Tag Archives: tomatoes

How do I come up with recipes?

Standard

I am often asked how I come up with the recipes I cook at Eastern Market and publish in this blog. They all start with inspiration – or desperation – figuring out how to feature a seasonal ingredient or use a new product from one of the great shops I work with.

Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll pull a recipe out of my head that I’ve cooked many times, like asparagus soup or zucchini pancakes. Along the way, these recipes get tweaked with new ingredients and new ideas I’ve learned elsewhere.

Other times an idea pops into my head, like last week’s Indian style peas and corn. I’ll flip through cookbooks and search the web to understand the range of ingredients, seasonings and techniques that other people have used, then pull together the ideas that sound the best and start testing the recipe, making changes until I’ve got something I’m proud to serve.

The hardest recipes, and some of my greatest satisfaction, come when I’m stumped. This past week I wanted to work with summer squash. The Saturday before I had sautéed it, tossed with a compound butter. Rather then another variation on sautéed and tossed with herbs, I wanted something really new. I began flipping through cookbooks waiting for a recipe to excite me. I found a squash goulash, 70’s style with ground beef, green peppers and sweet paprika. I removed the beef so the squash could take center stage. Red peppers kept some bitterness without the bite. Red miso and tomato paste added depth, while Spanish paprika or pimentón, brought a bit of heat. Some fresh vegetable stock gave the sauce another layer and I was ready to serve this week’s Summer Squash Goulash. My sincere thanks to Too Many Tomatoes, and my Mom who raised us on its recipes, for the inspiration.

Summer Squash Goulash

Makes 3-4 main course servings unless you eat it at 10:30 at night, in which case two of you will be fighting over the last bowl. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups summer squash thinly sliced in half rounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned on edges.
  • Add pepper, paprika, tomato paste and miso. Cook 1-2 minutes until paprika is fragrant.
  • Stir in tomatoes and cook until softened and water begins to evaporate. Add stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add squash, basil. Cover and cook until squash is softened but still firm.
  • Uncover and let thicken to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.
Advertisements

Summer comfort food.

Standard

When the wind is blustery and damp with snow, there are few things more satisfying than a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. Whether you keep it simple or gussy it up with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs, the flavor is deep, rich and satisfying.

When the sun is bright and warm, and you’re dining outdoors, cooled by a light breeze, a rich, hearty tomato soup seems like a slap in the face to one of summer’s most treasured gifts from the garden. The good Lord already took care of packing sweet sugar and tart acidity into those tomatoes. Why do you have to go and play with it?

I wanted a soup – quick cooked to protect the freshness of the tomatoes. Few ingredients so you’re not wasting a perfectly beautiful summer afternoon locked up in the kitchen.

And I found it. A twenty minute soup. A simple bowl of summer.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-6 basil stems*
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Tomato oil**
  • Sherry vinegar
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
*My basil plants needed a break this weekend so I used cilantro. It was a different taste, for sure, but deep and more complex. Equally delicious.
**Another treat from Sapore Olive Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. I have been burning through this stuff this spring, giving April-May tomatoes a July-August flavor. It’s a new pantry staple!

Directions:

  • Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent.
  • Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  • Add tomatoes and basil stems and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened.
  • Pass soup through a food mill. If using a food processor, remove basil stems first. The food processor also removes the tomato stems for a smoother texture.
  • Return puree to pot, add a quarter cup of Fresh Tomato oil, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes minutes to bring the flavors together.
  • Season to taste with additional Fresh Tomato oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The vinegar is there to brighten the tomato flavors. If the ones you are using are nice and acidic, you may not need it.
  • Garnish with fresh basil and an additional drizzle of tomato oil.

In season.

Standard

Growing up, spareribs and artichokes was a special family meal (this explains a lot, I know). You knew it was a what was in store when extra napkins appeared on the table with no silverware for an evening of finger food. Our teeth scraped the flesh off each artichoke leaf in an effort to reach the center, when Dad would ceremoniously scrape the choke from the base, cut it into an even number of pieces, and toss it into the remaining butter and cider vinegar in the dipping bowl. The meal ended with wonderful piles of bones, sucked clean, and spent artichoke leave. It was a feast.

This meal was so special, such an event in our home, that I always wanted it served on my birthday, which is in August. Each year, Mom would remind me that artichokes were only available in spring, and I would be stuck with some less exotic treat like fresh corn on the cob, or the first of Mom’s dill beans (how I suffered).

Growing up, produce was seasonal. Asparagus in spring, strawberries for a few short weeks in June, corn appeared in early August.

In my teens that started to change. These treats were available year round. Suddenly you could serve asparagus on New Year’s Day and eat “fresh” tomatoes in February. By the time I started cooking seriously, in my early twenties, there were only a few vegetables left, like fiddleheads, to truly mark the arrival of each season.

At 30, I moved to Washington, DC and began shopping at Eastern Market, and after a few months realized that my cooking had found a new rhythm. Asparagus appeared in spring with magical, uneven spears, tinged heavily with purple. Six weeks later we enjoyed the last few spears of the season, significantly less tender and sweet, in soup or baked in phyllo with sharp Gruyère. Strawberries came and went quickly. Sour cherries were only available for a week or two – much to the delight of my husband, who lamented pitting them by the pint for pies and sauces. Summer continued with tomatoes and zucchini, the first squash and apples in fall, and late season brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

While perpetual abundance is perfect when you desperately need an asparagus fix in the dead of winter, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of our dining table. I have discovered a new joy in waiting for spring’s first scant produce – two to three weeks of spring onions, arugula and radishes. We celebrate the last bowl of asparagus soup on a warm night in May. I marvel each fall when Bob’s vegetable peeler makes short work of the thick skin on a butternut squash.

Happy spring! Celebrate the food on your plate. I’ll see you at the Market.