Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

After a very slow and late start, the tomatoes are coming in quickly. It looks like last night’s hail storm didn’t do as much damage I was worried it had and the tomato harvest will continue.

I have quite a few bags of frozen pureed tomatoes already put up and haven’t really made a dent.¬† My process is pretty simple, I wash the tomatoes, halve them to make sure there are no surprises inside, puree them, add to a zip bag, and freeze. They are good for up to a year, although I’ve never been lucky enough to get enough to last season to season. Maybe this will be the year. ūü§ě

And last night, I diced up a couple of the Park Whoppers and added them to pasta, with some parmesan, dried oregano, and basil. There would have been fresh basil, but between the downpour, the hail, and the wind, I did without. LOL

It was yummy. Nothing beats fresh tomatoes.


Summer Salads: Caprese Pasta Salad

This week is all about pasta salads…just not your typical pasta salads. Although, since tomatoes are ripening, most will probably have tomatoes in them. LOL

This one is a regular at the dinner table. Visiting local farmer’s markets offered me the chance to change this dish up with flavored fettuccini pasta a couple of times.

Pasta Caprese

  • 9 oz linguine or fettuccine
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 oz cubed mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan and large serving dish Continue reading

Farmer’s Market Dinner Menu: Garden Fresh Pasta

It’s my favorite time of the year for cooking when I can choose fresh ingredients from my garden or the farmer’s market. It so easy to toss pasta with fresh produce and have a quick, light dinner.

On the board:

  1. Garden Fresh Pasta
  2. Steamed Zucchini
  3. Crusty loaf
  4. Sliced Peaches (add a touch of sugar to bring out the juices)

Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed garlic (start with one, add more as desired)
  • 4-6 medium to large tomatoes, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves – more as desired
  • 2 tbsp¬†fresh oregano leaves (I like a cute little leaf called ‘pizza oregano’) – more as desired
  • 1 carrot, finely shredded
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes if you desire some heat

saucepan & pasta serving bowl Continue reading

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I spent a little time looking at recipes for using up peppers.¬† I ran across one called stuffed pepper soup. I usually look at several recipes to get an idea of the range of possibilities and ended with one that used half ground beef and half Italian sausage.I had several Anaheim peppers I needed to use.¬† They have a thick skin so I roasted them to help get those off.Let the roasted peppers sit in a bowl for 20 minutes, covered, and the skins will come off easily.¬† I do it over a bowl full of water to help with the removal.I picked a couple of nice green bells, and chopped them, the roasted Anaheims, and a big sweet onion.Chop a couple of cloves of garlic while you are at it.Brown the meat, spoon out excess grease, and add the peppers and onions, cook until they are soft – 5 minutes or so.I added a quart of the tomatoes I stewed and canned last year, a can of tomato sauce, and 3 or 4 cups of chicken stock.¬† I seasoned with granulated onion, granulated garlic, dried herbs like basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and a few bay leaves.¬† Salt and pepper to taste.It’s good over pasta, too.¬† This recipe was received with much enthusiasm around these parts.

Pasta with Spinach Cheese Marinara

Pasta photo by JeffreyW

Pasta w/Spinach Cheese Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¬Ĺ onion, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, washed & sliced
  • ¬Ĺ green pepper, chopped
  • 2-14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste*
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp thyme, crushed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¬Ĺ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ¬Ĺ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 12 oz bow-tie pasta¬†(farfalle)

2 saucepans

Bring water for pasta to a boil in large saucepan, add pasta and cook according to directions to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in the other saucepan; sauté onions, mushrooms & peppers until onions are golden.  Add remaining ingredients (except pasta) bring to a low boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to med-low, cover and let simmer until pasta is done cooking. As the pasta finishes up, add a ladle or two of pasta water to the sauce.

Drain pasta well and toss together with sauce.  Serve with additional Parmesan & Romano cheeses if desired.

*you can freeze the remainder in an ice-cube tray and store in a freezer bag.


Chicken Parm

This dish is usually made with tenderized chicken breasts, I like the boneless, skinless thighs better.  I pounded these a little but not a lot.  The prep was typical, though:  dredge in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs,  Cook in olive oil until golden, then flip.  Bake, topped with sauce and cheese and serve.  I like a bed of spaghetti that has been tossed in butter and good olive oil with plenty of garlic.

Mmm… Bacon and Tomato Pasta Salad

The store deli had an interesting pasta salad that we brought home for a quick side.¬† They called it a bacon and tomato pasta salad and I found it delicious.¬† This is an attempt at a copycat recipe.¬† I went to Google for some ideas and this came up.¬† It seemed incomplete as the Kroger salad had some dried herb flakes that I decided must be basil.¬† I added a lot of basil, maybe 2 tablespoons or so to my small test batch.A lot of the recipes I turned up in the search included ranch dressing, and I think that may be the way to go in the future.¬† After sitting overnight in the fridge the pasta shells I used had absorbed most all of the liquid and were looking dry.¬† I added more mayo cut with half and half and chopped another tomato to fold in.¬† It’s an interesting dish, and fun to experiment with.¬† The Kroger deli used rotini but just about any bite size pasta will work.


Meatballs! ¬†I followed this recipe, mostly. ¬†Quantities in the recipe were for 1 lb. of meat – I went with 1 lb. of ground beef and 1 lb. of Italian sausage and scaled the amounts accordingly. ¬†I’ve no idea what locatelli cheese is so these were made with Parmesan.They were browned in the toaster oven before going into the sauce.I like then over spaghetti with more grated Parmesan and ribbons of basil. ¬†I may do some meatball subs today with the rolls I baked the other day:I had planned to smoke a pork shoulder but when the big chunk of meat was thawed it turned out to be beef. ¬†I resorted to the crockpot and made a batch of Italian beef. ¬†My recipe is to slice a bunch of onions, mince a lot of garlic, add beef or chicken broth, red wine, bay leaves, dried basil and oregano, more granulated garlic and onion, and salt and ground black pepper. ¬†Open a jar of pepperoncini and dump them all in – with the juice. ¬†Some red pepper flakes work well but are optional. ¬†Put all of that stuff in with the beef and give it 8 hours or so on high. ¬†Proper Chicago style Italian beef is made with thin sliced beef but I don’t do it that way because I don’t keep a deli slicer out on the counter. ¬†Mine is more like pulled pork:Here’s a quick lunch we had the other day before I baked the rolls, the little buns are a par-baked item Kroger carries, just pop them into the toaster oven for a few minutes and they made credible slider buns.Here we go with a full sized sammich. ¬†I like them dipped but if you dip the whole sammich it becomes a race to finish it before it falls apart. ¬†A little bowl of juice on the side overcomes that problem.Lest you think it’s all meat and carbs around here, Mrs J cuts up a sweet yellow watermelon.