Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Local produce is still in full swing, and I couldn’t resist sampling another recipe with the Growing Garden’s organic tomatoes and bunched basil.

I chose to make tomatoes the focus this month for another reason as well – September marked the launch of a farm-to-school program in Whatcom County schools.  The idea is to feature one locally/Washington grown produce item at participating schools each month so there is a greater connection between local schools and farmers.  September is tomato month in the Northwest, so it was the obvious choice (next month is broccoli/cauliflower month).

While looking for recipes, I learned something new: bruschetta actually only refers to the bread once it has been toasted and rubbed with olive oil and raw garlic.  I always assumed it referred to the whole kit and caboodle!  Regardless, it is a popular antipasti (or appetizer) in Italy and is very easy to make.

In addition to the Growing Garden’s tomatoes and basil, I also used the locally produced BIJA Greek extra virgin olive oil.  For the bruschetta, I wanted to have a couple of options, so I used the local Breadfarm hoagies and Against the Grain Gourmet’s gluten-free baguette (which is my current gf obsession!).  My husband suggested the hoagies, which worked out really well and I definitely recommend giving them a try.  I must say, it was like flies being drawn to honey once I had the samples ready – they were gone before I knew it.  Usually only demos involving chocolate go that fast!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, made with local ingredients © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large Roma tomatoes or 5-6 in-season  tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil, + more for brushing bread
  • 2 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T freshly chopped basil, about 10-12 leaves
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t fresh cracked pepper
  • Baguette, cut into 1/2”-1” slices (Gluten-free – can use Against the Grain Gourmet baguette or the Olivia baguette, which is made in Seattle)
  • Grated Parmesan Reggiano

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whisk the chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and basil in a large bowl.
  2. Add the oil in a slow drizzle and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the tomatoes and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the bread: put sliced bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Brush them lightly on one side with more olive oil.  Put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, but watch them closely to make sure that they don’t burn!
  5. Take the bread out of the oven and rub one side of each piece with a clove of garlic.
  6. Top the bruschetta with the tomato basil mixture (drain any juice that accumulated).
  7. To serve warm, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, top with a little Parmesan, and broil until the cheese melts.  To serve room temperature, top with Parmesan and serve!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta PDF

Gazpacho (made with all local ingredients!)

For this week’s recipe, I wanted to try to make something that used as many local products as possible. Another major part of my criteria was to make something that required little (or no) time to cook because it is decidedly summer in the Northwest right now (better late than never!).

There is so much local produce available right now – I toured the Produce department and found no less than 35 different items that were grown (and brought to us farmer direct) from Whatcom County farms.; I settled on creating a recipe for Gazpacho – a chilled vegetable soup that originates in Spain. There is no cooking involved and it is quick and easy. I’ve never made it before, but that didn’t stop me!

I started with gorgeous organic tomatoes, an organic English cucumber, and organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham (grown by our own long-time Board member Brent Harrison).; Organic red garlic came from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson.; I rounded it out with some extra virgin olive oil (pesticide-free) from Bija that is bottled in Lynden and Bellewood Acres apple cider vinegar, also made in Lynden from local apples. A little Himalayan pink sea salt from Salt Works in Woodenville (the farthest away of my ingredients – they process the salt in-state). I did put some ground black pepper in the soup as well, which isn’t local, but I won’t tell if you don’t!

Tomatoes are in season right now, so while I did peel them, I didn’t bother de-seeding them – the seeds in fresh in-season tomatoes are generally soft and not as bitter as off-season tomatoes.; Other than that, you basically chop your ingredients up, throw them in the food processor, and let them chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. The longer you can let it chill, the more complex the flavor becomes.  Fumar con fruición!

Gazpacho in a cucumber cup © Sassy Sampler 2011

Gazpacho

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled and rough cut
  • 1 large English cucumber
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 large leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (Bellewood Acres)
  • 1-2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (BIJA)
  • 1/2 t sea salt (SaltWorks)
  • Black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add your cucumber to food processor and process until only a few small pieces remain.Pour cucumber purée into a large bowl.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the food processor and process until only a few chunks remain. Add to cucumber purée and stir to combine.
  3. Add the minced garlic and about 4 leaves of chopped basil to the purée. Add sea salt.
  4. Add olive oil and cider vinegar. Add pepper to taste and mix well.
  5. Cover bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavors will have combined.
  6. Serve ice-cold with a sliced and toasted baguette (Against the Grain Gourmet makes a great GF baguette). Garnish with more chopped basil before serving.

If the tomatoes you are using are out of season, you may want to remove the seeds either before you purée the tomatoes, or strain the tomato purée after processing. If they are in season, chances are you won’t have to take this step.

All ingredients in this recipe were either grown or processed locally (in Whatcom County or WA State, in-season), with the exception of the black pepper.

Gazpacho PDF

Agua Fresca

I love talking food with my friend Michael M. at the Co-op – he is also an avid cook and is really good about making all kinds of things from scratch, including his own tortillas and refried beans (which I will be trying myself very soon).  Late last week he was telling me about how he makes Agua Fresca – a refreshing drink that is common in Mexico and Central America.  It is essentially a fruit, grain, and/or flower flavored beverage that is great on a hot (or warm, in our case) summer day.

Yummy local veggies!

The forecast predicted warmer temperatures and sunny skies for this weekend, and I thought that Agua Fresca sounded like a great recipe to demo.  We have so much delicious Washington grown fruit right now to choose from that the biggest decision was deciding what flavors to make!  With Michael’s sage advice, I decided on a couple different ones – watermelon, donut (or Saturn) peach and lime for the first and cantaloupe, cucumber, basil and lime for the second – and all ingredients except the lime were grown in-state.

Agua Fresca is extremely easy to make – simply peel and rough cut your chosen ingredients and throw them in the blender.  Once they are puréed, you strain it through either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, add it back to the blender with a little sugar, and then into your pitcher with some water.  Once it is chilled (very important – it is best when served ice-cold) you are good to go – one sip and you feel like you should be sitting on a beach with a good book – you can almost hear the waves crashing in the background!

You can use any soft fruit (or vegetable) for this recipe, and you are only limited by your imagination.  This is a great way to use overripe fruit, as it will purée that much easier!  I’ve included the recipes for the two versions I made to sample for customers (who loved it – kids especially), but don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Agua Fresca photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Agua Fresca

Recipe courtesy of Michael Marques

INGREDIENTS

Watermelon/Peach

  • 1 “personal” watermelon, chopped
  • 3 donut peaches or 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

Cucumber/Cantaloupe

  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cantaloupe, seeded and chopped
  • 3-6 large leaves of basil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare your fruit/herbs/vegetables.
  2. Add fruit/herbs/vegetables to blender and purée.
  3. Strain purée through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher.  Get as much of the juice from the pulp as possible; discard pulp.
  4. Strain again, but back into the blender this time.  Add sugar, starting with 2T and blend until combined.  Taste mixture to see if you want to add more sugar.
  5. Pour mixture back into your pitcher.  Add enough water to fill container and mix.
  6. Chill completely and serve icy cold, preferably with crushed ice.

* you can use just about any sweetener – if you choose to use a liquid one like honey or agave syrup, then you should dissolve it in a little bit of hot water before mixing it into the purée.

Can’t you see the beach?

Agua Fresca translates literally as “fresh water”.  It is served all over Mexico and it very simple to recreate at home.  It is hard to mess up—you can add as much water as you like to make it thinner or thicker, depending on your personal tastes.  Comer con gusto!

Agua Fresca PDF


Two kinds of Pesto – tastes like summer!

The sun is finally showing its face around these parts, and that means our first delivery of organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham has come in.  We also currently have local lettuce (including butter/bibb lettuce – my favorite), arugula, mustard greens, salad mix, baby spinach, shiitake, shallots, chives and Italian parsley from a variety of farms in Whatcom County.  It was the basil that caught my eye though, and I knew pesto was just a few steps away.

I wanted to make a traditional pesto, but because we have so many other local greens right now, I thought I would also look for a pesto recipe that didn’t use basil.  I ran across a spinach pesto on Yummly (a great recipe site if you haven’t checked it out, especially if you have food allergies/sensitivities) and felt I had found a winner.

For the traditional pesto, I used the local basil (2 bunches), Nova Oliva Premium extra virgin olive oil (it’s on sale right now and is one of my favorite olive oils), Earth House Foods Organic pine nuts, organic white garlic, and a blend of Italian cow and sheep Parmesan and Romano cheese.  European pine nuts are a little hard to find right now for a couple reported reasons (the strength of the Euro makes them super expensive and blight/deforestation of wild pines has decreased the yield), and the ones we have at the Co-op are from China (read here for an idea of the issue with Asian pine nuts).  I decided to risk it, since the pine nuts we carry at the Co-op are certified organic by WA state and I really wanted to make a pine nut pesto!   It turned out delicious and my taste buds rejoiced.

For the spinach pesto, I used local baby spinach, local chives, and roasted local hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards in Lynden.  A little of the Nova Oliva olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic rounded out the recipe.  The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to make this a vegan pesto, so I omitted it and I have to say that nobody missed it from the recipe – it still turned out creamy, thanks to the olive oil and hazelnuts.  People really liked the spinach pesto – I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It is a little unexpected, but the flavors really work well together.

I chose to sample the pestos with some delicious crackers – Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition whole food artisan crackers made in Blaine, WA, which is located in northern Whatcom County right by the Canadian border.  They are made out of vegetables, seeds, herbs and spices and they are naturally gluten, corn, soy, dairy, egg and nut free, so just about anyone can enjoy them.  They are not available nationally, but they are a relatively young company and I’m sure that won’t be the case for long!  These are pretty amazing crackers from a pretty amazing company who we always love to work with at the Co-op (and customers love them too!).

Pesto Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011 Served with Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition Crackers – Spicy El Paso, Garden Pesto, and Zesty Tomato

Traditional Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups blanched basil (packed)
  • 1/2 c toasted pine nuts*
  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4—1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Blanch basil and toast pine nuts.
  2. Put basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Slowly add oil through the feed tube until your paste reaches desired consistency.

Blanching your basil first (dunking the leaves in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then plunging them in icy water) keeps your pesto from turning brown as the basil oxidizes.  It does not affect the flavor of the basil.

Spinach-Chive Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 2 c baby spinach
  • 1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 oz fresh chives (chopped, about 1 1/2 c)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Process until finely chopped, scraping sides as necessary.

For a vegan version of either recipe, just omit the Parmesan cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano (from Italy) is highly recommended for either of these recipes.  You can find this imported cheese in our specialty cheese section at the Co-op.  The rinds can be kept in the freezer and added to soups for extra richness.

*You can substitute almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts for the pine nuts.

Basil Pesto and Spinach-Chive Pesto PDF

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Mmmmm…roasted veggies. Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Even though we haven’t had the sunniest summer (compared to the beauty that was last summer, at least), there has been a great tomato crop this year from the Growing Garden (among other things!).  I wanted to feature one last recipe with these beautiful fruits that masquerade as veggies.

I read a few other blogs on a sporadic basis, and while looking for a recipe for this week I looked back into the August archive on Meals by Sheri (another WordPress blogger from MI) and found what I was looking for – an easy recipe that could feature a bounty of local produce.

Sheri’s Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce recipe called for Roma tomatoes, but I wanted to use the slicers from the Growing Garden.  I looked online to see if I should seed them or not – little did I know that this is apparently an age-old debate!  Half said to seed, the other half said not – I decided that since the tomatoes were truly vine-ripened and in season, I would risk not seeding them before preparing the sauce.  It was a fine decision – the seeds were so little and tender that they were not noticeable.   If you use Romas, you also don’t need to seed your tomatoes, but if you are preparing this recipe in the off-season and/or with “vine-ripe” tomatoes (which aren’t always ripened on the plant – sure, the vine is attached, but the vine’s not attached to the plant so it’s not exactly the same thing) you will want to seed them.

I was able to use all local, organic ingredients (with the exception of the green and red bell peppers – even in a good year we don’t see those grown locally for retail).  I stuck with Sheri’s original recommendations for the recipe, so I chopped up the tomatoes, (fresh) red onion, peppers, garlic, and carrots and threw them in my baking dish.  A drizzle of olive oil and dashes of Himalayan pink sea salt (in bulk at the co-op) and black pepper and I was done.

I’ll take a moment here to talk about salt – salt gets a bad rap, and I feel it does matter what kind of salt you choose to consume.  Regular table salt is depleted of its natural nutrients and isn’t a benefit to your diet.  Sea salt is much better because it isn’t as processed and is rich in minerals and nutrients, depending on what kind you get (Himalayan pink sea salt has over 80 nutrients in it and is very minimally processed).  That doesn’t give you license to dump piles of salt on your food, but it does mean that in moderation, salt (which your body needs to survive) can be beneficial.  One other salt note – it is far better to add salt to your dishes while you are cooking than to salt the food at the table (no matter what kind of salt you use).  When you cook with salt, your body treats it differently than in its raw form, and you probably won’t use as much either!

Anyway, I put my prepared veggies in the oven and roasted them for about an hour and 20 minutes.  Once they were done, I let them cool for about 20 minutes, since the next step entailed pureeing the veggies.  You never want to put piping hot food in a blender or food processor because you’ll get a shower of boiling hot veggies in the face!  Once I felt it was cool enough, I dumped it in the food processor and puréed it until it was slightly chunky (I added fresh basil at this point).  Once that was good, I poured it into a medium saucepan (I had about 4 cups) and added some dried oregano and a little more sea salt.  Once it was heated through, I took it off and let it sit overnight in the fridge  – I don’t know why, but tomato sauces tend to be better the next day.

Demo day dawned and I cut a fresh Avenue Bakery baguette to serve with the sauce (no GF bread option, but the sauce was good enough to sample without bread anyway!).  Customers absolutely LOVED the recipe and many people said that they would be promptly preparing the recipe themselves!  I’m pretty sure that it was my husband’s favorite recipe demo I have done because he came back to “try” some more many times and hinted that if I had any leftovers to be sure to bring them home to him!

So here is the fantastically easy and deliciously delicious pasta sauce recipe from Sheri!

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 or 6 large tomatoes, halved *
  • 1 medium-large red onion, peeled and cut into large, even chunks
  • 2 green peppers (or one red and one green), seeded and cut into large chunks
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3/4” chunks (cut in half lengthwise if they are thick carrots)
  • 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1 –2 T fresh basil, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Place all your prepared veggies and garlic into a large jelly roll pan.
  3. Pour olive oil over veggies and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss to coat (with your hands, your best kitchen tool!).  Turn tomatoes cut side up.
  5. Roast in oven  for about an hour, until veggies are soft , lightly browned, and the edges on the tomatoes have shrunken slightly in.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  7. Add veggies and fresh basil to food processor and pulse until you have a chunky sauce.  Add a bit more olive oil if desired.  The sauce should be thick, not watery.
  8. Add sauce to a medium saucepan.  Simmer on low.  Add basil and oregano, and more salt and pepper if desired.  Heat sauce until warmed.
  9. Serve over your favorite pasta, or refrigerate and re-heat the next day.

Additions:  mushrooms, hot peppers, cheese, zucchini, etc.  Sauté veggies on the stove while your other veggies are roasting.  Add them to the saucepan after pureeing the sauce.

Serve with subtle garlic bread—Slice bread and brush with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and toast in a 350° oven for about 5-8 minutes.  Turn bread slices over and finish toasting (another 5-8 minutes).  Just out of the oven, rub surface of bread with a peeled garlic clove.

You can freeze any excess sauce—make it easy for next time and pre-portion it before freezing!

* If you are using in-season tomatoes, there is no need to seed and peel them.  If you are using tomatoes in the off-season, you may want to seed them before roasting.   If you use Romas, there is no need to de-seed.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce PDF

September Meal of the Month – Low-fat Lentil and Rice Soup

A new month means a new Meal of the Month recipe from our Member Affairs Committee (MAC)!  This month the recipe was contributed by Co-op member Nancy Steele – a tasty, naturally low-fat soup with fresh shiitakes, onions, lentils, and long-grain brown rice.

Tis the season – I was able to use local shiitakes, local criminis, local basil, WA yellow onions, and local garlic in my soup.  This recipe also has some pasta sauce in it, which I thought was an inventive use.  Nancy recommends using Classico Tomato and Pesto sauce, but I think if you already have some in your fridge, whatever you have will work.  I used Rising Moon Tomato/Basil pasta sauce (because we don’t carry the Classico brand at our stores anymore) and it turned out real nice, and was vegan to boot!

Soups are great because you can always add to them over the week (especially with a recipe this large).  Everyone who tried the soup really liked it, and some additions were suggested by customers, including adding lamb meatballs, sausage, vegetarian sausage, tofu, and  hot peppers.  Any of these would be great, and would change the flavor profile enough so you wouldn’t get tired of the leftovers!

Enjoy!

Low-fat Lentil and Rice Soup Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

September Meal of the Month

Low-Fat Lentil & Rice Soup


INGREDIENTS

1 –2 T Extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

Salt and pepper

3 –4 large garlic cloves, minced or chopped

1/2 lb shiitake (or crimini) mushrooms, sliced

Large handful of fresh basil, chopped

1 t dried oregano

1/4 t hot red chili flakes (or more to taste)

1 T ground cumin

2 t curry powder

1 1/2 c organic lentils

1 c long grain brown rice, rinsed

10 c water

1/2—1 c Pasta Sauce (Tomato Pesto/Basil)

1/3 c red wine

2 t sugar

2 T brown rice syrup

1 T brown rice vinegar

1 bay leaf

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In large stockpot, sauté chopped onion in olive oil over medium-low heat until the onion becomes opaque.

2. Add  garlic, shiitakes, and basil.

3. Sauté for several minutes, then add oregano, salt/pepper (to taste), chili flakes, cumin, and curry powder.  Stir well.

4. Turn heat up to medium and stir in lentils.  Continue stirring for 5 minutes, making sure lentils are well coated with the oil/herb/spice mixture.

5. Carefully add (uncooked) brown rice and stir until combined.

6. Stir in water, pasta sauce, red wine, sugar, brown rice syrup, rice vinegar and the bay leaf.

7. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover, simmering for at least 40 minutes, or until rice and lentils are tender.

8. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Note:  The longer this soup cooks, the better it will taste!

LF Lentil and Rice Soup PDF

Soups that have spices in them will be even further enhanced if made the day before and reheated, although you may need to add more water if the rice and lentils have absorbed  most of the water.

Serve with Rosemary bread, naan bread, or the Swan Bakery’s GF Herb Rolls

Nancy Steele © 1996

One note – this may be our last Meal of the Month recipe.  The program has run for a year now, and is currently being reassessed by the MAC.  It may return in November as a slightly different, or possibly a completely different program.  If you have feedback you would like the MAC to have on the program, please forward it to Jean Rogers, the Co-op’s Board Administrator at jeanr@communityfood.coop.  She can tell you when the next meeting is, or forward your comments/suggestion to the MAC!