Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

How to grow tomatoes + 115 ways to prepare them

Home-grown tomatoesSomeone posted this to a cooking site I like to visit. It’s a free e-book with two chapters – Chapter One is a biographical sketch of George Washington Carver, the famous African-American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor and Chapter 2 is his book “How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table.”

You can download it here: “How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table” (PDF) by George Washington Carver.

A delicious one-pot meal: Paella

A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas a wonderful gift for a foodie like me – a paella kit. It included a paella pan, Spanish rice and olive oil, and some saffron.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, because harvesting it is so labor-intensive. Saffron threads are the stamens of a variety of crocus. There are three stamens per flower and each must be picked individually by hand. It has a delicate flavor; liquids are generally infused with saffron and then used in recipes.

Paella is a classic Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice with seafood, chicken and sometimes chorizo, or Spanish sausage. I made this dish for a dinner party and it was a big hit. Serve with a nice green salad and a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar.

Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Ultimate Paella with Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo

The term comes from the Latin patella, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods. The prepared dish is placed in the middle of the dining table, as it is traditionally eaten straight from the pan.

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika (preferably Spanish smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 chicken thighs, cut in half
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups short-grain Spanish rice, preferably Calasparra
5 1/2 cups strong chicken broth
Generous pinch saffron threads (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Combine paprika, oregano and salt. Rub spice mixture all over the chicken, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325*.

Warm chicken broth in a saucepan to just below a simmer. Crush saffron slightly and stir into broth; keep warm.

Heat the oil in a 14-inch paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken skin-side down and brown well on all sides; remove from pan and set aside. Sauté onions in the same pan; when the onions start to brown, add red peppers, garlic and half of parsley. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes; cook until mixture caramelizes a bit, stirring occasionally.

Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains with the onion mixture. Pour in the chicken broth and stir gently to loosen browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The broth will almost fill the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture a couple of times.

Press the clams into the rice. Simmer for 5 minutes more, occasionally moving the pan on top of the flame so the rice cooks evenly and starts to absorb the liquid. You should still have a lot of liquid in the pan.

Press the chicken (with any accumulated juices), chorizo, mussels and shrimp into the rice. Place the pan into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pan on the stovetop and sprinkle with peas and parsley. Cover with foil and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Urban Farming: 2011’s veggies

Home-grown tomatoesWe got our order from a few days ago and today, Dan will start the seeds in the sunroom. It should be quite a crop, and we may even have some extra plants to share, even though we’re thinking about expanding the square garden.

After this cold, snowy winter, I can’t wait to get the garden going. Some of the lettuces we planted last fall are starting to come back with the warmer temperatures we’ve had this last week.

So here’s what we got:


  • Kimberly – early season, 1-2 oz. red fruit
  • Margherita hybrid – mid-season, 5-6 oz. red paste tomatoes, great for pizza, pasta and roasting
  • Oaxacan Jewel – late season, bicolor – yellow with ruby streaks, 6-16 oz.
  • Purple Brandy – late season, deep pink-purple beefsteak, 8-16 oz.
  • Rose de Berne – late season, Swiss heirloom, dark pink, 6-8 oz.
  • Virginia Sweets – late season, heirloom, gold-red bicolor, at least 1 lb. each

Peppers and Tomatillos

  • The Big Early Hybrid – bell peppers, 8″ long by 4.5″ wide
  • Ancho 101 – used for Mexican stuffed peppers; can be dried and ground into chile powder
  • Ixtapa Hybrid – 4-inch-long jalapenos
  • Golden Greek Pepperoncini – great for pickling and in Greek salad
  • Purple Tomatillos – We will probably have dozens of green tomatillo volunteers, so we thought we’d try the purple ones this year.

We’re also planting yellow and red onions, green beans and peas. Later we’ll add cucumbers and maybe some melons. We got one edible cantaloupe last year, so I’d like to try again and see how it goes. And I have some garlic cloves in the kitchen that started sprouting, so I need to get those in the ground, too.

Grow Your Own: Tomato Jam

Grow Your Own 2008The heirloom and roma tomatoes we planted this year are going gangbusters now, so I’ve had to become creative about preserving them. A few weeks ago, Dan and I went to the Seawall Art Show in downtown Portsmouth. On our way home we stopped at Bowman’s Garden Center, looking for onion sets for the garden, and instead we found a variety of organic, homemade dips and spreads for sale, along with samples.

So we tried tomato jam for the first time, and it was surprisingly good. The flavor made me think of strawberry jam, although it doesn’t really taste like strawberries – just something about it was reminiscent of them. The label said it contained tomatoes, sugar, citric acid and salt. Too easy, I thought, I can make that. So we came home and I Googled around for a while, and, after reading several recipes, came up with the following one. I added a tsp. or so of vinegar at the end, because it tasted a bit too sweet to me.

I also found a great alternative to blanching tomatoes for peeling them – grating them with the big holes on a box grater! It was so easy, I could hardly believe it, and took only a few minutes to make tomato puree out of about 12 roma tomatoes. The seeds are still there, but that doesn’t bother me; according to Cook’s Illustrated, much of the tomato flavor is in the seeds and surrounding “jelly.”

Tomato Jam

1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cut in half crosswise and grated
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced (forgot about this till after I first posted – see below)
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate. This will keep at least a week. Makes about 2 cups.

This is my contribution to Grow Your Own, the twice-monthly blogging event created by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, hosted this time by Noob Cook.

ETA: Today, I took some of the tomato jam with fresh-baked biscuits to work and a co-worker asked me if there was anything hot in it. I completely forgot until that moment that Dan had suggested I chop up a jalapeno pepper from the garden and add it in for some more flavor. It’s not enough to make you go Ow, but enough to make you say, Hm, what’s in there?

Summer Produce

Joelen of Joelen’s Culinary Adventures has an unbelievable array of food blogging events going – don’t know how she keeps up with the round-ups. There are lots of tasty-looking recipes from previous events to read about and maybe try.

Right now, at the height of the summer, the event she has going on is Summer Produce, and we have lots. The basil and roma tomatoes are really coming in now, and the cucumbers are catching up. So I made a sort of caprese salad over greens for dinner one night. I know, using vinegar isn’t traditional, but I just love red-wine vinegar with this, so that’s what I use 🙂

Ingredients for caprese-inspired salad
Fresh basil, cucumber and roma tomato from the garden

Caprese-inspired Green Salad

3 cups chopped romaine
1 small cucumber, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Layer half of romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, cheese and basil in each of two bowls. Whisk together vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and drizzle over salads.

Caprese salad over romaine

Grow Your Own: Southwestern Potato Salad

Grow Your Own 2008Back in March, Dan and I went to see Bobby Flay do a cooking demonstration in downtown Norfolk. It was lots of fun, and I got an autographed copy of one of his books: “Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook: Explosive Flavors from the Southwestern Kitchen.” I’ve made several recipes from the book and loved them all – although I’ve tweaked a couple 🙂

We both really like this recipe for Southwestern Potato Salad – I’ve made it three or four times now. This last time, I used green onions, a red onion, and cilantro from our garden. I know the cilantro looks a little funny, but it’s trying to bloom and I’m trying to stop it 😉

Southwestern potato salad: Ingredients from our garden

I’m trying to expand my taste horizons, so I went ahead and added the red onion, even though I don’t like the flavor of raw onion. Guess what? I still don’t. But Dan does, so next time, I will just dice an onion for him and he can add it to his portion.

Also, the recipe says to add one jalapeno pepper, finely diced. If you like a lot of heat, go ahead and do this. I made it this way the first time, and it was too hot for us. The second time, I removed the seeds and membrane first, and it was too mild. The third time, I cut the pepper in half and removed the seeds and membrane from one half, leaving them in the other half. This time, it was just right 🙂

Bobby Flay’s Southwestern Potato Salad

2 lbs. small new potatoes (I used Yukon Gold potatoes)
Kosher salt
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tbsp. ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped (I used 2 roma tomatoes)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced (I used two)
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Add 1 tbsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pieced with a knife, 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain well, let cool slightly, and slice 1/4 inch thick (I cut into 1/2-inch chunks). Put in a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm while you prepare the dressing.

Stir together all remaining ingredients except black pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the warm potatoes and mix gently until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature. This can be made up to one day ahead and refrigerated.

We had this with cole slaw and our first smoked BBQ ribs. It was a great meal.

Southwestern Potato Salad, with cole slaw and smoked BBQ ribs

This is my contribution to the Grow Your Own food blogging event, hosted by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes.

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