Tag Archives: Tomato

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupOver the past couple of years, I’ve learned that a shocking number of people I know and love don’t know how to make one of the simplest recipes in the wide world: Grilled Cheese. It’s not because they’re incapable in the kitchen—it’s just that nobody ever taught them how to make it so that the bread cooks and the cheese melts at similar rates, and the butter doesn’t blacken and smoke up the house.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupLuckily (maybe?), they’re friends with me, a person who will make them a grilled cheese in the moment and then spend four months dwelling on the (non-)event until the middle of January when she decides to write a blog post about the whole (inconsequential) thing. And that’s how we got here. Luckily. Maybe.

Anyway…Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupI make Grilled Cheese for dinner at least once a week because a) it’s easy and I don’t have to think about it too hard, and b) I always have sandwich bread, butter and some sort of melting cheese (usually extra sharp cheddar). It only takes a couple of minutes to butter two pieces of bread and layer cheese in the middle. You’ll notice I don’t use sliced cheese here—that’s simply because I prefer to buy the brick and slice it myself. Do whatever works for you, with the exception of pre-shredded cheese because it’s coated in an anti-caking agent that prevents proper melting. You do not want to impede proper melting on a Grilled Cheese!Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAs far as cooking goes, I think it’s a pretty human thing to want to cook crispy foods over the highest heat for a couple of minutes, but when it comes to Grilled Cheese (and so many other things), it’s best to ignore that thought, turn down the flame and take your time. Whereas 3-4 minutes over high will yield cold cheese between burnt slices of bread, 7-8 over medium-low will give you perfect melted cheese and buttery, golden edges every time. Those extra four minutes make all the difference in the world.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupBoom! That’s all you need to know to make a basic Grilled Cheese. You can change up the cheese and bread depending on your mood, but as long as you butter the outsides of the bread instead of melting butter in the skillet and cook things low and slow, you will always have perfect Grilled Cheese.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAnd what’s Grilled Cheese without Tomato Soup? This combination is a classic for a reason—the tang of tomato pairs perfectly with the rich, cheesy, crispy sandwich, making for a simple, satisfying meal.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAs with Grilled Cheese, my go-to Tomato Soup recipe is easy as can be. Whole peeled tomatoes are crushed by hand, then simmered in vegetable stock with carrots, onion, garlic, tomato paste and spices before being puréed until velvety smooth. Easy peasy.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupTwo things to note:

• I prefer to use canned whole peeled tomatoes instead of fresh. This is for a few reasons, but mainly because canned tomatoes give consistently delicious results. I love fresh tomatoes, but they are only in season for a few months of the year and January isn’t one of them.
• You’ll notice I like to add a pinch of baking soda at the end of cooking to neutralize some of the acidity, but you may also use a teaspoon of sugar or honey. Whatever works for you.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupSo there you have it—one of the simplest meals in the world, explained. Maybe you knew all this or maybe you didn’t. Either way, I hope you treat yourself this weekend. I know we could all use some comfort. No “maybe” about it.Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices sandwich bread (I like Dave’s Killed Bread White Bread Done Right)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
small pinch of salt, if using unsalted butter
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar or other melting cheese, thinly sliced

Spread 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter over one side of each piece of sandwich bread. If using unsalted butter, sprinkle butter with a small pinch of salt.

Turn 2 pieces of bread plain-side-up. Lay sliced cheese evenly over each plain side. Top cheese with remaining pieces of bread, buttered-side-up, so that the buttered sides of each slice of bread are on the outsides of the sandwiches.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3-4 more minutes.

Serve immediately, with tomato soup (recipe below), if desired.

Tomato Soup
makes about 4 servings

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-large Spanish onion, diced
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
4 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled & sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or a pinch of ground cayenne)
4 cups vegetable stock (I use Better than Bouillon)
small pinch of baking soda or teaspoon of sugar, optional
chopped parsley, optional

Place tomatoes and any liquid in a mixing bowl. Use your clean hands to crush the tomatoes. Set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and pinch of salt, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until onion is starting to turn translucent but nothing has browned. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until starting to darken.

Stir in red pepper flakes, hand-crushed tomatoes & their liquid, followed by vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 20-25 minutes, until carrots have softened.

Purée soup with a hand blender. Alternatively, let hot soup cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a high-powered blender and puréeing. Be careful, as hot liquids expand during blending.

Taste soup and add salt as desired. If soup is too acidic, stir in a small pinch of baking soda or a teaspoon of sugar. Garnish with parsley and serve, with Grilled Cheese (recipe above) if desired.

Leftover soup will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

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Tomato & Zucchini Confit

Tomato & Zucchini ConfitThis is the last post-vacation recipe, I promise. After today, I will write about things that are not the most perfect little island off the coast of Maine. I will. But first I’m going to tell you about the easiest, fanciest-sounding (thanks, French name!) savory late summer preserve/condiment/what-have-you: Tomato & Zucchini Confit.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitUnlike the other recipes I’ve posted from our trip, this one was not part of the plan. I was sitting on the Swan’s Island Library internet porch on our second-to-last night trying to think up ways to use the last of our produce, when I saw Chanie Apfelbaum* talking about garlic confit in her Instagram Stories. When I got back to the cottage a little later, I proceeded to make confit from some grape tomatoes and zucchini that were languishing in the fridge and toss it with some red lentil pasta. And it was good. So good that we ate it again for lunch the next day. So good that it was the first thing I cooked when I got home to Brooklyn. So good that I’m here writing about it because it’s so good, you should make it.

*I follow a number of Kosher food blogs, as I make many Shabbat dinners and holiday meals throughout the year. Chanie’s is one of the best.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitNow, you’ve almost certainly heard of confit, most likely in association with duck. The word itself comes from the French word confire—literally “to preserve.” A confit is a preserve created by slow-cooking a food in fat or sugar. Today, we’re confit-ing tomatoes, zucchini and garlic in olive oil.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitTomato & Zucchini ConfitTomato & Zucchini ConfitMaking this confit couldn’t be simpler. Start by tipping a pint of grape tomatoes, some diced zucchini and an entire head’s-worth of garlic cloves into a casserole dish. Season them with thyme, red pepper flakes and salt. Stir in 3/4 cup of olive oil and slow-roast until it’s all soft, caramelized, and fragrant. That’s it.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitThe sky’s the limit on applications. Tomato & Zucchini Confit can be stirred into pasta , grains or beans for a quick meal, or used to garnish chicken or fish. For this post, I just spooned it onto some baguette slices that were toasted in olive oil and called it crostini. Really, put this on anything that could use a touch of herby, savory, garlicky tomato & zucchini. (I think you’ll find that that’s most things.)Tomato & Zucchini ConfitI’ve written this recipe so that the oven is at 300F and the confit cooks for about an hour, but you can go even lower and slower (think 250F for 2 or even 3 hours) for greater depth of flavor. I think it’s pretty wonderful as is though.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitTomato & Zucchini Confit is great the day it’s made, but since it’s a preserve, one batch can last a while. Once it has cooled, just pile it into a jar, top it off with olive oil so that none of the tomato, zucchini or garlic is exposed, and store it in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve it, bring the confit back to room temperature. When you’ve had your fill, top the leftovers with more oil and refrigerate the jar again for up to two weeks. If you’re anything like me though, it won’t be around longer than a few days.Tomato & Zucchini Confit

Tomato & Zucchini Confit
makes about 2 cups

1 head garlic
1 dry pint grape tomatoes, whole
1 large zucchini, 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup olive oil

Serving suggestions:
toasted baguette
pasta
cooked grains
beans
chicken or fish

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Separate all the cloves on a head of garlic and peel them; I like to do this by smashing each one with the flat side of a large chef’s knife and slipping off the skins with my fingers.

Place peeled garlic, tomatoes and zucchini in a large casserole dish. Scatter thyme, red pepper flakes and salt over the top. Pour in olive oil and carefully stir to combine. Bake uncovered for 60-75 minutes, or until tomatoes and garlic have begun to caramelize and everything is fragrant.

Let confit cool at room temperature before transferring to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Top with extra olive oil if anything is exposed before storing in the refrigerator. Tomato & Zucchini Confit will keep in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks.

Bring to room temperature before serving. Continue to top the jar off with more olive oil before storing.Tomato & Zucchini ConfitTomato & Zucchini ConfitTomato & Zucchini Confit

Tomato Pesto Tart

Tomato Pesto TartI can’t believe it’s taken me so long to post this Tomato Pesto Tart. I’ve been thinking about it for years!Tomato Pesto TartI always intend to bake something savory during the summer, but I inevitably become consumed with berries and cherries and peaches, and before I know it, I’m cracking open a can of pumpkin. I’m in my third year as a blogger and I’m pretty sure that this is my very first savory, summery baked main course!Tomato Pesto TartThis Tomato Pesto Tart is basically everything you love about caprese salad, wrapped up in crazy-flaky Rough Puff Pastry and baked until bubbly.Tomato Pesto TartThere’s a layer of basil pestoTomato Pesto Tarta layer of torn fresh mozzarella cheese…Tomato Pesto Tartand a layer of sliced fresh tomatoes.Tomato Pesto TartI used some vine-ripened tomatoes that looked good at the green market, but feel free to use heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or any other variety you like! Just make sure to drain them on paper towels so they don’t make the tart too wet.Tomato Pesto TartDrizzle the tart filling with olive oil and give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper before baking for about half an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the filling is a little bubbly and the crust is golden.Tomato Pesto TartLet the tart cool for a few minutes before slicing it up. Add a side salad and you’ve got a great weeknight meal! This would also be a good dinner party option.Tomato Pesto TartTomato Pesto TartOooh, or a garden party! I don’t have a garden, nor do I throw very many parties, but I could see this being absolutely perfect for a garden party.Tomato Pesto TartI also don’t know anyone who throws garden parties (because New York), but if you have a garden and want to throw a party in it (or if you are buddies with the garden party queen, Ina Garten) please make this tart and invite me so I can live out my Tomato Pesto Tart fantasy, okay? Okay.Tomato Pesto Tart

Tomato Pesto Tart
makes one tart, about 6-8 servings

Rough Puff Pastry:*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
5 ounces unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water or milk, very cold

For assembly:
5-6 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup Basil Pesto (homemade or prepared)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
pinch of Kosher or sea salt, optional
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
torn fresh basil, for garnish (optional)

Make Rough Puff Pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Make the tart. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed quarter-sheet pan or jelly roll pan with parchment.

Drain tomatoes. Place tomato slices on triple-layers of paper towels. Let sit 10 minutes before gently flipping. Let sit another 5-10 minutes, or until you are ready to use them. Do not skip this step.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold dough. Roll dough out to 10×14-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to the prepared pan. Trim any overhang to 1 inch. Dock center of the dough with a fork. Refrigerate for 15 minutes if dough becomes too sticky.

Spread basil pesto over the docked dough. Scatter torn mozzarella over the top. Remove tomato slices from paper towels and arrange them over the mozzarella, slicing them to fit, if necessary. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold overhang over the edges of the filling. Refrigerate for 15 minutes if dough becomes too sticky.

Make an egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to apply egg wash over any exposed crust.

Bake 28-30 minutes, until edges are puffed and golden brown. Large bubbles may form during baking. Pop them with a fork or sharp knife, as needed.

Let tart cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use parchment to remove tart to a cutting board. Remove parchment. Scatter with torn fresh basil, if desired. Slice tart into pieces. Serve immediately.

Tart is best eaten the day it’s made, but may be refrigerated for up to three days. If stacking slices, use wax paper as a barrier.

Note:

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use one sheet of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions.

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