1 09 2008

How fun are these little guys?

It seems that everywhere I look these days there are piles of awesome tomatoes.  From minuscule pear tomatoes to giant beefsteaks, from bright red to forest green, you can find a tomato to match any décor.  Aesthetics aside for a moment, we’re also in that glorious window where the grand majority of the tomatoes taste great, too.  And having all those shapes and colors to play around with is a lot of fun.  As a result, I’ve been on a bit of a tomato binge lately.  Naturally, pasta has figured prominently, as it is an excellent way to showcase sweet tomato perfection.  Habitual readers of this blog may remember that I have a penchant for throwing raw tomatoes into just-cooked pasta, letting the residual heat warm the tomatoes just enough to really bring out their flavor.  (Like I did last spring, and earlier this summer.)

The rainbow of little tomatoes pictured at the top of this post called out for just such a treatment.  In order to add even more late-summer vegetable goodness, I sliced and sautéed some cute little light green zucchinis.  When they had some tasty sear marks, I threw in some garlic and fresh chives, cut the fire, and tossed in the tomatoes.

Tomatoes and zucchini - a match made in heaven

Cooked farfalle, or papillons, as they’re called in France (both of which mean “butterflies” – why do we insist on calling them “bow-ties?”), and a generous drizzle of olive oil joined the party and it was ready to dish up.  Liberal use of Parmigiano-Reggiano is encouraged chez moi, so the bowls each received a handsome grating of cheese before serving.

Simple, fresh and tasty summer pasta.

It made a splendid summer meal: fresh and light, but no slouch in the flavor department.  When nature hands you such wonderful produce, just do as little as possible.  That’s the beauty of cooking with the seasons.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Fish Stock Use #2: Trout with Polenta

29 04 2008

We woke up on Sunday to a gloriously sunny morning, perfect for hunting and gathering at the market.  When we got down there, Nick spotted some trout and decided that was what he wanted for dinner.  We learned the French word for “gutted” or “cleaned”in reference to a fish: vidé, as in “emptied.”  Good to know.  But how to prepare it?  Sometimes I find it hard to make decisions like these at the market, with so much going on around me.  All the smells and sights and sounds cause me to go into sensory overload, and my brain kind of shuts down.  The only cure is to find a wine booth that gives out samples. 

Eventually, after wandering the aisles and perusing the wares, we came up with a goat cheese and piquillo pepper stuffed trout, served with fish stock polenta and tomato salad.  We thought the piquillo peppers would be easy to find at one of the Spanish/Portuguese specialty booths, but we were wrong.  At the first one, the conversation went something like this: (translations my own)

Me: (pointing to a bin of roasted peppers) Ces sont quel type de poivron? (What kind of peppers are these?)

Girl at counter: Buh… rouge.  (What are you color blind?  Red!)

Me: Ummm… je cherche les poivrons “piquillo.” Je ne connais pas le mot en français, je connais le mot espagnol. (I’m looking for piquillo peppers, I don’t know the French word, just the Spanish one.)

Guy at counter: Doyouspeakenglish?  English?

Me: Oui, mais… I’m looking for piquillo peppers.

Guy at counter: Hablas español? (Do you speak Spanish?)

Me: No.

And it went on like that.  Red is not a variety, people!  Anyway, we did end up finding some beautiful fresh peppers at one of the produce stands.  They smelled great, so we bought those to roast at home.  What were they called?  “Poivrons Rouges Espagnols.”  “Red Spanish Peppers.”   Arrrrgh!

Fresh roasted piquillo peppers

The tomatoes were no problem, as almost every stand had gorgeous coeur de boeuf  (beef heart) tomatoes.  Goat cheese was, of course, plentiful, but by the time we got around to looking for it, many of the booths had begun to close down.  We were turned down at one fromagier, where the woman told us the goat cheese was already put away.  End of story.  But we persevered, and found a nice little ball of fresh goat cheese at the Auvergnat cheese stand.

Coeurs de Boeuf

After all that, actually cooking the meal was a piece of cake.  I started with the tomato salad.  This is one of the easiest, tastiest things you can do with a tomato.  The better the tomato, the better the salad.  Just dice up some tomatoes, add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a minced shallot, and some chopped fresh parsley.  Drizzle with good olive oil, toss, and serve at room temperature.

Easy, delicious tomato salad

On to the fish…

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