weather I put them in the fridge overnight.) When you’re ready to cook them the next day, drain and transfer to a large saucepan. Cover with water (about twice the amount, in volume, as the chickpeas) and bring to a boil, cooking on high for up to an hour. Mine were thoroughly cooked in 30 minutes. Skim off the white foam as needed during cooking. Drain and set aside.

Chop the cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and red pepper into small (roughly 1/2-inch chunks, and place in a bowl. Add the chopped scallions, parsley, and cucumber. Mix together.

To make the dressing, combine 5 tbsp of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, and sugar in a jar and shake well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Mix together the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread out over a plate, then toss the cooked chickpeas in the spice mixture. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan and add the chickpeas, cooking for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Divide the salad onto plates and serve with the warm chickpeas and a dollop of yogurt.

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I came home from Vermont on Labor Day with a weighty bag of small plum-like tomatoes from my stepmother’s garden. I was housesitting for her and my father and part of my laborious duties included picking the ripe fruits from their vines. While the Sun Golds burst with the flavors of sun and summer, these more Roma-like tomatoes seemed better suited to gazpacho or a sauce.

The bag sat on my counter in Brooklyn for most of last week until it occurred to me to roast them, concentrating their flavors for a sweeter, more flavorful punch. I like raw tomatoes, I do. They’re one of August and September’s exquisite pleasures: slicing the juicy fruit, whether beefsteak or heirloom, seeds spilling over the edge of the cutting board. Layered with good buffalo mozzarella and basil, or just biting into one like a peach. But I find, after a while, I want my tomatoes cooked. I want the tastes condensed, the flavors warm. Maybe it’s just summer turning into fall.

So I decided I needed more tomatoes. I swung by my local farmer’s market Saturday after the tornado/tornahdo left Brooklyn and the sun came out blazing. A stand had a $1/lb bin of bruised tomatoes that needed a home – I was more than happy to adopt these forsaken ones. I lugged six pounds home for six bucks.

Once home I sliced all the tomatoes and arranged on a baking sheet, drizzling olive oil and salt on top. I roasted them in a 225 degree oven for one hour, a little more, turning once, until they were shriveled and syrupy. These are great to eat just like this – tossed with pasta, or on toast, in a salad, or mixed with rice. But I thought marinated in olive oil with the basil and garlic I brought home from Vermont would be even better. So quite unintentionally I found myself stuffing the roasted tomatoes into glass Ball jars and sealing their lids in baths of boiling water.

A friend came by and said, “you’re canning!” And so I was. Sort of. But I think of it more like cheating – preserving the rich flavors of summer without spending days on a factory line in my kitchen. It took all of a couple of hours to fill four Ball jars this weekend. I know that won’t get me through the winter, let alone fall. September? Maybe.

Roasted, marinated tomatoes, for fall

Tomatoes, any variety, the cheaper/uglier the better
Olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Chili peppers, optional
Basil, optional

1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges (unless very small in which case halve them). Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake at 225 F for at least one hour, and up to one and a half hours.

2. Cool completely before transferring to a Ball or Mason jar with a sealing lid. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic to each jar, also adding basil and small dried peppers if you’d like. I add a dash more of Maldon salt. Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are coated and marinating in the oil.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn down the heat to a vigorous simmer and add your jars with the lids on tight. Let sit in the simmering water for at least five minutes, or until the jars are sealed and the lid doesn’t pop when you push on the center.

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