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

Advertisements

Watermelon Tomato Salad – say what?

That’s right, you read that correctly!  I made a huge batch of Watermelon Tomato Salad (Tomelon Salad?) and it wasn’t even a Friday the 13th punk!

I knew the weather was going to be warm today, and since we have such glorious local produce, I knew a refreshing salad would be the ticket.  I know what you’re thinking – how could watermelon and tomato (with green onions no less!) be combined into anything that anyone would want to eat?  I found the “recipe” in this month’s Bon Appétit magazine and had to try it.  I figured that since it was Bon Appétit that it had to be good, right?

Everyone who approached my sample station today was skeptical (well, except for the one customer who got all excited when he saw what I was sampling – he said his mom used to make a salad like this), and it was really fun to see their looks of wonder once they had tasted this unique concoction.  A coworker even told me that he doesn’t like watermelon OR tomatoes, yet was pleasantly surprised that he liked this salad.

Here is the recipe – I think it would be riot to take to a potluck with no explanation (it is technically a fruit salad after all, and it does taste great!).  It got a big thumbs up from the more than 40 people who sampled it, so take a chance!  I used local organic tomatoes from The Growing Garden, local organic green onions, seedless watermelon from Oregon, and goat feta cheese (which is a little milder).

Watermelon Tomato Salad Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Watermelon Tomato Salad

INGREDIENTS

2 c Watermelon

2 c Tomatoes

~ 1/4 c  green onions

1 T Lemon juice

2 T Extra-virgin olive oil

Feta cheese (to taste)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

1. Cut (seeded) watermelon and tomatoes into equal sized chunks until you have 2 cups of each.

2. Finely chop green onions until you have about a ¼ c.

3. Gently toss the watermelon, tomatoes, and green onions together in a bowl.

4. Refrigerate salad until you are ready to eat (chill at least a ½ hour or so).

5. Measure olive oil in a measuring cup and whisk in the fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Gently mix into the salad.

6. Sprinkle feta cheese on top (either on top of each serving or over the whole dish).

7. Enjoy!

Leftover watermelon?  Make some easy watermelon ice pops!  Simply fill your blender with chunks of watermelon (there is no need to remove the seeds).  Puree the fruit then pour it through a sieve, discarding the solids.  Add fresh lemon juice and sugar to taste, and then freeze them in molds.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad PDF

Homemade Mozzarella..sometimes you win, sometimes you gain experience!to

Almost every Spring I read Barbara Kingslover’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  If you are unfamiliar with the book, Barbara and her family decided to eat locally and seasonally for one full year by growing their own vegetables and fruits, preserving, freezing, and utilizing their local resources. The only things they made exceptions for were olive oil, spices, and the fact that the wheat for their flour was not grown in their county (but it was milled there!).  I love to read it because it is so inspiring, and it has some great seasonal recipes.  Both her oldest daughter and husband also wrote for the book: Camille provided the recipes and related commentary, and Steven supplied background information on various food issues.  I have always wanted to try making cheese, and the mozzarella recipe they offer (from Ricki Carroll of Home Cheese Making) seemed really simple for a cheese novice!

I decided that for my recipe demo this week I would try my hand at their 30-Minutes Mozzarella recipe.  I have never made cheese before, and this seemed like a good place to start.  I have talked to a couple of shoppers who make mozzarella regularly, and they also said how simple it was.  I figured I was up to the challenge.

I armed myself with the recipe, and got to shopping.  We only carry one kind of rennet, and we have citric acid in bulk, so those were no-brainers.  I waffled back and forth between which local milk to use (isn’t it great that we have a choice!), and settled on the Fresh Breeze Organic 2%, mostly because it is the organic option and I always try to go that route.

After citric acid addition.

After I had made what turned out to be my first batch, I couldn’t figure out why the milk was not curdling like it was supposed to.  I assumed it had something to do with the temperature of the milk when I added the citric acid (the recipe indicated to add it at 55 degrees, and it heated up a lot faster than I thought it would and I ended up adding it at 66 degrees), so I went and bought another gallon and tried it again.

Testing for a clean break.

The same thing happened!  I got online and started to look and see which of my ingredients was the culprit, because I had followed the recipe to a tee this time.  I finally figured out that the Junket rennet was the issue – the recipe called for liquid rennet, and we only carry the Junket tablets at the Co-op, so that is what I used.  I did do a little sleuthing before starting and found many recipes that used tablets that were very similar to the recipe I was using, so I figured I was all good.  I wasn’t all good.  Apparently when you use the Junket, you have to let the milk sit for 1-2 hours to form a “clean break“, which coincidentally was turning my 30 minute cheese into four-hour cheese!

I realized that I shouldn’t sample the cheese at this point because it was taking way too long and I wasn’t satisfied with the rennet that was available to me (I will be looking into the Co-op carrying a more-cheese making friendly rennet option!), but I was still going to finish the cheese!

Oh my curd!

After achieving what I supposed was a close-enough clean break, I continued with the process.  I spooned out the curd with a slotted spoon, but that proved to be very time-consuming as well, so I got a very fine metal colander and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the pot into it.  The above photo is what I was left with.  I know that I lost a decent amount of usable curd by doing it this way, but I just had to finish what I started and figured that as long as I had some cheese to try at the end, I didn’t care how much I lost!

After the microwave portion was finished, this is what I had!

After collecting my curd, I dumped it into a glass dish and stuck it in the microwave for one minute.  I squeezed and kneaded the curd briefly and poured out the whey that was extracted, then microwaved it again for about 25 more seconds.  By this time, I knew I was actually going to get some cheese out my experiment, so I was getting excited!

Cheese!

At this point I needed to add some salt and stretch the cheese until it was like taffy (shiny, smooth, and rope-like).  This happened very quickly.  All of a sudden I had cheese!  I had about the amount you would buy pre-made in the specialty cheese section, but doggone it, I had made this all by myself and was pretty happy (so happy I forgot to take a photo of the little mozza balls I formed with the finished product!).

If you are adventurous, I do recommend trying this recipe (although I hate to say this, but try to find some liquid rennet to use unless you have some time on your hands!  Like I said earlier, I’ll see what I can do to get some cheese-making rennet on the shelves at the Co-op!).  I’m definitely not going to give up myself – once I master this, I really would love to try my hand at making some cheddar!

Fresh Mozzarella PDF

FYI – I’m still working on a GF chocolate butter cake recipe…once I’m happy I’ll let everyone know!

Bocconcini (Mozzarella) and Tomato Salad Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Also, here is the recipe that I ended up demoing yesterday (with fresh mozzarella from the specialty cheese case!).  It is a super simple recipe that people loved sampling (I asked one young shopper what she thought, and she said it was delicious and promptly brought her father and brother over to try it!).  Enjoy! Bocconcini and Tomato Salad PDF