Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomato Salad with Grilled Onions and Corn

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Fried Green Tomato Salad with Grilled Onions and Corn

We’ve enjoyed so many different great recipes this summer, I haven’t done a very good job of keeping it up when it comes to sharing them with you.  What’s my excuse?  Well.  I’d say pull up a chair and allow me to share the photos of what we’ve been doing while enjoying the season to its fullest, but I’m out of wine and what fun is it to enjoy a slide show and chat without a beverage?

If you could have a sit with me out on the patio,  you might convince me the late afternoon air is not nearly as hot as what most have to deal with — or remind me it’s most likely the humidity which is rarely as high as it’s been, especially at this time of year.  And as we watch the color of the sunset turn the palms across the street a soft, glowing gold, we could plug in the party lights, light the votive candles in the jars on the table, and if you feel the slightest bit chilly, light the log I have in the chiminea, waiting for just this occasion.

We’d have to eat, of course, because good conversation flows more easily with food — as long as it’s good food.  Our food is always good.  Like this recipe for Fried Green Tomato Salad with Grilled Onions and Corn.  I’ve never fried green tomatoes before, so when I saw them at the market thought it was about time.  When I was growing up, my mother talked about eating fried green tomatoes — how her mother had made them.  But we never had a vegetable garden, and I can imagine that if we did, picking tomatoes before they were ripe just might be some kind of a breach of garden etiquette.

If you’re still sweltering in the extended summer heat or humidity, then perhaps you’re like us — wanting to take in a lighter meal.  One that won’t leave you wishing you hadn’t eaten all that food, but more a feeling of having had something tasty and satisfying.

Let’s say this salad has some bite, shall we?  Oh, and because I made this more like I would for our family dinner —  I wasn’t exact with many of the ingredients (just like my mother when she made dinner).  Practice your estimation skills and you’ll be just fine.

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Simple Daily Recipes: Readers’ Favorite Recipes — An eCookbook Review

I have always wanted to cook.

Whether it was the simple family recipes my mother showed me how to make when I was very young, or something new I found in her Betty Crocker cookbook and decided to try on my own, I was always interested.  As much as I followed my mother’s recipes fairly closely when I made them, I couldn’t resist trying a new ingredient or two when each dish showed up in our weekly rotation.  I never veered too far off the path, because we didn’t have the pantry to support that kind of diversion — and I think I may not have wanted to risk the wrath of my unpredictable step-father by ruining a meal and having to waste food. But that’s another story.

When I was a young mother of 24, I remember that cooking helped keep my wits about me.  I loved my two little boys intensely but remember feeling at times like I’d lost touch with the world in general.  Many years before the Internet existed, even local telephone calls accrued long distance charges, and our television antenna afforded us three channels with reasonably good reception if I was able to twist the antenna to just the right position.  I remember being incredibly lonely.   To keep my brain occupied, I dug into the few magazine subscriptions I kept to try new recipes.

Although most of the recipes I tried came from Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal, the recipes in Food & Wine are what intrigued me.  The mix of ingredients — many I hadn’t heard of and doubted I could find at my local market — sounded exotic.  The recipes seemed well beyond my ability as well, so I can remember being frustrated by not being able to try more of them and actually wondered, who really ate like that?

Years have gone by, and thankfully, I am now able to get just about any ingredient I want for any recipe I’d like to try.  With much trial and error, and a sense of adventure, I have developed my cooking and baking skills and will continue to do so.  That doesn’t mean we don’t eat simply, because we do.  The type of food and recipes I was raised on, and to a lesser extent, raised my three sons with will always be a part of how we eat.  It isn’t always complicated or what some may call fancy, but the ingredients are always wholesome, fresh, and as much as possible, the food I make is “from scratch.”

It makes sense, then, that when Jill Mc Keever of Simple Daily Recipesa friend I met through blogging years ago announced the newly published compilation of her food blog readers’ favorite recipes, I knew I had to check it out.  Not only have I been interested in the idea of self-published books in general, I wanted to be able to help get the word out about Jill’s new eCookbook, Simple Daily Recipes:  Readers’ Favorite Recipes which is available at iTunes.

I read through all the recipes on a quiet Saturday morning with coffee on my iPad– something not too unusual since I read cookbooks and food magazines like novels and often far more quickly.  Immediately, I was reminded of the recipes I grew up with — busy family, easy to make, wholesome recipes made with ingredients a home cook has on hand.  I also realized the book exudes Jill’s energy and engaging personality.  The recipes are primarily organized by main dinner courses featuring poultry or seafood, for example.  There’s also a chapter that includes rubs and marinades.  Bright photos of process and finished product fill the book.  It’s important to read the “Keep in Mind” section where Jill explains her decision to use liquid aminos instead of salt and low-fat margarine instead of butter.  We all have particular needs or preferences for basic ingredients and although I use neither, a bit of olive oil and pinch of salt work fine for me and are easily substituted in these recipes.  It’s rare that I made a recipe with my own little preferences, so this was no different.

As I read through the recipes, I wondered what would I sample first.  The “Smoky Sweet Rub” recipe since our summer is finally showing itself?  The “Kale, Sausage & Tomatoes with Pasta” reminded me of my mother’s “Goulash” so that got my attention as well.  “Beef Ragout” is earmarked as something I’ll try when the weather accommodates it because I’m a sucker for beef braised in red wine.  But I decided the “Chicken with Tomatoes and Zucchini” was what I’d try first.  It sounded like a pretty lean dish with lots of flavor and I knew the guys would like it.

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Southwest Tomato Gazpacho

For the past five years or so, my very best friend and I have diligently gone to Tomatomania each April when it comes to town.  We may have missed a year somewhere in that time, but still buy tomato plants elsewhere so we can make like suburban farmers and enjoy our own home grown, warmed by the sun orbs of summer lusciousness.  I have to fess up and say my friend’s plot is quite huge so she can let her tomato plants grow wildly over the sunny terraced hillside behind her house, whereas I am only a poser who keeps two large pots near the side of my house.  And if those tomato plants are lucky, they’ll get most of the sun they’re supposed to have.  I’ve had good years, and then I’ve had not so good years — like this year.

My plants are tall and scraggly, have been producing lots of blossoms, but very few tomatoes.  Yes, they’ve been appropriately watered and fertilized.  I even remembered to plant them making sure the first sprout of leaves was buried.  I tried egg shells around the stems this year, too, and ironically, this is the first year I’ve had stems rot.  I’m about ready to rip them out of their pots to plant something else.  However, my friend is having a bumper crop.

After paying $6 for a gorgeous heirloom tomato at one of our fabulous farmer’s markets last Sunday, she called to say she wanted to drop off some tomatoes, then the very next day sent me home with more.  What does one do with so many tomatoes outside of occasionally enjoying one sliced and lightly salted?

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Simple Green Bean Corn and Tomato Salad with Vinaigrette

I often hear others say they don’t like salad.  My first reaction is, really?  How can someone not like salad?  And then I wonder if the person is suffering from the idea that salad involves a head of lettuce and a few tomatoes slathered in bottled white creamy dressing and understand.  That would get old quickly.  But salad doesn’t have to involve lettuce.  I think the first time the idea of salad without lettuce was presented to me was when we lived in Spain.  Thinly sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes were arranged on a big plate and drizzled with a light dressing of water, vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  It was delicious.  Over the years, each time my mother made this salad, she added sliced red and green peppers to the mix and would allow it to sit so the vegetables could marinate a bit.  We loved this salad in the summer, picking at it as we went in and out of the house on hot days.  The crunchy, briny vegetables were always a treat and we never tired of them prepared that way.

We eat salad all year long unless I’m going through one of my lazy streaks when doing something a bit different with a salad takes more time than I am interested in giving it.  That’s deplorable when you consider that it doesn’t take much to be creative if you’ve got the right ingredients on hand — and I usually do.  We’re lucky to have an extremely long growing season here, and with Mexico just to the south, are able to benefit from what is grown there when it isn’t available here.  Our farmer’s markets keep locally grown vegetables and fruit available every day of the week in communities around San Diego all year long so there’s no excuse not to be creative with a salad.

Some of our favorite flavor combinations are derived from classic combos:  basil, tomato and mozzarella; tomato, avocado, jalapenos, and cilantro; bacon, lettuce, tomato, and blue cheese; cucumbers, onions, roasted peppers, kalamatas, and feta.  When we want to add something more substantial to our salads, then prosciutto is added to the basil tomato combo.  Grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak can be added to the second.  White beans added to the third.  It’s fun to mix and match everything sometimes to make sure there’s a nice balance of crunch to creamy, and tart to sweet.

In the extreme heat of summer, a good salad can be a one dish meal.  All you need is fresh tender crisp ingredients, a good vinaigrette and a bit of creativity.

If you’re just home from work and not relishing the idea of prepping all the vegetables then get all the ingredient possibilities out of the fridge and put everyone to work.  Pour a cool beverage to sip while you’re prepping and talk about the day.  If you’ve got picky eaters in the house, the place the ingredients in separate bowls, salad bar style — but make the best possible combo on a plate first and allow the others to see it to give them the idea of what is possible.  Make a big deal over the art of a perfectly loaded fork.  If you don’t have converts after a few sessions, then at least you’ll have had fun in the process.

This simple green bean corn and tomato salad is a simple combination of summer vegetables that is perfect for a barbeque, picnic, or just to have ready for a hot day when even plugging in the slow cooker is more than you can deal with.

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Chicken Stuffed Poblano Chilies with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

When you live in San Diego, it’s not difficult to find great Mexican food as long as you’re willing to avoid the more obvious chains.  Each neighborhood seems to have a local favorite and as much as many can agree that there are special places tough to compete with, sometimes, close to home is just better — especially when dinnertime is approaching and the resident cook isn’t in the mood to fire up the stove.  My husband and I might email one other on a day like that with a question about dinner.

Me:  Not sure I’m into cooking tonight.

Him:  Want me to pick something up?

Me:  Smack your lips together and tell me what sounds good.

Him:  Not Chinese.

Me:  Mexican?

Him:  Carnitas plate?

Although this wasn’t necessarily an every week event, it was very nearly that.

If you asked me what I miss most about the change in eating habits I made four months ago, I’d say I miss Mexican food — not chocolate, not pasta, or bread.  Mexican food from the neighborhood favorite we call Los Dos on Garnet in Pacific Beach across the street from Albertson’s is what I miss.  It’s the most tiny place you can imagine, barely large enough for more than a couple of people to stand inside to place an order, and an enormous stainless steel range I swear the shop was built around.

It isn’t that one taco shop’s menu is  different from any of the dozens of other shops within a reasonable driving distance — it’s more about how each prepares those items.  The salsa, or guacamole — and especially the refried beans — many will say the particular flavor of typical menu items are what makes a shop their favorite.  I miss the carnitas from Los Dos, a plate of food I can smell the minute my husband walks in the door with it.  Wrapped in foil and filled with little mounds of shredded pork, rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo just waiting to be loaded into a piping hot flour tortilla, smothered in both red and green salsa, and then folded like a burrito.  Oh, my.  So very, very delicious.  Although I rarely finished the entire plate, I routinely failed at not eating that second flour tortilla all by itself — the giant sized version.

Each time after dinner, with my stomach so uncomfortably full I swore I’d never order another carnitas plate, it was only a matter of weeks before I’d find myself in the same situation, feeling miserable.  I don’t miss that feeling — something that comes more from overeating in general.  And because my success rate at eating only a portion of that plate — about half — was so poor, I decided doing without was the best way to go.

So how have I compensated for not eating something I used to enjoy so much?  By choosing similar flavors in far more manageable quantities that are delicious — and doing some heavy planning when we do decide to have take out for dinner.

There’s nothing quite like the flavor of a roasted poblano chili, and when they’re stuffed with the perfect mixture of ingredients, my taste buds are completely satisfied.  So does that make this recipe “Mexican?”  Not by a long shot, but the flavors are reminiscent and that’s good enough for me right now.

And if you’ve never roasted a chili, this is a great reason to learn.  It’s easier than you might think!

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