Friday, September 24, 2010

Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce

Here's what Farmer John had for us in Silver Lake this week:

Red chard
Dandelion greens
Mixed Herbs: Thyme, Sage and Sweet Marjoram
Red leaf lettuce
Red tomatoes
Red bell peppers

And here's what Tara brought down from Underwood Family Farms today:

Saticoy melon
Acorn squash
Blue lake beans
Pineapple heirloom tomato
Romaine lettuce
Cherokee heirloom tomato
Yellow pear cherry tomatoes

And Silver Lake Farms provided delicious microgreens: pea shoots (pictured above) and radish greens. Thanks Rachel and Bruce! (I love those lanterns Graham made.)

Don't forgot to bring your re-usable container for the microgreens!

It's late tomato season; and I'm in high gear preserving the flavors of summer to enjoy all winter long. One of my favorite recipes is slow-cooked tomato sauce. I learned this recipe years ago from one of my cooking teachers, Carlo Middione. Over the years, I've made a few small changes, but the recipe is essentially his.

It's a cinch to prepare. Just a little work is involved in getting it started; then it bubbles slowly on your stove-top for three (yes three) hours. But once it's slowly simmering, you only need give it a stir now and then. While it's cooking, you can do some gardening, read a book, watch a movie, just plain slow down...

This recipe makes about a quart of sauce, and it freezes beautifully. I re-use quart-sized plastic yogurt containers to freeze batches of this sauce. But you can use quart-sized glass jars if you prefer. In either case, be sure to leave a little head room at the top, as the sauce will expand a little as it freezes. I prefer freezing to canning, mostly because it's a small batch recipe. However, the pH is a little too high to safely can in a hot water bath canner, so I don't recommend it.

Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce

3-1/2 lbs fresh ripe whole tomatoes
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
6 oz. (1 small can) tomato paste
2 C dry red wine
1-1/2 t salt
1/4 to 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano or 1 T dried oregano
red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Start with the most delicious tomatoes you can find. Delicious tomatoes will make a delicious sauce. I like to use a variety of different tomatoes, mixing up the flavors and colors to get a balance of sweetness, tartness, and acidity.

2. Peel the tomatoes: This is easier than you think. Fill with water a pot big enough to hold your largest tomato and bring the water to a boil. In the meantime, remove the stems and cores of the tomatoes. With a sharp knife, score an X on the bottom of each tomato. Once the water boils, turn the heat down, gently drop one tomato into the water with a slotted spoon and leave it there for 20-30 seconds. Remove the tomato with a slotted spoon. Wait until it's cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin and put the tomato in a large bowl. The skin should come off very easily. If it doesn't, your tomatoes may not be quite ripe. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.

3. When the tomatoes are peeled, chop them coarsely and process them in batches in a food processor until pureed.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and stir to coat with oil. Cook about 1 minute. Add the chopped garlic and continue cooking until the garlic just starts to turn slightly golden.

5. Turn down the heat. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and seasonings. Stir to combine. [You can substitute water if you don't want to use wine, though you might want to add 1-2 t sugar as well.]

6. Let the sauce come to a very slow simmer, just barely bubbling. Cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thick and deep red. Allow the sauce to cool before storing in the fridge or packing for the freezer.

I use this sauce as the base for all of my cooked tomato-based pasta sauces as well as last week's stuffed peppers. When I re-heat the sauce, I usually check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper, and/or oregano, if necessary.



Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Here's what Farmer John had for us in Silver Lake this week:

Summer squash
Red leaf lettuce
Dandelion greens
Garlic chives
Red tomatoes
Rainbow chard

And here's what Tara brought down from Underwood Family Farms:
Galia melon
Sharlyn melon
Kabocha squash
Easter radishes
Yellow wax beans
Green leaf lettuce
Orange bell pepper
Chocolate bell pepper
Yellow Brandywine tomatoes

And Silver Lake Farms provided delicious micro-greens - pea shoots and radish!

I love to make stuffed peppers. You can stuff almost any kind of pepper; and you can put almost any savory item in the filling. It's a great way to get creative and use whatever's in your fridge. All you need are some vegetables and a grain; meat and cheese are delicious options, too. With the beautiful orange and chocolate bell peppers in today's box, I couldn't resist making this wonderful treat.

I prefer cutting bell peppers in half lengthwise. One-half makes a nice side dish; two halves make a great main. Depending on the size of your peppers and how full you stuff them, you'll need about 2/3 C filling (or more) per half.

It's best to chop your vegetables into small pieces, but don't mince them. I like to saute all the vegetables before mixing them into the filling; that way some of the water is cooked out and the filling won't get soggy.

A nice, thick tomato sauce in an important component of my recipe. I've been making slow-cooked tomato sauce all summer with tomatoes from my garden. It freezes well for months. If you don't have your own sauce, use whatever tomato sauce you put on your pasta.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This recipe is for 2 peppers or 4 halves. You can double this recipe if you wish.

2 medium bell peppers
1 T olive oil
1/4 lb bulk (or 1 link, casing removed) Italian sausage (optional)
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
1 small carrot, trimmed and chopped fine
1/2 rib celery, trimmed and chopped fine
1-2 small summer squash, washed and chopped into small pieces
2 leaves chard, washed, trimmed and chopped
3/4 C fresh corn kernels, removed from the ear
1-1/2 C cooked brown rice
2-1/2 to 3 C thick tomato sauce
grated cheese, optional
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and set aside.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 t olive oil and brown the sausage, breaking it up into small chunks as it cooks. When done, remove from pan, chop finely and set aside. Pour off any grease from pan and wipe clean.

3. In same skillet, heat remaining 2 t olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 1 minute. Turn down heat. Add carrots, celery and squash. Cover and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add chard and corn kernels. Cook until chard is wilted and vegetables are just soft. If necessary, uncover and cook off any excess liquid.

4. In a bowl, mix the cooked sausage (if you're using it) and the cooked vegetables together with the cooked brown rice. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 C thick tomato sauce - just enough for the mixture to hold together, but not so much that it's saucy. [If you'd like, you can add some grated cheese to this mixture, but I usually don't.] Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Fill each half pepper with the filling mixture.Place them snugly in an oven-proof baking dish. Top each pepper with 1-2 T tomato sauce and/ or 1 T grated cheese. Pour about 1/2 inch hot water in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes.

6. Remove peppers from baking dish and serve each half pepper with 1/2 C thick tomato sauce. You can serve the pepper in a pool of sauce or pour the sauce over the pepper; or you can omit the sauce entirely if you prefer.

I'll post my recipe for slow-cooked tomato sauce next time.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Caprese Salad

Here's what Farmer John had for us in Silver Lake this week:

Yellow summer squash
Basil, mixed herbs or garlic chives
Roma tomatoes
Leaf lettuce

And here's what Tara brought down from Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark:

Yellow watermelon
Butternut squash
Green pepper
Leaf lettuce
Cherry tomatoes
Cherokee heirloom tomatoes

And Silver Lake Farms provided delicious microgreens (radish and pak choi).

If you haven't enjoyed a delicious Caprese Salad yet this summer, now would be the perfect time. With the beautiful fresh green basil and plump cherokee tomatoes at today's pick-up, all you need to add is some fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for this great summer treat.

Caprese Salad is believed to have originated on the island of Capri and the green basil, white mozzarella, and red tomatoes are said to represent the colors of the Italian flag. But don't let that stop you from trying any number of variations such as exotic purple basil or the lovely golden cherry tomatoes that were available from our CSA today.

Great ingredients are key, and the mozzarella cheese is an important component of this dish. Be sure to get soft, fresh mozzarella, not the harder, drier kind you'd use on pizza. The best mozzarellas are made from water buffalo milk; however, there are some very fine cows milk mozzarellas, too.

The simplest way to make this great salad is to slice the mozzarella into thin rounds and slice the tomato cross-wise into slightly thicker rounds. Wash the basil and remove the basil leaves from the stems. [Compost the stems.] Using the largest basil leaves, arrange alternating pieces of mozzarella, tomato and basil in an overlapping layer on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's that easy.

If you want to get fancy, you can roast cherry tomatoes and use creamy burrata cheese; or you can cut the basil into thin strips and spread it over the salad. If you decide to roast the beautiful golden cherry tomatoes we got today, be sure to toss them in a little olive oil before popping them in the oven. I like to sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper before roasting, too.

However you decide to make your Caprese Salad, pour yourself a glass of wine, cut a couple of slices great bread, and enjoy the waning days of summer - they won't last long.



One more thing: If you're a real cheese-lover like me, you might get a kick out of a silly game called cheeseorfont. You guess whether a word is a cheese or a font. You can play this game at Have fun!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mark's Pagnol Bread on Tasting Table !

Congrats Mark from all your fans and CSA shareholders at SLF !!

Here's a link to an article on Tasting Table about Mark's bread - the best in L.A. !

Check it out here:

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Salad of Dandelion Greens

I quit smoking two weeks ago today. Craig Underwood of Underwood Family Farms says as long as I don't smoke, he'll give us a discount. Deal! So if you notice your bags bulging with a little more produce now, you know why... And the dots in my ears - acupuncture - to help me quit - Thank you Michael Fox!

Here's what we had at pick-up today.

From Farmer John:

Rainbow chard
dandelion greens
bunch of carrots
bunch of mixed herbs (sage, thyme, sweet marjoram)
big bunch of cilantro
romaine lettuce head
bag of peppers
patty pan squashes
garlic chives

From Underwood:

bunch of purple carrots
bunch of Japanese turnips
Romaine lettuce head
blue lake green beans
yellow seedless watermelon
specialty Ambrosia melon
large classic eggplant
brandywine heirloom tomato
bi-color corn
celebrity tomato


Wash and dry dandelion greens
cut bunch in half
dress plate(s) with dandelion greens

sprinkle dried cranberries from Trader Joes over the dandelion greens

get some goat cheese ready - crumble it up on a plate and have it ready...

in a frying pan, sprinkle almond slivers from Trader Joes, heat up a lot of them
keep an eye on them, cos they turn brown fast

when they're ready, sprinkle the almond slivers over the cranberries, then sprinkle the goat cheese over that. The cheese should melt a bit from the heat of the nuts.

Then drizzle salad dressing over the top.