Showing posts with label cherry tomatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cherry tomatoes. Show all posts

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer’s Last Salad - Charred Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

How can summer be over? Honestly, it seems only a few weeks ago that we were in the park watching 4th of July fireworks. Now every day the sun leaves the sky earlier and earlier. 

Walking through our farmers market, the tell-tale signs that fall is closing in are everywhere. The mounds of corn at our farmers market are smaller. The tomatoes aren’t as acidic-sweet as they were last month. The peaches still look beautiful but they aren't as full of flavor with firm flesh.
In these last moments before temperatures plunge and skies cloud over, now is the time to seize the day and celebrate summer before it disappears completely.
Dylan Thomas said that we should “rage against the dying of the light” (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night). Personally I prefer a good chopped salad to ragging against the inevitable.

Charred Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

Always examine the ears of corn closely before purchasing. That is always true but at the end of summer, choosing ears carefully is even more important. Ideally the husks should be green and pliant, the tassels moist and the kernels plump. Dimpled kernels are a sign the corn is losing its sweetness. A worm or two isn't a problem. The presence of a live worm says the corn is organically grown. Just cut that part of the cob off and discard.

Use whatever fresh vegetables you enjoy.

My preference is to cut the vegetables into a small dice so they are similar in size to the corn kernels.

Charring the corn adds a smoky-sweetness.

Serves 4


1 basket or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed, dried, cut into eighths
2 ears fresh corn or 4 cups of kernels, husks and tassels removed, washed, dried
1 large bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, leaves only, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, washed, peeled, stem cut off and discarded, cut into a fine dice
1 medium avocado, washed, skin and pit removed, small dice
1/3 cup green and black olives, pitted, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1 red or yellow pepper, washed, dried (optional)
1 cup croutons, homemade preferable
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon reduced balsamic vinegar (made from 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar reduced on a low flame)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Place the ears on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Char the ears of corn either on the barbecue or in the oven. On the barbecue turn the ears frequently over medium-high eat to char but not blacken. Remove and let cool. If in the oven, preheat to 350F, place the ears on an aluminum foil or Silpat lined baking sheet and roast fifteen or twenty minutes, turning every five minutes for even cooking.

When cooled, remove the kernels from the cobs with a sharp chefs or paring knife. Place in a large mixing or salad bowl.

Reduce the balsamic vinegar over a low flame. Allow to cool.

If using a pepper, char a whole red pepper on the barbecue or over an open flame on the stove. When the skin has turned black, remove and allow to cool. Under a stream of cold water, rub off the blackened skin. Place over a bowl. Using a paring knife, remove the stem. Cut open to release and capture the oils inside the pepper. Discard the seeds. 

Finely dice the cooked pepper. Add 1/4 cup to the salad. In a sealed jar, reserve the remainder to be used in stews, soups or another salad. The cooked pepper will keep fresh in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Add the reserved pepper oil to the salad.

Add the cut up pepper (optional), cherry tomatoes, avocado, parsley, olives, carrots and croutons to the bowl with the corn kernels. Toss well. If desired, add crumbled feta cheese.

Season the salad with olive oil, reduced balsamic, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well and serve.


Use grated cheddar or crumbled blue cheese instead of feta.

Add a chopped protein like cooked chicken breast or grilled shrimp.

Add 1 tablespoon chopped red onions or scallions.

Add 1/4 cup fresh chopped bell peppers, preferably red and yellow.

Add 10 asparagus spears, woody bottom part removed, washed, charred on the barbecue or roasted in the oven, chopped.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gnocchi and Summer's Best Produce

Walk through any farmers market and the bounty of summer will be on display in mounds of freshly picked carrots, beets, lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, onions, parsley, zucchini, corn, celery, green beans, tomatoes and spinach.
Nearby there will be baskets of fat figs ready to burst, bright pink peaches, sharply colored pluots and plums, nectarines the size of soft balls and clusters of black, green and red grapes, seedless and seeded.
How great is all that wonderful food! Now, what to do with it? That's the challenge.

It's hot outside, so who wants to cook? You've grilled all summer long and while you love grilled vegetables, you need to take a break.

My suggestion is simple, make gnocchi.

If you've never made gnocchi, you're probably saying it's too difficult to make. Only Italian chefs can do that.  The truth is, gnocchi are easy to prepare.  And it doesn't take much time in the kitchen.

For Zesterdaily I wrote an easy-to-make recipe that lays out all the steps to making gnocchi at home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cherry Tomatoes and Pasta Go Hand in Hand

I only grow cherry tomatoes. Which doesn't mean I don't enjoy eating heirlooms like Brandywines, Cherokee Purples, or Green Zebras. Because we have large, beautiful trees in the backyard, we only get partial sun in the garden. Our house stays cool even during the hottest days and that's good news, but larger tomatoes don't grow well without full sun. I'm not complaining though.

The cherry tomatoes are sweet like candy.

At this time of year, cherry tomatoes are plentiful. Not just in our garden, which has gone kind of cherry-tomato-crazy, but in the farmers' markets as well. Big baskets of perfectly ripe tomatoes are selling for $1.00/basket. They're perfect for salads and skewering. With a plentiful supply, they also make a delicious pasta sauce.

Pasta alla Checca

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes


1 pound pasta, penne, gnocchi style, fussili, or spaghetti
1 basket farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed, quartered
1 bunch basil, washed, stems removed
1 garlic clove, skin removed, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


Put the quartered tomatoes into a large bowl, season with sea salt and pepper, add the olive oil,minced garlic, and toss. Do this a few minutes before you cook the pasta.

Add the kosher salt to a large pot with a gallon of water, heat to boiling, add the pasta, and stir well. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. After 10 minutes sample a piece of pasta. When it's cooked to your taste, strain, and put the pasta into the bowl with the seasoned tomatoes.

Toss well. Chop or tear by hand the basil leaves and add to the pasta. Top with grated cheese and serve immediately.


Over an open flame, char the garlic clove with the skin still on. Remove the blackened skin, mince the garlic

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives, cracked green or black

Add 2 anchovies, minced

Add 1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped or cut into thin rings

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cooked into a sauce, cherry tomatoes have a flavor that is different from their large-bodied cousins. One basket makes enough sauce to serve 4 people, so the price-break is good.

If you want, the sauce can be made ahead, frozen, and used weeks later with little loss of flavor.

Yield 4 servings

Time 60 minutes


2 baskets farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, minced
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, skin removed, washed, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper


Toss the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, half of the minced garlic, season with sea salt and pepper, place on a baking tray that has been lined with a Silpat or parchment sheet. Bake 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Reserve the seasoned olive oil in the bowl and use to saute the remaining garlic, parsley, onion, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Set aside.

Put the roasted tomatoes, including all the liquid on the baking tray, through a food mill. Add the tomato sauce and pulp to the saute pan.

Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet butter, taste, and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Toss with pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.


Use the tomato sauce without the vegetable saute

With the vegetables, saute 1 cup smoked sausage or Italian sausage, finely chopped, until lightly browned

Use fresh basil instead of the Italian parsley

Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the saute

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Grilling: Skewered Shrimps & Cherry Tomatoes

Festive enough for a party, quick-and-easy for everyday cooking, skewered shrimp and cherry tomatoes are ready to serve in 30 minutes.

A few words about the convenience of shrimp. In my experience, shrimp that come already shelled and deveined have less flavor and are more susceptible to freezer burn. If you buy shrimp in the shell, the benefits outweigh the added work. Buy the large sized ones (30-35/pound).

Removing the shell is easy enough, if a bit tedious. Grasp the legs in one hand while you rotate the shrimp with your other hand. The shell will come off easily. If you want the tail meat to stay on the shrimp, pinch the very tip of the tail with your fingers and gently pull the meat away from the shell.

With a sharp paring knife, cut down the back of the shrimp, pull away the vein, and discard. Wash the shrimp thoroughly, drain, and keep cold until ready to use.

Save the shells. Put them in a pan with a 1/2 cup water and simmer 10 minutes. Strain and discard the shells. Use the stock to make pasta sauce. To save for later use, freeze the shrimp stock in an airtight container. If any ice crystals accumulate on the stock, while still frozen, wash the crystals off with cold water before defrosting.

To freeze shrimp without fear of freezer burn, toss the deveined shrimp in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Place in a Ziploc-style plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and seal tightly. Flatten out the bag so the shrimp lay next to each other so they'll freeze individually. That way you can remove a few of the shrimp at a time. Lay flat in the freezer.

Skewered Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are plentiful in the summer. Grilled, their sweetness is accentuated.

Yield 4 servings

Time 10 minutes


1 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water at least 1 hour before grilling. Toss the tomatoes in the seasoned olive oil to coat well. Place 3-4 tomatoes on each skewer. Reserve the seasoned olive oil for later use.

Grill the tomatoes on a hot grill, turning frequently to prevent burning. They're cooked when the skin splits. Serve while hot.

Use any left-over tomatoes in a pasta or in a mozzarella-tomato salad.

Grilled Shrimp

Shrimp are naturally sweet and flavorful. Seasoned in a wet marinade or dry rub is all they need. If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water at least 1 hour before grilling.

Grilled Shrimp with Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Pepper Marinade

Yield 4-6 servings

Time 30 minutes


1 pound shrimp, washed, deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Toss the shrimp in the seasoned olive oil, place 3-4 shrimp on each skewer and cook on a hot grill, turning frequently to avoid burning. Cook until the shrimp are lightly charred.

If a grill isn't available, the shrimp can be cooked in a 450 degree oven, preferably resting on a wire rack over an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet.

Grilled Shrimp with a Garlic-Ginger-Soy Marinade

Yield 4-6 servings

Time 30 minutes plus 1 hour marinade


1 pound shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled, grated
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, cut into shrimp-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 scallion, washed, thinly sliced, white and green parts
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds


Mix together all ingredients and marinate the shrimp for an hour but no more. Any longer and the shrimp will absorb too much of the marinade.

Put 3-4 shrimp on each skewer with a single piece of onion between each shrimp and cook on a hot grill, turning frequently to avoid burning. Cook until the shrimp are lightly charred. If a grill isn't available, the shrimp can be cooked in a 450 degree oven, preferably resting on a wire rack.

Grilled Shrimp with a Tex-Mex Dry Rub

Yield 4-6 servings

Time 30 minutes


1 pound shrimp, washed, deveined
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled, grated
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon beer

Mix the dry ingredients together. Toss the shrimp first in the beer and then with the dry rub.

Put 3-4 shrimp on each skewer and cook on a hot grill, turning frequently to avoid burning. Cook until the shrimp are lightly charred. If a grill isn't available, the shrimp can be cooked in a 450 degree oven, preferably resting on a wire rack.

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