Tomato Mania {CtBF}

gazpacho and toasts

Summer produce is at its peak this week.  We have tomatoes coming out of our ears (no complaints).  My counter is filled with heirloom tomatoes, other field tomatoes and bowls of cherry tomatoes.  I know it’s fleeting so I’m trying to consume my fill of tomatoes while they last.

I’ve been slicing lots of tomatoes for topping toast, sandwiches, bagels, or anything else appropriate.  I’ve been making plenty of salads, the favorites being panzanella (with bread) and Caprese (with mozzarella and basil).  I pull out recipes for tomato tarts.  This tangy Tomato Mustard Tart and this retro biscuity Spicy Tomato Pie are tops on the list.  I’ve stashed some containers of tomato sauce in the freezer for winter enjoyment.  I’ve also become enamored with the roasted cherry tomatoes we made last month.  Before the season’s out, one perfect BLT sandwich is a must.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays (yes, I know I’m a little late) is Gazpacho.  That fits perfectly with my current tomato mania.  Early in the season, I make gazpacho with canned tomatoes, but right now, that would be a crime.  I started with a trip to the weekly Farmers’ Market to pick up the vegetables.

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David Lebovitz’s Gazpacho recipe from My Paris Kitchen could also be named “Summer in a Bowl”.  Fresh tomatoes are peeled and seeded, then pureed with a slice of bread to add some extra body.  The tomato puree is combined with finely chopped cucumber, bell pepper, and red onion along with garlic.  A small shot of vodka is added to make the soup taste extra-cold, then chilled before serving.  I found the cold soup to be delicious, but not that different from other recipes I’ve made.  I know it’s traditional to add the bread slice, but I prefer recipes made without it.

The suggested garnish for this gazpacho is herbed goat cheese toast.  Toasted baguette slices are rubbed with garlic and covered with a tangy spread made from goat cheese, olive oil and fresh herbs.  I used lemon basil which added a lovely citrus undertone.  The cheese toasts turned gazpacho into a light meal for me.  And when I ran out of baguette slices, the herby goat cheese was equally delicious on crackers.  The goat cheese spread counts as another winner from My Paris Kitchen.

If you want to make this yourself, check out the recipe on page 121 of My Paris Kitchen.  To see what my blogging friends thought, check out their links here.

Being a bit over-obsessed about using every last drop of ingredients (when time permits), I used this occasion as an excuse to try out this recipe for Tomato Skin Salt.  The skins peeled from the blanched tomatoes are sprinkled with their weight in coarse salt, then dehydrated in the oven to create a seasoning that, judging from the aroma in the jar, will extend summer’s flavors beyond the last frost.

Tomato Skin Salt

Spiced Meatballs and Tomato Crostini {CtBF}

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This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Spiced Meatballs with Sriracha Sauce.  The meatballs are made from a highly-spiced mixture supposedly similar to merguez sausage.  I don’t think I’ve ever had merguez so can’t compare.  When I described the recipe to my sister Jane, she said “It sounds like it uses everything in the pantry!”

Lots from the pantry, but not everything

Lots from the pantry, but not everything

It didn’t need everything in the pantry, but the ingredient list is long indeed.  Coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, and sumac from the pantry plus garlic, cilantro, and Sriracha.  All these seasonings are mixed together with ground meat.  I opted to use ground lamb.  We had a beef-heavy week, and my palette longed for something different.

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This recipe is intended as an appetizer, but I decided to turn it into a meal.  For carefree cooking, I ended up baking the meatballs while I prepared the rest of the menu.  The North African meatballs with the two sauces were delicious with couscous and sautéed greens on the side.  All the different flavors came through.  The meatballs were moist and complex with a bit of a kick, but not too spicy.

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I thought the Sriracha sauce might be too spicy for Howard so I also made the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.  I don’t know whether this is true at all grocery stores, but when I tried to buy a small (individual) sized tub of plain yogurt, I discovered that the yogurt section at my local store is at least 90% Greek yogurt.  Any available tubs of the thinner “regular” (non-Greek) yogurt I was trying to buy were fruit-flavored.  No worries: Greek yogurt works just fine.  And, much to my surprise, Howard preferred the Sriracha sauce while I was on Team Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.

I was away the week of our last CtBF post.  Howard and I spent a fun-filled week in Québec.  We enjoyed wandering in both Montreal and Quebec City.  The food we ate everywhere, highbrow and low, was amazing.  In Quebec City, we ate at Restauarant Toast! whose tagline is the name of my blog, in French!

A Plateful of Happiness

A Plateful of Happiness

I didn’t get a chance to make the Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Cheese until after our return.  I’m sorry that I procrastinated.  I loved every part of the crostini, separately and together.

For the herbed cheese, I already had Greek yogurt (cow’s milk) so I didn’t bother to seek out goat’s milk yogurt.  And I skipped the straining step since the Greek yogurt has already been strained.  The yogurt is flavored with garlic and assorted fresh herbs which is a delicious spread, not only on the crostinis, but also alone on crackers.

The cherry tomato topping was also fabulous.  My cherry tomato has been slow to ripen, but I found a colorful assortment at a local farm. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes concentrated during roasting and melded with the fragrant herb sprigs for a meltingly wonderful mélange.

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Toasted rustic bread (I used ciabatta) is the base for a layer of herby cheese crowned with roasted cherry tomatoes.  It’s summer on toast.

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I liked the topping so much that I have plans this weekend to make another batch for a savory tart.  Can’t wait.

Click these links, if you’d like to read about others’ experiences with spiced meatballs or tomato crostini.  To make them yourself (which I highly recommend), you can find the meatball recipe on page 74 and the crostini recipe on page 110 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.