i love growing Tomatoes and contrary to the rule of thumb that you only need one plant per person in the household, I like to have many more. First of all, I like variety and second of all, not all plants will produce as they should. This year I planted 6 Tomato Plants and have two left over from last year. Unfortunately, the ones from last year are not producing too well. Probably because they are not in full sun – we only have so much garden space that will get sun.
Even though my larger Beefsteak type Tomatoes produce more and larger fruit, my favorites this year are the Green Zebra and the Lucky Tiger. I don’t think my Lucky Tigers are growing to the size that they should but they are fun – they are shaped like the Romas, but thinner and are green with orange/red stripes that are supposed to be dark purple according to the tag that was on the plant when I bought it. In spite of that, I still love the tomatoes. They are fun to grow and delicious to eat. They have a slightly tangy taste to them in contrast to the red tomatoes which are very sweet.
All this being said, what do you do with Tomatoes when you have an abundance of them? You can only make some many salads and eat so much salsa. In past years I have made Chili Sauce and will probably do that again this year if the plants keep producing like they have. For this batch though, I decided to make a Tomato Basil Soup. This is a tasty soup that can be eaten hot, warm or cold so it is perfect for summer or any time of year. The recipe actually calls for Roma Tomatoes, but not having Roma Tomatoes, I just used what I have growing and that is mostly red round tomatoes. Even though I put the tags that came with the plants in front of the plants, they somehow get lost or covered up so except for a couple of the plants, I’m not really sure what kind they are. Just round, red, sweet and delicious!
The Soup can be served as a first course or as a Vegetable Dish along with a meal – that is what I did last night. We had Meat Loaf, Baked Potatoes and the Tomato Basil Soup which I actually served first, but we had seconds along with the meal. I serve this soup in small bowls but it can be served in larger ones. Another way I like to serve it is in demitasse as a ‘stand-up appetizer’ for company meals.
The recipe calls for 2 lbs. of Tomatoes, 1/2 cup of diced Onion, Chicken Stock (I had Beet Water leftover from cooking Beets so I used that instead thereby making the soup good for the Vegan or Vegetarian Crowd. Of course you also need Basil which I also have growing in the yard. I used the Italian Sweet Basil for the Soup and Purple Basil for the Garnish along with the Lucky Tiger Tomatoes.
After the Tomatoes are washed and cored, chop, quarter or dice them. (It doesn’t really matter too much as they are going to be pureed after cooking)
Saute the diced Onions in 2 Tbsps. of Olive Oil until they are soft – from the photo below, you will notice that mine are slightly caramelized. This add additional flavor as long as you don’t let them burn. If they do burn, discard and start over – the burn taste will ruin the soup.
Once the Onions are sufficiently cooked, add the prepared Tomatoes and Basil and cook until the Tomatoes release their water. Mix as they cook. When the tomatoes are sufficiently cooked, transfer to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender or a food mill.
Run the processor or blender until the Tomatoes are completely pureed and then return to the pot. Add the remaining seasonings -taste and add additional salt or Vinegar, if so desired.
Serve Hot with tiny Meatballs or at Room Temperature or Cold as an Appetizer. Garnish with additional Basil and diced Tomatoes, if desired. I used the Purple Basil and Lucky Tiger Tomatoes which only need to be sliced vertically down the middle. For additional zest add a splash of your favorite style ‘Old Boney Mountain Hot Sauce’.
The Hawaiian Islands are one of our favorite vacation spots; Maui is one of those spots in the world where you feel different as soon as you step off the plane. The warm flower scented breezes caress you skin and make you feel relaxed and dreamy. What better place in the world than to enjoy the food that has been created in the Hawaiian Islands. While locally caught fish is the protein mainstay of the Islands other meats are delicious as well. Pork is one of those proteins that are done beautifully in the Hawaiian Islands. Today’s Hawaiian Cuisine is a blend of the tropical with Asian flavors, two of my favorite flavor profiles.
One of the restaurants in Kihei is ‘Café O’Lei’, a restaurant which specializes in locally caught fish and however incongruently, steak. That being said, when we ate there on Friday Night neither one of us had fish or steak. My choice was the Asian style Shortribs and Ev had the Macadamia Nut roasted Pork which of course is an Hawaiian favorite. Both dishes were served with Rice and Vegetables along with a delicious first course salad. For dessert we shared the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. When we go back to Maui I would like to go back to this restaurant and try the raw fish or Sashimi Stacks that are one of their signature dishes.
One of the Items I purchased at the Tropical Plantation that we went to on Monday was a package of Gourmet Pancake Mix made in Hawaii. Since there was a waffle iron in the Condo, I decided to make Waffles for Breakfast on Saturday Morning. Even though the mix had dried Eggs and Buttermilk in it, I added fresh Eggs and Milk along with melted Butter to the mix to make a richer waffle. We had Coconut Syrup (made in Hawaii) on the Waffles and Bacon and Coffee on the side.
After Breakfast we drove to Kaanapali to go to the 25th Annual Maui Onion Festival. Many Chefs from around the Island were participating in a recipe contest. We were able to view the demonstration by Chef Chris Coulis in which he made an Hawaiian Onion Gnocchi with a Onion/Tomato Confit. It was quite delicious as we did get to taste it. The participating chefs had their wares displayed on tables set up near the stage. And of course right near the stage and in full visibility were 50 lb. bags of Maui Onions. Maui Onions are just like the Yellow Onions found here in California except that the soil that they grow makes a difference in the taste. The Volcanic soil of the Hawaiian Islands somehow yields a sweeter, less pungent onion than California and other States produce. They are so sweet that you can just about eat them out of hand! Of course you can’t to an Onion Festival and not have Onion Rings. These were being cooked right on the spot by about 12 different people to keep up with the demand. And they were very good! You had your choice of Caramelized Onion Ketchup or a spicier type dip. We opted for the Caramelized Onion Ketchup. What else would you eat your Maui Onion Rings with?
In addition to tasting the Gnocchi I purchased some Shortbread Cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company. They have many different varieties and when you go into the shop you can sample as many types as you wish. Since Ev likes Chocolate and I like everything else, I bought a pack (my choices) of both Chocolate and Macadamia Nut/Pineapple Cookies. Needless to say, they did not last us very long. They were quite delicious.
For dinner this night we went to Rita’s Steak House where Ev had the Sirloin Burger and I had the Mussells Molokini which were just stamed Mussels in a White Wine Butter Sauce, but were very tasty. Along with this I had a Salad and Rolls and Butter.
The next day was Sunday and for dinner we went back to Coconuts Fish House. Ev again had the Fish and Chips and I had a Seafood Salad. Usually when you go to a restaurant and order a Seafood Salad there will be small pieces of Fish or small Shrimp in it. Not so the case here. There were two or three large pieces of fish including Mahi and Ahi along with 2 large Shrimp.
Needless to say Fish in the Hawaiian Islands is outstanding – fresh and delicious.
Almost everyone loves Asparagus – at least I think so! But the tip and upper half of the stalk is the most tender and flavorful parts, so we tend to cut off the bottoms. What a shame if those bottoms are thrown out. There is still flavor and nutrition in the lower half of the Asparagus even though it may be a little tougher on the bottom. There are things you can do with those tough bottoms that will render them palatable and quite delicious! Here Goes!!!
- Cut off 1 inch from the bottoms of each stem (stalk)
- Wash the remaining stems and then cut into 1inch pieces.
- Place in a saucepan or pot that will allow you to cover the pieces with at least 2 inches of liquid.
- Add a chopped Onion or Shallots.
- Add Chicken Stock, Vegetable Bouillon or Water to cover. (In the photo below, there are Carrots and Green Onions along with the Asparagus. The Chicken Stock is frozen and will defrost as the heat melts it. – you can add whatever other Vegetables you may have on hand)
- Bring to a boil and then simmer until the pieces are fork tender.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place the Asparagus pieces along with some of the liquid into your food processor or blender and run until smooth. This may also be done with an immersion blender.
- For a perfectly smooth puree pass the mixture through a strainer; for a little texture leave as is.
The resulting puree above may be used for Soup, Pasta or Pasta Sauce. To make Cream of Asparagus Soup follow the instructions below.
2 cups Vegetable Puree 1 cup Heavy Cream or Milk
3 Shallots or 1 small Onion, chopped
4 oz. Mushrooms (optional)
¼ cup unsalted Butter
4 Tbsps. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground Pepper
- Melt 4 Tbsps. of Butter; add half cup of chopped Onion or Shallots and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the 4 Tbsps. Flour until it is well combined with the Butter and Onions.
- Add the Asparagus Puree and stir well. Add enough Cream or Milk to make the desired consistency.
- Add 1 tsp. Salt and 1/4 tsp. White Pepper; taste and adjust seasonings.
Yield: Approx. 4 Servings
There are actually many types of Tubular Pasta. There is Penne, rigatoni, ziti and more. Penne is my favorite of the Tubular Pasta. Rigatoni are so big that for my taste there is just too much pasta to bite into at one time. Penne are considerably thinner than Rigatoni, but they are still tubular and hold a lot of sauce. One of my favorite uses for Penne is a Tuna Noodle Casserole, one of my husband’s favorite dinners. So, every now and then I will indulge him and make it for dinner. Usually there is leftover so he then can eat it for lunch in the next day or two.
To make a Tuna Noodle Casserole rich in creamy cheese you will need the pasta, 2 cups shredded cheese (your choice, but cheddar or jack is a favorite). I used a blend of Cheddar & Jack. You will also need 2 Tbsps. Butter and Flour and approximately 1 ½ cups of milk. The instructions following will make enough for 3 hearty servings; for a larger amount, just double the ingredients and follow the same instructions. The doubled amount will feed a family of four with leftovers or five to six for one meal.
The pan I used is a stainless steel casserole and is my favorite for just about everything. If you have a large family though you will need a bigger pan and a large oven-proof casserole to put the finished product in.
I also use diced Onion in my casserole for added flavor. Following is the list of ingredients for the smaller dish. For more, just double the given amounts and adjust the cooking equipment to fit the ingredients.
2 cups Penne Pasta
½ cup diced Onion
2 ribs celery, diced
2 Tbsps. unsalted Butter
2 Tbsps. Flour
2 cups Milk
2 cups shredded Cheese
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. ground White Pepper
1 (5 oz.) can Tuna, packed in Water, well drained
2 Green Onions, minced
½ Red Bell Pepper, diced
- Fill a 4 Qt. Saucepan with Water and add at least a teaspoon of Salt; bring to a boil and then add the Pasta. Stir to separate the Pasta and then cook for 11 minutes or until the Pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium skillet or the same pan the pasta was cooked in, melt the Butter and then add the Onion and Celery. Cook until the Onion begins to brown and the Celery is softened.
- Stir in the Butter until a paste forms; slowly add the Milk, stirring constantly.
- Continue cooking until the mixture thickens; add the Mustard, Salt & Pepper.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the Cheese just until it melts. Taste for seasoning. If desired, add a splash of Tabasco® or your favorite Hot Sauce.
5. Flake the Tuna and add it to the Cheese Sauce mixture. ( The Tuna can be doubled if you wish)
6. Add the drained Pasta to the Tuna/Cheese mixture and carefully fold in, making sure all the Pasta is
covered with the Sauce.
7. Transfer the entire mixture to a buttered oven proof casserole; top with the minced Onion and
diced Red Bell Pepper.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until all the ingredients are hot and the top is slightly
Yield: 3-4 large Servings
Note: This is a great dish to make early in the day, refrigerate and then just heat it up before dinner. If you are a working Mother, then you can make it the night before and when you come home, just put it in the oven, make a salad and dinner is ready!