Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Fresh Tomato Soup

All of my life, I never liked tomato soup. It always tasted like watered-down ketchup to me. Granted, my experience with tomato soup had been the canned variety, but I also had once or twice tried it in a restaurant or catered affair situation (I can’t remember which) and thought it was equally distasteful.

Then, I found a recipe for tomato soup using fresh tomatoes…and it changed my world. Now I knew what tomato soup was supposed to taste like. And I never looked back.

This is my recipe for fresh tomato soup. The  ingredients are extremely simple and the focus is on the tomatoes. It’s best to make this in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. It doesn’t much matter which variety you choose, as long as they’re ripe and fresh. Enjoy! Continue reading

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Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Summer is finally here, and with the coming of sunshine and warm breezes comes the need for pasta salad. After all, you need something easy to bring to all those picnics, barbecues, and beach parties, right?

Pasta salad, however, need not be fattening or unhealthy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. This pasta salad calls for whole wheat pasta, which already is healthier than regular pasta salad, but you can use gluten-free pasta as well. Rather than mayo or other fat-laden dressing, this one uses avocado. It makes the pasta creamy, rich, and loaded with nutrients (plus some good fat). Add raw kale to the mix and you’ve got a healthy, but delicious, alternative.

Kale can be tough, but squeezing kale with avocado softens the leaves. The salt in the dressing further breaks down the cell walls of the kale, helping it along its journey to tenderness.

This is an excellent start to the summer. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons table salt
2 Haas avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 packed kale leaves, shredded*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the tomatoes out on a small baking sheet lined with foil and roast until soft and charred, about 20 minutes.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on what pasta you choose). Drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a food processor, combine the meat from the avocados, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth.Place the kale in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over it and squeeze the kale with your hand until everything is well blended. Mix in the balsamic and red pepper flakes, if you’re using it.Add the cooked pasta and parmesan and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust it to your liking.Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

*To shred kale, first strip the leaves off the stems by lightly pinching the stem and running your fingers down the stem to the tip, pulling the leaves off along the way. Stack a few leaves and roll them up into a tight log. With a sharp knife, slice the kale thinly.


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Cherry Tomato Confit

If you’ve ever had roasted tomatoes, you know about the incredibly sweet, smoky flavor they have. Roasting any vegetable renders its sugars, and results in heightened flavors and vivid colors. The flavor of roasted tomatoes is deep and intense, and goes well with so many dishes.

The word confit is French and means “to preserve.” It’s usually used in relation to meats—as in duck confit, chicken confit, etc.—and it means to cook the meat slowly in its own juices (or other meat juices), along with salt and seasonings. The meat is then shredded and packed in a container and covered with fat to preserve it. This method was created for long-term storage before refrigeration was invented.

But fruits and vegetables can be confited as well. It’s extremely easy to make a tomato confit. All you need to do is mix the tomatoes with some olive oil and some seasonings and put them in the oven and walk away. They roast low and slow, and when they’re done, they’re literally bursting with flavor.

You can put some tomato confit on pieces of toast, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese for a great canape or snack.  You can use them on focaccia or in a sandwich, or just served by themselves.

Enjoy!Cherry Tomato Confit

Makes 1½ cups.

2 cups cherry and/or pear tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for the jar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
Herbs of your choice, fresh or dry (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, etc.)
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and mix.Spread the tomatoes and herbs out on a small-medium baking sheet. (You can line it with foil or parchment, if you like.)Bake for 1 hour. Stir the tomatoes, then bake for another 1½ hours. The tomatoes should be wrinkled and easily burst when poked with the tip of a knife. Some tomatoes may burst while in the oven, and some may brown a bit. This is not only okay, it’s deliciously desirable.Transfer everything to a clean, pint-size jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in any oil and juices from the pan. Pack in it gently. Cover the tomatoes with oil. Seal. Tomatoes will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


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Summer Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Well, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, summer is coming to a close. Garden aficionados are gathering up the final crops of their summer vegetables and herbs, and are preparing their autumn and winter larders.

But there’s still time to enjoy some summer savory dishes. Pick some tomatoes and snap off a cucumber (or get them at the farmers’ market) to make this simple, yet savory, classic dish. Plan one last picnic or barbecue, soak in the warm sun while it lasts, and serve this to hold you over until next year. Pretty soon, it will be time for pumpkins, fireplaces, and warm fleece blankets. And that’s a different kind of joy.

Summer Tomato-Cucumber Salad

1 cup cherry or pear tomatoes, halved
½ medium cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Few leaves fresh basil

Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.

Serve at room temperature. You can make this a few hours ahead of time. Keep it stored  tightly sealed in the refrigerator.


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Cherry Tomato Flatbread Focaccia

Summer is tomato season, and cherry tomatoes are some of the most beautiful to be had. There are so many things you can do with tomatoes, and like any Italian will tell you, one of the best ways is to put fresh tomatoes on pizza or focaccia.

I like to make my own personal focaccia using 8-inch flatbread rounds. With so few ingredients, the fat and calories are kept on the low side. And by using whole wheat flatbread, I’m upping the health factor. Yet it’s filling and satisfying.

This flatbread focaccia is so simple and quick to make, you can have it any night of the week. Pair it with a fruity white wine or a cider and you’ve made the perfect light summer meal.

 

Cherry Tomato Flatbread Focaccia

Makes 1 serving

1 (8-inch) whole wheat flatbread
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs or seasonings of your choice (such as basil, oregano, cayenne)
2 tablespoons parmigiano

Toast the flatbread in the oven or toaster oven, just until it starts to firm up.Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, oil, salt, pepper, and herbs or seasonings, if using.Spread the tomato mixture over the flatbread. Sprinkle the parmigiano over the top. Put it back in the oven and toast until tomatoes soften and bread is fully toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Cut in half or quarters. Enjoy!


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Chilean Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad

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One of the best things about summer is all the beautiful, luscious tomatoes that become available. So this is the season for tomato salads. It’s almost not even worth it to make tomato salad any other time of the year.

This is a simple Chilean version, which gets a bit of a kick from minced Serrano or jalapeno pepper. But if you like, you can omit it. Choose any tomatoes you like—there are so many options this time of year! Heirloom varieties make a stunning salad, but good old beefsteak tomatoes do better than fine. Continue reading


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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whet-Your-Whistle Bar

IMG_5525Yeah, that would be MY bar. It’s a cart in the corner of my dining room loaded up with various alcoholic delights. Don’t judge me.IMG_5509

Anyway, we hit a little cool snap here last week on the East Coast and suddenly people with gardens found themselves having to make some quick decisions about their remaining vegetables. My parents still had a garden full of tomatoes that had to be taken in.

There’s no better opportunity to make fried green tomatoes.

Although fried green tomatoes are associated with the American South, according to an article on Smithsonian.com and this article from Bon Appetit, they’re actually from the North and Midwest, possibly of Ashkenazi Jewish origins. But the use of cornmeal is probably a Southern contribution to the dish, and I think that the flavor and texture of the cornmeal are what makes the tomatoes so tasty and unique.

Fried green tomatoes are really easy to make and can be flavored with whatever spices you like.

Enjoy!

Fried Green Tomatoes

1½ pounds green tomatoes
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons milk (any kind)
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste
Coconut oil

Line a large plate with paper towels and place it by the stove.

Slice the tomatoes into ½-inch-thick slices.IMG_5512Beat the egg with the milk in a medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper on platter. Place a few of the tomato slices in the egg and coat both sides. Then put them in the cornmeal and coat both sides.IMG_5517Heat about ½ inch oil. Gently shake off excess cornmeal from the tomato slices and place them in the oil. Fry, flipping them over once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Replenish the oil in the pan as needed.

Serve with a creamy dressing, sour cream, or salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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