September 10, 2014

Gnocchi, Sausage, and Tomato Skillet

It’s Day 3 of Tomato Week, and I’m presenting you with this super fast, yet still flavorful, gnocchi, sausage, and tomato skillet.  Not only does it come together quickly, but it’s one of those perfect “I don’t know what to make for dinner tonight” meals, because it’s easy to keep the ingredients on hand. 

Although we’re back to living together now, my husband and I have spent the vast majority of our 6 years of married life residing in different states, leaving me without regular access to a car.  Last year, I never had to worry about fresh produce throughout the spring, summer, and fall, thanks to our CSA, so I’d stock up on a lot of pantry basics during our monthly grocery trips – things that go well with a variety of vegetables, so I was prepared to handle whatever our CSA would throw my way.  Sure, homemade gnocchi is best, but you can usually find a package of the Wegmans shelf-stable gnocchi in my cabinet.  Mix together some gnocchi with sausage (spicy chicken or vegetarian, depending on who’s eating this!) and the fresh tomatoes from my CSA, along with a few basil leaves from my garden, and dinner is served.  This is also a great option if you’re cooking for individuals with specific diets: leave out the cheese and use vegan sausage and gnocchi (Wegmans gnocchi is vegan!), and you have a dish free of animal products.  Use gluten free rice gnocchi and sausage, and have your Celiac friends over for dinner. 

Dinner in less than 15 minutes that can be adapted to serve almost anyone?  It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 12 ounces chicken or soy sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper – to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and cook the gnocchi according to package directions.  Drain, and toss with a splash of olive oil.
  2. Heat a large (I use 12”) cast iron skillet over medium heat with a spray of olive oil.  Add the sausage and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until it starts to brown.  Push the sausage over to one corner of the skillet.
  3. Turn the heat up to high, and add the tomatoes to the unoccupied space in the skillet.  Cook briefly, 1 to 2 minutes, until the skin is blistered, and then stir the tomatoes in with the sausage.  Cook for a few additional minutes, until the tomatoes and sausage are browned.
  4. Stir in the gnocchi and heat through.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.

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Adapted from The Kitchen.

September 9, 2014

Corn, Crab, and Tomato Salad

Day two of Tomato Week is here, and this time, I’m featuring a corn, crab, and tomato salad.  I’ve mentioned before my pro-imitation crab stance for availability and affordability, but if you have access to fresh lump crab without breaking the bank, this would be even better!  This salad is so quick to throw together and adapts well to whatever ingredients you have on hand, so it’s a perfect weeknight meal.  Just a little bit of Greek yogurt to add a nice tang, a little spiciness from the jalapenos, and the delicious summer combination of corn, tomato, and avocado.  This salad should be consumed fresh; it was very good on the first day, okay on a day two, and fairly unappetizing by the third day as the juice from the tomatoes turned everything a little soupy.

Two days of CSA tomatoes down – just in time for me to pick up another box of them today!

Ingredients:IMG_6312wtmk

  • 12 ounces fresh or imitation crab
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups corn
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the crab, tomatoes, avocado, jalapenos, and corn.  Stir together the Greek yogurt and lime juice, and add the yogurt mixture to the rest of the salad.  Gently combine to coat the salad, then top with the chopped basil and salt and pepper.

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September 8, 2014

Tomato Pie

I’m declaring this week Tomato Week on Bunsen Burner Bakery!

Why now, towards the end of tomato season?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the tomato overload right now.  When the tomatoes first started appearing in my CSA box and in my garden back in July, you may have caught me humming a few verses of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  In the beginning, the tomatoes came slowly, and each one was savored and used.  But now that we’ve reached the peak production of tomato season, I just can’t keep up.  Each week we’re receiving 5+ pounds of tomatoes from the CSA,and  in addition to my harvest from my little vertical garden on my patio, I’m getting overwhelmed.  Last week, I actually had to throw out a beautiful heirloom tomato because I just couldn’t get to it in time before it started to mold.  Well, no more!  This week, I’m using up all my tomatoes, and showing you what I’m doing, in the event you also are drowning under the weight of late-summer tomatoes. 

First up, tomato pie – perfect for any of those large, fat tomatoes you have on hand.  Despite the complete lack of any southern roots, tomatoes and mayonnaise are one of my favorite combinations.  Tomato sandwiches are probably my favorite part of summer, so I was really excited the first time I learned about tomato pie… until I tried it.  It was so soggy with so much mayo, it was completely unappetizing.  A few tweaks here and there, and I finally have a tomato pie I like: a little mayo, a little cheese, but mostly just delicious tomato flavor (and you can actually see the tomatoes – it doesn’t just sink the whole way into the gloppy cheesy mayo!). 

This is a great way to highlight really fresh tomatoes, and because it’s not soggy, it will reheat well if you’re finishing your leftovers for a few days like we did.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust (use your favorite homemade recipe or even store-bought… I won’t tell)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ripe tomatoes, sliced about 1/2-inch thin (I used about 2.5 heirloom tomatoes for this)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Line a 9” tart pan with pie dough.
  3. Mix together the mayonnaise and the shredded cheese, and spread this mixture on the pie dough.  Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the basil on top of the cheese.
  4. Top with two layers of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkling liberally with salt and pepper.
  5. Bake 30 minutes.  Top with the remaining basil and serve warm or room temperature.

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September 5, 2014

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

A few weeks ago, I happen to have two events in the same day with individuals who are gluten free.  I figured it would be easy to make a double batch of some sort of dessert, and bring half to each event.  I spent a little while perusing some gluten free recipe sites, but in the end, it just wasn’t the right time for me to dive headfirst into gluten free baking.  More and more of my friends are choosing to embrace this lifestyle (a few who have been diagnosed with Celiac, others because it seems to be the new trend), so I’m sure I’ll experiment with this in the future, but the day before the events didn’t seem like the right time to run out, stock up on a variety of expensive flours, and hope to bake something delicious.  Instead, I decided to resurrect an old college favorite: no-bake peanut butter oatmeal bars.  If you’re making these for someone who is gluten free, just make sure you use certified gluten free ingredients: while oatmeal and peanut butter are naturally safe, some packaging plants contain contaminants.

Not only are these bars easy, but they’ll last quite well, meaning you can make them ahead of time.  We kept a few leftovers in our fridge, and my husband and I continued to enjoy them for another two weeks.  You can also freeze the bars if you want to save them for later or just pull one out when the craving hits; wrap the bars individually in saran wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil, and store them in a freezer bag.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan.
  2. Using a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Once combined, turn the heat down to low and stir in the oats.  Continue to cook over low heat for several more minutes, stirring to coat the oats, until all the ingredients are well mixed. 
  3. Spread half the oat mixture into the 9x9 inch pan, and press the oats down well using the back of a spoon.
  4. Combine the chopped chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring well, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour this over the oats in the pan, spreading evenly with the back of a spoon.
  5. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate, pressing gently to form a solid layer.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before cutting into 16 bars.

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September 3, 2014

Grilled Balsamic Vegetables

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s still summer around these parts, and we’re still eating as such.  Our CSA keeps sending us summer produce, so I’ll keep on grilling, even if the rest of you are moving onto pumpkin and chili!  It’s probably not surprising, given my vegetarian history, that vegetables are far and away my favorite thing to grill.  That said, they’re not always the easiest.  It’s pretty simple to marinate a chicken breast for a little while, toss it on the grill, flip it after 5 minutes, and continue to cook until a thermometer registers 165F.  Vegetables, however, aren’t cooked to a certain temperature, and it’s really easy to overcook or undercook them, especially since different vegetables require different amounts of time on the grill.  I think my favorite vegetable to grill is okra, but unfortunately we haven’t received any from the CSA this year, so for this particular dinner with friends, I went with bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, asparagus, and portobello mushrooms.  Garlic scapes and green onions are also delicious, if you have some on hand!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers, seeded and cut into six wedges
  • 2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 summer squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 6 portobello mushroom caps, gills and stems removed if you prefer (I leave mine on)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.  Brush the vegetables with the olive oil to coat.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk together two tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil, and rosemary in a small bowl.
  3. Working in batches, grill the vegetables until tender and lightly charred all over, about 10 minutes for the bell peppers, 8 minutes for the mushrooms, 6 minutes for the zucchini, squash, and eggplant, and 5 minutes for the asparagus.  Flip each halfway through the cooking time, but don’t move it around on the grill other than flipping.  For skinny vegetables like asparagus, a fish basket makes the whole process much easier.
  4. Arrange the vegetables on a platter and drizzle the herb mixture on top.  Serve the vegetables warm or at room temperature.
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