You say Tomato, and I say Yes!, Finally, TOMATO!

No matter how you spell it, the one question every veggie grower in the country was asking this summer was “What’s up with the tomatoes?” Slow to start, and even slower to ripen, they got to most markets at least two weeks to a month behind last year. But, they are coming on strong now, and so below find two great recipes for using them, as well as one for all that zucchini.

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Fennel

Makes enough sauce for 1 lb of pasta

4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed of stalks, halved, cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 med. cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1/8 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 strips orange peel (each 3×1 inch)
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
3 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 3 3/4 cups)

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil, and salt, pepper to taste.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in 10 inch skillet. Add fennel and cook until softened and browned around edges about 4-6 min.
Add garlic, fennel seed, pepper flakes, orange peel.Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and cook until tomato pieces lose their shape to form chunky sauce, about 10 minutes.

Remove and discard orange peel. Stir in orange juice, basil, salt, pepper and sugar to taste. toss sauce and remaining 2 tbsp oil with pasta and serve.

Tomato Mint Bruschetta with Goat Cheese
Be sure to toast the bread until it’s nice and crispy so that it won’t become too soft when topped with the juicy tomato mixture.

1 large tomato, diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
24 (1/4-inch) slices Earthly Kneads Tuscan bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 oz Dancing Goat Creamery goat cheese
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
24 whole fresh mint leaves

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Combine tomato, onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper in medium bowl.

2. Lightly brush one side of bread slices with oil; place, oil-side up, on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until tops are dry and crispy.

3. Spread crispy side of each bread slice with 1 teaspoon goat cheese; top with 1 tablespoon of the tomato mixture. Return to baking sheet; bake 5 minutes or until warm. Sprinkle with mint; garnish with mint leaves.

24 servings

PER SERVING: 65 calories, 3 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 2.5 g protein, 7.5 g carbohydrate, 5 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, .5 g fiber

Zucchini Cornmeal Spoonbread
Be sure to thoroughly drain the shredded zucchini so the spoonbread is creamy, not watery. Serve it with grilled meats or fish.

3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion.
1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 1 1/2-quart gratin or baking dish with cooking spray. Place zucchini in large strainer set over bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Press or squeeze zucchini to remove excess liquid.

2. Whisk eggs in large bowl until blended. Stir in sour cream, cheese, onion, butter and salt until combined. Stir in zucchini and cornmeal until blended. Pour into gratin dish.

3. Bake 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean.

8 servings

PER SERVING: 355 calories, 24.5 g total fat (14.5 g saturated fat), 10 g protein, 24.5 g carbohydrate, 145 mg cholesterol, 275 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Yes Virginia, there is a good eggplant recipe!

The great thing about the abundance that always comes in September is that the weather cools off enough so that you can actually stand the heat in the kitchen again! Roasting veggies has become my new passion, thanks to Bill & Patrice Bobier and the great meal we had up at Earthscape Farm a while back. Here is a recipe for Eggplant Tomato Gratin, featuring roasted eggplant, from Martha Rose Shulman.

This is a delicious, low-fat version of eggplant Parmesan. Instead of breaded, fried eggplant, though, the eggplant in this dish is roasted and sliced, layered with a rich tomato sauce and freshly grated Parmesan, and baked in a hot oven until bubbly.

For the tomato sauce:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)

2 pounds fresh tomatoes, quartered if you have a food mill or else peeled, seeded and chopped; or 1 1/2 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes, with juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon sugar

2 sprigs fresh basil

For the gratin:

2 pounds eggplant, roasted (see below)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil leaves

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Roast the eggplant.

2. Meanwhile, to make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy, preferably nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Stir until tender, about five to eight minutes, then add the garlic. Stir until fragrant, about a minute, and add the tomatoes, salt (1/2 to 1 teaspoon), pepper, sugar and basil sprigs. Turn the heat up to medium-high. When the tomatoes are bubbling, stir well and then turn the heat back to medium. Stir often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to the pan, about 25 minutes. Remove the basil sprigs.

3. If you did not peel the tomatoes, put the sauce through the fine blade of a food mill. If the tomatoes were peeled, pulse the sauce in a food processor fitted with the steel blade until coarsely pureed. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set aside 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and mix with the bread crumbs. Oil the inside of a two-quart gratin or baking dish with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish. Slice the roasted eggplant about 1/4 inch thick, and set an even layer of slices over the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon a layer of sauce over the eggplant, and sprinkle with basil and Parmesan. Repeat the layers one or two more times, depending on the shape of your dish and the size of your eggplant slices, ending with a layer of sauce topped with the Parmesan and bread crumb mixture you set aside. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Yield: Serves six

Advance preparation: The tomato sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The casserole can be assembled a day ahead, covered and refrigerated, then baked when you wish to serve it. Don’t add the last layer of bread crumbs and Parmesan, with the drizzle of olive oil, until right before you bake it.

To Roast the Eggplant:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the stem and calyx off the eggplant, and cut the body lengthwise in half. Score large eggplants down the middle with the tip of a knife, being careful not to cut through the skin. Japanese eggplants and other small eggplants need not be scored.

Cover a baking sheet with foil, and brush the foil with extra virgin olive oil. Place the eggplant on the foil, cut side down. Place in the oven and roast large, fat eggplants for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size; small, narrow Japanese eggplants (and other varieties) should be roasted for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when skin has begun to shrivel, the edges and cut surface are browned, and the eggplant has softened but not collapsed. Remove from the oven, and use a spatula to detach from the foil if the eggplant is sticking. (If a thin surface of browned eggplant stays behind, don’t worry.) Place the eggplant halves cut side down on a rack set over a baking sheet, or in a colander. Allow to cool and drain for 15 to 30 minutes.

Recipes & Rants

First, the Good Food News. Below find two great recipes for the Labor Day Weekend from Gail Smythe of Earthly Kneads. Most of the ingredients for these recipes can be found right at Sweetwater Market this Saturday!

Then in the Bad Food News category, a few words to the wise about the FDA’s latest craziness. Please to go to register your dismay (and disgust) with the FDA for allowing lettuce and spinach to be zapped with radiation before coming to your favorite supermarket. Let the buyer beware – and have a great end of the summer holiday!

Gails Labor of Love for Labor Day Recipes

Shiitake Mushroom “Burgers”, Makes 4

6 to 8 ounces fresh Shiitake Mushrooms, stemmed, small dice

3 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oat bran, wheat bran, or bread crumbs

4 to 8 ounces of your favorite cheese – the amount depends on the strength of your cheese. For something like blue or parmesan, use 4 ounces. For a mild cheese, use 8 ounces.

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, chives, basil, or other fresh herb, optional

Salt & pepper, to taste (you may not need much salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese)

2-3 tablespoons Olive oil

Directions: Combine everything except the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Form into 4 “burger” patties. Sprinkle patties with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the patties in the oil for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. For a real outdoor treat, toss the cooked patties onto a hot grill for just a minute per side to get those great grill marks and some grilled flavor. Serve with a good red wine or some stout beer!


Gail’s Grilled Potato & Vegetable Salad

This is a very flexible recipe.  You can substitute all sorts of vegetables for the ones I listed below.  Carrots, snow peas, snap peas, broccoli, tomatoes, artichokes, and sweet potatoes would all be welcome additions or substitutions.


3 Tablespoons Vinegar, Use something lighter, like Apple Cider, White Wine, White Balsamic Vinegar, or try the Leek Vinegar we sell by Food For Thought

1/2 Tablespoon Honey or Dijon Mustard

1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, I like tarragon, but basil, chives, marjoram, or parsley or any combination of them would would well, too

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound potato, I like to use large red-skinned potatoes, but any variety should work

1 medium zucchini or summer squash

3-4 bell peppers, mix of green & red

1 large or 2 small onions

1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

1/2 pound eggplant

fresh chives or green onions for garnish, optional

To make the dressing, whisk together all the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil.  Whisk until the salt is dissolved.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Be sure to slowly drizzle in the oil, otherwise the dressing will separate.  Set aside and cook the vegetables.

Heat the grill on high.  While it’s heating, wash and dry the vegetables.  Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and eggplant thinly, lengthwise, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Slice the onions into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, crosswise.  Don’t slice the onions too thinly or they will fall apart while grilling and disappear through the grate.  (OPTIONAL:  Sprinkle the eggplant slices generously with salt and put aside.  This step draws out liquid from the eggplant that can make it mushy and bitter.  Let the slices sit for about 30 minutes.  Rinse well & pat dry before using.)  Seed the peppers and cut them into 3-4 large pieces each.

Blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and plunge into icy water to stop the cooking.  Drain well & set aside.

Brush the potato, zucchini, peppers, onions, and eggplant lightly with olive oil.  Grill for a few minutes on each side until tender.  The peppers will cook quickest, followed by the zucchini and eggplant, and then by the potato and onion (may take 3-5 minutes on each side).  Remove from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Cut everything into bite size pieces, throw it all into a bowl along with the blanched beans, and toss it with the vinegrette.  Top with chopped chives or green onions and serve immediately.