Monday, September 17, 2007

Vegetarian Delight

This summer we spent a week with my in-laws in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan. The Cherry Capital hosts the National Cherry Festival each July, and the fruit-related fun doesn't end there. The area is truly amazing, with its fresh fruits and vegetables coming from a multitude of local farms and orchards.

One morning, the King of Pancakes' parents went out to a local farmers' market and brought back, among a load of other fresh loot, nearly a dozen beefsteak tomatoes. His mom had found a recipe in a Parade Magazine she'd wanted to try, which is my feature today. We packed it up and took it to the beach at Cathead Bay, but it is colorful enough to serve as part of a brunch or lunch occasion, and simple enough for everyday if you use pre-made ingredients.

The recipe recommends beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, however if you want to make this an appetizer of more manageable proportions, I recommend ripe Roma tomatoes cut into rings.

Triple Threat Tomatoes

8 large ripe tomatoes, 3 inches in diameter (roughly 4 pounds, if you want to go smaller)
3/4 c. Chickpea Slather (recipe follows) or your favorite hummus
3/4 c. Kalamata Olive Spread (recipe follows)
3/4 c. pesto (store-bought, or use your favorite recipe)
One basil leaf for garnish

Cut each tomato into three 1/2 inch slices if using large tomatoes. 1/4 inch if using small ones. Divide into 3 groups, and top with 1 T. for large slices, or 1 t. for small, some with each of the three toppings. Or, as we discovered, allow your guests to top as they desire. Several of us loved them with all three toppings combined, and it looked lovely.

Chickpea Slather (none of us liked this name, but we did like the taste!)

1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed well and drained
1/4 c. sesame tahini
3 T. warm water
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
2 t. finely mince garlic
1 t. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Process all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week. Prepare at least several hours ahead for the best flavor.

Kalamata Olive Spread

1 c. pitted Kalamata olives
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t. dried
2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until just pureed (use the pulse function for best results.) Store, covered, in the refrigerator for a week as well.

Serve the topped tomatoes with a sliced baguette, and you will think you've been transported to Europe! Yum!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Small Space Field Trips!

I've spent a bit of time out of my own kitchen this summer, but in the kitchen nonetheless! One recent Thursday evening, several girlfriends (and their girlfriends) and I did about two weeks worth of meal prep in four hours at a place called "Let's Dish". This is a really great idea. For $96, you get four six-serving meals that YOU assemble, so you can control the amount of things like fat and sodium, and mushrooms that go into your meals! Not sure you want to go that far your first time, share the experience with a friend and take half the food home. Or, if you love it, split the 12-meal deal with friends and decrease your per-meal cost. Really, you can't lose.

So the good stuff -- I came home with my coolers full of chicken chili (hence my pose with the cumin canister), cheesy lasagna roll-ups, crabcakes, and tonight's dinner -- shrimp scampi linguine.

Shrimp Scampi Linguine

2 cups cooked, hot linguine

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 lb. frozen uncooked shrimp (tails optional)
1/4 cup white wine or broth
2 slices of lemon, about 1/8 in. thick
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

While you wait for your water to boil, combine the tomatoes, garlic, and butter or olive oil in a saucepan. When it begins to simmer, put your noodles in the water and add the shrimp, wine, lemon, and parsley to the saucepan. Simmer 8-10 minutes until shrimp is pink. Turn off heat, remove from hot burner if using an electric stove. Drain pasta. Serve shrimp and sauce over pasta with parmesan cheese.

More recipes from my travels are on their way!