10 Fabulous but Easy Tomato Recipes

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Tomatocollage

Are you a tomato lover? If so, this one is for you – 10 easy recipes featuring the lovely tomato. The French called the tomato the pomme d’amour, or The Love Apple, and they believed that tomatoes had aphrodisiac powers.  Believe it or not, but right now tomatoes are so delicious and plentiful that you may just fall in love…

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You may have noticed that my blog posts have recently been few and far between. I have been travelling so much this summer that I have spent very little time in my kitchen.  Now that I am back in California for a while, I’m making up for my neglect with this post featuring some of my favorite recipes starring luscious tomatoes which are still gloriously in season.  There are three different yummy tarts, bruschetta, pasta, salads and vegetable platters.  You really can’t go wrong here… Just click on the link to go to the original post and recipe. Don’t skip the scrumptious Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart which will melt in your mouth. Enjoy!  New recipes beginning again soon!  Pinky swear…

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Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart

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Zucchini Tomato Tart

Eggplant Tart2

Summer Vegetable Tart

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Spaghetti with the Best No Cook Tomato Sauce

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Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

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Bruschetta with Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes

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Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

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Roasted Beet and Tomato Salad

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Tomato and Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes with Burrata

Meatless Monday – Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Soup

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This is a One Pot Wonder!  Soup is known to be a comforting and healing food. I just got my first cold of the year, possibly a result of the multiple cross country airplane flights I’ve taken or maybe its just a change of season sniffles.  I was craving warm, hearty and a bit spicy to clear everything up.  So soup was a natural choice. My friend, Sandy had just given me a platter of roasted red peppers and tomatoes that she said her family wouldn’t eat.  Their loss was my gain and the inspiration for today’s soup.  I decided to pair both roasted red veggies with red lentils to make a flavorful and spicy soup.  Yum…  Just what the doctor ordered.

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People often ask me  if I’m getting enough protein since I’ve stopped eating meat. The answer is YES! This soup is rich in protein as well as vitamins and minerals, from both the lentils and the veggies. The protein content of Red Lentils is comparable to that of one serving of meat, but generally healthier because they contain low levels of fat. In one cup of red lentils, you consume nearly 18 grams of protein which is the same as one 3-ounce serving of chicken breast but without the 3 grams of fat. Lentils are also rich in slow-digesting carbohydrates and dietary fiber that keep you feeling full and satisfied.  (Read:  Less likely to find yourself standing back in front of the open refrigerator.) I will throw one last little factoid at you.  We learned from Eating the Rainbow that red foods (especially tomatoes) are loaded with lycopene, an important antioxidant which is good for a healthy heart, lowering the risk of some cancers and protecting the skin from ultra-violet light. So dig in!

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TIPS:  Okay. I was just given roasted tomatoes and red peppers, however, if you don’t have the time or inclination to roast them yourself, you can buy them already roasted in jars or substitute a can of fire roasted tomatoes and saute diced red peppers with the onions.

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ROASTED RED PEPPER AND RED LENTIL SOUP

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers
2-3 large red tomatoes (or one can of fire roasted tomatoes)
1 red chili pepper (or jalapeno)
2 cups dried red lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin
1/4 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

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  • If roasting red peppers (and tomatoes), broil until the skin has blackened, 5-8 minutes.  Turn to broil the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Roughly chop and set aside.

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  • In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, chili pepper, and garlic and saute several minutes.

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  • Add the red peppers and tomatoes and stir to combine.

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  • Add the lentils, vegetable stock and spices and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

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  • Let the soup cool slightly and puree in a food processor or blender.  You may have to do it in two batches.

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  • Clean the stockpot and return the soup to the pot.  Reheat.

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  • Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, sliced chili peppers or fresh herbs.

Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers
2-3 large red tomatoes
1 red chili pepper
2 cups dried red lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin
1/4 -1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

  • If roasting red peppers(and tomatoes), broil until the skin has blackened, 5-8 minutes.  Turn to broil the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Roughly chop and set aside
  • In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, chili pepper, and garlic and saute several minutes.
  • Add the red peppers and tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Add the lentils, vegetable stock and spices and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Let the soup cool slightly and puree in a food processor or blender.  You may have to do it in two batches.
  • Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, sliced chili peppers or fresh herbs.

Bruschetta with Leafy Green Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes

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Pesto + Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes + Toasted Ciabatta = Perfect  Summer Appetizer.  Warning!  May not leave room for dinner…

You could say I’m on a pesto kick.  I posted a recipe for Kale Pesto Pasta earlier this week, for Meatless Monday, (Click link for recipe or scroll down for more pesto recipes) but I obviously didn’t get enough since I was still craving those yummy flavors. Plus, earlier in the day, I had gathered bunches of baby kale and arugula along with fresh tomatoes from my garden.  Add to that the fresh ciabatta loaf that I just bought, and all the arrows lined up resulting in Kale-Arugula Pesto spread on toasted sliced ciabatta and topped with fresh heirloom tomatoes=Heaven

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I made this pesto with kale and arugula but any dark leafy greens will work in any combination.  It’s a great way to use up large quantities of greens from your garden or CSA box, especially if you are tired of salads and casseroles.  Even though it tastes pretty decadent, this little bruschetta offers a sneaky amount of nutrition; fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein, but you would never know by the taste…

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For those adventurous readers, or just lovers of pesto, check out some of the other types of pesto I have already tried by clicking on the links below.  Loved them all!

Kale Pesto Pasta

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Bow Ties with Broccoli Pesto

TIPS:  Everything can be made ahead of time (up to 2-3 hours) and set aside to be assembled at the last minute.  Or make pesto a day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  To store any leftover pesto, cover with a thin layer of olive oil before refrigerating to prevent it from turning brown.

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BRUSCHETTA WITH LEAFY GREEN PESTO AND HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

1 loaf ciabetta or sourdough
3-4 large tomatoes
1 cup pesto *recipe below

PESTO

3 cups roughly chopped dark leafy greens(kale, arugula, collard, mustard, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup pinenuts (walnuts, cashews or pistachios)
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 cup grated parmesan

TOPPINGS (OPTIONAL)
toasted pine nuts
sliced or chopped basil
shredded parmesan, goat cheese or feta

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  • Roughly chop the leafy greens and place them in a food processor with the pinenuts and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

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  • With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form a smooth sauce. Add the salt, lemon zest and parmesan and pulse to combine.

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  • Pour the pesto into a large bowl and set aside.

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  • Chop tomatoes and place in a medium bowl, set aside.  You can always drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar, if desired, but if your tomatoes are ripe, they probably are sweet enough on their own.

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  • Slice ciabatta into one half inch slices.

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  • Place ciabatta on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Broil 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown, then turn brush with oil and broil the other side. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Spread a tablespoon of pesto on each slice of bread.

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  • Top with a spoonful of tomatoes and any desired toppings.

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  • Or set out a bruschetta bar and let your guests design their own.

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  • Serve at room temperature.

Bruschetta with Leafy Green Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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1 loaf ciabetta or sourdough
3-4 large tomatoes
1 cup pesto *recipe below

PESTO

3 cups roughly chopped dark leafy greens(kale, arugula, collard, mustard, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup pinenuts (walnuts, cashews or pistachios)
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 cup grated parmesan

TOPPINGS (OPTIONAL)
toasted pine nuts
sliced or chopped basil
shredded parmesan, goat cheese or feta

  • Roughly chop the leafy greens and place them in a food processor with the pinenuts and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  • With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form a smooth sauce.
  • Add the salt, lemon zest and parmesan and pulse to combine.
  • Pour the pesto into a large bowl and set aside.
  • Chop tomatoes and place in a medium bowl, set aside
  • Slice ciabatta into one half inch slices.
  • Place ciabatta on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil
  • Broil 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown, then turn brush with oil and broil the other side.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Spread a tablespoon of pesto on each slice of bread.
  • Top with a spoonful of tomatoes and any desired toppings.
  • Or set out a bruschetta bar and let your guests design their own.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Meatless Monday – Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

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This one is for you, Margie!  My sister, Margaret, asked me to come up with a new lentil salad recipe, so here you go!  Thank you for the inspiration –  this one is a keeper!  Lentils and rice are one of my favorite food combinations but they can be heavy which makes them a perfect belly warming winter meal but luckily those cold winter months are behind us.  I decided to lighten them up for summer by tossing French green lentils in a salad with chewy wild rice, toasted pine nuts, tomatoes and kale. Top with scallions, fresh herbs, crumbled feta and a drizzle of lemony vinaigrette for a really delicious and satisfying salad.

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Lentils come in a rainbow of colors, each with their own characteristics.  In general, the darker the lentil, the firmer the texture.  Lighter colored lentils, like yellow and red, are quite mushy when cooked and best for soups.  Brown lentils have a nice flavor but can get mushy if cooked too long.  French green lentils (pictured above) are my favorite but closely followed by Black Beluga lentils which I often use with colorful squashes because of the striking color contrast.  If you don’t normally eat lentils, here are Five Reasons why you should start:

  1. PROTECT YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM – high in fiber
  2. PROTECT YOUR HEART – significant amount of folate and magnesium
  3. STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR – full of complex carbohydrates
  4. HIGH IN PROTEIN- the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans
  5. IMPORTANT MINERALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS –   good source of iron, magnesium and zinc

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Wild rice is actually not really rice. It’s the seed of the water grass, Zizania.  It has a wonderful chewy texture and nutty flavor that is really good in this salad, however it packs it’s own nutritional whollop.  Wild rice is also a good source of protein, fiber, iron and copper as well as other minerals and vitamins including B complex.  Together, they make this meal hearty enough to be a main course.

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Should we even talk about kale?  We all know it’s the reigning queen of leafy greens for it’s nutritional benefits, and rightly so. I used a bunch of red kale from my CSA box but lacinato (dino) or curly kale will work well too.  Since kale is so fibrous, I removed the center rib and sliced the leafy green leaves into thin julienne strips.  This preparation makes it easier to eat and allows the flavors to blend more easily since all the other ingredients are so small.  I learned one unexpected benefit of using kale in salads instead of more traditional lettuces.  I had some leftover salad which I stored in the refrigerator.  Well you know what happens to salads that have already been dressed that sit in the refrigerator overnight… Two days later, I remembered the salad and went to throw it away but it still looked okay.  I ate it for lunch and it was still surprisingly good.  The kale held up really well.  Who knew?

TIPS:  I used two Roma tomatoes for this salad because they are easier to dice and have fewer juices and seeds than the larger Beefsteak or Celbrity types, however, any ripe tomato will work.  If you aren’t a fan of wild rice, you can use a wild rice mix or substitute any kind of rice you like.  A long grain rice cooked al dente will give better results than the stickier shorter grains.

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Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool

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  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl
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  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

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  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)

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  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool
  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl.
  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)
  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Tomato & Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

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Basil + Tomatoes = Love.  If asparagus is the harbinger of spring, tomatoes are the essence of summer.  I reaped the first ripe tomatoes from my garden yesterday, still warm from the sun.  What a treasured bounty! It was so warm in March in California that I decided to plant tomato seedlings then which is very risky but I got lucky, or rather temperatures never dropped too low and I never even had to cover my tender plants at night.  So now I am enjoying the largesse.  I had planned something entirely different using lentils and eggplant for dinner tonight but could not resist the pull of my fresh tomatoes so I ended up making Tomato and Eggplant Stacks layered with fresh mozzarella and avocado drizzled with a fresh Basil Vinaigrette.  Bliss!

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I did have a little mishap in the garden, however. I was trying to tuck a heavily laden branch behind a support and the stem snapped.  It didn’t break all the way so I decided to ‘bandage’ it up with a bit of painter’s tape and hope for the best.

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Do you see the little blue ‘bandage’?  If my doctoring doesn’t work, I will be ripening about a dozen green tomatoes on my windowsill.  Crossing my fingers…

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What can I tell you about tomatoes except that they are the ultimate in summer dining? Did you know that Tomatoes were a wonderful gift from the Mayans?  Tomatoes are native to the Central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs centuries before the Spanish explorers introduced them to rest of the world. Lucky for us!  Besides being delicious, tomatoes are nutrient dense, loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.  They are an especially good source of Vitamin C and the phytonutrient, Lycopene, which is a beneficial antioxidant.  So slice away!  Put them on sandwiches, in salads or add them to your morning toast with a slice of avocado and a sprinkle of fresh basil.  Yum!

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TIPS:  To easily remove the avocado pit, strike down on the pit with a sharp knife and twist until it come out.  You can roast the eggplant ahead of time, even the day before, and store in the refrigerator.  Just bring to room temperature before assembling.  For best results, use eggplant and tomatoes that are a similar size.

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For a more colorful arrangement, use a variety of tomatoes.  If you aren’t into stacking, just throw everything together in a large bowl and drizzle with basil vinaigrette.

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TOMATO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH BASIL VINAIGRETTE

3-4 fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 small globe eggplant
1 avocado, ripe but firm
6 oz fresh mozzarella, optional

BASIL VINAIGRETTE

1 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 small shallot or 2-3 scallions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey or agave
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

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  • Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds.

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  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes,  or until lightly browned, turning halfway through,.  Or grill them on both sides. Let cool.

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  • Place all vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Set aside.

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  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/3 inch rounds. Cut avocado in half crosswise, remove pit (see tips) and peel.  Slice into 1/3 inch rounds.  (Make slices thicker or thinner to your liking)

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  • Build stacks by placing one tomato slice as the base, then eggplant, mozzarella, tomato, avocado then tomato.

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  • Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with fresh basil.  I also had some balsamic reduction left from my Antipasti Platter which I put out for extra drizzling.  Balsamic Reduction Recipe HERE.

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Tomato & Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

TOMATO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH BASIL VINAIGRETTE

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3-4 fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 small globe eggplant
1 avocado, ripe but firm
6 oz fresh mozzarella, optional

BASIL VINAIGRETTE

1 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 small shallot or 2-3 scallions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey or agave
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes,  or until lightly browned, turning halfway through,.  Or grill them on both sides. Let coo.
  • Place all vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Set aside.
  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Cut avocado in half crosswise, remove pit (see tips) and peel.  Slice into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Build stacks by placing one tomato slice as the base, then eggplant, mozzarella, tomato, avocado then tomato
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with fresh basil.

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Roasted Halibut with Lemon, Tomatoes and Capers

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How about a delicious, gourmet dinner in less than half an hour?  My husband came home from the farmer’s market the other day with a beautiful piece of halibut.  I didn’t realize until just before dinner, when all eyes turned to me,  that I was supposed to come up with an interesting preparation for it.  A quick look through my refrigerator and pantry yielded a can of diced tomatoes, fresh herbs, capers, white wine and a lemon from my tree. I combined all those ingredients into a chunky sauce which I poured over the fish and roasted it in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. It couldn’t have been easier or faster – almost instant gratification!  The fish was flakey and tasty. It would be great served on a bed of spaghetti to soak up the flavorful sauce. Yum!

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We have all heard that fish is good for you.  There are many reasons to eat halibut beside it’s mild and delicious flavor. It is a lean, meaty white fish that is low in sodium, fat and calories and rich in nutrients, including Omega 3 fatty acids, folic acid and B vitamins plus minerals like selenium, potassium, magnesium and niacin that are otherwise difficult to come by naturally.  Halibut is also a good choice when considering the environment. ,According to Seafood Watch California halibut are either a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative,” depending on the fishing method. Most Atlantic halibut is overfished, so it’s on the “Avoid” list. The exception is farmed Atlantic halibut. It’s a “Good Alternative” because it’s raised in closed tank systems that have little impact on local habitats. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some of the Pacific halibut fisheries as sustainable.

ROASTED HALIBUT WITH LEMON, TOMATOES AND CAPERS

1 lb halibut steaks
1-2 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil) chopped or 1 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes

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  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Rinse and pat dry fish and place it in the baking dish. You can leave the fish in one large piece or cut it into individual serving sized pieces. Brush fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the top of the fish.

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  • Roast in hot oven until just opaque, about 10 – 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.  Fish should flake easily with a fork.  Serve with juices and more fresh herbs, if desired.

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Roasted Halibut with Lemon, Tomatoes and Capers

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 lb halibut steaks
1-2 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes

  • Pre -heat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Rinse and dry fish and place it in the baking dish. You can leave the fish in one large piece or cut it into individual serving sized pieces.
  • Brush fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the top of the fish.
  • Roast in hot oven until just opaque, about 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.  Fish should flake easily with a fork.  Serve with juices and garnish with more fresh herbs, if desired.

 

In My Garden – June

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Somehow I missed May which went by in a blur, while I was attending weddings, graduations and bar mitzvahs.  Yet my garden survived.  I was too busy to notice my artichokes were ripe until it was too late, so I decided to let them flower.  Aren’t they glorious, and they’re not done yet!  The second one is about to bloom…

Garden June4

Since I planted back in April, I have been harvesting a steady crop of lettuces.  There are a few ways to harvest lettuce (and  kale and chards).  You can cut the entire plant off at the base, remove the roots and replant.  Sometimes, a plant will regrow if you leave a few inches but I’m often too impatient to wait.  You can also just pull up the whole plant by the roots.  Or you can remove just the outer leaves and allow the plant to keep growing, which it does from the center (so don’t remove those leaves).  Eventually though, it will bolt (flower or go to seed) and you then need to harvest or cut back the whole plant.  I started my lettuces out in nice rows but by now it’s quite the hodgepodge, since I replant as I go, but I think it looks pretty that way.  I always have seedlings and mature plants going along together so something is always ready for my salad bowl .

Garden June7

My tomato plants are mostly doing well and I have harvested a few tomatoes.  The Green Zebra and Black Krim were first.  This time of year, I remove all the yellowing leaves near the base of the plan!t and any others that look yellow, spotted or diseased. If you have any plants that really look sick, just pull them out and replace them with healthy seedlings.  It’s not too late . I just did that last week with one of my plants.   Tomatoes love to be buried deep and will put out more roots if you pile soil amendment around them.

Garden June8

My new experiment is with companion gardening.  I have had terrible luck growing basil.  They seem to be eaten to the ground by the next morning after planting.  So I planted them among my tomato plants and they have so far lasted almost a week. Apparently tomatoes repel the critters that like basil.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

 

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I have been harvesting blueberries about a half cup at a time, just enough to eat for breakfast or add to a salad, but they are delicious!

Garden June11

My zucchini is just starting to grow up the trellis and I have a few harvestable fruits.  Hmmm, recipes starting to swirl through my head…Send me your best ideas!

Garden June2

Sugar snap peas are making their way up the teepee but not producing yet.

Garden June5

My non GMO corn is two or three feet tall.  I have never grown corn before, I’m excited about my tiny crop!

Garden June9

My main problem, though has been critters.  It’s wild animal kingdom here!  Most recently, it’s gophers. If you have ever found mounds like these that my dog, Lola, is checking out in my lawn, you know what I mean!  This time of year their babies are learning the new routes underground, so there is lots of activity and they leave giant earth mounds in their wake.  About 10 or 15 years ago I became obsessed with the gophers and went “Caddyshack”.  I have vivid memories of trying to smoke them out and running around blocking all the exits as smoke kept finding new areas to escape, as my small boys watched, noses pressed to the window.  “Mommy’s gone crazy!”  The gophers were too smart for that though and just went to lower ground to wait it out.  Over the years, however, I have just learned to co-exist with my subterranean ‘friends’.  I try to keep them off my lawn and out of my vegetable garden and pretty much let them roam to their hearts content around the rest of the property.  I have tried all kinds of home remedies, hot red pepper, hair clippings, windmills and several others to no avail.  The product that I am having the best luck on my lawn with is Repellex, which is a repellant not a poison, made with castor oil, cinnamon oil, garlic oil and white pepper. They don’t like the smell or taste and they stay away. It is non-toxic and biodegradable but wears off in about a month or so, so you have to reapply.

Garden June10

The main task though is WEEDING!  Do it now while the soil is still soft or it becomes back breaking work. The second task is to  mulch or amend the soil, especially in California with our drought conditions.  Mulching provides nutrients and helps retain moisture in the soil.

I am only a weekend warrior gardener, so check out the links below for some expert gardening tips.

What To Do In the Garden in June – About.com Regional guide for ornamentals, vegetables, fruit trees, trees and shrubs and pest control.

Calendar of Gardening Tasks for June – The Garden Helper  Tips on flowers, shrubs, vegetables and lawn care (even house plants).

How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in June – eHow  For those that haven’t planted yet.  It’s not too late if you do it right!