Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

We sat down last night and watched the first two new episodes of Good Eats:  The Return. I was really happy with the episodes, as they seemed to maintain the original character of the show, while in a more modern setting. It was a little hard for me to watch the new episodes since my dad is no longer here; he was super excited when I told him last year that new episodes were on the horizon. We surely would have been chatting on the phone today about Alton’s newest recipes.

I have realized that I think I sometimes put off writing for this project because it does always remind me that my dad is not here. I shared my love of Good Eats, and food in general, more with him than with anyone else. I think, though, that it is time for me to alter my mindset, and view each part of this project as an ode to Dad. He would have wanted me to continue on with vigor, so it’s time to hold myself to it.

In other news, I am officially 34 weeks pregnant, and things will soon be very busy and different in our house. I feel much of the time like a beached whale, so I am fast approaching the point of being ready for the baby to be out. A few more weeks of baking are good though, I know. Speaking of baking, onto the food…

Beef Jerky

I love when this project leads me to make things I have never attempted before, and this episode’s beef jerky was just that. Alton’s jerky uses 1.5-2 pounds of flank steak, which you will want to place in a plastic bag in the freezer until it is almost solid.

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Flank steak before freezing.

Once the beef is nearly solid, use a Santoku or chef’s knife to cut the meat into thin strips along the grain; don’t worry if some of the strips are larger than others – just follow the natural grain of the meat.

Place the meat strips in a large plastic bag and add the following ingredients:  2/3 C soy sauce, 2/3 C Worcestershire sauce, 1 T honey, 2 t black pepper, 2 t onion powder, 1 t red pepper flakes, and 1 t liquid smoke (I combined my marinade ingredients in a liquid measuring cup first).

Seal the bag, and massage the bag with your hands, working the marinade thoroughly into the meat. Place the meat in the refrigerator for three to six hours.

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Marinade massaged into beef, and placed in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours.

After marinating, drain the meat, discarding the excess marinade.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels.

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Beef patted dry.

Now it is time to dry the beef. To dry the beef Alton’s way, place the meat strips on the ridges of clean furnace filters, stacking the filters on top of each other, and placing a final clean filter on top. Using a bungee cord, strap the filters to a box fan. Turn the fan on, and allow the meat to dry until jerky-like, which Alton says should take 8-12 hours. Rather than buying a bunch of new supplies, I opted to use my mom’s old food dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s instructions for jerky.

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Beef strips placed in dehydrator.

I found that my jerky was done after about 13 hours of drying, and that was with a temperature of 145 degrees, so I have to imagine that Alton’s cool air method of drying would take considerably longer.

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Alton’s beef jerky.

The marinade for this jerky is amazing, and produced maybe the most flavor-packed jerky I have ever tasted. Some of the jerky strips that had more fat were a little more on the chewy side, so I liked the leaner ones better. With being pregnant, they tell you that you should avoid eating dried meat, so I only tasted the jerky (this is probably overkill). I do plan to make more of this jerky once I am not pregnant, as we both really liked it and it is much cheaper than purchasing commercial jerky. I recommend this recipe for sure.

Jerky Tomato Sauce

Aside from snacking on jerky, you can also use it as an ingredient, as Alton did in his tomato sauce. Jerky was, afterall, made originally as a means of preservation. Alton made his sauce on a camping stove in a tent, and you surely could make this in camping circumstances, but I made it for a regular weeknight meal. To make his sauce, use kitchen shears to cut 3-4 ounces of your homemade jerky into small pieces.

Place the jerky pieces in a bowl and pour 1+ C of boiling water over them, setting the jerky aside.

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Boiling water poured over chopped jerky.

Next, heat a medium saucier or skillet over medium heat, adding 1 T vegetable oil, 1/2 C chopped onion, 1/2 C chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let the vegetables sweat for 4-5 minutes, or until soft.

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Vegetable oil, onion, green bell pepper, and Kosher salt in a medium saucier.

Add two cloves of minced garlic to the pan, cooking for two more minutes.

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Two cloves of garlic added to the softened veggies.

Add the jerky and its soaking liquid, a 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 C heavy cream.

Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Sprinkle in some dried parsley (I used fresh), and simmer the sauce until it has reduced to your desired consistency.

Serve the jerky sauce over pasta, rice, or biscuits. I served Alton’s jerky sauce over pasta, adding some freshly grated Parmesan.

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Reduced sauce served over pasta.

We liked this sauce more than I thought we would, to be honest. I initially thought this would be just another tomato sauce, but the jerky really did add a lot of flavor, making a sauce that was fairly interesting and with some added meaty flavor. I still don’t know that I would go out of my way to make this again, but for a convenience meal it was really quite good. Should you happen to find yourself with some extra jerky lying around, this is certainly a good use for it.

Garden Vegetable Soup

As with the last episode of Good Eats, Alton’s goal in this episode was to develop kid-friendly recipes; this time, though, he tackled soup. The first soup he made was a vegetable soup. This soup starts by heating 4 T olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add to the oil 2 C chopped leeks (be sure to wash them well), 2 T minced garlic, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

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Leeks, garlic, and salt added to hot oil.

Cook the leeks and garlic until they have softened.

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Leeks and garlic after sweating.

Next, add 2 C peeled/chopped carrots, 2 C peeled/diced potatoes, and 2 C green beans, broken into bite-sized pieces.

Increase the heat under the vegetables, cooking them for 4-5 minutes. Pour in 2 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth; Alton says he is fine with using purchased broth here. Of course, homemade would always be better, though!

Once the broth is in the pot, increase the heat to high, bringing the broth to a simmer. When simmering, add 4 C peeled/seeded/chopped tomatoes, 2 ears of corn kernels, and a few grinds of black pepper.

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Corn, tomatoes, and pepper added to the soup.

Turn the heat to low, place a lid on the pot, and simmer the soup for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.

To finish the soup, stir in 1/4 C parsley and 1-2 t fresh lemon juice.

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Lemon juice and parsley stirred in.

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A bowl of Alton’s vegetable soup.

This is a pretty basic vegetable soup recipe, and I have to admit that I assumed it would be quite bland. I also was unsure of whether Ted would like it, as he is not a huge tomato fan. Ted and I, however, were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of flavor in this soup! The individual vegetables maintained their textures and vibrant colors, and the soup had a bright, fresh vegetable flavor. The lemon gave the soup a perfect pop of much-needed acidity. The only thing you may need to adjust is the amount of salt, depending on how much you sprinkle in when sweating the leeks and garlic. This is a super easy, healthy recipe that you easily could make with kids in the kitchen, and it is a great way to eat a bunch of fresh vegetables.

Grape Gazpacho

Now that the weather is cooling off, we really aren’t in gazpacho season anymore. The ingredients needed for Alton’s grape gazpacho, though, are available year-round. Gazpacho is always better if allowed to sit for a few hours before eating, so plan to make this a few hours ahead.

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Tomatillos, cucumber, and Granny Smith apple.

The soup begins with seeding and chopping one cucumber.

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Seeded cucumber.

Place half of the cucumber in a food processor and the other half in a large bowl. Next, peel, seed, and chop a Granny Smith apple, placing half of it in the food processor and the other half in the large bowl.

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Peeled apple.

Chop 1 C husked tomatillos, and do the same as with the cucumber and apple, placing half of the tomatillos in the food processor and half in the large bowl.

Add the following ingredients to the food processor:  1 pound green grapes, 1 C toasted walnuts, 1 C plain yogurt, 1 C white grape juice, 1 t rice wine vinegar, and 6 mint leaves.

Pulse the ingredients in the food processor nine or ten times, until blended but still maintaining some texture.

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Mixture after pulsing 9-10 times.

Pour the mixture from the food processor into the large bowl with the cucumber, apple, and tomatillos, stirring to combine.

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Blended mixture added to bowl of fruit/vegetables.

Cover the soup with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for two-three hours before eating.

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Green grape gazpacho.

As with most cold soups, this one comes together super quickly, and it is super convenient since you can make it ahead of time. This soup was just okay for me, though it did have some interesting flavors. I found that it really called for the addition of some Kosher salt. The soup was certainly light and refreshing, and the walnuts gave it some body. I would definitely prefer this soup in warmer weather, as it has a slightly sweet and tart flavor from the grapes and tomatillos. This is another healthy and easy recipe that kids could certainly aid in making, but this wasn’t a favorite for me.

The 73rd episode of Good Eats is all about tomatoes and different uses for them. Seeing that Ted is not a huge tomato fan, I was not sure what he would think of some of these applications, but worst case scenario would see me stocking up heavily on lycopene. Alton went over some tomato facts in the episode, stating that there are six types of tomatoes we can get commercially – globe, plum, cherry, pear, grape, and currant (in order of size from largest to smallest). A beefsteak tomato is a red globe tomato that is extra large in size. Oh, and never store tomatoes in the refrigerator, as temperatures colder than 50 degrees permanently stop a component of tomatoes that gives them flavor.

Stuffed Tomatoes

For six servings of Alton’s stuffed tomatoes, cut the tops off of six large globe tomatoes, using a serrated knife. Scrape the seeds and pulp out of the tomato, using your fingers or a grapefruit spoon.

Sprinkle the tomatoes liberally with Kosher salt and invert them on a rack for 15 minutes; this will remove excess moisture from the tomato shells.

While the tomatoes drain, combine 2 C sauvignon blanc and 1 C hot water; add 3 C dried mushrooms to the liquid mixture to rehydrate.

While Alton used a blend of chanterelles, morels, and shiitakes, I only used shiitakes. Next, heat a large skillet, adding 2 T olive oil, 1 T minced garlic, 2 T minced shallots, and 1 C finely diced onion. Cook the onion until translucent.

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Garlic, shallots, and onion, cooking in olive oil.

Using your hands, squeeze excess moisture from the hydrated mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, cooking for five minutes over medium heat.

Add a cup of your reserved mushroom liquid to the pan and bring it to a simmer for five minutes. Follow this up with 1/4 t pepper and 1 chopped tomato. Finally, add 1 1/4 C panko breadcrumbs.

By this time, your tomato shells should have shed any excess moisture and you can use a measuring cup to fill the shells with the mushroom mixture.

For a final topping, combine 3 1/2 ounces of goat cheese with 1 T parsley, dividing this mixture evenly among the tomatoes. Place the stuffed tomatoes under a preheated broiler for 5-7 minutes, and enjoy!

We ate Alton’s stuffed tomatoes as a side dish to my mom’s hearty minestrone soup.

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Stuffed tomatoes alongside hearty minestrone soup.

Ted thought this recipe was just OK, as he didn’t care for the tomato shells. As a tomato fan, however, I thought Alton’s stuffed tomatoes were delicious. The tomato shells maintained their texture and were far from soggy, contributing a bright tomato flavor. The mushroom filling had a fantastic umami flavor and slightly crunchy texture, and, well, who doesn’t like goat cheese? This recipe is a great blend of textures and flavors, and could be served as a vegetable side dish or as a vegetarian entree.

Tomato Sauce

I was curious to see how this episode’s tomato sauce would compare to Alton’s canned tomato sauce that I made over two years ago when I was writing up the second season of Good Eats. This episode is all about using fresh tomatoes, and this recipe calls for 20 fresh Roma tomatoes. In addition, you’ll need olive oil, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and onion.

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Garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme.

Begin by halving/seeding the Roma tomatoes, placing them cut side up in two 13×9-inch glass baking dishes.

Spritz (or, in my case, drizzle) the tomatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle them evenly with 1 T each of chopped fresh thyme and oregano. Alternatively, you can use 2 t of each herb, dried.

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Tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and thyme.

Sprinkle Kosher salt and 1/2 t black pepper over the tomatoes, along with 2 t minced garlic and 1 C finely diced onion (any type will work).

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Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and onion added to tomatoes.

Stick the tomatoes into a 325-degree oven for two hours.

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Tomatoes after roasting for two hours.

After two hours, increase the oven’s temperature to 400 degrees for an additional half hour.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and run them through a food mill (I have my mom’s ancient one that she used to use for applesauce) to get rid of their skins/seeds; you can do this directly over a medium saucepan. It will take a while to push them all through the food mill and you will get very little yield.

Add a cup of white wine (Alton used “cheap Chardonnay”) and bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, decrease the heat and simmer the sauce for five minutes.

I served this tomato sauce over pasta, along with homemade lamb/beef meatballs (made by Ted) and Parmesan.

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Alton’s completed tomato sauce. with pasta and meatballs.

Honestly, I was disappointed in this sauce. This recipe made just enough sauce for a pound of pasta, and it was nothing special. The wine flavor seemed too prominent for my taste, so I would simmer it longer, if I were to make this again… which I probably will not do. I expected to prefer this sauce over the one from season two, especially since this one uses fresh tomatoes, but I would choose Alton’s canned sauce any day.

TBL Panzanella

The final recipe from this episode is for a TBL (tomato/bacon/lettuce) panzanella salad. In the episode, Alton demonstrates that this panzanella is a great alternative to a BLT sandwich, and that it showcases tomatoes very well. I love a good panzanella, or a good BLT for that matter, so I was enthusiastic about this recipe. Beginning the night before you want to eat this panzanella, cut a quart of 1-inch high-quality bread cubes, placing them on a pan to dry overnight.

The following day, cook six slices of bacon, saving the drippings. I used my bacon that I made from episode 59.

Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and place them into a large bowl.

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Chopped bacon.

In a separate bowl, toss the dried bread cubes with the warm bacon drippings.

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Dried bread cubes tossed with bacon drippings.

Next, sear 2 C of halved grape tomatoes in a hot pan, face down, for about five minutes. Add the seared tomatoes to the bacon bowl.

Halve 2 C of raw yellow pear tomatoes (I had to use yellow grape tomatoes), adding them to the bacon/tomato bowl. Next, add 2 C of chopped Romaine lettuce.

In a small lidded container, shake together 3 T olive oil, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

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Olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper for the dressing.

Combine the bread cubes with the rest of the salad and drizzle on the dressing. Finish the salad off by adding a chiffonade of fresh basil and mint.

I thought this was a really good panzanella salad. The bread cubes stayed crunchy, the bacon added meatiness, and the tomatoes gave a super fresh flavor. I thought the vinegar-based dressing paired well also.This is also a very colorful, pretty salad. To me, this is more of a warm weather meal, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I think this still had a few too many tomatoes for Ted’s taste, but I may make this again for myself and enjoy it on a sunny day on the deck.

The 24th episode of Good Eats is all about tomatoes. Specifically, Alton Brown makes a case for the value of canned tomatoes in the pantry, arguing that fresh tomatoes should really only be used when they are in their peak season and locally grown. Why would one opt for canned tomatoes when fresh tomatoes are readily available in the produce department year-round? Alton points out that “fresh” does not necessarily equal “ripe.” I see his point, as a tomato purchased in December in Washington has not ripened naturally, but rather has been artificially ripened by exposure to ethylene gas. While these tomatoes may look shiny and red, they are often rock hard and lacking flavor. In contrast, with canned tomatoes, you know you are purchasing fruit that was picked when ripe. While nothing compares to a fresh tomato from your own garden, we pretty much  always have canned tomatoes in our pantry, as we often through them in soups, pasta sauces, etc.

I happen to be married to someone who does not much care for fresh tomatoes. Bizarre, I know. While he will eat tomato sauces, salsas, etc., he will pull tomatoes off of sandwiches and salads. Even more bizarre is the fact that my brother is the same way. Tomatoes were not my favorite thing when I was a kid, but I cannot get enough of the tomatoes that come from our garden. I suppose I will have to settle for the canned variety for several more months. Sigh…

Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce

In this episode, Alton makes an all-purpose tomato sauce, using canned tomatoes. For making a tomato sauce, it is best to use canned tomatoes that have had the least cooking, which rules out pureed and stewed tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are also not a great option, as they have many of their seeds, which can contribute some bitterness to a sauce. That leaves diced and whole tomatoes, and Alton opts for whole tomatoes because they are less processed than diced tomatoes.

Tomato sauce ingredients:  canned whole tomatoes, sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, onion, carrot, celery, olive oil, garlic, capers, white wine, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

Tomato sauce ingredients: canned whole tomatoes, sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, onion, carrot, celery, olive oil, garlic, capers, white wine, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

To start this recipe, strain your canned tomatoes into a saucepan.

Tomatoes straining into saucepan.

Tomatoes straining into saucepan.

Split the tomatoes open with your fingers and scrape the seeds into the drain, getting rid of as many seeds as possible.

Seeded tomatoes.

Seeded tomatoes.

To the tomato juice in the pan, add sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. I had trouble finding sherry vinegar, but finally found it at a natural market.

Strained tomato liquid.

Strained tomato liquid.

Tomato liquid plus sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil.

Tomato liquid plus sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil.

Heat this tomato liquid over high heat until bubbles stack up and then reduce the heat to a simmer. You will want to cook this liquid until it reduces by 50%, and then remove it from the heat.

Reducing tomato syrup.

Reducing tomato syrup.

While your tomato syrup reduces, it is time to prep the mire poix, which is the classic French combination of onion, celery, and carrot. The ideal ratio for a mire poix is two parts onion to one part carrot and celery. Chop the carrot first, as it will take the longest to cook, and add it to a roasting pan set over two burners. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, and let the carrot start to sweat while you chop the onion and celery.

Chopped carrot.

Chopped carrot.

Carrot in roasting pan with olive oil.

Carrot in roasting pan with olive oil.

It is ideal to cut the vegetables uniformly, so they will cook evenly. Add the onion, celery, and four gloves of garlic to the pan.

Onion and celery.

Onion and celery.

Mire poix in the roasting pan.

Mire poix in the roasting pan.

Chopped garlic.

Chopped garlic.

Alton simply smashed his garlic with a marble slab, but I opted to chop my garlic since I knew I would not be pureeing my sauce, and therefore did not want huge chunks of garlic in the sauce. Continue sweating the mire poix for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. At this point, add your tomatoes and capers to the pan and put the pan under the broiler.

Tomatoes and capers added to vegetables.

Tomatoes and capers added to vegetables.

Broil the vegetable mixture until the tomatoes start to caramelize, which should take 15-20 minutes. You will want to stir the vegetables every five minutes or so. When the vegetables are done, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add some white wine.

Vegetables after broiling.

Vegetables after broiling.

White wine.

White wine.

This will serve to release some alcohol-soluble flavors from the tomatoes, giving the sauce more dimension. Combine the cooked vegetable mixture with the reduced tomato syrup, add some black pepper, and mix. You may need to add some Kosher salt too, which I did.

Reduced syrup.

Reduced syrup.

Combined syrup and vegetables, plus black pepper.

Combined syrup and vegetables, plus black pepper.

Depending on the end use of your sauce, you can leave the sauce as it is, mash it lightly with a potato masher, or puree it completely. As we were to be eating our sauce over pasta, I took Alton’s recommendation to lightly mash the sauce, leaving it with some texture.

Completed sauce after light mashing.

Completed sauce after light mashing.

For a pizza sauce, or to cook meatballs in the sauce, you would want to puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. I served my tomato sauce over penne pasta, and sprinkled a little (okay, maybe a lot) of goat cheese over the top.

Tomato sauce over penne with goat cheese.

Tomato sauce over penne with goat cheese.

Ted and I thought this was a great tomato sauce. The vegetables gave it some texture, it was slightly sweet, had some heat from the red pepper flakes, and tang from the capers. As someone who frequently throws together pantry tomato sauces, this is one I will be adding to my repertoire. I will make this again, puree it, and freeze in batches for homemade pizza. If you are looking for an easy, healthy, year-round tomato sauce that tastes much better than commercial jarred sauces, be sure to give this one a go.

As a side note, I prepped my pasta for our dinner per Alton’s newer recommended method, which I mentioned in my previous pasta post here. Alton argues that there is no reason to boil water prior to cooking pasta. Instead, cover the dry pasta with cold water and put it on the burner, cooking until the pasta is al dente.

Dry noodles in pot.

Dry noodles in pot.

Noodles in cold water.

Noodles in cold water.

Al dente penne.

Al dente penne.

Really, after cooking pasta this way (I’ve done it a few times), I have to say that Alton is right; there really is no need to boil the water first.