August 2010 archive

Saving Summer for Later with Marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes


I've spoken before at great lengths about my tomato sickness.  Simply put, tomatoes are my crack.  So much so that I grow a ridiculous amount of them in my small garden and when my quest to grow as many heirloom tomato varieties as possible got out of control, I started selling my extra seedlings at the Market Square Farmers Market.  Last year, we ended up selling over 1500 heirloom tomato, pepper & eggplant seedlings.  That's some hardcore tomato love right there.  In fact, I was delighted to find out this spring from a couple of people that they had been told to look for the crazy tomato lady at the market.  If George Clooney himself had stopped by to tell me how beautiful he thought I was, it would have been a bit anti-climactic after the high praise of being called the crazy tomato lady.


Needless to say, I've had to come up with quick ways to preserve my harvest.  The simplest way I've found is to simply toss whole tomatoes into the freezer and deal with them when the temperatures get a little cooler.  I have two chest freezers so I'm lucky enough to have room to do that.  Another way of dealing with them is to make Roasted Tomato Sauce.  And still another is to dry them in my dehydrator.  I dry plenty of them plain but I also love to marinate them and dry them.  

I've marinated all kinds of tomatoes and dried them.  My favorites tend to be the meatier tomatoes, even the meatier cherries like Black Cherry tomatoes.  However, I've tried them all because I'm not going to waste a tomato just because it's not "perfect" for this recipe.  The only ones I haven't had success with is currant tomatoes and the really juicy cherry tomatoes – there's just too much skin to meat for my taste.  This is also a great way to use up those tomatoes that have split but are just shy of being completely ripe.  This has been a huge problem for us this year and I'm grateful to have a way to use these tomatoes.  Some people remove the skins and seeds from tomatoes before drying them.  I've never bothered to worry about it but you can do that if you like.


I use an Excalibur Dehydrator to dry my tomatoes.  We used an inexpensive dehydrator that we found at a garage sale for years but a couple of years ago, we had a very exciting evening when it caught fire.  Since we put up so much of our food, we went ahead and waited until Excalibur had a sale and bought a new dehydrator.  We've been VERY happy with it and it was worth every penny.   If you live in a drier climate than I do, you may be able to dry these in the sun (but you'll need to shield them from birds and insects).  Or you can also dry these in an oven.  I'll put directions for doing so at the end of the recipe.

What can you do with these morsels when they're finished?  To be honest, a lot of them disappear just as is. I end up popping a large amount of them in my mouth like potato chips.  We also rehydrate them and add them to pasta sauces and salad dressings all winter long.  You can make a wonderful cream sauce by re-hydrating them in heavy cream – this is great served over pasta and chicken.  You can rehydrate them and buzz them with scallions and sour cream or cream cheese for a great dip or spread.  I also use them to make a quick side dish with frozen broccoli or green beans by mincing them and adding them right before I heat the vegetables in the microwave.


Marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes
Source: Unknown(I got this from the internet at least five years ago and have made changes since then)
Servings: Never enough

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar 
1 teaspoon Lemon juice 
1/4 cup fresh chopped Parsley 
1 tablespoon chopped Rosemary 
Dried Pepper flacks to taste (I use Aleppo pepper flakes)
Salt & Pepper to taste
3-5 cloves of garlic ( I love garlic so I use 5)
Tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces(I usually do five pounds at a time)

Mix everything together except the tomatoes in a large bowl.  Add tomatoes and marinate for at least several hours in the fridge(I usually marinate overnight). Remove tomatoes from marinade and spread out on dehydrator trays and dry until desired doneness.  I usually remove half while they're still fairly pliable and let the rest dry until they're completely dry.  These can take anywhere from 12-24 hours to dry.  This last batch took 21 hours.  Since there's so much oil in the marinade, store the dried tomatoes in the freezer to keep all winter long.  

Note: Save the marinade and use it to marinate vegetables or chicken before grilling or use as a salad dressing.

Directions for oven drying (I have not tested these so please keep an eye on them): Set your oven at the lowest temperature (200 degrees is the absolute maximum temperature you can use).  Spread out tomatoes on cookie sheets and dry them for 12-16 hours.


Please click here for a printable recipe!

Other recipes using tomatoes:

Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce
Tomato Toast, Panzanella & Basil-Feta Tomato Sandwich
Roasted Tomato Sauce
The Perfect Pizza
Eggs In Hell
Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzarella, Corn & Tomatoes


Please join us by participating in SummerFest 2010!  Post on your blog or in the comments or join us on Twitter by using #summerfood.


Fluttering Porn Served with Szechuan Green Beans with Ground Pork


I'll be blunt.  I haven't been cooking a lot lately.  You see, this is our house right now:


And this is the temperature outside right now:


Saturday, I missed our farmers market because of this:


And it's just plain hard to motivate yourself to cook when you're spending most of your time looking like this:


I wanted to make something new and exciting for Summerfest but time got away from me and I had to be inspired by what was in our garden.  We've got a bumper crop of green beans right now so I looked through the list of tried and true recipes I keep on hand and realized it had been a long time since I made Szechuan Green Beans with Ground Pork.  It's quick, healthy and delicious so rather than spend hours perusing recipe possibilities, I went with it and used the time I saved to pick up some new porn that fluttered to the ground when we took the rest of the plaster in the upstairs hallway down.  Note that I said new porn.  We've already had porn rain down on us before and one day I might even tell you about the vintage sex journal we found in the attic.  This house – it's always an adventure and learning experience, even when you don't want it to be!

I've made this recipe many times just like it says on Cooking Light's website.  It's delicious as is.  But I also like to tinker around with recipes and use up food that I already have.  I had several sweet red peppers that had a bit of sunscald on them and they needed to be used so I added them to the recipe.  I increased the sauce portion a little bit because I had a jar of hoisin sauce that we needed to finish off.  I also added sriracha sauce to it because I love it.  

I used regular ground pork because the farmer we buy our pork from does not offer lean ground pork.  The fat content is usually pretty variable when we buy this – tonight it didn't require us to drain off any fat but keep it mind that might be a possibility if you use a less lean ground pork.  Using a less lean type of pork does give you more of a fudge factor as far as cooking the pork is concerned.  If you're using a leaner pork, you're going to want to follow the times more closely so that the meat doesn't become too dry.

If you like your foods spicy, this will not be spicy enough.  I always add more sriracha sauce to my portion.  If you can't handle spicy foods, leave out the crushed red pepper.

This is a quick easy meal to eat with a loved one when you're tired and dusty.  And as you break bread together, you can look deep into one another's eyes, wipe the soot off your husband's nose, gently brush the porn fragments out of his hair and pledge never to renovate another house.

Szechuan Green Beans with Ground Pork
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 4 servings (serving size is 1 cup pork mixture and 1/2 cup rice)

1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2.5 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sliced sweet red pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2.5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups hot cooked white rice

Combine pork, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork mixture, green beans, sweet red pepper and garlic.  Cook three minutes or until pork loses its pink color, stirring to crumble.

Whisk together hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce, sugar, red pepper and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Add mixture to pan and cook 2 minutes or until throughly heated, stirring frequently.  Serve over rice.

Please click here for a printable recipe!


Some other recipes using herbs, greens & beans:

Peach Basil Sangria 
Basil, Feta & Tomato Salad 
Chilled Curried Yellow Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree 
Shelly Peas & Greens

Roasted Green Beans 
Polenta with Garlicky Greens 
Crustless Spinach, Onion and Feta Quiche 
Collards with Potatoes [and Bacon]


Please join us by participating in SummerFest 2010!  Post on your blog or in the comments or join us on Twitter by using #summerfood.


Fresh Corn-and-Asiago Cheese Bread Pudding


Y'all – I'm melting here in Knoxville.  No – seriously.  I'm really melting.  Yesterday it got so hot in our living room that Marcus walked in and I had been reduced to a mere puddle on the floor.  The only thing that saved me was that he sucked me up with a straw, brought me into our air conditioned bedroom and when I started to regain my solid form, he put in the freezer to finish the cooling off process.  It was a very close call.

However I am such a committed food blogger that I dared – nay, I was thrilled – to turn on my oven this past week to make the following recipe.  This was spectacular in oh-so-many ways.  It's a cinch to throw together.  It's delicious.  It's heavenly straight from the oven, beguiling at room temperature and reheats like a dream.


I inhaled three servings of this stuff the first night we made it – it's one of the most comforting comfort foods I've ever made, yet there's nothing stodgy or heavy about it.  The chewiness of the bread, the luxurious smoothness of the cream, the salty pungency of the cheese mixed with the sweetness of the corn – all of this combined made me sigh when I took my first bite.  This dish is as soothing as cool, crisp cotton sheets but there's nothing overly familiar with it.  This is a dish I'm willing to turn my oven on for right now – that's saying a lot.

The first time we made this, I used Asiago Pressato – the only kind the market had.  This is a younger version of Asiago then most people buy.  It's a bit sweeter than the more aged Asiago and the texture is creamier.  The second time I made it, we used a more traditional Asiago – most versions were delicious.  If you can't get find Asiago, I think this would be delicious with many different cheeses – you might try a good Parmesan (no buying the pre-grated stuff!) or Pecorino Romano.


Fresh Corn-and-Asiago Cheese Bread Pudding
Adapted from Southern Living
Yield:  12 servings

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups 1-inch cubes of french bread or other sturdy bread (I used one loaf french bread)
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.)Asiago cheese, shredded

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add bread and toss to coat all the cubes.  Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 13×9 inch baking dish well.

Stir corn and cheese into the bread mixture.  Spoon into pan.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until set and golden brown.

Please click here for a printable recipe!


Some other recipes using fresh corn:
Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzerella, Corn & Tomatoes 
Summer in a Bowl Corn Chowder

Please join us by participating in SummerFest 2010!  Post on your blog or in the comments or join us on Twitter by using #summerfood.