Tag Archives: tomatoes

Bertha

Yesterday was not one of my finer moments. It started off great with my new HUGE coffee mug from Bed Bath & Beyond that got me more excited for my morning fix than I’d like to admit.

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But the day quickly deteriorated as work threw a few punches and I let them get the best of me. It was a long, stressful day with lunch eaten at my desk during a 2 hour conference call from hell.

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I’m not going to get into details because in the words of the almighty Dooce, “be ye not so stupid” to write about work on the internet. Winking smile

Let’s just say 5pm was more than needed and it’s days like these that I’m so incredibly thankful and happy I’ve found an outlet in running. I went out for a music-less 3 mile run and got all my frustration out on the pavement. Does any one else have mock conversations in their head while running? Totally did that. If I can’t express my feelings in real life, I’ll just play the scene out in my head. I’m probably sounding like a head case right about now!

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It wasn’t my best or my fastest run (I’ll blame my screaming sore glutes<—hello 40lb dumbbell lunges!) but it did the trick.

And then Bertha came out.

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Yes, I’ve named my dutch oven Bertha. She’s big and ugly and it seemed like the only fitting name.

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After our wedding, I had a few hundred dollars in gift cards and returns from duplicate items on our registry to a store called Fortunoff. It’s out of business now, but it was local to NY,NJ,CT and was basically a department store on steroids/bridal registry palace. You could waste hours of your life in there from bedding to china to furniture and more. I could’ve gotten a lot more with the money, but I spent it on Bertha. I had wanted a Le Creuset dutch oven forever and it’s a lot easier to convince yourself when it’s not your own $275 you’re throwing around. Her color looked so nice and rustic online but when she came in the mail it was all I could do to not puke at the sight of her. In real life it’s the color of poop. Ass grass, and now poop. What has come of this blog? It’s unfortunate really to have to cook delicious meals in something so offensive looking, but we make do and she hasn’t let me down yet.

On the menu was Anne’s turkey barley vegetable chili. Is there a food more comforting than chili? I don’t think so. I’ve made this before and followed her recipe almost exactly but I did take out the mushrooms (didn’t have any) and threw in some carrots & fresh tomatoes.

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I’m pretty sure ground turkey meat is one of the least appetizing looking things ever.

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Garnished with some sharp cheddar and avocado.

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Perfect.

Other good things about chili? 

It’s a one pot meal = less dishes

There are tons of leftovers = don’t have to cook dinner for the next 2 days = more time to bake cookies.

So for the math nerds out there, if bad days = chili and chili = cookies then bad days = cookies, right? I could handle a few more bad days in that case. Winking smile

 

What was your major in college? I was an overachiever and double majored in International Business and Spanish. I loved math in hs and never took an ounce of it in college, go figure.

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Filed under Dinner, Running, Work

Tribute to Spain: Summer gazpacho

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Junior year of college I studied abroad in Malaga, Spain. Almost 9 years later, I can still say it was the best 4 months of my life. Of course, as you age you always look back at things with a different perspective, isn’t that where the saying “hindsight is always 20/20” comes from? Sure, I wish I had enjoyed myself in the moment a bit more in Spain, not worried about grades and papers as much, not focused on how much I missed my family or boyfriend (now husband) at the time and just soaked the experience all in. But the one thing I really wish I had done in Spain?

Learned how my host family made their gazpacho.

Did you really think it was going to be something mushy? (My mom is shaking her head knowing full well it wasn’t Winking smile).

My host family had it’s downfalls. Mainly that they didn’t feed me enough! I was always  hungry. I used to sneak into the kitchen at night and “steal” food to hoard in my room for the next day. I got the only “wealthy” family in the program because they just happened to meet my “absolutely no animals in the house” stipulation. This was pre-allergy shot days. They were prominent architects in the city and were never home unlike all the other host moms whose sole mission was to fatten up their host students. In a sick, twisted way I was kind of jealous of my friends as they all gained weight over the 4 months. At least they were eating! Despite this major downfall, the gazpacho made me forgive them. It was that good.

We had gazpacho almost everyday. Most of my friends in the program hated it and complained about how often it appeared at lunch (the main meal of the day). I, however, would be bursting with excitement on days Maria, the “maid” came because I knew gazpacho would be on the menu. Maria was the sole gazpacho maker. Unlike my host family, she didn’t speak a lick of English. 20 year old me, totally unconfident in her Spanish speaking abilities, never worked up the courage to ask her how she made it for fear that I either wouldn’t understand her (she spoke fast with no regard to the fact that Spanish was my second language unlike my host family) or wouldn’t be able to articulate my questions correctly as she explained the recipe.

I regret that every summer when the heat kicks up and I crave that chilled, tomato-y goodness.

I’ve tried gazpacho at almost every restaurant I’ve been to that has it on their menu since Spain, hoping and praying I could find something reminiscent of Maria’s to no avail. In fact, I’ve had some pretty disgusting encounters. Most restaurant gazpachos use way too much onion (an ingredient that shouldn’t even be in there in my opinion) and taste like chilled Campbell’s tomato soup. Gross. So, I embarked on a mission to come up with my own.

I do know her recipe required boiling and peeling the tomatoes. It was an all day event. I don’t have time for all-day events in the kitchen, but I was determined to come up with something that came close to at least replicating the flavor of hers.

Meet the star of the show:

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His lovely supporting actors.

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And, the “extras” who add some kick.

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No boiling here, just coarse chopping, seeding, and blending.

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I think Maria would be proud.

It needs to be chilled for a couple of hours and after that it’s up to you how you want to accessorize. I chose a drizzle of olive oil and some more diced up peppers as that was exactly what my family did in Spain. They also had these little pretzel shaped bread sticks called “piquitos”. I have never seen anything like them in the states and wouldn’t even dream of being able to replicate them so I improvised with some crumbled up Mary’s crackers. The soup is incredibly versatile. Eat it as-is for a true gazpacho feel, add in beans (chickpeas work nicely) for some added protein, or add any diced up vegetable to top it off. And, if you really want to be true to it’s roots, say it with the heaviest lisp you can muster for the truest Andalucian feel. “Guh-spah-choh”.

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If this doesn’t epitomize summer, I don’t know what does.

Summer Gazpacho

Makes about 4 bowls

  • 6-8 vine ripened tomatoes (heirlooms are even better if you have them)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/2 red/orange/yellow pepper
  • handful of basil
  • handful of parsley
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (if you don’t like heat, omit)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if you don’t like heat omit, or only use either this or chili)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Coarsely chop tomatoes, removing as many seeds as possible. Coarsely dice peppers. Add everything to a blender and blend until desired consistency. I like to keep it somewhat textured. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Chill for at least 1 hour. Add any toppings you like and enjoy!

 

Are you a gazpacho fan? I feel like people either love it or hate it.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipes

Summer herbed stuffed tomatoes

It’s so nice to be back home in my own kitchen. I started day dreaming about what I was going to make for dinner on the plane ride home from Gainesville. I knew the weather was supposed to be gorgeous yesterday  (78 and sunny Smile) and all I could think of was something fresh, summery and light. Enter herbed stuffed tomatoes.

Here was how my thought process went down. Nice weather—>something summery/fresh—>lemon, must use lemon—>I think I have swordfish in the freezer from Trader Joe’s (love that store!)—> ok swordfish on the grill, but with what?—>I still have that darn quinoa to use up (told you he wouldn’t touch it while I was gone)—> maybe stuffed tomatoes?—>yes, I could use the quinoa as filling—>but it needs more freshness to it—>I’ll add in a ton of herbs. Perfect!

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I’ve seen plenty of stuffed tomato recipes that get all cheesy, gooey, and just plain heavy. While I do love me some cheese, that wasn’t what I was going for with this recipe. Plus, usually I don’t dig cheesy things as an accompaniment to fish.

First, gather all your ingredients.

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See all those pine nuts? There’s no way I was using all of them. Those babies are expensive! Call me cheap but, when you pay $9.99 for 4 oz. of those bad boys you can bet I’m gonna make them last. A good tip on pine nuts is to store them in the freezer. Since they are a very oily nut they go rancid much quicker than others when stored at room temperature.

  • tomatoes
  • lemon
  • garlic
  • shallots
  • pine nuts
  • bread crumbs
  • cooked red quinoa
  • herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon thyme, mint)

Slice the tops of the tomatoes off and gut out the insides. Careful not to tear through the bottom. I used a melon baller for this but, a spoon will work just as well.

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Little side note on the melon baller… This was one of those kitchen gadgets that I used to think of as totally pointless and a waste of money. I think I bought it a few years ago to make pretty watermelon balls for a summer cook out and figured I’d never use it again. Um, wrong. I use this thing ALL THE TIME. It’s very adaptable.

Lightly oil a glass pan and place the gutted tomatoes in it. Season the cavities with some salt and pepper.

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Mince garlic and shallots and quickly sauté them to take the bite out.

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While that is sautéing (careful not to burn the garlic), add minced herbs, lemon zest & juice, cooked quinoa, bread crumbs, pine nuts and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a bowl. When shallots & garlic are done, add them to the bowl as well. I actually toasted the pine nuts quickly in the same sauté pan as the garlic and shallots beforehand. You don’t have to do this but it definitely intensifies the flavor of the nuts. Anytime I toast nuts I always think of Rachael Ray on “3o minute meals” saying “your nose will tell you when they’re done!” Am I the only one who found that to be one of her many annoying sayings?

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Salt and pepper the mixture to taste and then fill ‘em up!

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Cook at 450 for about 15 minutes. I actually broiled them the last couple minutes to get a nice charred look on top. If you saved the tops of the tomatoes you can add them back on and cook them with the stuffed tomatoes. I think they make cute little “hats” so I did.

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Isn’t he cute all wrinkled up?

This was perfect. Exactly what I was hoping for. Light, very lemony, and so fresh with the abundance of herbs in there. I thought I might have gone a little overboard as I literally picked every herb I have on my front steps except the rosemary but, somehow they all worked together. I did think about adding just a little grated parmesan but, that went out the window when I realized I used it all up for the husband’s birthday dinner a la Jessica. I think you could totally add some in just don’t go overboard as the idea here isn’t cheesy.

The perfect summer side dish.

 

Herbed Stuffed Tomatoes:

Makes 6 stuffed tomatoes

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts (toasted, optional)
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced herbs (I used basil, parsley, cilantro, mint & lemon thyme)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450. Slice tops of tomatoes off and gut the insides to leave just a shell. Arrange tomato shells in lightly oiled glass pan and salt & pepper the cavities. Toast pine nuts in small sauté pan over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Use same pan to then lightly sauté shallots and garlic in 1 tbsp. of oil. While shallots and garlic are sautéing, add cooked quinoa, bread crumbs, pine nuts, lemon zest & juice, herbs and 1 tbsp. of oil to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix. Stuff tomato shells with the mixture and add tops back on if you’d like. Bake for about 15 minutes. Broil last 1-2 minutes for charred appearance.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipes, Side Dishes