Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zebra Caprese Insalata

I remember when tomatoes were available in wooden boxes and they were always wrinkly around the stem , I grew up eating only heirloom tomatoes - because that is how tomatoes existed , back in the day . Fast forward a few years and the masses started to want the "perfect" tomato, without wrinkles, without character without flavour - but with all intent and purposes it looked like a tomato .

Remember my first blog ............. well the  zebra tomatoes are no longer lurking .

This morning I  looked at them long and hard, gave them a gently squeeze and decided that they were ready for harvest . They had started to turn a slight golden colour , they still had their stripes - but the anticipation of how and what they tasted like was killing me .

In its simplest form a tomato with a sprinke of sea salt ,a few turns of the pepper mill and a splash of extra virgin oil ............ is tomato nirvana . But , add some fresh mozzarella a splash of aged balsamic and a few sprigs of basil leaves ...... you are now on the road of complete self gratification .

I had forgotten how sweet an heirloom tomato can taste and I was quite surprised that after a very long and anxious wait of 90 days ( give or take) the zebra tomatoes were intoxicatingly delicious . Their cousins the cherry tomatoes , growing but a mere couple of feet away from them, gave me a pretty good harvest this year - taking into account the lack of summer in Chicago this year .

However , I was just wanting heirloom zebra tomatoes ............ and today I finally enjoyed the fruits of my labour !!!!!

So ...... next year as you contemplate your garden, I urge you to plant some Zebra Heirloom tomatoes , wish and hope for summer not to bypass us and enjoy tomatoes like a child in a candy store !!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blueberry muffin perfection.

If you search the web , if you flip through tomes of cookbooks , you will finds myriads of recipes for blueberry muffins . Each of them promising the perfectly moist , most tastiest muffin you will ever eat . I am sure many of you have also tagged plenty of pages attesting to the quest for the perfect muffin.

Your quest has ended .

Behold the perfectly moist blueberry muffin , with blueberries picked at the peak of season and cooked with love .

Many recipes , for me, have lacked that blueberry taste , and after much testing and trialing I think I have found the secret ingredient .......... lemon peel and the juice of a  fresh lemon.

In August the family, along my sister visiting from overseas and family friends, we all trekked out to New Buffalo Michigan and went blueberry picking. It was a glorious day , the children were filled with much anticipation . We were all looking forward to a funfilled day . There was not a lot of complaining from the little ones, they were happy to walk up and down , in between the rows and happily fill their little tin cans with the luscious fruit , and the many handful of blueberries which were enjoyed - on site .....

At this point I should be inserting photos , showing blueberry pickers in action ...... alas the delete button was activaed on the camera - before I had a chance to download the pictures - so imagination please !!!!

I share with you a recipe I use from my go to book by Sara Foster .

So , if you have had your fill of fresh blueberries and the freezer is packed with happy blueberries , take a moment to make some yummy and delicious muffins the whole family will enjoy .

Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Sara Foster

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs , preferably organic
3/4 cup whole milk
greated zest and juice of a medium size lemon
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375F and line muffin tins with paper liners - put aside .

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In  a separate bowl place the canola oil, eggs ( room temperature) , milk, lemon zest and juice and combine well with a whisk.

Add to the egg mixture to the dry ingredients , stir a couple of times then add the 2 cups of berries ( if they are frozen do not defrost) and mix with a wooden spoon until just everything is well blended .

Use an large 1/3 cup icecream scoop and scoop the batter into the muffins tins. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes .

Enjoy !

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not your mommas fried green tomatoes

As promised here is my first recipe post .

Many years ago I started a serious collection of cookbooks , as a stay at home mum , I was about to fulfil my dream of being with my children as they grew up and indulge in my love of cooking . I came across a cookbook author Sara Foster , I was smitten by her southern charm , her amazing recipes and in particular her spin on "fried green tomatoes".

Forward to the summer of 2006, when I spent 7 weeks holidaying in Greece . Enjoying some time in Athens then travelling south to visit with my parents at their house up in the mountains. A bountious garden greeted us , beans, corn, tomatoes ( heirloom zebra ,alas ) peppers and I think a rather brave canteloupe plant clinging to dear life on the side of the driveway .

The days were passing and it would soon be time to return to Chicago, but up until that time , we did not have the opportunity to enjoy that many vine-ripened tomatoes. Plenty of green ones ....... oh.... so many green tomatoes - just starting to blush , teasing us with the fact that we would not be here to enjoy them .

Not too sure how the following recipe came to be, but I thought of Sara Foster's recipe and the fact that people do eat green tomatoes - I had to put my spin on this dish and give it a mediterranean makeover .
This dish is a great appetiser , to be enjoyed atop a slice of sourdough bread, as a side dish for steak , grilled fish and plain rice .
The secret is not to salt the tomatoes while they are marinating , as this draws out too much moisture and makes them mushy. I used thyme and rosemary , that is what I had in my kitchen , if you are not a friend of rosemary just use thyme ( or vica-versa)  if you are not a friend of garlic - please omit - the dish will survive without it . The herbs have to be fresh - the dry stuff just does not cut it .

So, as the tomatoes in your gardens start to look a little sad and the chances of then ripening are getting slimmer , consider this dish ............... I know you will fall in love with it . 

Not your mommas Fried Green Tomatoes
a GG original recipe  
2 large green tomatoes - just starting to blanch a little , but still quite green
some fresh thyme and rosemary - roughly chopped
freshly ground pepper
good olive oil to coat
balsamic vinegar - a couple of drizzles
Kefalograviera Cheese , substitute Parmiggiano or Pecorino
sea salt - recommended brand , Maldon Salt

Cut the tomatoes across the width of the tomato then into long slices . Place in a ceramic dish and add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese and sea salt .

Toss to combine and allow to marinate for about 1-2 hours.
Heat a cast iron saute pan or any type of non stick pan until it is quite hot. Place the slices of tomatoes in the pan , making sure they do not touch ( as this causes them to steam ) for about 1 minute - or until they take on a bit of colour.
Continue cooking all the tomatoe slices place on a serving dish . Sprinkle some sea salt on the  tomatoes, drizzle with a little more balsamic vinegar and another drizzle of oil . Add a few shavings of your preferred cheese and some freshly grated pepper ......... enjoy !

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcome to autumn everyone

It was a beautiful autumn day today , I had plans to meet friends for lunch at Fuego where we enjoyed a wonderful mexican meal and my first time to enjoy sopas ........delicioso!!!! .... thank you for all the great selections Teresa . The finale for me, was the flan , chocolate at that - nothing more needs to be said at this moment .

This weekend we celebrate Labour Day , technically heralding the end of summer and one last chance to fire up the bbq and entertain family and friends . However, September can be the most enjoyable month to sit outside and enjoy a great meal . The warmth from the sun is loved and needed , the chill in the air beckons us to wear some warm and snuggly and the upcoming changing of the leaves ( more on that in a few weeks) is a much anticipated event - by this transplant to the Mid-West .

We also look forward to apple picking , check out the photos from last years adventure :
This of course is then followed, by the big decision as to which pumpkin to carve .....hhhmmmm
So , my girls definitely enjoyed the adventure and eagerly await this years expedition .
Food at this time becomes a comfort and an opportunity to savour the last of the summer bounty , tomatoes, zucchini and corn .  My zebra tomatoes are still struggling to ripen ........ I have a great recipe to share with you in my next post a little twist on "fried green tomatoes" .
And a postcript to all that have enquired , I will start posting recipes on my blog very soon .