Tag Archives: tomatoes



Ah, fish stew. Not just fish stew but Italian-American fish stew (although there’s some mention that it may be Portugese in origin). It’s wonderul dish on a crisp October afternoon. Spicy and savory made exponentially better by a slice or two from a fresh baguette.

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups fish stock(although chicken stock can be used in its place)
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 4 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbl Tobasco Sauce
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, de-veined and peeled
  • 1 lb cod, diced into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 lb crab meat
  • 1/2 lb calamari
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops
  • 1 lb mussels

Grind three cloves of garlic and the jalapeno with a mortar and pestle into a paste. Place into a bowl and whisk in the egg yolk. Drizzle all but two tablespoons of the olive oil into the egg and whisk into an emulsification. Cover and place in the refrigerator until later.

Place the remaining olive oil into the bottom of a soup pot placed over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic as well as the onions, peppers, and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent and then add the anchovies, Using a spatula, grind the anchovies into a paste, mixing well into the onions and peppers. Add the saffron, and pepper to taste.

Pour in the red wine, fish stock, clam juice and diced tomatoes. Cover the soup pot, and allow to stew for 40-50 minutes. Add the tomato paste.

Remove a tablespoon or two of the stew and temper it into the egg/olive oil emulsion. Then, in turn, add the emulsion back to the stew and mix in well. Add the Worcestershire suace, tobasco and the red wine vinegar. Add the fish, crab, shrimp and calamari and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shell fish and lower the heat to medium low. Allow the stew to simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with bread and top with parsley and/or croutons.

Serves 6-8

Technorati Tags: Recipes, Fish Stew, Cioppino

Stuffed Tomatoes

Sometimes, I just gotta stuff something.

I know, I know, it sounds a little dirty, but I find stuffed foods to be a little more extravagent than your “steamed broccoli” or “sauteed spinach”. Everyone deserves a little extravagence in their lives.

After making this, both Tara and I determined that this would make a great side dish, probably served with a nice piece of prime rib.

  • 5 oz. dried wild mushrooms
  • 3 oz. rum
  • 6 oz. water
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red skin potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4fl oz double cream
  • 3/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • fresh oregano (garnish)

Place the mushrooms in a small bowl. Add the rum and water, allowing the mushrooms to reconstitute, approximately 1 hour.

After the one hour, rre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the top of the tomatoes. Spoon out the pulp inside and discard, leaving a shell.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet pan. Add the the potatoes and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, allowing them to to become slightly brown. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent.

Dice the mushrooms, and add them to the potato/onion melange. Stir in the vinegar, cream and a splash of water and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes to reduce. Add the breadcrumbs and cheese, and mix well. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Remove the stuffing from the heat and spoon the mixture into the tomatoes. Place in a glass baking dish, and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle a little balsamic over each tomato. Garnish with oregano and serve.

Serves 4

Technorati Tags: Recipe, Tomato, Stuffed Tomato

Why Tomatoes are Vegetables

May 10, 1893 was an odd day in Food History here in the United States. It was on that day that the legal case of Nix v. Hedden was decided, a case that helped legally, if not botanically, define what constitutes a “fruit” or a “vegetable” in the United States of America.

The case was brought about due to the Tariff act of 1883, which required that taxes were to be paid on imported vegetables, but not upon imported fruit. John Nix and various members of his family owned an import business, of which one of the products imported happened to be tomatoes brought in from the West Indies. After several years of paying taxes under chapter 121 of the tariif act of March 3, 1883 (imposing a duty on ‘vegetables in their natural state, or in salt or brine, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act, ten per centum ad valorem), the Nixes felt that the tomatoes were being improperly charged with tariffs, contending that the botanical fruit should be held under the act which stipulated that “Fruits, green, ripe, or dried, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act”.

The Nixes brought action against the tariff collector of the port of New York, one Edward L. Hedden, on February 4, 1887, then waited for their day in court.

Unfortunately for them, when their day in court arrived, evidence of definitions were brought in, not by botanists, but rather by dictionaries. The only witnesses called were sellers of produce, who were asked if the definitions supplied by the dictionaries were any different than the definitions used on the job. Their answer? No.

The passages cited from the dictionaries define the word ‘fruit’ as the seed of plaints, or that part of plaints which contains the seed, and especially the juicy, pulpy products of certain plants, covering and containing the seed. These definitions have no tendency to show that tomatoes are ‘fruit,’ as distinguished from ‘vegetables,’ in common speech, or within the meaning of the tariff act.

There being no evidence that the words ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetables’ have acquired any special meaning in trade or commerce, they must receive their ordinary meaning.

The “ordinary meaning” was the defined as food “served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”

Which means that legally, fruits that are commonly served as dinner items can be called vegetables, at least when it comes to trade and commerce. This is why you see these tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes and peppers all sold as vegetables, even though they are fruit.

Technorati Tags: food, food history, tomatoes

Orecchiette col Pomodoro e la Ricotta

Orecchiette col Pomodoro e la Ricotta

This is one of those classic Italian sauces that take almost no time to create. Easy to make and tasty, this could easily lend itself to one of those “last minute” dinners that look more complicated than they actually are.

If looking for which region of Italy this comes from, I’d look towards the Apulia region, also known as the heel of the boot. I’m going to be covering this region next, and I wanted to get a jump on the recipes.

Note: Chunks of pork or beef would be a great addition to this dish. But please make sure you trust the brand of pasta you purchase. I had gotten a new brand and it was marginal in taste and quality, which made this dish a little disappointing. This will be easily fixed with a better pasta.

  • 3/4 lb. Orecchiette
  • 14 1/2 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
  • 6 oz. ricotta
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Boil pasta, as described on the package.

Puree the diced tomatoes with either a food processor or hand mixer. Add it to a medium sauce pan that has been placed over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and mix well.

Cream the ricotta until it is smooth and add it into the tomato sauce, allowing the cheese to melt and combine with the tomatoes. Add the basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is ready, spoon it on a plate and top with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with additional basil, or ground pepper.

Serves 4

Technorati Tags: Recipes, pasta, Orecchiette, tomato sauce

You can’t let me into Safeway

(Again from Jack at www.ForkandBottle.com)

I was in Safeway yesterday (cub reporter, taking notes) and came across what I think is a new product: Weight Watchers Chocolate Cake w/Chocolate Icing. On the box it states in a good-sized pt font “Real Food, Real Life, Real Results.ˮ Reading the ingredients, #4 is: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (transfat). PHO! Just amazing, huh? No wonder the Weight Watchers website doesn’t list the ingredients of their own food products.

Oh, and let us not forget Newman’s Own “Virginˮ Lemonade. Apparently Virgin is Newman-ish for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), as it’s the first ingredient after water.

Walking through the Frozen Food aisle, I checked more than a half-dozen unfamiliar products at random. Every one had PHO in them. Except for the frozen vegetables, I wouldn’t have been surprised every single item in that aisle had some amount of transfat. You have to wonder if their buyer refuses to buy products that lack PHO? What other explanation can there be?

Not one cheese in their sizeable cheese section was something I would buy. I can’t recall the last time I found a cheese section that didn’t have even five that I would be happy to eat. This is just inexplicable to me – I guess industrial cheeses really rule the day at Safeway.

There was no milk from either of the main local suppliers, Clover Stornetta and the small one, Straus Family Creamery. I was quite surprised to see the Safeway in-house brand as the only milk you could buy.

Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas – I remember eating them long ago. A double: HFCS and PHO.

Nestea Ice Tea (half gallon carton): Tea is the fourth ingredient. Glad they put some in. HFCS is #2.

The cereal aisle is divided (labeled) into two parts: “Family Cerealˮ and “Adult Cerealˮ. The Adult part has only about 20 cereals, many of which you can find at Whole Foods, etc. The Family part has all of the HFCS/sugared cereals…are they saying that kids don’t get enough HFCS/sweeteners already? Apparently, too, “familiesˮ can’t live without having chocolate chips in their cereal.

There’s a sizable section for kids drinks that come in Tetra Paks near the checkout area. Every single one of them, from a bunch of different companies, contained HFCS as the second ingredient (water being the first). Just what are parents thinking giving this to their kids to drink?! And yes, kid-friendly beverages in Tetra Paks exist, but not here (…Whole Foods stocks them. So do our local independent supermarkets.).

And the funniest thing: It’s toward the end of Heirloom tomato season here. Still, there’s at least two food weeks to go. I found the heirloom section – 11 tomatoes really well hidden. (Yes, 11 – I’ve never even seen a farm stand with that few.) The funny part: They’re labeled “Emeril’sˮ brand – yes, that Emeril!

Baked Orzo with Tomatoes and Olives

Baked Orzo

This is a nice dish. The creaminess of the orzo goes amazingly well with the acidic nature of the tomato and the alkaline nature of the olive. It’s all about balance my friends.

Keep in mind this isn’t an exquisite recipe. It’d be one I’d serve my family on a Saturday afternoon while they’re in the living room watching DVD’s. Think of it along the lines of a baked ziti.

You will, however, dirty up some dishes. So get your lazy family away from the DVD’s long enough to have them clean up the kitchen.

  • 16 oz orzo pasta
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions (about 1/2 of a medium-large onion)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (5-6 stalks)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28oz can of whole plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb of sliced and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 lb of sliced provolone
  • 1/2 lb of diced mozzarella
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • Italian Parsley (for Garnish)

Make the orzo as recommended by the directions on the box or bag. When complete, pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in your largest skillet (or even a stock pot), heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and garlic, and cook until the onions just start to turn translucent. Add the pasta and fold in well.

Add the whole tomato and olives. Fold in well. Add 1/4 lb of the sliced provolone and 1/4 lb of the diced mozzarella. Mix in well. Spoon pasta mixture into 10″ by 15″ baking dish (a 4-qt dish if I recall correctly). Pour diced tomatoes over top of pasta and place remaining cheese on top of that. Dot with fresh basil sprigs. Place in oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to set for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 8-10

Tomatoes: Corporate Farming Victim?

If ever you want to see what happens to food when corporate entities take over its mass production for mass consumption, one need not look further than the red fruit that most people mistake for a vegetable.

Those in the food industry generally know that tomatoes are a questionable lot. What we’re purchasing now in the produce section of our (American) grocery stores is a far, far cry from the tomatoes of our youth. I can recall tomatoes sitting on our window-sills, green in color. We waited patiently over the course of one to three days until my mother deemed them ripe. And then we’d make sauce, or have tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, or simply sliced them up and eat them with a spoonful of sugar on top.

I remember my neighbor, Mr. Ghiaccartti, paying me in tomatoes from his garden for the simple task of walking his dog.

These tomatoes had taste. It didn’t matter if they were perfectly round, or carried an almost cartoonish red color. They were fresh, they were sometimes ugly, they were sometimes yellow or orange, and they were far better than the stuff that we’re forced to swallow today.

So what went wrong?

It seems that I wasn’t the only one who liked tomatoes. There was a huge demand for the fruit, not only in season, but in off season as well. So the corporate farms and scientists looked for ways to make the tomato available year round. Ethylene ripening certainly played a part. Commercial food growers, immediately after picking, stack the tomatoes on pallets in a large room, and for the next three days, ethylene is piped in. The ethylene triggers the creation of enzymes, which break down cell walls and turn starches into sugar. The tomatoes begin softening and turning red. The problem with all for this is that unripe tomatoes are often structurally unstable internally. When one cuts into a tomato and all the viscous juice falls out, this viscous juice was taste potential – parts of the tomato that, if left on the vine, would have become solid and added more sugar to the fruit.

Other problems?

- Growers pick tomatoes, not based on taste, but on structural stability during packing and shipping. And often those tomatoes which ship easier, don’t have the same taste as those which bruise easily.

- They are packed chilled, often below 55 degrees F. A tomato produces a flavor enzyme as it ripens. As soon as the temperature goes below 55 degrees, the enzyme stops producing flavor — permanently. And yet tomatoes are often shipped at 37 degrees.

So what the major problem with tomatoes is that they are picked, packaged and shipped before the tomato has been given the opportunity to reach it’s full taste potential.

Think this isn’t a problem? Consider the fact that in an episode of “Good Eats”, Alton Brown recommended using canned tomatoes when making tomato sauce. Why? Because the tomatoes picked for canning *have* been allowed to reach their full taste potential.

How silly has this looks vs taste argument gotten? Procacci, Gargiulo, Santa Sweets have combined to develop what they call an “UglyRipe”â„¢ tomato. This tomato is open-pollinated and has been preserved and kept true to its purest form. They’re not hybrid tomatoes which are grown for commercial purposes ( which tend to lose both flavor and color after several generations of breeding).

From all reports, the tomatoes taste marvelous. And over the past few years, it has been exempt from various Florida Marketing rules as they were an experimental crop (They are grown in Florida). But then the committee cracked down. Two winters ago, the Florida Tomato Committee ordered UglyRipe to comply with their rules, forcing the Uglyripe producers to discard 40,000 pounds a day. The reason the Florida Tomato Committee demanded that they stop producing these tomatoes?

The Uglyripe tomatoes are too ugly.

The Florida Tomato Committee panel made up of major growers in the state’s $500 million tomato industry, ruled that the UglyRipe could not be sold outside Florida because it did not meet the standards of perfection the marketing rule required.

And this is where we are today. We have arrived to a point where a tomato has been created with taste in mind, can be quelled by an over zealous marketing board. All evidence indicates that the marketplace would have supported this tomato, but because it didn’t look perfect, its future is in doubt. Do we really want to have a marketplace where regulatory agencies discourage innovation in taste?

Many thanks to Metafilter for the inspiration for this post.