Thursday, August 11, 2011

More Tomatoes - & Pesto

Remember how much I said I love tomatoes? I do. I can't get enough of them right now.

But before I get to the tomatoes - and making our first ever pesto - here's a quick herb update, because our herbs are getting frighteningly huge! It entertains me to go out on the deck and see how much they have grown. Sometimes I pluck a few leaves or sprig off and hold it under my nose, just inhaling the herb smell. It's like aromatherapy! Here's the mint, which is like a giant monster and I have no idea how we're going to use it all:The sage & chives:Thyme (which now fills the entire pot, not just half of it), basil (one plant), parsley, and more basil (3 plants):Rosemary and basil (4 plants):We planted 10 basil seeds and 8 sprouted. They seem to love this weather and now resemble small trees. With all those fresh herbs staring at me, I am now on a mission, sort of, to use as many of these fresh herbs as possible before cold weather kills them (and maybe even learn how to dehydrate or freeze fresh herbs for over the winter). Every time someone stops by we ask them if they want some fresh herbs.

Back to the tomatoes. Tomatoes & herbs taste great together and I recently saw a Tomato Gratin post at You Little Tart. It looked so good. Tomatoes! And cheese! And herbs! It reminded me of the broiled parmesan topped tomato slices my mom used to make. So I decided to make this Tomato Gratin.
I sort of followed the recipe. I used the panko but I used parmesan instead of asiago. I also used way more thyme than 2 teaspoons and I used way less parsley. I like parsley, but I much prefer thyme.They were tasty! I think in the future I might omit the panko. It tasted yummy, but knowing what my mom's parmesan only tomatoes tasted like, I think I prefer the cheese only version. With lots of herbs.

Alongside our tomatoes, we made angel hair pasta with pesto:The recent issue of Saveur had an entire section of Glorious Pesto. As soon as I saw it, I thought, duh! That's how we can use all that basil! Plus, I'd never before made pesto, which seems odd given my love of pasta, so it'd be a new food experience. I can remember right after grad school my friends and I talking about easy meals to make and my friend L raved about pesto, how easy it is to make, and how tasty it is, and why hadn't I tried it?!

I think I've shied away from pesto all these years because of the garlic. I can admit that even though I avoid garlic (can't even stand the smell anymore), some dishes, like pesto, seem to need the garlic because it really complements the other ingredients. However, we've been omitting garlic from all our recipes and they have never tasted as if they are missing flavor, so we figured, why not give it a try with pesto.

Also, I admitted to SP last night another reason for not ever making pesto. It's how pesto looks. Even though I know what all the ingredients are, and I see them morph into the pesto in the food processor, the resulting wet green sludge resembling mold growth kind of grosses me out. It doesn't appeal to my sense of sight. But I decided I needed to overcome my resistance to pesto. After all, basil, cheese, sun-dried tomato - these are a few of my favorite things!Of course, after reading the articles and looking at the recipes, pesto no longer seemed quite so easy. It seemed a little intimidating. Certain pestos taste best with certain pastas; it can be used in soup, in panna cotta, on meats, on bruschetta, and some pestos are better than others for each of those food options; use only the best ingredients (is my olive oil good enough? my basil young & aromatic enough?); and also, it's not just basil & garlic & olive oil & pine nuts (my pre-Saveur idea of pesto) -- take a look at the Glorious Pesto section and you'll see what I mean!

I decided that our first pesto should be basil-based pesto and settled on Pesto di Noci (Walnut Pesto). I liked the idea of walnuts instead of pine nuts. Plus, we had walnuts in the pantry. This pesto also uses sun-dried tomatoes, which I love. Our changes to the recipe are that we replaced the garlic with some shallot from the CSA and instead of parmesan and pecorino, we used only parmesan.It was very tasty! I think that, after tossing the angel hair and pesto, we should have added a wee bit of the pasta water to make it a bit wetter because it seemed ever so slightly dry to me, but the taste of pasta and basil-walnut pesto was soooo good! I'm so glad I finally overcame my pesto resistance, even though it still looks unappealing to me. I can't wait to try some other pestos from Saveur - like the Pesto Calabrese (eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, & ricotta) or the Pesto Rosso (olives, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes & aleppo pepper). SP wants to try the Pepita & Cilantro pesto. So many pesto options! A whole new world has opened up!

Tomato Gratin with Asiago and Fresh Herbs
(Fine Cooking Magazine, August/September, 2011)
seen by me on
You Little Tart

extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium beefsteak tomatoes, (about 6 oz. each), sliced 1/4-inch thick
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Asiago cheese
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Lightly oil a 10x12-inch (or similar size) broiler-safe baking dish. Arrange the tomato slices in the baking dish in a single, slightly overlapping layer. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.

In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Asiago, parsley, thyme, 2 tsp. olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the tomatoes.

Broil until the breadcrumbs are a deep golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle with more olive oil and serve immediately.

Walnut Pesto
from Saveur Issue #140
makes about 1.5 cups

1 1/2 cups packed basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process basil, oil, walnuts, pecorino, parmesan, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.

1 comment:

  1. the tomato tart and now the pesto? i want to come eat at your house!