Saucy Beef and Lamb Meatballs

Meatballs

Familiar enough to qualify as comfort food, yet just different enough to be new and interesting.  I love the 50/50 combination of the beef and  lamb, and the sauce is perfectly spiced with the warmth of cumin, ginger and cinnamon. Serve these with toasted pita bread for an excellent make-ahead dinner.

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2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons finely minced onion

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint, plus a bit more for garnish

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 pound ground sirloin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup water

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons onion and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute stirring constantly,  Cool slightly,  Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs, and mint, add lamb, beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and egg; stir gently.  Shape into 30 (1-inch) meatballs. (if you have time, put these in the refrigerator for an hour or so to firm up…this will make them easier to brown)

Heat pan to medium high with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add meatballs.  Cook 4 minutes or so to brown them on all sides.  Remove meatballs from pan.  Add 1/2 cup onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add ginger, cumin, cinnamon and crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the water, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Return meatballs to pan and simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Garnish with additional chopped fresh mint.  Serves 6.

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End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Black Olives

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

This salad is a combination of inspiration from the excellent dinner party thrown by Outstanding in the Field and a recipe in the founder’s book, Outstanding in the field, a farm to table cookbook, by Jim Deneven and Marah Stets.  I love the sweet roasted yellow peppers and fresh juicy tomatoes with the salty cured black olives and capers.  And the bread soaks in all the flavors of the simple vinaigrette to make this a hearty salad that you can make a meal out of. Adjust the amounts of the different ingredients to suit your taste…mine has a bit less bread and a bit more of everything else!

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1 Loaf Italian country bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares (see note below)

1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes

1 medium cucumber (I used watermelon gherkins)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dry cured black olives, halved and pitted

2 handfuls baby arugula

2 teaspoons anchovy paste

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the bread cubes until they are dried out all over, about 10 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores and seeds.  Cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.  Peel, half, and seed the cucumber.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a large bowl, combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, capers, and olives.  Toss together until well combined,  In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovy pastes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss well (you may not need all the dressing) .  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the salad sit for 15 minutes or so to let the bread soak in the vinaigrette.  (the chef suggests 3 hours, which is probably more traditional, but I like this best when the bread has soaked in the flavors yet still retains a bit of crunch around the edges).  Tear the basil leaves and add them to the salad just before serving.   Serves 6-8

NOTE:  To roast peppers:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees, roast whole peppers on a baking sheet until black and blistered all over.  Remove to a paper bag, close and let rest 15 minutes to steam themselves.  At this point you will be able to peel, core and seed them quite easily.

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Outstanding in the Field…and an End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad

IMG_3695If you want to spend an evening celebrating local farm to table cuisine, there is no better way than to attend  an Outstanding in the Field dinner party.  Sign up early….some of the venues sell out fast!  Get on the email list and be ready when they announce the new season.  Founder and Chef Jim Deneven and his trusted crew travel the country with the mission of reconnecting diners to the land and to the origins of their food.  Please enjoy some photos from last nights dinner at the beautiful and impressive Free Union Grass Farm just outside of Charlottesville, VA and then scroll down for a lovely recipe inspired by the event.

Thank you to Erica Hellen and Joel Siezak of Free Union Grass Farm, Ian Boden of Glass Haus Kitchen and the OITF crew for a memorable evening out in the field.

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Accommodations for the traveling crew

First a Tour of the Farm

First a Tour of the Farm

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OITF 12

“Sweet Face” a White British/Angus Mix

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The guests make their way back to the table

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Duck Breasts on the grill

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Finding a seat at the table

OITF 6

Getting to know our table-mates

OITF 3

Duck Mole Bolognaise with Grits and Toasted Peanuts

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Local wines and fresh brewed beers paired with each course

OITF 1

The talented chefs tour the table after dinner to enthusiastic applause

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

End of the Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Olives
(Please click on photo for recipe)

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Tomato Salad and Coconut Sauce

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Coconut Sauce and Tomato Salad

Last week, with sweet summer tomatoes lining my kitchen windowsill, I rediscovered a favorite dish from a few summers ago.  Tyler Florence introduced me to this amazing flavor combination and I’ve just tweeked it a bit to accommodate my pantry staples and simplify the steps.  The original recipe can be found in Tyler’s Ultimate, a very reliable recipe source.  Here’s a link… check it out  if you have fresh lemongrass and fresh coconut on hand. Original Recipe.

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For the Pork:

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime

 

For the Chile-Coconut Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

zest of one lemon

1 hot red chile, cut into rounds (or sub crushed red chile flakes, about 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not “lite”)

1 teaspoon sugar

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon asian fish sauce

salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Salad:

2 pounds fresh heirloom tomatoes, cut into big chunks

1/2 small red onion, slivered

leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

handful of fresh mint leaves

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

 

1.  Marinate the pork:  Put the pork on a platter and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil and lime juice and turn to coat the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.

2.  Make the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, lemon zest, chile and chopped cilantro and cook to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and sugar and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Squeeze in lime juice and season with the fish sauce, salt and pepper.  Cool to room temperature.

3.  Make the salad:  In a big bowl, toss together the tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, mint, and salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and fold in the scallions.

4.  Grill the pork:  Grill the pork over high heat until crusty brown on all sides and just cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

5.  To serve:  Slice the pork and add it to the bowl with the tomato salad.  Pour over the chile-coconut sauce and toss it all together.  Serves 4-6

 

 

Hummus…. All Dressed Up

dip to postHere’s a idea for the next time you need to throw together a quick appetizer. As you know, there are many different flavors of hummus available these days, but it’s so much fresher and tastier to add your own flavors to this extremely popular Middle Eastern dip.

In these photos I’ve spread about 1/2 inch of good quality hummus onto one of my cake stands then toped it with finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fresh dill and crumbled feta cheese…a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and it’s ready to serve with crispy pita chips.

Other toppings that would be good:

pine nuts, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, roasted red peppers, pesto, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, whole chickpeas, red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, minced jalapeno peppers, the possibilities are endless…

Since I was going for simplicity here, I used a store bought hummus.  It takes about 1 1/2 cups to spread across this regular sized cake stand.  These are my two favorite brands:

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Of course if you are feeding a big crowd, or simply have the time, you may want to make your own hummus which is quite easy with canned chickpeas, tahini and spices. Here’s a good one from Inspired Taste (hummus recipe).

 

 

 

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Bruschetta with Caramelized Tomatoes and Ricotta

No need to stop serving Bruschetta just because vine-ripened tomatoes are going out of season.  These slow roasted cherry tomatoes are a burst of concentrated sweetness that, when combined with creamy ricotta and a slice of crispy/chewy bread, make for a memorable cocktail hour.  (or pair with a nice salad for a light lunch) Adapted from Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti

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1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

12 slices crusty country bread cut in to 1/2 inch slices (I used ciabatta)

extra virgin olive oil for brushing

8 ounces fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or well-drained cows milk ricotta (at room temperature for serving)

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and a generous grinding of pepper.  Set aside and let stand for a bout 30 minutes.

Preheat the over to 300 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spoon the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bake until tomatoes are partially shriveled and browned in spots but still juicy, could take up to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size of tomatoes).  Transfer to a bowl, tkaing care to scrape any juices and browned bits from the baking sheet into the bowl.

To make the bruschetta, position a broiler pan 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler.  Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Slip under the broiler and broil until the edges are lightly browned and the tops are golden, just 1-2 minutes.

Spread with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta on each slice and top each with caramelized tomatoes.  Taste and sprinkle with additional black pepper and/or salt if necessary.  Serves 6

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Black Kale with Grape Tomatoes, Garlic, and Chillies

Black Kale is also known as Tuscan Kale (or cavolo nero).  It has long, dark green leaves and is flat… compared to the more common curly kale variety.   I usually saute it simply with red onions.  But I love, love, love this spicy version adapted from A Paradiso Year, by Denid Cotter.

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2 small bunches black kale

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

2-4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or more to taste

olive oil

a splash of chicken stock

salt

Pull the leaves of kale off the stalks and tear them coarsely.  Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters depending on the size.  In a large skillet, over high heat, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until it is quite hot then drop in the kale.  Use tongs to toss the kale and keep it from burning. add a splash of chicken stock after a minute or two to help steam the kale.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  When the kale begins to wilt and take on a glossy sheen, add the tomatoes, garlic and crushed red chili flakes. Keep tossing and stirring over high heat, adding splashes of stock if the pan seems too dry, although the juice from the tomatoes will help.  Taste the kale.  It will be softly chewy and sweet when it is done.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  Serves 4.

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Tomato Watermelon Salad with Hushpuppy Croutons

Doesn’t this salad just scream summertime in the South?  This is based on a first course that I had at Noble’s Restaurant in Winston Salem, NC.  Their croutons were smaller but more hushpuppy is always a good thing.  I used Savannah Classics Original Recipe Hushpuppies found in the freezer section of the grocery, because 1) Who wants to deep fry in the summer and 2) They are really good!  I ended up having  to make a second batch because the kids ate the first before I composed my salads.  Also, I love to use the pinkish heirloom tomatoes in this recipe (Cherokee Pink, Caspian Pink) because some of the cubes are almost indistinguishable from the watermelon.
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5 cups watermelon (3/4 inch cubes, seeded)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (3/4 inch cubes)
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
back pepper
hushpuppies, prepared according to package directions
Combine the watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to coat.  Let this sit for 15 minutes and the fruits will release some juices.  Now add the onion, vinegar and oil, and stir it all together gently.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Toss once more and serve with hushpuppies and basil to garnish.  (serves 6)
(The Tomato/Watermelon recipe is based on one from the July 2007 issue of Southern Living)
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Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Ollives and Capers

Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Olives and Capers
A tomato tart with no cheese…doesn’t need it…don’t be tempted. The caramelized onions are so sweet and rich and the olive and capers provide the perfect salty bite. Served with a lovely salad of arugula and herbs and, yes, more tomatoes! This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.

For tart:
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
1 large egg yolk
3 medium tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt packed capers, soaked and drained
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted, cut in half

For salad:
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and dried
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup 1/2-inc snipped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, 2 teaspoons of the thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Then turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and cook slowly, stirring often with a wooden spoon. It will take at least another 15 minutes to caramelize the onions. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to help them cook evenly. They should be a deep golden brown. Set aside to cool completely before you make the tart. (This can be done well in advance if you want)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the defrosted puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a paring knife to score a 1/4 inch thick border around the edge of the pastry. Whisk together the egg yolk and one teaspoon water. Brush the border with the egg wash. Spread the caramelized onions evenly within the border.

Core the tomatoes and cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Place the tomato slices, just touching, but not overlapping, on top of the caramelized onions. Season the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Arrange the capers and olives over the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of thyme over the tart.

Just before serving, place the cherry tomatoes and diced shallot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss together. Add the arugula and herbs and toss well. Taste for seasoning. Serve the salad with wedges of the tart. Serves 6

 

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
From the clever folks at Cooks Illustrated, here is a brilliant tomato tart that will stay crispy enough to eat out of hand, as demonstrated below by my trusty hand model!  The process of assembling the crust may seem a bit tedious at first but it is really quite simple and the end result is spectacular.
All purpose flour for work surface
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (defrosted in frig overnight)
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Roma tomatoes (3-4 medium)
salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
8 ounces low moisture whole milk mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry and follow these steps to form one large sheet with a border.
1) Brush egg along short edge of one sheet of puff pastry and overlap with second sheet of dough by one inch and press to seal pieces together.
2)  With a rolling-pin, smooth out seam.  Dough should measure about 18×9 inches.  Use a pizza wheel or knife (and a ruler) to trim edges straight.
3)  With a pizza wheel or knife, cut a 1-inch strip from the long side of the dough.  Then cut another 1-inch strip from that same side.
4)  Do the same thing on one short side.  Now you should have 1 large rectangle of dough, 2 long, 1-inch wide strips and 2 short, 1-inch wide strips.  Transfer the pieces of dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg.
5)  Gently press long strips of dough onto each long edge of dough and brush with egg.  Gently press short strips of dough onto each short edge and brush with egg.
6)  With a pizza wheel or knife, trim the excess dough from the corners.
So now, hopefully, you have a long, rectangular, unbaked tart shell with doubled up edges.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the shell (inside of the borders) and then using a fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in the base of the shell. Bake 13-15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13-15 minutes longer.  Transfer to wire rack.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
While the shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer of paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Place second double layer of paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.  Combine garlic, oil, and pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool if made ahead) baked shell.  Shingle tomato slices on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row)  Brush tomatoes with garlic oil.  Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes.  Cool on wire rack 5 minutes,  sprinkle with basil and serve.  (6-8)
Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
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