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Monday, September 21, 2009

Roasted Tomato Salad

When tomatoes are fresh and in season, I can't get enough. This recipe for a salad of roasted fresh tomatoes feels like September: a transition between summer and fall.

- Fresh tomatoes, cut into 1" wedges
- Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
- Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- Ground peppercorn

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a roasting pan, toss the tomato wedges with enough olive oil to coat, a generous splash of balsamic vinegar (roughly half the amount of olive oil you used), sea salt and peppercorn.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 45 minutes or more, until the tomatoes become soft and begin to caramelize. Turn off the oven and let them cool inside or use them immediately.

Serve the roasted tomatoes, warm or at room temperature, alone or arranged with any of the following:

- Fresh basil leaves
- Marinated olives
- Roasted red peppers
- Good, fresh buffalo mozarella
- Crumbled feta
- Crumbled goat cheese

If you have leftover roasted tomatoes, blend them up into a savory marinara sauce.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Roasted Fig and Camembert Crostini

Fresh figs are one of my favorite fruits. Here they star in an easy but elegant appetizer, which can also be served as a cheese course or dessert.

- Thin slices of whole wheat baguette, approximately 1 centimeter thick
- Chopped fresh figs
- Camembert cheese
- Local unfiltered honey

Preheat the oven to 375F.

On each slice of baguette, layer some chopped figs and top with a thin slice of camembert cheese. Drizzle a small amount of honey over the top of each one. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted, the toasts have crisped, and the tops are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Fall Soup

Technically, it's not yet fall. But September 19th is just around the corner and it feels like fall in New York.

Maybe the cool and cloudy weather is especially striking for me because I recently returned from a vacation in the hot and dry southwestern United States. I celebrated the wedding of some close friends and visited some of our gorgeous national parks.

When I was hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, conditions were sweltering: sunny and 116 degrees Fahrenheit with steep trails, no shade and only the water I could carry. I could feel heat radiating from the red earth and red rocks as I walked over them; it was like hiking through a sauna.

But it was also stunning: walking quietly along mountainous ridges with 360 degree views, strolling through soft, white sand next to the aqua-blue Colorado river, and soaking in an ice cold creek after we arrived at our destination: Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon, more than a mile deep.

Upon my return to New York, summer suddenly felt like fall. The cooler temperatures, clouds and rain made me long for soup. Lacking provisions after my recent trip, I opted to make a simple lentil soup with ingredients I already had on hand, plus a few fresh veggies.

My newly-wedded friend sent me home with fresh California bay leaves and rosemary, so I used those, but dried herbs can also be used. The chipotle pepper makes this soup spicy and smoky, but if you don’t have a chipotle, you can substitute any dried chili pepper. Or leave it out entirely if you don't like your soup spicy. I used home-made duck stock because I happened to have some in my freezer, but you can substitute poultry stock, or mushroom or vegetable broth, or even water.

Serve this simple but satisfying soup with a big green salad and fresh figs for a hearty autumn meal.

Simple Smoky Lentil Soup

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2 or more cloves fresh garlic
1 cup lentils, pre-soaked for 2 to 4 hours if possible
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 dried chipotle pepper
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
2 cups strong home-made duck stock

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Use a sharp knife to puncture holes in the chipotle pepper and set it aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Grate the garlic cloves into the pot and stir. Add the lentils, bay leaves, chopped rosemary and chipotle pepper. Season with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Stir and continue cooking for another minute or two, until the garlic becomes aromatic. Do not burn the garlic.

Add the duck broth and enough water to cover the lentils and vegetables. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or more, until the lentils are tender. Add boiling water as the soup cooks if the level of broth becomes low.

Once the soup is done, turn off the heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately or cover until ready to serve.

This soup can be made in advance. If it cools to room temperature before you are ready to serve it, store it in the fridge.

Serves 4 to 6

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Capers

It’s tomato season and this flavorful, savory sauce can be paired with almost anything: wild-caught fish, pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed steak, portabella mushroom caps, whole grain pasta, or tofu cut into triangles. So serve it up with whatever you happen to have on the grill or stovetop.

Anchovies are an essential ingredient, so unless you don’t eat fish, be sure to include them, even if you think you don’t like them (you will be surprised). The anchovies contribute a savory flavor and healthy omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. The sauce won’t taste fishy and most people will never guess this secret ingredient. Because anchovies are small fish that live low on the food chain, they are less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals and other industrial pollutants than other larger fish.

1 tbsp olive oil, first cold pressing
1 tbsp organic butter or more olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped red onion or shallot
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
2 oz anchovies in olive oil, drained
Freshly ground peppercorn to taste
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 to 2 tbsp capers, to taste
2 large vine-ripened, fresh-picked tomatoes
1 handful fresh parsley or basil leaves, roughly chopped

Warm the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped red onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown. Add the garlic and stir. Cook until it becomes aromatic, about one minute more. Add the anchovies, peppercorn and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for a few more minutes, until the anchovies soften and you can break them up with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium. Cook until the sauce starts to bubble, then reduce heat to low and simmer until it has reduced and thickened, about 15 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Spoon the sauce over grilled or sautéed fish, chicken, steak, portabella mushroom caps, whole grain pasta or tofu triangles. Garnish with parsley or basil.

Vegan Variation:
Replace the anchovies with sea salt to taste.