Goodbye Summer Italian-Style Bread and Tomato Stew

It is officially fall, but we are lucky enough to still find some good tomatoes at some of our man Farmer’s Market locations. Our days are very warm and even though the calendar shows us one thing….it’s still late summer here in Nashville. We are all looking forward to cooler days while still enjoying our garden flowers and meals outdoors. Here is my recipe for “Bread and Tomato Stew” or “Pappa Al Pomodoro”. Simple to make, rustic in appearance and an homage to the last of our local tomatoes.

 Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They are my favorite tomato and I’m a little sad to see the end of them, but always looking forward to next summer’s bounty.

Good rustic, crusty bread from Dozen Bakery Nashville, local homegrown Cherokee Purple tomatoes, basil from my garden are the basic ingredients.

Tomatoes cooked down with leeks, onions and garlic, olive oil, wine and water ready for the bread cubes to be added. The bread soaks up the juice and all the flavors meld. A generous grating of good parmesan cheese and a glass of chilled wine are all you need….and love.

Bread and Tomato Stew Italian Style

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped leeks, white parts only
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs good tomatoes, cored and chopped (peel if skins are tough)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed day old rustic bread
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a chunk of good Parmesan Cheese and a grater for serving

Directions:

  1. Saute leeks, red onion and garlic in olive oil until softened over medium heat.
  2. Turn heat to medium high and add wine. Reduce by half.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and add chopped tomatoes and half the basil leaves and the water. Bring mixture to a low boil then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir every now and then.
  4. Add in cubed bread, tossing to coat with tomato mixture and cook for 15 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  5. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and cook for 5 minutes adding in the remaining half of the basil in just before moving off heat. Stir to combine all ingredients. The finished dish should be somewhat soupy but stew-like. Add more liquid if desired. I always make this “fork edible”.
  6. Serve with a generous grating of Parmesan and a nice chilled Italian White wine.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.    www.foodonfifth

Maple Syrup and Sea Salt Roasted Pears

Our pear tree produced its fruit earlier than usual this summer. The pears smallish and hard. Not good for eating out-of-hand, but good for cooking. Over the years I have made many yummy desserts using the bounty of this tree. It is rather a small tree. Some years very laden with fruit, others not. Truly I wasn’t really ready to deal with them this summer. I was so busy working on photo shoots that I did not even notice for a while. The birds and squirrels ate their fair share. That’s okay with me. We got our share as well.

This, of all my pear recipes, is the most simple and perhaps one of my favorites. Cut in half and cored, drizzled with maple syrup and sea salt and slow-roasted until fork-tender.

Served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Pear perfect.

Slow Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup and Sea Salt

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • Small somewhat hard pears, cut in half & cored, peeled or not
  • real maple syrup
  • flaky sea salt such as Maldon
  • Ice cream to serve

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place prepped pears on a parchment lined sheet pan cut side up.
  3. Drizzle generously with maple syrup. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until pears are fork tender. Remove from oven.
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Note: If you have any leftovers you can freeze to use later in a simple cake.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Andalusian Gazpacho – Nashville Style

I am pretty sure the first time I ever had Gazpacho was in the early 70’s. Rather a cool-food of the moment it seemed to show up everywhere at potlucks and restaurants. Mostly chunky with too many onions taking over, and watery, I was never a fan. Over the years I tried the many versions of this Spanish soup that crossed my culinary path. The only vaguely appealing gazpachos were the blended-until-smooth ones…until recently.

I wish I could say the recipe is original, but it is not. On the other hand, I cannot say where it came from as it was cut from a magazine years ago and I recently found it in a file where I used to put such things before iphones and scanners. So I made this classic Andalusian Gazpacho a couple of weeks ago using Nashville homegrown tomatoes. I want to thank the cook who came up with this recipe and I want to thank them for converting me. Full of summer goodness.

Ingredients stuffed into my food processor…….

…and in a few seconds becoming creamy goodness.

I ate it for days. I froze some for later. August is a hot month calling for cooling foods. There’s a bumper crop of local tomatoes and cucumbers right now in the farmer’s markets. This soup is a good way to use those too-ripe-to-slice tomatoes as well.

Andalusian Gazpacho-Nashville Style

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 very ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (can use a home-grown as well)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: shredded cucumber for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until very smooth.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill in a glass container with a lid until ready to serve.
  3. To serve drizzle with additional olive oil. Top servings with shredded cucumber if you wish.

Dragon Fruit, Strawberry and Rose’ Popsicles

Frozen cubes of Dragon Fruit and fresh strawberries, a bit of sugar and a generous amount  of Rose’ wine all blended together and frozen in my popsicle molds might just be the best hot summer cooler (adults only) you can find. Sophisticated yet homey. Deliciously cold and yummy.

My first encounters with dragon fruit were in Mexico and Malaysia. You see them everywhere in fresh markets. They are stunningly exotic and beautiful and absolutely delicious. Sometimes they are white inside and sometimes red with tiny black seeds. There are even yellow dragon fruits. The real name is “pitaya or pitahaya” and is the fruit of a cactus. They are indigenous to Central and South America as well as Asia.

Every now and then I see Dragon Fruit in a supermarket or one of our international markets.  Whenever I buy a fresh one, allowing it to ripen, they are never very tasty. I don’t wait long enough or I wait too long and the result is disappointing. I’ll keep trying. These frozen cubes of dragon fruit I found at Publix.

Use very chilled Rose’ and strawberries.

I bought these metal popsicle molds a few years ago via Amazon and have used them often.

Don’t you feel more refreshed just looking at these? Make a few….sit outside on a hot summer evening and enjoy your “Dragon Fruit and Strawberry Rose’ Popsicle”. Stay cool y’all.

Dragon Fruit, Strawberry and Rose' Popsicles

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cups frozen dragon fruit cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced ripe chilled strawberries
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (taste and adjust liquid before freezing)
  • 1 cup chilled Rose’ wine

Directions:

  1. Put ingredients in a blender and blend until totally smooth. Taste and adjust sugar if need be.
  2. Pour liquid into popsicle molds about 3/4 full and insert sticks.
  3. Freeze all day or overnight. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn    www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Summer Day, Crowder Peas

I love to shell peas. It’s very relaxing and meditative. Repetitive chores can be like that. I used to shell peas with my Grandmother sitting on the back porch on scorching summer days. It’s so easy to forget the small things we love to do isn’t it? Every summer I purchase some fresh peas to shell. It’s not something I share with anyone else as it is my time alone to think about things while gently sliding my fingernail down the length of each shell to open it up to reveal the soft, light green pea nestled inside.

Beautiful shells with all their shades of purple and brown. The peas are ready to be simmered in a bit of water with some salt & pepper and a generous pat of butter. I always freeze some for winter soups.

Here’s a link to a pretty delicious salad I made last summer using Crowder peas. (Almost No Cooking) E.A.T. Late Summer Salad with Crowder Peas, Homegrown Tomatoes & Cucumbers

Stay Cool. Shell some peas. Peace.

 

All-American Baked French Fries with Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Although originally from Belgium, Thomas Jefferson was thought to have first served this American favorite in 1802 at the White House. He called them, “Potatoes in the French manner”.

Recently for a photo shoot at my house French Fries were the subject,  but I decided there was no way I was actually going to “fry” them. I don’t like to fry in my house…the smell lingers and I always seem to splatter myself with hot oil. Baking is friendlier and  healthier.  It’s so easy to cut up a few Russet potatoes into long, thin sticks.  A few sheet pans of hand cut potatoes tossed in olive oil and dusted with sea salt and a very generous grinding of cracked black pepper and eating them hot out of the oven, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is a pleasure.

Listen to this wake-up classic version of “Star Spangled Banner” while you work, Jimmy Hendrix playing “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, https://vimeo.com/90907436   

No peeling necessary…..

…lined up side-by-side ready for the oven. After they are baked, turn off the oven and leave them in to keep warm unless you are eating immediately, which I recommend.

Try dipping then in ketchup and mayo all smeared together on a platter. This is how we do it. Wouter likes mayo, I like both.

All-American Baked French Fries with Sea Salt and Black Pepper

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

  • 4 large baking potatoes, Russet potatoes, rinsed and patted dry
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • one lemon, cut into quarters
  • ketchup and mayo if you like

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut unpeeled potatoes into sticks. They will all end up being odd shapes and not uniform for the most part, but that’s how hand-cut fries are.
  3. In a large bowl toss together a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper. (at this point you could also add other herbs or garlic, etc if you like).
  4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with olive oil or vegetable spray.
  5. Spread cut potatoes out flat on parchment lined pans. Do not overlap.
  6. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Turn pans around in oven and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until crisped and browned. Serve immediately or keep in turned-off warm oven until ready.
  7. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon and your favorite condiments…we like ketchup and mayonnaise together.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

 

 

Small Batch Blueberry-Lemon Refrigerator Jam

Refrigerator jams are fast and simple to make. They will keep for a few weeks and is the best method for making small-batch jams. They don’t take a lot of time and can even be frozen to eat later in the year. I like this method as it is very rewarding and doesn’t take all day. I make a few jars at a time of different types of jams all summer. We eat some immediately and freeze a jar or two for later in the fall and winter.

 Tennessee blueberries are in season and they are abundant. Plump and juicy, full boxes looking so beautiful at the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market that I could not resist….. I over-bought as usual. We have been putting them on all our salads and eating just out of the box or in yogurt and on cereal every day.

Three ingredients….blueberries, lemon and sugar…and about an hour of your time is all it takes.

The color alone makes it worth it!

Spooned into my new Weck Clamped Bowls (jars) from Food 52 and ready for the refrigerator and freezer.

 The blueberries and the lemon peel combination resulted in one of my favorite ever small-batch homemade jams.

A taste of summer on toast. Enjoy.

Small-Batch Blueberry-Lemon Refrigerator Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints of fresh ripe blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 juicy lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  1. Carefully cut the peel from the lemon. Slice into thin strips.
  2. Juice the lemon.
  3. Place blueberries into a non-reactive pan. Add lemon peel strips, lemon juice, sugar and water.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn to low simmer, stir often, cooking for about 20  minutes until mixture is reduced and thickened. Jam will thicken more after it cools.
  5. Spoon jam into clean jars with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate.
  6. If freezing remember to not fill jars all the way up. Leave a 1/2-1 inch space at the top to allow the jam to expand when frozen. This keeps the lid from popping off in the freezer. I learned this the hard way!

Teresa Blackburn   http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   http://www.foodonfifth.com