Gazpacho--I tend to like gazpacho but I didn't love this one. It wasn't bad but there was absolutely nothing to recommend it, besides all the fresh veggies (since that's what it's all about). I think that there was too much garlic and too much onion for my taste, and it was all a tad too finely blended. I do tend to like blended soups but it seems a shame to lose most all the texture of not only the tomatoes but cucumbers and peppers too. Sadly, I can only give it a score of 2.5 bucks.
Mothership Tomato Salad--strange name given by a strange man, Jamie Oliver, but quite a right on salad. This should not be tried with anything but the best tomatoes, and we had them straight from Jennifer Snyder's farm (thanks, Jennifer!). As such, it was a delightful dish, and so simple. Something about the tomatoes sitting salted really did the trick, and it would be super accompaniment to just about any summer meal. I give it a score of 6 bucks and it could go higher in a non-tomato-rich environment.
Creamy Polenta, Lentils, Chard, and Mushroom Ragu--this was a great dish when done at Danielle Sakamoto's Guest Chef Night nearly four years ago, but sadly less good tonight. It wasn't bad, but each element was not perfectly done. I should say that this is one of the most complex--if not the most--that we've ever done at Frugal Foodies, and the group did an outstanding job to get this beast on the table. It's a four layer operation, which each layer requiring a fair amount of pre-cooking. Bottom layer were lentils which were a tad undercooked. Next layer was chard which was cut a bit too large and not de-spined. Above that was a creamy polenta which was solidly done, and then it was all topped off by the wild mushroom ragu layer which could have used a bit less moisture and more seasoning. It is an impressive dish altogether but the taste didn't match up to the visual presentation, so I'm giving it a score of 4 bucks, but with huge upside if you're up for the challenge.
Bruno's Tomato Confit with Rice Pudding--if scores were given for the element of surprise, this one would be off the charts. A dessert with tomatoes that turn out tasting smooth, sweet, and vanilla-y? Hard to imagine, but that's what we had. The rice pudding was good, and with a bit more of something, could have been great, and the tomato confit (whatever that means) atop it was unforgettable. I really recommend trying this recipe--and the confit could be used on lots of things if you're not a fan of rice pudding--because it's just such a unique treatment of tomatoes. All in all, I give it a score of 6 bucks.
Brie & Sun Dried Tomato Crostini
Adapted from www.finedinings.com
2 T pine nuts
1 loaf baguette bread, sliced ¼ inch thick
1/3 cup Brie cheese
2 sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil), finely chopped
1 T oil
2 T Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 T fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T fresh basil, sliced
1. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet; broil 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat; set aside.
2. On the same baking sheet, broil one side of bread slices 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Slice the brie into 1/8 inch slices and place one slice on each piece of bread. Broil in oven for 1 minute or until the brie is slightly melted.
4. In small bowl combine the tomatoes, oil, parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato mixture atop the brie. Top with sliced basil and toasted pine nuts.
5. Serve immediately.
Adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
4 cups tomato juice
1. Combine all ingredients. Blend slightly, to desired consistency.
2. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate, allowing flavors to blend.
Mothership Tomato Salad
Adapted from Jamie Oliver and the Food Network
2 ¼ lbs mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch dried oregano
Red wine or balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped
1. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and others into uneven chunks.
2. Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a good pinch of sea salt. Give them a toss, season again and give a couple more tosses. The salt won't be drawn into the tomatoes; instead it will draw any excess moisture out, concentrating all the lovely flavors. Leave the tomatoes in the colander on top of a bowl to stand for around 15 minutes, then discard any juice that has come out of them.
3. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle with the oregano.
4. Make a dressing using 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, the garlic and the chili.
5. Drizzle the tomatoes with enough dressing to coat everything nicely.
Creamy Polenta, Lentils, Chard, and Mushroom Ragu
Adapted from the November, 2005 Danielle Sakamoto Guest Chef Night
This is a complex four part recipe served in layers. Not for the faint of heart.
Creamy Polenta Ingredients
9 C milk
3 C water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 T butter
1 ½ T kosher salt
6 C polenta
1 C warm water for loosening polenta before ready to serve
3 T oregano, finely chopped
1 ½ T thyme leaves
1 T rosemary
4-5 oz grated Fontina cheese
1. Combine milk, water, garlic, butter and salt in a large heavy saucepan or stockpot. Bring to a boil. Gradually add polenta, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat to low. Cook the polenta until it is creamy and thick, stirring frequently, about 35 minutes.
2. Add more milk or water if polenta is too thick.
3. Right before assembling, add water if necessary to loosen up the polenta. Add the chopped herbs and cheese. Add extra herbs and salt to taste and assemble.
4 cups lentils
6 large shallots, peeled and cut in half
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
4 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1. Pick over, rinse, and place in a large saucepan with water to cover by 1 ½ inches. Add the shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook the lentils at a bare simmer until they are just tender but not mushy; do not allow them to boil or they will become tough, about 25-30 minutes. If necessary, replenish the water so that it stays 1 inch above the top of the lentils. Halfway through the cooking time, stir in the salt.
2. Remove from the heat and drain. Remove and discard the shallots, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.
7 bunches of chard,
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Stack several similar size leaves together and cut off the stems and the lower thick ribs. Now cut into thirds crosswise.
2. Rinse and leave the chard pieces wet.
3. Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil, sauté in batches until leaves are tender; add a little water if necessary to complete cooking.
4. Place cooked chard into a colander and press out excess water. Adjust the seasoning and add a little olive oil.
Wild Mushroom Ragu Ingredients
2 C boiling water
2 ½ C dried wild mushrooms
3 lb fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, in any combination
1 C sun-dried tomatoes
5 t olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1+ C dry red wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ t dried thyme
2 28 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
2 t of sugar
1 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black peppers
Italian parsley, chopped
1. Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and tomatoes in a bowl, cover and soak until softened, at least 15 minutes.
2. Wipe the fresh mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Trim off the tough stems and discard; roughly chop.
3. Combine the olive oil, onions, and garlic, sauté until translucent.
4. Meanwhile, scoop the dried mushrooms and tomatoes into a strainer, reserving the soaking liquid (strain the liquid). Rinse them under cool water to remove any grit and press them with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the water. Coarsely chop them and set aside.
5. Pour the soaking liquid into the saucepan with the onion. Add the red wine and thyme and boil for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring 5 minutes over moderate heat. Stir in the canned tomatoes and their juices, the chopped dried mushrooms and tomatoes, the sugar, and salt. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender and the Ragu is thick, about 15 minutes.
6. Chop the fresh parsley for assembly.
Cover the plate with a flat bed of lentils.
Take the sautéed chard leaves and make a ring in the middle of the flat bed of lentils. Place the polenta in the ring of chard.
Top the polenta with the mushroom Ragu and chopped parsley.
Vegan version of Polenta
9 cups of broth
3 cup of water
3 cloves, garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ T kosher salt
4 C polenta
½ C warm water for loosening polenta before ready to serve
3 T marjoram or oregano, finely chopped
1 ½ T of thyme leaves
1 T rosemary
Bruno's Tomato Confit with Rice Pudding
Adapted from www.cuisine.com/au
6 large, ripe and firm tomatoes
2/5 lb sugar
½ cup water
1 vanilla bean
1 strip orange zest (colored part only)
1 cardamom pod, bruised
1 quart soy milk
1/6 lb sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
1/3 lb short-grain white rice
1. Remove calyx from tomatoes. Cut a cross in the opposite end and plunge into boiling water for a few seconds. Lift out with a wide skimmer and plunge the tomatoes into very cold water. Drain, remove skins, quarter, and cut out the jelly and seeds to leave 4 well-shaped tomato sections from each tomato.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla bean, orange zest and cardamom pod, and bring slowly to simmering point. Drop in the tomato quarters and keep the syrup just below simmering point for about 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the syrup and then lift the tomatoes out on to a paper-lined rack resting over a plate to catch any drips.
3. Meanwhile, bring soy milk to a boil with sugar, salt and vanilla bean, then pour in the rice and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until rice is completely cooked. Allow to cool somewhat.
4. Serve the tomato quarters in the centre of a plate of warm rice pudding, with a little of the tomato syrup drizzled over and around.