Counter Action: Pasta salad with tomatoes, basil, and smoked Gouda

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I’m feeling mutinous today. It’s week 2 of the quarter. On Thursdays, my first class starts at 8:30 a.m., and my last class finishes at 8:20 p.m. That’s twelve solid hours of sitting up straight, discussing management strategies, sketching crow’s-foot notation, and wearing pants that are tragically not of a yogish persuasion.

This is also my nineteenth year of being a full-time student. It’s been fun. It’s been real. I’ve loved having summers off to work. But I’m ready for a normal 8–5 schedule like everybody else. (Or whatever the norm is now. 7–5? 8–6?)

I’m also feeling whiny today. Sorry — should have warned you.

I might have to grin and bear the long days, with only comfy socks and fruit snacks for comfort. I might have to struggle through dozens of pages of dense prose every night. I don’t really have a choice about that.

But can I choose to post a tomato-heavy recipe in October? On a Thursday, in a feature called “Seasonal Sunday”? Bring on the culturally appropriated costumes: I’m going all Boston Tea Party on this salad.

Boston_tea_party

In this metaphor, my schedule is the British, and seasonal awareness is the tea. Yeah, it’s labored. Stay with me.

In looking at my post calendar for the month of September, I’ve noticed that I’ve posted a lot of sweet recipes. There was this sweet-ish focaccia, then this chocolate chip–zucchini bread, and finally this berry bread with browned butter, with quite a lot of vegan pumpkin bread and gingersnap apple crisp and healthy(ish) chocolate cake touted along the way. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a problem. But it did make me think. In an effort to be more health-minded, I give you this salad.

We will gently ignore the fact that this is a pasta salad with mayonnaise and cheese. That’s irrelevant. Just focus on the tomatoes (mmm, lycopene!*) and the nasty carbs will melt away.

*Fun fact: “Lycopene” is derived from “lycopersicum”, tomatoes’ species name, which is comprised of two Latin words meaning “wolf peach”.

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Pasta salad with tomatoes, basil, and smoked Gouda

(barely adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s original recipe) Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. penne
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. adobo sauce (or 1 minced chipotle pepper)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes (or 3–4 large tomatoes)
  • 1/2 lb. smoked Gouda
  • packed 3/4 c. basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook penne until al dente. Rinse with cold water, drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, adobo sauce, salt, and pepper in small bowl.
  3. Halve cherry tomatoes (or cut regular tomatoes into bite-sized chunks).
  4. Cut basil into slivers and Gouda into bite-sized chunks.
  5. Toss penne, tomatoes, basil, and Gouda with dressing in large bowl. Salad is best on the day it’s made, but will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 1–2 days.

——— Photo credits: Baby by Ben_KerckX on Pixabay; “Boston Tea Party”, copy of lithograph by Sarony & Major, 1846, found on Wikimedia Commons.

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Counter Action: Roasted tomato–basil soup and Parmesan–pesto grilled cheese

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Soup for everybody!

If I had a family motto, I think that would be it. Or possibly “More butter!”, with “The book was better” also in the running.

Our crest: A blue field with butter rampant.

Our crest: A blue field with butter rampant.

I first made this soup in the summer of 2011. I had a lot of soup recipes on my bucket list, but no food processor or blender with which to make them. It was also beastly hot, and I had no car. So I got up one morning, very early before it was too warm, and trekked 1.6 miles down to Walmart, then 1.6 miles back home, blender triumphantly in hand.

And before you ask, yes, it was uphill both ways.

Actual footage of the journey. I'm telling you, Wal-Mart will build anywhere.

Actual footage of the journey. Seriously, Walmart will build anywhere.

The very first thing I made with that blender was Smitten Kitchen’s summer squash soup with parsley–mint pistou. The next thing was this tomato soup, and believe me, it was worth every sweaty step of the journey. Roasting the tomatoes gives the soup a smoky depth that draws it away from typical fresh, light summer fare and into the neighbourhood of more contemplative fall foods. Meanwhile, the basil keeps the soup from being a one-flavour wonder, and the cream mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes. If grilled cheese sandwiches aren’t your thing, try ladling the soup into ovenproof bowls, topping with pesto-spread toasts and thick mozzarella slices, and broiling for a few minutes, à la Heather Christo’s caprese soup.

But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the butter.

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Roasted tomato–basil soup

(Barely adapted from Ina Garten. Serves 6. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 medium onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. fresh basil
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. heavy cream or whole milk

Directions:

  1. Halve tomatoes lengthwise and place cut-side up on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill at 400°F for 35–40 minutes.
  3. Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.
  4. Cut onions into half-moons and add to butter. Cook 3–4 minutes or until translucent.
  5. Mince garlic and add to stockpot with thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook 1–2 minutes or until fragrant.
  6. Add canned and roasted tomatoes to stockpot, along with juices and oil from tray. Cook 3–4 minutes.
  7. Chop basil roughly and add, along with broth. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer 30 minutes.
  8. Blend soup in batches (or use immersion blender). Return to stockpot and add milk.
  9. Garnish with plain yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, basil leaves, or grated Parmesan. Serve alongside grilled Parmesan–pesto sandwiches (recipe below).

Grilled Parmesan–pesto sandwiches

(Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Ingredients:

  • Bread of your choice (I recommend French or sourdough)
  • Pesto
  • Butter
  • Thinly sliced Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread. Place bread butter-side down on prep board or plate.
  2. Spread pesto thickly on every other piece of bread.
  3. Top with Parmesan and plain buttered bread, with butter facing outwards.
  4. Place in preheated frying pan or sandwich press. Grill until each side is golden-brown.

Variations:

  • Replace Parmesan with mozzarella or extra-sharp white cheddar.
  • Include thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or kalamata olives in filling. (The thicker the filling, the more you’re likely to need a sandwich press. Alternately, use a regular frying pan and put a heavy, heatproof plate on top of the sandwich to press it together.)
  • Rub inside of sandwich with garlic clove (roasted or raw) before adding filling.
  • Spread other side of sandwich with your favourite canned tomato sauce, alfredo sauce, or ricotta.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar lightly over filling.
  • Use artisan bread with olives, garlic, cheese, herbs, or tomatoes already baked in.

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Photo credits: Crest from Nemo and desert from tpsdave on Pixabay. Also, fun heraldic fact: In that crest, the horizontal stripe is called a fess. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Counter Action: Bruschetta

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The Internet has informed me that it now has its own calendar.

Monday is now Man Crush Monday, followed by Transformation Tuesday (which sounds like something on the liturgical calendar), Way Back Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, and Flashback Friday.

(As far as I can tell, the last three are identical.)

Nobody seems to know what to do with Saturday, and Sunday is split between the Selfie Sunday camp, the Sunday Funday adherents, and the Sinday people.

Alternately, you can combine all three by taking a selfie at the beach while wearing red.

Alternately, you can combine all three by taking a selfie at the beach without a chaperone.

This bruschetta belongs to none of those camps. It lacks both sentience and opposable thumbs, so it can’t take selfies. It’s pretty fun, but on a small scale. And if you buy the ingredients from local businesses and don’t go overboard on the olive oil, there’s nothing terribly sinful about it.

I propose that we make up a new designation: Seasonal Sunday. It’ll be dedicated to supporting local farmers and restauranteurs in their mission to supply fruits and vegetables with a short transportation chain. I have a nice long rant about this, but I already said most of it in this post, and Barbara Kingsolver said it better in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, so I’ll get out of the way and let this bruschetta speak for itself.

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I first made this in the summer of 2011. I had just returned from ten months in Poland, and I was working at my university while I waited for classes to begin again. I lived in a cavernous cinder-block house that was nice and cool in summer (and turned out to stay that way in winter).

If you remember my story about 2011 being the Summer of Harry Potter, you’ll already know that this same summer featured quite a lot of cooking, so when my boss gave me a bowl of various tiny tomatoes from her garden, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them: make bruschetta. There were cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes, and pear-shaped yellow tomatoes, and some beautiful orange globes that I called Golden Snitches. They were tasty enough on their own, but once chopped roughly and tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, pressed garlic, and fresh basil, they were even more delicious on buttered toast.

Incidentally, how do you say “bruschetta”? Is the “ch” a “k” sound or a “sh” sound for you? I’ve heard it both ways. I’ve said it both ways. When I’ve said it one way, I’ve been informed firmly that the other way is right. I’m beginning to think it’s either a regional variation or a method of distinguishing between civilians and the members of a secret society.

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Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. small tomatoes
  • 3–4 cloves garlic
  • 3–4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 sourdough baguette
  • 5–6 T. butter

Directions:

  1. Halve tomatoes to release juices.
  2. Mince garlic and chiffonade basil.
  3. Combine all ingredients except baguette and butter in large bowl. Stir well. Let sit 5 minutes to combine flavours.
  4. Slice baguette into one-inch pieces. Leave raw or toast under golden brown. Spread with butter.
  5. Spoon tomato mixture onto bread. Enjoy as appetizer or snack.

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Photo credits: Beach selfie from laura6 on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Tomato–corn pie

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For some people, summer means bikinis, which means diets and special workouts.

If you are one of those people, this pie is not for you.

Mayonnaise + cheese + butter = embrace the inevitable curves, my friends.

Don't let the media get you down, sandstone. Real geological phenomena have striations.

Don’t let the media get you down, sandstone. Real geological phenomena have striations.

For the rest of us, summer means tomatoes, corn, basil, zucchini, cherries, and a host of other edibles, which we embrace both in their raw, uncomplicated forms and in forms involving as much dairy as we can get our hands on.

This is our pie.

Tomato–corn pie

(From Smitten Kitchen’s indomitable recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1¾ tsp. salt, divided
  • ¾ stick (6 T.) cold diced butter + 2 tsp. melted butter
  • ¾ c. whole milk
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1¾ lb. tomatoes
  • 1½ c. corn (equivalent to about 3 ears), divided
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 T. chopped fresh chives, divided
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1¾ c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Directions:

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Cut in cold butter until well blended. Mix in milk to form a firm dough.
  3. Divide dough in half. Roll out to form two 12-inch circles. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato. Immerse in boiling water bath for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice bath to facilitate peeling.
  5. Remove skins and seeds from tomatoes, and slice into quarter-inch rounds. (This process might seem tedious, but trust me, you want to remove all the moisture from the tomatoes that you can. Removing the skins makes the tomato chunks more tender.)
  6. Remove pie crust from fridge. Place one crust in 9-inch pie pan, trimming edges as necessary.
  7. Arrange half of tomatoes in pie crust. Top with half of corn, basil, chives, pepper, and cheese.
  8. Layer other half of tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, pepper, and cheese in pie crust.
  9. Mix mayonnaise and lemon juice together. Spread evenly over pie filling.
  10. Place other pie crust on top and pinch edges to seal. Cut several steam vents and brush with melted butter.
  11. Bake at 400°F for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown.
  12. Remove, cool, and serve with a green salad.

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Photo credits: Sandstone from tpsdave on Pixabay.