Weekly Winner: Tomato Lovers’ Take on Fried Rice

tomato fried riceThis is the time of year when the farmers that sell the amazingly sweet cherry tomatoes at my local market actually start to recognize me.  I’m sure the rest of their produce is awesome, but I make a beeline right to the cartons of cherry or grape tomatoes.  I cannot get enough of them!

Since I always have them on my kitchen counter, I’m always looking for new dishes to use them in. My new favorite? Tomato Fried Rice. While it would make a lovely side dish to some summery grilled chicken or fish, I was perfectly happy letting it take center stage as a wonderful meatless main course.

This super-easy gem of a dish comes from Bon Appetit. So, before tomato season is over, run, don’t walk to your local farmers’ market and buy these luscious little jewels and make this dish!

Tomato Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 scallions
  • 1 lb. cherry and/or grape tomatoes of any and all colors
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1½ tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
  • 2½ cups chilled cooked long-grain white or brown rice
  • 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving; optional)
  • ½ lemon

Procedure:

  1. Trim dark green tops from scallions and thinly slice; set aside.  Thinly slice white and pale green parts; set aside separately.
  2. Quarter any larger tomatoes and halve any small ones..  Place about one-quarter of tomatoes in a small bowl; season generously with salt and toss to combine.  Set aside
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add reserved white and pale green parts of scallions and remaining three-quarters of tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and any liquid from tomatoes has evaporated, about 4 minutes.  Mix in garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add rice and stir to separate grains.  Cook just to heat rice through, about 3 minutes
  4. Scoot vegetables and rice to 1 side of skillet, then pour half of remaining sesame oil into pan. Add eggs and cook, stirring often, until just set, about 1 minute. Mix into vegetables and rice then drizzle in soy sauce and cook, stirring, just until wall combined.
  5. Transfer fried rice to a large bowl or platter.  Drain salted tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and spoon over rice.  Sprinkle with reserved scallion tops and red pepper flakes (if using) and drizzle with remaining sesame oil  Finely grate zest from lemon over and serve.

Weekly Winner: Pièce de Résistance Risotto

risottoWhat’s not to like about risotto, right?  It needs very little to be perfect.  Often, by adding a bunch of other stuff to it you only take away from the stunning simplicity of the dish.  Simple flavors are definitely the best.  The same can be said for tomatoes in summer.  Don’t mess with them.  They are fabulous just as they are — they need very little help to be sensational.  Put these two things together and you have the penultimate meal – Tomato and Parmesan Risotto.

The recipe for this bowl of awesomeness comes from Bon Appetit.  Honestly. after making this dish I am very tempted to trash all other risotto recipes.  They just seem overwrought and fussy.  However; perfect tomatoes will not be available year-round so maybe I’ll keep those other recipes around for the dead of winter.  Any other time, risotto means this dish.

Tomato and Parmesan Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more shaved for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  • Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.

  • Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and nutmeg, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the tomatoes begin to burst, about 2 minutes.

  • Stir in rice; season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes. Ladle in 2 cups broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Ladle in another 2 cups broth and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed, 12–15 minutes.

  • Add butter, 2 oz. Parmesan, and remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Divide risotto among bowls. Top with shaved Parmesan and lots of pepper and drizzle with more oil.

Weekly Winner:  Party on a Plate – or Platter

It’s Party Time! Summer barbecues, pool parties, garden parties, and picnics abound. Invariably, when I ask the hosts if I can bring anything, the response is “an appetizer would be great”. And I totally get it. When I’m hosting a get-together, I have a basic “theme” in mind for most of the food. It’s what I do, don’t you mess with my menu! So the easiest thing for me to request is a starter, appetizer, munchies or even dessert. Therefore, I totally understand when I’m asked to bring the same thing. But what to bring?? I’ve done various dips and hummus to death. Melon and prosciutto — been there, done that. I want something tasty, easy, and yeah, I’ll admit it – impressive. That problem is now solved.

Just look at these Tomato Tarts!  They’re gorgeous! They’re delicious!  And most importantly…they are super easy.  Whip up a batch of these for your next party (whether you’re hosting or just contributing), unveil them with the appropriate flourish, stand back and wait for the compliments (if you can hear them over all the “mmmmm’ing”). The recipe comes from Southern Living Magazine and is something I’ll use over and over again — all I’ll have to do to keep it interesting is tweak the filling a bit to fit the season.

Muffin Pan Tomato Tarts

Makes 18 tarts

Ingredients:

1 (17.3 oz) package frozen puff pastry sheets, partially thawed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

10 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded (2-1/2 cups)

11 oz multicolored cherry tomatoes, (about 3 cups), halved

2 Tbsp torn fresh basil

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Gently unfold both pastry sheets.  Spread 1/4 cup mayonnaise on each pastry sheet; sprinkle each with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  2. Cut each pastry sheet into 9 (3 inch) squares.  Gently press squares into 2 lightly greased muffin pans.  Divide cheese and tomatoes among tarts
  3. Bake in a preheated oven until pastry is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool in pans on a wire rack 5 minutes. Top with torn fresh basil.

Weekly Winner: A Self-Contained Summer Supper

tomatoesI am generally not a fan of stuffed vegetables.  I find that the vegetable that is being stuffed is usually either terribly overcooked and soggy, or not cooked at all.  If its overcooked, the whole thing tends to fall apart, and if it isn’t cooked enough it is messy and impossible to eat.  Then I came across this recipe for stuffed tomatoes and suddenly all is right with my world.

For one thing it is the height of summer and the tomatoes are fabulous.  This recipe definitely calls for big, meaty beefsteak tomatoes.  Then there’s the fact that you use the entire tomato.  After hollowing it out, you use the tomato “innards” for the sauce.  I like that.  Then there’s the fact that basically everything is mixed and chopped up in the food processor — easy!  And finally, my favorite thing about this recipe is that the combination of all ingredients makes the final product taste like a pizza topping.  Bonus!  Oh yeah, and it’s pretty!!  And who doesn’t like a pretty dinner?  That’s a win-win-win-win!

OK, enough raving — here’s the recipe which comes from Food Network Magazine.  Trust me, if you’ve been disappointed with other stuffed veggie dishes, this is your recipe.  Or even if you haven’t been disappointed with other recipes, you might be after trying this one!  Either way, you’re guaranteed one tasty, pretty, summer supper!

Sausage-and-Basil-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium tomatoes, preferably with stems intact
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced, plus a handful of celery leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bread cubes (from about 1/2 baguette)
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a serrated knife, slice off the top quarter of each tomato and reserve the tops. Scoop out the pulp from inside each tomato and transfer it to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the cayenne to the food processor and process until smooth; pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, herbes de Provence, bell pepper, onion, diced celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the sausage browns, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage mixture and bread cubes to the food processor and pulse until chopped. Pack the tomatoes with the sausage-bread mixture so the stuffing is domed on top. Put the stuffed tomatoes in the baking dish on top of the sauce.

Place the basil, walnuts, cheese and celery leaves in the food processor and chop. Sprinkle onto the tomatoes. Put the tomato tops, cut-side down, between the stuffed tomatoes. Bake until the stuffing is golden, about 20 minutes. Cover each tomato with a top and serve with the sauce.