Green Bean and Tomato Salad; Eat Local Month

September 1st was the kick-off for Sustainable Connections annual Eat Local Month.  The first event was a BBQ featuring local grass-fed beef burgers from Matheson Farm and locally grown portabella mushroom burgers, held at the Downtown Co-op and we have another BBQ scheduled for tomorrow at the Cordata Co-op from 11am-2pm featuring both vegetarian and beef kabobs.   There will also be live music from Kuungana marimba band and lots of other delicious local food.  There are many other events scheduled this month, including the annual Whatcom Harvest Dinner, held this year at Bellewood Acres farm and store.  Check out Sustainable Connections website for more information on upcoming Eat Local events happening this month.

Mama Jay and some happy customers

Me at my demo station inside the Cordata Co-op

Today at the Cordata Co-op, KAFE 104.1 came to promote Eat Local Month.  We asked local BBQ sauce guru Mama Jay to come to sample her delicious sauce with local pork, and we featured a local lunch special (a meatball sandwich with Breadfarm hoagies and Matheson Farm beef, plus an Italian-style coleslaw made with local ingredients).  A few of us gave interviews to be aired as part of the promotion, and in honor of the festivities I decided to make a salad using as much local produce as possible.  It didn’t turn out to be too hard, since we have over 50 local produce items in stock right now!  I settled on Green Bean and Tomato salad, a recipe I found on Epicurious via Yummly.

Scotty from KAFE 104.1 and me, hamming it up for the camera.

The salad came out fresh and delicious – I used organic green beans from Moondance Farm, organic cherry tomatoes from Spring Frog Farm, organic slicing tomatoes and organic Italian parsley from the Growing Garden, and organic hard necked white garlic from Rabbit Fields Farm.  It’s pretty simple to make – just blanch the green beans (and plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking process), chop your tomatoes, mix up the herb dressing and toss.  Everyone who sampled the salad really loved it, even a couple picky kids.  The green beans stay crisp and the two kinds of tomatoes lend to the overall flavor.  I don’t usually put oregano in my balsamic dressings, but this tasted great so I will remember it in the future.  Enjoy!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

Serves 8; adapted from http://www.epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 # green beans, snapped (or cut) into 2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 c tomato, chopped and seeded
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1/4 c Italian parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the green beans  until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. Drain beans, and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Drain again, and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes to the bowl.
  4. In a measuring cup, mix the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and oregano.
  5. Pour dressing over salad and mix.  Add the cherry tomatoes and parsley as garnish.  Season with salt and pepper.

Green Bean and Tomato Salad 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

Pico de Gallo

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, this week I wanted to prepare a Mexican recipe. Even though you wouldn’t know it was May by looking outside in Whatcom County, everyone is craving a bit of freshness that this month usually brings – anything that might trick our brains into thinking that we might eventually see two full days of sunshine in a row! I know that I am already waiting eagerly for more local produce to start arriving, so I chose a recipe that is fresh and tastes like warm weather – Pico do Gallo.

Pico de Gallo is a common condiment in Mexico. It is commonly a tomato/onion base but can also be a fruit salad tossed with chili powder (in parts of Mexico where this is common, the tomato/onion version is referred to as salsa picada). It is a dry salsa, so it can be used in many different ways without creating sogginess. I’ll focus on the tomato version – where it gets its name from is slightly disputed according to Wikipedia, but translated it means “rooster’s beak”, and is thought to be called that because it was “originally eaten with the thumb and forefinger, and retrieving and eating the condiment resembled the actions of a pecking rooster”. While you can certainly eat it that way, you can also use it in tacos, as a chip dip, in fajitas, and even sandwiches.

Pico de Gallo is a really pretty condiment – the red from the tomatoes, white from the onion, and green from the jalapeño and cilantro conjure images of the Mexican flag.The lime gives it a sunny citrus-y aroma to complete the palette pleasantry. I used hot-house tomatoes grown in British Columbia and an organic red onion grown in Washington, but a couple of my ingredients fittingly came from Mexico – an organic jalapeño and an organic lime. Round that out with some organic California cilantro and you’ve got sunshine in a bowl!

To make this salsa “dry”, you have to seed the tomatoes. This is easily done by cutting the tomato in half and then using a spoon to scoop out the seeds into a bowl, letting the juice run out as well. After preparing my tomatoes, I dry roasted the jalapeño whole in a low-sided skillet over medium-high heat until the seeds started popping, to give it extra flavor. If you have never done this before, it can be a little startling when the seeds pop because the pepper will jump in the pan. Be sure you turn it often when you are cooking it so it doesn’t burn. This should only take a few minutes.  Once the skin starts to wrinkle and you don’t hear so many “pops” from the seeds, take it off the heat and tent some foil over it while you cut up the rest of your ingredients.

Once I had the lime juice squeezed and the onion and the cilantro diced, I added them to the bowl with my diced tomatoes and added a little salt. When the pepper was cooled, I cut it in half and seeded it, then chopped that up and into the bowl it went (don’t rinse the pepper to get the seeds out, otherwise it will lose some of the oils you released when it was cooked). It went into the fridge to chill for an hour or so and it was good to go (although this isn’t necessary). Pico de Gallo is best when consumed the day it is made, although you can eat it the next day – keep it in the fridge and drain out any liquid that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl before serving for the best results.

¡provecho!

Pico de Gallo

adapted from www.mexicanfoodrecipes.org and Wikipedia

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c finely minced cilantro
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño
  • ~ 1 t sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat a skillet (cast iron works best) over medium-high heat and toast the whole jalapeño, turning it often until you hear the seeds start to pop and it is slightly wrinkled.
  2. Tent jalapeno with foil and allow to cool.
  3. Once pepper is cool enough, remove the stem and seeds and finely dice.
  4. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding jalapeño to taste—the pan roasting will intensify the flavor of the jalapeño, so add about half of it at first and taste it before adding more.
  5. Serve with corn chips, tacos, nachos, black beans, fajitas, etc.

You can add other ingredients to traditional Pico de Gallo, like minced garlic, minced roasted peppers (either Bell or hot peppers), cucumber, hard fruit like mango, jicama, or radish for a slightly different flavor profile.

Pico De Gallo 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