Tag Archives: tomato

green bean, corn, tomato and farro salad

28 Jul

green_bean_saladHow’s your summer going? Mine was seeming rather BLAH until a new farmer’s market set up shop on the blustery blocks of my hood. What can I say, it just makes me feel super San Franciscan to traipse over with my reusable shopping bags and Square purchase seasonal organic veggies and free range meats from my local farmers, and see photos of the goats whom I am to thank for my afternoon cheese snack. And, so what if I want to wash it all down with a mason jar of fresh El Diablo juice?!

I was summoned for a baby dinner and offered to bring a salad. Here was the scene:


You know, babies just hanging out. Giving toe-fives and sucking breast. Even the bundt cakes were for babies or something:

mini_bundt_cakesAs it happened, I had nabbed a bag of crisp green beans and a few ears of corn from the farmers market, which inspired a toothsome salad packed with the flavors of the season.

green bean, corn, tomato and farro salad
summer haul done right

2 lbs of green beans, trimmed and cut into the bite sizes
3 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2 large tomatoes or a few small ones
1 cup of farro
handful of cilantro
handful of basil
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. champagne vinegar
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard

Cook the farro and cool. Blanch the green beans for a couple minutes and plunge into an ice bath; drain. Blanch the corn for a minute and plunge into an ice bath; drain.

Toss green beans, corn and farro together in large bowl. Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl. Chop the cilantro and basil roughly, then add to the bowl.

To make the dressing, smash garlic cloves and place into a small mixing bowl. Add vinegar, olive oil, mustard, lots of salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.

30 minutes prior to serving, pour the dressing over salad and mix well. Serves 8.

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad

16 Jul

I love eating garnishes. Growing up, we often ate dinner at Zippy’s—a popular diner chain in Hawaii. Typically, I’d order the “Broasted Chicken” kid’s plate (don’t ask my why they call it ‘Broasted,’ it’s just fried) and my grandparents would order spaghetti or a mushroom burger upgraded to the “complete meal,” which included a drink and Jello or pudding.

I coveted the adult “complete meal,” especially for its grown-up adornments – a dark green curly-leafed parsley bush accenting each plate or pickle spear and black olive duo tossed wayside a burger. In my most annoying kid voice, I’d shriek, “can I have that?!”

As an adult dining at high-end sushi joints, I adore sashimi of mild, white fish nestled on a delicate shiso leaf. Unlike the plastic grass comb in a cheap bento box, shiso leaves are a prized garnish – thin like tissue, but intense in flavor. This bright green leaf with a jagged edge is sold for upwards of $0.50 per leaf at specialty grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl. The Japanese use it namely to garnish sashimi and sushi, though also pickled with ume. Shiso’s tomato-meets-mint flavor is uniquely pungent, and somewhat of an acquired taste.

Recently, I went to see Momofuku’s David Chang at the launch party of his new food magazine published by the McSweeney’s gang. Lucky Peach is a wonderful ode to literarily inclined rebel chefs turned author/tv personalities. In a transcribed conversation between Chang, Anthony Bourdain, and Wiley Du Fray, the three ridicule the non-talent of simplistic, local-ingredient focused menus—an assertation they can back up with their own cuisine successes.

For example, Momofuku’s Tofu, Tomato, and Shiso Salad—an Asian twist on Capri’s famed tomato, mozzarella and Basil combination. Brilliant! I don’t need much of a reason to go buy shiso in the first place, so this recipe was the perfect excuse. Instead of cherry tomatoes, I used sweet heirlooms and the very best locally-made medium-firm tofu. The result? An airy salad, sweet, salty and acidic with the soy vinaigrette. Perfect for a summer meal.

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad
a salad that meets my high garnishing standards

One 12-ounce block silken tofu, drained
2 pints (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) mixed cherry tomatoes (I opted for normal heirlooms)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon usukuchi (light soy sauce – I used regular)
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 shiso leaves, stacked atop one another, rolled into a tight cigar, and thinly sliced crosswise

I didn’t bother to cut the tofu nicely, but if you want to:
With your knife blade parallel to the cutting board, cut the block of tofu in half. Using a 2- to 2 1/2-inch ring mold (or a narrow straight-sided glass), cut cylinders of tofu out of each slab. Carefully turn each cylinder on its side and slice in half, yielding 8 rounds of tofu. Save the tofu scraps for another use.

I also skipped skinning the tomatoes, but if you want to:
Bring a large saucepan of salted water into a boil. Prepare an ice batch in a large mixing bowl. Cut a tiny X or slash into the bottom of about two-thirds of the tomatoes. Drop them, in batches, into the boiling water, and after 10 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath to cool. Slip the skin off the blanched tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry tomatoes in half.

Stir together the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame and grapeseed oils in a large mixing bowl. Add all the tomatoes and toss to coat.

To serve, place 2 slices of tofu in each of four shallow serving bowls, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Top each portion with about a cup of dressed tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and garnish, generously with the shiso chiffonade. I went the stacked route (see pic). Serves 4.

harvest moon picnic

23 Sep

Harvest Moon over the Golden Gate - taken with Pro HDR app for iPhone

Yesterday marked the official start of Autumn and unlike the previous 19 years, a full moon coincided on the exact date — what is referred to as a harvest moon. The moon rises due east, while the sun sets due west, creating an bright sky lit by both the setting sun and reflective orange moon.

Perched atop the Marin Headlands, we spread out a blanket, popped the bubbly and waited for the celestial show to begin. Inspired by the earthly occasion, I assembled a few harvest-themed snacks.

Baby Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Smoked Salmon on Rye with Lemon Creme Fraiche and Arugula

Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

Fig season is in full swing, and I procured a large crate of plump juicy gems. While working at Parties That Cook, I learned to oven-roast figs stuffed with tangy gorgonzola and swathed in smoky prosciutto. It’s a recipe that never fails to impress — be it a harvest moon picnic or cocktail party.

Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto with Melted Gorgonzola Centers
a sumptuous small plate, if i ever did meet one

* 24 ripe Black Mission figs
* 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
* 12 slices prosciutto
* 3 ounces Dolce Latte Gorgonzola, (can substitute Cambozola)
* 1/2 bunch thyme

Preheat oven to prepare for broiling.

Cut off the stem of each fig. To make a pocket for the cheese, slice down through the stem of each fig about a half an inch then rotate it and slice down again, creating an X as you view it from the top. Cut each piece of prosciutto in half length-wise. Wrap each fig in prosciutto around the circumference of the fig leaving the stem end of the fig exposed. Brush the fig wrapped in prosciutto with butter. Stuff each pocket in the fig (where you made the slice previously) with Gorgonzola.

Broil the figs for about 5-10 minutes, until the Gorgonzola is melted and the figs are plump.

Garnish each “fig in a blanket” with the tip of a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately while still warm.
Makes 24

Harvest moon: Nightfall over San Francisco - Click to enlarge

avocado monster

19 Jul

I’m an avocado monster. This is what California has done to me. Here, avocados are like cheese. You put them in any food that requires assembly — burgers, salads, sushi, omelets, egg rolls… anything goes!

I still enjoy avocados most in their purest form, halved with a bit of soy sauce and a spoon. That’s how we grew up eating them in Hawaii. My grandma would walk down the block every day to check if any of the neighbor’s delicate “pears” had fallen to the ground street-side (i.e. “up for grabs”).

These days, I hit up my local farmer’s market for the super ripe hass avocados — perfect for guacamole making. I’ve been making guacamole for years now with on-par results, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was introduced to the ultimate recipe.

I get compliments every time I make this for a party, and everyone always asks for the recipe. There aren’t any special spices, just well-measured ingredients and traditional grinding (preferably in a molcajete).  I have my foodie friend Christina to thank for introducing me to this guacamole of perfect proportions.

the very best guacamole
adapted from Rosa’s New Mexican Table via Saveur magazine

* 2 tbsp. finely chopped white onion
* 3 firmly packed tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
* 2 tsp. finely chopped jalapeño
* 1 tsp. salt
* 3 medium-ripe hass avocados
* 3 tbsp. diced tomato
* 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice (or more to taste)

Grind 1 tbsp. of the onions, 1 tbsp. of  the cilantro, jalapeño, and salt together in a molcajete until all the ingredients are well ground. (Alternatively, use a fork to mash the ingredients to a paste in a wide bowl.)

Cut avocados (about 8 ounces each) in half. Twist the halves to separate them and remove the pit with the tip of the knife. Place an avocado half, cut side up, in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through its flesh down to the skin, without cutting through the skin. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same fashion.

Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with remaining avocado halves. Gently fold the avocado into the chile–onion paste, keeping the avocado pieces fairly intact.

Add lime juice, tomatoes, remaining 2 tbsp. of the cilantro, and remaining 1 tbsp. of the onions.

Fold together all the ingredients. Taste and add salt, if necessary. Sometimes I add a dash of soy sauce instead of salt for extra umami!

Serve immediately, directly from the molcajete (or bowl), with tortilla chips.

mangia! mangia!

29 Jun

I remember when Food Network first came on the air in the early 90’s. We used to love watching this terrible show called How To Boil Water hosted by a comedian who just happened to be a single bachelor who needed to be taught literally how to boil a pot of water. His sidekick was a tight-wad female chef instructor completely incapable of understanding humor. There was a sick pleasure we’d derive from watching the poor guy cock up things as simple as spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce.

On the other side of the spectrum, we learned the historic context and proper French technique for hollandaise from the intrepid David Rosengarten and his TV show, Taste. Long before Bravo existed, Rosengarten was rocking a stark all-white, green screened set — he was clearly ahead of his time in all aspects. Rosengarten was my first exposure to someone who was unabashedly obsessed with food and the study of it. “Life is a matter of taste,” Rosengarten would declare at the end of each episode.

Though Taste is long gone (not sure why Food Network doesn’t bring back the reruns, or hello, can we get this on Netflix?), Rosengarten has forged on in his gastronomic odyssey with the revival of the Rosengarten Report, a subscription only culinary e-zine (!!!?!!) that costs $60/year for 12 online issues. While I am intrigued to read “The Growing Phenomenon of Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil: Why It’s Much Better When It’s Young, and Where to Find the Very Best New Oils of Harvest 2009,” I’d rather save my 60-bucks for actually purchasing good olive oil.

In my reminiscing about Taste, I came across the above video made recently by Rosengarten. In it, he takes us on a journey to formulate the perfect old-school Italian red sauce (his secret: a roasted, then fried eggplant blended into the classic tomato/garlic mix).

I made my own variation with some leftover fresh tomato sauce, and it was every bit as delicious as he says. Watch the video for the recipe!