Archive for the ‘tomato’ Category

Green Board: Corn, Black Beans, and Tomatoes

23 March 2011

Sound simple? It is … but so good, especially with good tomatoes and sweet corn. The sherry vinegar adds some complexity, too.

Corn, Black Beans, and Tomatoes

Corn, Black Beans, and Tomatoes

  • the kernels from 2 ears of sweet corn (use frozen if you are desparate)
  • 1 can (~14 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 medium sized roma or heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped, peeled if you prefer
  • sherry vinegar to taste (at least 3 T)
  • ~3 T butter
  • sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh thyme for garnish
  1. Fill the can the beans came in half full with water. Add this, plus the black beans and sherry vinegar, to a small stock pot or pan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the water and vinegar is nearly absorbed and the beans are hot.
  2. In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally. Season with pepper.
  3. When the corn begins to caramelize, take the pan off the heat until the beans are ready. Add the beans to the corn and return to the heat. Add the tomatoes.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring as needed, until the tomatoes are heated through. Taste and season with salt or additional pepper, if needed.
  5. Plate, garnish with the thyme, and serve.

We promised lobster this week, and we will still deliver. Stay tuned.

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Italian Wontons (Part Two)

21 January 2011

OK, you’ve got your basics: red sauce and a not-incredibly-steaming-hot roasted butternut squash. Let’s get on to the business of how to take these fundamentals, add wonton skins, and turn them into something special.

Italian Wontons

To get you motivated, the end result should look something like the picture to the right … poached roasted butternut squash wontons in marinara sauce sprinkled with basil.

Note that these are not quite dumplings, and not quite pasta, but somewhere in between. The wonton skins should make these little packages light and pleasant, like the red sauce, rather than heavy like you would have with a rustic homemade ravioli in bolognese. Oh yeah, did I mention this is a vegetarian dish?

First things first, you are going to need to collect the following ingredients:

  • your red sauce (see part one)
  • your squash (see part one)
  • a nice stack of wonton skins … thaw them in the fridge or carefully in the microwave
  • Chinese Five Spice powder and some Sweet Paprika (we like smoked paprika from Hungary), you’ll need about a teaspoon of each
  • fresh thyme … you want to strip the leaves and finely mince them … you’ll need a tablespoon or two
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • the usual kitchen hardware, plus your wonton factory equipment: bowl, another bowl, cutting board, and one or more baking sheets, each with a sheet of wax paper

After collecting the ingredients, the first stage is to prepare the filling for the wonton skins and create your packages.

  1. Using a butter knife, spoon, or your fingers, remove the skin from both halves of the squash and mash it in your hands into a large bowl. Taste it, and season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs some. It shouldn’t take much, if any; you’re shooting for sweetness here.
  2. Add the Five Spice, paprika, and thyme. Mix with your hands (or, if you must, a spoon), taste it, and adjust the seasoning as you like it. At this stage, you can cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge for later if you aren’t ready to make your packages.
  3. Time to set up the wonton factory: lay out (left to right) the stack of wonton skins, the bowl of filling, a cutting board, a small bowl or cup of water, and a baking sheet covered with wax paper.
  4. Lay out some wonton skins on the board (how many depends on the size of the board), and put 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each skin, slightly off towards the lower left corner.
  5. Pick up the wonton in one hand, dip your (clean) fingers in the water, and wet the edges of the square.
  6. Working carefully, fold the skin into a triangle, so that the filling  ends up in the center of the longest side of the triangle. Using your fingers, remove as much air as possible from inside the skin — it will get trapped next to the filling, so you kind of smooth it out from the filling, squeezing gently towards the edges of the triangle.
  7. Wet the bottom corner of the triangle, and bring the top corner of the triangle towards the center filling, being careful not to press the corner into the filling. Bring the bottom (wet) corner towards the filling, place it on top of the folded over top corner, and press the two together. It should look like a little overstuffed envelope. Place your package flat side down onto the baking sheet, and repeat from step 4 until you run out of filling or patience.

This sounds a lot harder than it really is, and with a little practice, you’ll cruise through your stack of skins in no time. We’re working on a video to show the technique; it’s really one of those things that is easier to do than describe. If in doubt, just follow the diagrams on the wonton skin packaging and do the best that you can.

If you’re not going to cook these now, stick your baking sheet(s) in the freezer. After the packages are frozen, take them out, place them in a freezer bag or container, and put them back until you’re ready to use them.

Now, here’s how to put it all together:

  1. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. When it boils, reduce the heat and bring it down to a nice simmer. The water should be active but not violent.
  2. Gently heat the red sauce you’ll need in a sauce pan … the amount depends on how many skins you’re going to cook.
  3. While all that is happening, tear or roughly chop some fresh basil leaves for garnish.
  4. When the water is back down to simmering, give it a good stir to get it circulating, and drop the filled wontons in one at a time. Keeping the water circulating at this stage prevents the wontons from sinking to the bottom and sticking to the pot. Bring the water back to a simmer (raising the heat temporarily if you’re using frozen wontons), keeping your eye on the clock, stirring your red sauce as needed, and giving the water a good swirl every so often to keep the skins from sticking.
  5. After around three minutes (longer for frozen packages), the wontons should be bobbing to the surface. When they’re floating consistently, they’re done. Pull one out and cut it in half … if the inside is hot and the skin isn’t gluey, you’re done. If not, give it another 30 seconds, and test one again.
  6. Using a skimmer (or whatever you have), remove the wontons from the water, and place them on a paper towel to drain. (I suppose you could drain them like pasta, just be careful you don’t tear them open in the process.)
  7. Place the wontons gently onto a plate, spoon over some of the red sauce, and sprinkle some of the basil on top. Grate some cheese (parm would be awesome) over the top if you want to be particularly decadent, or hit it with a few drops of truffle oil. Neither of those is required.

The cooking time for frozen wontons shouldn’t be longer by more than a few minutes. If your packages tear open while cooking, then (1) they stuck to the bottom of the pan; (2) your water was simmering or boiling too rapidly, or you were uber-aggressive with the swirling; (3) you didn’t squeeze enough air out of the skins when you were assembling the packages; or (4) you were unlucky, and need to try again.

Enjoy this, and send us a pic of what you end up with, either here, or on Facebook!

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Italian Wontons (Part One)

21 January 2011

just made Italian wontonsGot a hankering for ravioli but don’t want to bust out the Kitchen Aid and rolling pin? Want some Crab Rangoon but don’t feel like shelling out $12 plus tip to get the greasy, unhealthy, trans fat soaked but oh-so-tasty ones delivered? The solution is simple, and one of the greatest time savers you should never be caught without: frozen wonton skins.

To show you how nice having a stack of these in your freezer or fridge can be, the next post will contain a nice, easy, recipe for Italian Wontons — roasted butternut squash-filled wonton skins served in a basic marinara.

But first, there are two staples you will want to have prepped and ready to go. After you make these once, you’ll find them so useful you’ll always want them around, so making the wontons will be a cinch.

  • 1 roasted butternut squash

This couldn’t be easier to make, but you have to do it ahead of time, preferably the day before, so it has time to chill. There are tons of uses for this, so roast one on Sunday and keep it in the fridge for the rest of the week. For the basic recipe you will need a medium-sized butternut squash, olive oil, kosher or sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Clean the squash … not scrub, but just enough to clear away any obvious dirt or gunk (you know, the adhesive from the sticker?).
  3. Slice it in half lengthwise, and use a large spoon to remove the seeds.
  4. Paint the flesh of each half with a thin layer of olive oil (don’t be a wuss, use your fingers). Season both sides to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, being generous with each.
  5. Place on a baking sheet (or directly on the rack), flesh side up, and roast  in the preheated oven for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and mushy — not falling apart, but tender enough to mash with a fork if you wanted.
  6. Remove from the oven … carefully … and let cool to room temperature, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

This stuff is ready to eat after step 5 … scoop some of the flesh out, mash it, and serve it topped with butter and chives like you would mashed potatoes. You can also dice the flesh, stick it in a blender, add some minced ginger, chicken stock, and the flesh of one or two peeled and cored Granny Smith apples. Blend it, reheat in a stock pot, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve drizzled with some yogurt or cream, or crumbles of goat cheese, and splash with a few dots of sherry vinegar. Boom, you got soup. If you know how to make grilled cheese, you can avoid Panera all week long and keep some extra cash in your pocket.

The next basic item you will need is:

  • a basic red / marinara / pomodoro / tomato sauce

Yes, you can use the stuff in a can or jar if you want, so long as you like the taste of it, or can doctor it enough so that you like the taste. Otherwise, you can make your basic red sauce using canned tomatoes, some garlic cloves, kosher or sea salt, GOOD olive oil, and some patience:

  1. Buy a 28 ounce can of whole peeled ITALIAN tomatoes. The better quality you buy, the better the sauce will be. San Marzano are the standard, but any good Italian will work. Buy a few different varieties and find one you like … if they’re from California, so be it, we’re no hard guys, we just know what we like. If it’s tomato season, use fresh. Wait until the summer and you’ll see our series on making red sauce using fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market.
  2. Peel a few cloves of garlic. How many depends on how much you like garlic, but since this is a basic red sauce, you want it to taste of tomatoes, with just a hint of garlic, so 3 or 4 is probably enough. Give each clove a whack with your chef’s knife, and make sure you remove the germ — the greenish sprout in the center that gets bitter and gives you heartburn. After the whack, you should be able to scape the end up with your fingernail and pull it out.
  3. Gently (medium low) heat around 1/4 cup of GOOD olive oil in a sauce pan. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan and come up the side a bit; if it doesn’t, you’re using too big a pan. When hot (if the oils smokes, dump it, clean the pan, and start over with less heat), add the garlic and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until golden in color. If you burn the garlic, dump the oil and garlic, clean the pan, and start over. Burnt garlic is nasty.
  4. While the garlic is cooking, open the tomatoes and empty them into a bowl. Crush them with your (suitably clean) hands. Throw out any stems or pale green hard bits of tomato, and any whole herbs or leaves they may have been packaged with.
  5. When the garlic is golden, CAREFULLY pour the tomatoes (and juices) into the sauce pan, add two or three pinches of salt, and give it a good stir. Remember there is HOT oil in the pan that likes to splash up and burn things … things like your skin.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for three hours or so, stirring every half hour. It’s done when it reduces enough to appear “saucy.” How long you need to cook it depends on the pot, the heat, and a host of environmental factors, so give yourself a break and don’t worry about anything but burning it.

When the mixture appears “saucy,” taste it and add some salt if you think it needs some. If it tastes like a basic red sauce should taste, and not like a warmed up can of smashed up tomatoes, then it’s done. If it doesn’t taste like sauce, let it simmer some more. Mine usually reduces by 1/3 to 1/2 before I feel like it’s “done.”

By the way, this recipe scales very well, and the way I see it, if you’re going to take the time to stir a pot for at least a few hours, you might as well make a ton of the stuff (just multiply the amount of garlic, olive oil, and pinches of salt by the number of cans of tomatoes you have on hand) and freeze what you aren’t going to use within a few days. Simply let the sauce cool for a couple hours, and stick it in the fridge. The next day, repackage it in useful quantities (1 or 2 cups) into freezer bags or containers and stash them in the freezer for a lazy day.

Note: g likes to add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, chili powder, or, when he’s feeling fancy, Piment d’Espelette, to the sauce. Add it after the garlic has turned golden, give it a quick stir, and then add the tomatoes.

OK, so that’s the basics. The next post will cover the recipe for making the Italian Wontons.

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