Scalloped Tomatoes

June 29th, 2010

What a wonderful way to use fresh tomatoes from the garden! Unfortunately my tomatoes are not ripe yet, so I had to rely on plum tomatoes I purchased from the store. But as soon as mine turn from green to red they will be going into this casserole. The recipe comes from Ina Garten and is one of the Barefoot Blogger recipes of the month chosen by Josie of Pink Parsley Catering. I actually saw the episode of The Barefoot Contessa when she made this and knew it would be something that I would try, so thank you Josie for picking it.

There is another tomato casserole that I blogged about that comes from Mama Dip’s , an institution in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Although I love that casserole, it is almost dessert like in it’s sweetness. This casserole has just the right balance of acidic tomatoes, sugar and Parmesan cheese. The sourdough bread cubes I used in it absorbed all of the tomato juices and balanced the dish well.

Both Mama Dip and Ina Garten have a philosophy about food. Start with food that is real and food that is in season. Then prepare it simply so that the goodness that is inherent in it shines through. I am sending this post to the Two for Tuesdays blog hop. Hop on over and see all of the wonderful healthy recipes that the participants have provided this week. And check out what the other Barefoot Bloggers did with this wonderful scalloped tomato casserole.


Good olive oil
2 cups (1/2 inch diced) bread from a French boule (I used Sourdough)
16 plum tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot of warm.

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu

June 22nd, 2010

Quinoa, once considered “the gold of the Incas”, is a rich source of many healthful benefits. Although it is used like a grain, it is actually a seed that is a relative to spinach and swiss chard. It has all 8 of the amino acids needed to form a complete protein, so is particularily good for vegetarians who seek protein from sources other than meat. But the health benefits go beyond the protein. It is very high in fiber which contributes to cardiovascular health and manganese and copper which are antioxidants and aid in cell repair. The Inca warriors relied on quinoa to give them stamina during battle and, frankly, I can use all the stamina I can get these days. Quinoa is just one of those wonderful foods that will make you feel better.

We spent the weekend with our Son, Daughter-In-Law and Granddaughter. It was also our anniversary and Kristen and Michael treated us to an unbelievable evening of food and wine – more about that later. I am waiting for the recipes from the chef. On the evening that Kristen cooked she served these quinoa cakes with eggplant and tomato ragu with smoky mozzarella. They were delicious. The cakes were crispy and nutty.

The ragu was just perfect over them. The combination of eggplant, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic and smoked mozzarella was the perfect piquant foil to the mild quinoa cakes.

Served with a green salad with blueberries and strawberries and a homemade poppy seed viniagrette, it was goodness on a plate. Never mind that it was also so good for you.

For quinoa cakes:
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 large egg, lightly beaten
dried parsley flakes or oregano to taste
4 to 5 tablespoon olivel oil, divided
For Ragu:
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf
1/4 pound smoked mozzarella, diced (1 cup)
Make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.
Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1 cup dry-ingredient measure. Pack enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula to fill it two-thirds full. (If spatula becomes sticky, dip in water.) Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.
Make Ragu while quinoa chills:
Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and drain 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of eggplant to extract liquid, then pat dry.
Cook eggplant, onion, garlic, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, roasted peppers, and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender and mixture is thick (if dry, thin with a little water), about 10 minutes.
Cook quinoa cakes:
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates.
To serve, return eggplant ragu to a simmer and stir in parsley and half of mozzarella, then simmer stirring, until cheese just begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Spoon over quinoa cakes, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Cooks’ notes:
Quinoa cakes can be formed 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Eggplant-tomato ragu, withour parsley and mozzarella, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

I am entering this recipe in The Two for Tuesdays blog hop. Go over to Girlichef for all of the links to REAL food posts. We are a group of bloggers who post healthy, made from scratch, real food every Tuesday.

Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto and Lettuce

June 17th, 2010

I read the New York Times online every Wednesday. Specifically, I read the Food and Wine section. Mark Bittman always has interesting recipes. They are healthy, consciously raised, and real foodstuff. Many of us are trying to eat sanely. We are trying to avoid overly processed and chemically altered food. I try on my blog to offer recipes that use ingredients that are fresh, seasonal and as local as possible. But I usually try not to state the obvious so as not to come off as preachy. But starting next Tuesday I am joining a group of fellow bloggers who are spreading the word about real food. This was brought to my attention by Girlichef. This is how she explains it.

“This Tuesday marks the start of the Two for Tuesdays! Blog Hop Carnival. Two for Tuesdays is the brainchild of Alex from A Moderate Life. It began on her site as a day to link up one (or two) of your blog posts that featured REAL FOOD. Recipes, anecdotes, stories, photos, reviews…anything your blogged about featuring REAL food. What is REAL food, you ask? Think: slow food, traditional food, hand-prepared food, nourishing food…food that is NOT processed….food that doesn’t come from a package…food that your great-grandmother would have made &/or eaten. REAL food is homemade. REAL food is from scratch. REAL food has recognizable ingredients. REAL food is made from traditional ingredients. REAL food is food you make with your own hands…from food grown, milled, raised by you or by people (not machines). Think family farmer. Think farmer’s market. Think garden. Think local grain mill. Think REAL.”

So, although this is not Tuesday, I wanted to join the group. My first recipe is this wonderful pasta dish from Mark Bittman. It is serendipitous that this recipe appeared this Wednesday in the New York Times because my garden was producing the first of the snow peas we planted and it is overrun with lettuce. I have fixed so many salads that I was looking for something different to do with it. What better way to use piles of lettuce than to wilt it into a pasta dish! So I present to you a recipe fresh from my garden using an artisanal pasta and Prosciutto. Even if you don’t have a garden, Farmer’s Markets now have fresh lettuce and snow peas or peas in the pod. This was an excellent dish using very few ingredients, but using only the best.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 ounces thinly slices prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch-wide strips
1/2 pound pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot
minced black pepper to taste
2 cups peas or snow peas sliced
1 head lettuce, sliced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock or dry white wine, more as needed
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Meanwhile, put one tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add prosciutto and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes; set aside.
When water boils, add pasta and cook until just tender; drain pasta, reserving some cooking liquid. Meanwhile, melt butter with remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook until shallot begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add peas, lettuce and stock or wine to skillet and cook until peas turn bright green and lettuce is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add pasta to pan and continue cooking and stirring until everything is just heated through, adding extra stock or some reserved cooking liquid if needed to moisten. Toss with Parmesan cheese, garnish with prosciutto, adjust seasoning to taste and serve.
Go to Girlichef to link up with other Two for Tuesday bloggers.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.