Weeknight tomato jam and stupid complicated BLTs!

 

Look at the beautiful colors on those backyard tomatoes!!

Look at the beautiful colors on those backyard tomatoes!!

My abundance of tomatoes continues.  As much as I enjoy tomato and cucumber salad, it’s fun challenging myself to come up with interesting things to do with my bounty.  I’ve been toying around with canning a bunch of tomato jam to preserve and enjoy throughout the year.  First I must settle on a recipe to use- there are tons on the internet.  The main components are tomatoes (obviously), lots of sugar, spice and vinegar or some other sort of acid.

Tonight I decided to play around with the flavor combinations on my own to make a small version of a stove top jam.

Jam components

Jam components

1.5 cups chopped tomato

1/2 medium red onion

1/3 cup white sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 pepper

 

Dump everything in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture has begun to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes have fully burst and the sauce has reduced by half.

For my first try this was pretty tasty.  Next time I’ll reduce the sugar a bit and maybe substitute a portion of it with honey or brown sugar.  I’ll also increase the acidity- perhaps some lemon zest or an increase in vinegar.

Once my tomato jam was cooling I got to work on my fancy BLT.  Why mess with a BLT?  I’m not sure, just to make thing more complicated it guess!

BLT componets

BLT componets

Fancy baguette instead of sandwich bread.  Goat cheese and avocado instead of mayo.  Tomato jam in lieu of tomatoes!  I used a spring mix and “artisan” bacon, whatever that means!!

As a side note, I used Metropol bread.  I love bread, I love this bread the best of all.  Maybe it’s just because it’s the first “fancy” bread I was introduced to as a kid, but I can honestly say nothing beats this stuff!  My oldest friend in the world- who has lived in big cities with access to fantastic bakeries all over the country would agree.  Every time she comes back to Eugene she requests that a Metropol baguette greet her first thing.

I mention this because as much as I love this bread, I didn’t want to fill up too quickly on it.  I carve out a bit in the middle- saving the insides for breadcrumbs in the future.  My new hollowed out pieces are easier to stuff.

Bread, missing its middle

Bread, missing its middle

Time to make the BLT!  I used the avocado to coat one side and a goat cheese and tomato jam mixture for the other.

Ready to be assembled

Ready to be assembled

Add bacon and lettuce and it is ready to eat!

Fancy BLT

Fancy BLT

Yum, yum, yum!  As I mentioned before the jam could have used a bit more acid.  Maybe a big slice of tomato would have put this sandwich over the top, but as it was it certainly was tasty!

Do you preserve food?  Favorite recipes?

Do you ever dress up everyday foods?

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Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

I was a vegetarian for many years, almost a decade.  I’m still not a big meat eater, but on occasion I get a really strong craving.  Unlike most antidotes it wasn’t bacon that did me in, the culprit was rotisserie chicken.  I was at a office warming party out of town.  I had driven five hours to be there for my dad’s big day.  Before I could even congratulate my dad, the smell of chicken that had been slowly roasting all night caught me.  What happened next is blurry in my mind but my mom claims to have found me, fifteen minutes later, in a corner with chicken.

These days chicken is on the bottom of the list for meat choices but I still have a soft spot for rotisserie chicken.  That is how I found myself bringing home an entire chicken this weekend.  I know it is impossible for me to eat the entire thing before I start getting worried about it going bad, but I just couldn’t resist.  In an effort to not waste most of the bird I picked all of the meat off the bones and froze 3/4 of it.  I also froze the bones to make homemade broth once the weather cools.  With the remaining chicken I decided to make stuffed Anaheim peppers.

First up prepare the stuffing.

To be stuffed!

To be stuffed!

Clockwise from top left- 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup red onion diced, 1 cup chopped chicken (I used white and dark meat), 1 jalapeno, 1 cup cilantro (I am a big cilantro fan!).  Depending one your taste you could go chicken heavy or tomato heavy, whatever you like!

I added these to one can of black beans and 3/4 grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Beans and cheese!

Beans and cheese!

I had picked up some Anaheims form a Mexican market down the street.  I took off the tops and removed the seeds.

Ready to be stuffed

Ready to be stuffed

I packed these as full and as tight as I could get them prior to baking.  I knew I would need some sort of liquid to put in the bottom of the baking dish to help steam the peppers.  Broth?  That sounded too boring.  I considered a can of Mexican style chopped tomatoes.  Then a jar of homemade roasted salsa verde given to me by a friend caught my eye.  I must say, good call!  It had a smokey flavor and was full of heat, but not an overwhelming amount.  I spread the salsa on the bottom of my baking dish to just barely coat it.

Ready for peppers

Ready for peppers

I arranged the stuffed pepper in to the dish and covered with foil.  Forty to forty five minutes at 350 degrees.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Check that the peppers have softened and then broil for five minutes to get a bit of char on the skin.

Topped with more salsa verde and sour cream

Topped with more salsa verde and sour cream

Sorry for the dark picture!  This was awfully tasty.  I’m not sure how much credit I can take for it and how much was the super salsa.  This meal worked well for me because I was able to pull out a pepper (or two) at a time to put under the broiler after the initial bake to make single serving portions.

What do you do with rotisserie chickens?  Any favorite stuffed pepper dishes?

Tomatoes Part Two!

I like Thursdays at work.  The work week is already over halfway done, the day is usually busy (which makes it go by quickly), it’s also doughnut day!  In an effort to inspire health my co-worker has been bringing in a veggie tray in addition to the doughnuts.  While I don’t often get inspired from broccoli florets and celery sticks at 8 am, I did find a bag of cherry tomatoes from another co-worker left on my desk inspiring!

By the time I got home, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  I combined my friend’s yellow tomatoes with a few reds that I had on hand to make soup!  Yes soup in ninety degree weather!  I love soup and have gone without for months, tonight I decided I was eating it regardless of the heat, but I was going to do my best to not warm up the house even more.

A little heat was necessary so I started by roasting two cups of tomatoes.

Two cups tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Two cups tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Twenty minutes at 425 degrees.  As an afterthought I through on a few sprigs of thyme and two cloves of garlic.  I knew the tomatoes were ready when I heard them popping.

A couple of months ago I invested in a high powered fancy blender.  I’d read that the friction in the blender was enough that it would actually increase the heat of the ingredients.  Tonight was the perfect night to test it out- no stove top to further increase the temperature in the house.

 

Tomatoes and garlic!

Sorry for the bad picture!  I simply dumped the tomatoes and garlic into the blender.  I included the oil but pulled out the thyme sprigs.  Put the lid on (thank you high tech blender, no explosions!) and hit the soup button.

I wanted a grilled cheese with the soup, but all I had in the fridge was a Mexican blend.  Again, avoiding the stove I was using my panini press.  Because I was using a Mexican blend cheese, I decided to dress up the soup with Mexican flavors.  Sour cream, a sprinkle of cumin, and a dash of chili powder.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

This was so good!  Savory and fresh.  Perfect for one.  The soup was surprisingly filling and could easily be stretched into two servings, especially with the addition of some veggie or chicken broth.

What tricks do you use in the heat to keep the house cool while still craving hot food?

Tomato Season!

Last Thursday I was making a simple spinach salad for dinner.  I stopped by the store for avocado and a pint of grape tomatoes.  I used maybe five grape tomatoes.  On Friday one of my co-workers brought me in a bag of cherry tomatoes.  On Saturday I went to the Farmers’ Market to be greeted by an abundance of local tomato varieties (I bought a beefeater for BLTs and some heirlooms I’d never seen before.  On Sunday my black cherry tomatoes started to ripen.  Now it’s Tuesday and I have tomatoes coming out of my ears!

What to do with all of my tomatoes?!  I found inspiration from weekend morning Food Network.  Ina Garten was making a tomato gratin and from chatting with a farmer and taking her recommendation.

The Barefoot Contessa was making a fresh tomato gratin.  I was sweeping and talking on the phone, but she caught my attention talking about what to do with a bunch of cherry tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

I started by coating the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Next came the gratin topping, blended in the food processor.  Ina called for bread crumbs, parsley and garlic.  I added parmesan because cheese makes everything better.  

Ready to blend!

Ready to blend!

The parsley came from the backyard and I had a sandwich roll that needed to be used.  Three cloves of garlic and three tablespoons of parm.  Blend it up and dump on top of the tomatoes.

Up next, baking.

Up next, baking.

I put a couple of pads of butter on top.  Like cheese, butter makes everything better.  Into a four hundred degree oven for thirty minutes.  The recipe called for 40, but my bread crumbs were getting a bit toasty so I pulled it out.  

Time to let it rest.

Time to let it rest.

While the gratin was cooking I was working on recipe number two for tomatoes.  Two of the heirlooms I bought had a fleshy skin but were largely hollow.  The farmer recommended them for stuffing!  Since it’s still pretty warm out, I though tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad served over greens sounded perfect.  

I always mix my tuna salad with tons of veggies, close to a fifty fifty ratio!  I finely chopped one small carrot, 1/3 cup red onion, 2 dill pickles, 1 tbsp mayo and one tbsp yellow mustard before adding the tuna.

Ready for the fish!

Ready for the fish!

I added one can of oil packed tuna (I drained about half of the oil, you could not drain and omit the mayo) and mixed it all up.

Tuna salad

Tuna salad

I mix my tuna right in a tupperware bowl so I can easily store the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Stuff the tomatoes, place on top of greens, lightly dress with homemade honey mustard dressing!

Stuffed tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes

I served my salad with a side of gratin and had plenty of leftover tuna salad and gratin for the week.

Perfect summer side!

Perfect summer side!

I just used the tomatoes I had on hand for the gratin, in the future I’d double the amount but keep the breadcrumb amount the same.  It was still delicious!

What do you do in the summer with an excess of tomatoes or zucchini?