Tag Archives: tomato

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

Image by Brett L. Licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

Tomato soup may not come to mind when you think of winter holiday entertaining, but thanks to the wonder of hydroponics, we’re getting beautiful local tomatoes all season long.

Greenling has a limited number of inexpensive “seconds” tomatoes available each week, which can be a real money-saver if you’re planning to cook tomatoes in bulk. These tomatoes are perfectly fresh and safe to eat; they are discounted because they usually arrive very ripe and might have a few cosmetic blemishes.

Since “seconds” tomatoes arrive so ripe, you might need to cook them immediately so they retain their great flavor. For this soup recipe, you can roast the tomatoes and garlic in advance of actually making the soup, since the cooked tomatoes and garlic will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to make the soup, just pull out the cooked ingredients and proceed with the recipe as written.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup (yields 8, 1 1/4-cup servings)

4 pounds tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
5 whole cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons garlic herb butter
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, on a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Add unpeeled garlic cloves to baking sheet. Rub three tablespoons of olive oil on tomatoes and garlic, and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Cook tomatoes and garlic for one hour. Allow to cool to the touch before peeling garlic and moving forward with recipe.

Heat herbed butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Saute the onion for about 5 minutes, until it has softened. Add honey, tomatoes, garlic, broth, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or puree it in small batches in a conventional blender. Pour soup through a food mill or strainer into a clean pot. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Gently reheat, if necessary. Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of heavy cream and a sprinkling of black pepper before serving.

This dish is part of our Organic Entertaining on a Budget series. A complete menu of recipes is available here.

Eggplant Parmesan with Zucchini

eggplant parmesan

Even though we dipped down below the 90s last week, it seems summer is still going to stick around for a while, and along with it our summer produce. I for one was excited to see eggplant in our Local Box, as I’ve felt like I haven’t gotten my fill of it yet. I decided to use it in a simplified version of eggplant parmesan.

This version doesn’t have multiple layers, making it slightly less like a casserole. I also decided to forego spinach in favor of shredded zucchini. Eggplant parmesan is often a heavy dish, but this was a light and easy preparation.

Eggplant Parmesan with Zucchini
adapted from Tyler Florence

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds (about 10 slices total)
Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 cups shredded zucchini
Salt and pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella

Set up two shallow bowls. In one bowl, beat together egg and milk. Pour breadcrumbs in the other bowl, and set both near stove.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs, and place in skillet. Cook until golden on both sides, then remove to a 9×13 baking dish, arranging in a single layer. (Squish them in if you need to.)
Reduce skillet to medium, and add onions. Cook until translucent, then add tomatoes and zucchini. Cook until tomatoes have broken down a bit, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler.
Pour tomato mixture over the eggplant. Tear mozzarella into pieces and scatter over the top. Cook under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Crustless Quiche with Juliet Tomatoes

Tomato and Onion Quiche

Juliet tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese make this casserole look fancy in a pie crust. When it’s just family, I skip those calories and pour the Quiche filling straight into a buttered pie pan.

Sans crust, this Quiche is one of my favorites for lazy Saturday morning breakfasts since I can sneak back into bed and listen to NPR while it cooks in the oven. It also works well for a quick weeknight dinner paired with a side salad and a glass of wine.

If you don’t have cherry or juliet tomatoes on hand, chopped fresh tomatoes are a good substitute. None of those? A cup of chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, greens, or cooked potatoes would work well, too. If you end up using any of those ingredients, cook them with the onions in the skillet before stirring them into the eggs.

Crustless Quiché with Juliet Tomatoes (serves 8 )

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
half-pint juliet tomatoes (8-12), cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a nine-inch pie pan. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook them until they are tender, then set them aside to cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and par-cooled onions. Stir to combine, then pour the mixture into the prepared pie pan. Arrange tomato halves, skin side up, in the egg mixture.  Bake the Quiche until the custard is golden, puffed and the edges are set, about 30-35 minutes. Set on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes to cool before serving.

Local Box Picnic: Allen Park

Unless you live in the Far West neighborhood of Austin, chances are that you’ve never heard of Allen Memorial Park. This hilly little hiking spot is tucked near an office park west of MoPac near Far West. There are no playgrounds or sports fields at Allen Park; its main draw is the well-kept trail, clean picnic areas, and a real sense of seclusion.

Trail at Allen Memorial Park in Austin, Texas
Nearly a mile of gravel trail twists through the park. Some hills are very steep, while other parts of the trail are relatively flat overlooking the city. Although sounds of MoPac traffic hum throughout the park, a thick layer of foliage helps the trails feel set apart from the surrounding city. My husband and I were the only visitors at the park at dinner time on the Fourth of July.


The wide, gravelled trail starts at Allen Park’s parking lot and ascends up a rocky scramble to a large picnic area. Besides this larger picnic spot, there are at least six separate picnic tables near the entrance of the park.  Each table is located in its own paved clearing, and some have a charcoal grill nearby. (As of this post, these grills are covered and unusable because Travis County is under a burn ban.) Although it’s not a long walk from one picnic area to the next, each clearing is separated by dense greenery and windy trails. We chose to dine at this picnic table, which overlooks the Northwest Hills neighborhood to the west.

For dinner I made some easy summer salads with Local Box ingredients from Hillside Farm, Massey Farm and Tecolote Farm.  The highlight of the meal was a spicy corn & black bean salad, studded with Juliet tomatoes and topped with Cotija cheese.  The best part of this recipe– besides the tomatoes– is a spicy jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. To get an even level of high heat throughout the salad, I use a blender to liquify a whole jalapeno pepper and a clove of garlic into the dressing. This technique ensures a high level of heat without worrying about whole jalapeno seeds creating “hot spots” throughout the salad. I also don’t have to bother with wearing gloves as I mince the pepper by hand– a huge plus.



Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad (serves 6)

3 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1, 15-ounce can black beans
1 medium red onion
1 medium bell pepper
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
lime wedges to garnish

1 garlic clove
1 large jalapeno pepper
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring water to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the shucks and silks from the ears of corn. Wash and dry the corn, then cut the kernels off of the cob. Cook the kernels of corn for about three minutes in boiling water, until they are tender-firm. Drain the corn and set aside to cool.

Peel and dice the onion. Remove the ribs and seeds from the bell pepper, and dice the remaining flesh. Slice Juliet tomatoes in half.  Place them in a large salad bowl along with the minced onion, bell pepper and sliced tomatoes. Chop off the tough stems from the bunch of cilantro. Chop the remaining leaves and add to the salad, stirring to combine.

To make the dressing, peel the garlic and slice the top stem off of the jalapeno pepper. Put the whole garlic clove and decapitated pepper– seeds, ribs and all– into the blender along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse on “liquify,” or your blender’s highest speed, for about three minutes, until all the pepper seeds have been obliterated and the dressing is emulsified. No blender? Peel and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from the jalapeno and mince it by hand. Whisk the crushed garlic and minced pepper together with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Pour the prepared dressing over the salad and mix well. Top with crumbled Cotija cheese and garnish with lime wedges before serving. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator and tastes better the second day, although the tomatoes will not be as vibrant red by then.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta Salad

I had my first taste of Hillside Farms‘ baby Roma tomatoes last summer, at the beginning of my local food adventures.  The moment that first Juliet tomato burst in my mouth was an epiphany. It tasted like sunshine, sweeter than any tomato I’d ever eaten.

I had been skeptical about the locavore movement until then, but with that one bite I finally understood what the “eat local” hoopla was about. A year later, I’ve certainly bought into the local food movement. And my heart still pitter-pats every time I see Hillside Farms’ Juliet tomatoes in my Local Box.

If I don’t eat them straight out of the package, I enjoy using Juliet tomatoes in a simple pasta salad with pesto dressing. I almost always have goat cheese and the ingredients for homemade pesto in my fridge during the summer months, and this salad is one of my favorite things to cook on nights when Juliet tomatoes arrive in the Local Box.

This salad is as versatile as it is easy to prepare. I’ve added olives, chopped green onions, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, grilled chicken breast, and even chopped raw baby squash to this salad, all with good results. It’s a terrific base for whatever I’m craving along with those sweet little tomatoes from Hillside Farms.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes (serves two as a main dish as written;  serves more if you stretch it by adding more veggies or meats)

1/2 lb. farfalle, penne, or conchiglie pasta
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
4 ounces goat cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare pesto sauce by combining basil, grated cheese, olive oil, and minced garlic and one teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse for about 90 seconds, until pesto is uniform in texture. Set pesto aside until the cooked, drained pasta is cool to the touch. After that, mix the cooked pasta and pesto sauce in a serving dish.

Put the goat cheese in the freezer for a few minutes while you slice the cherry tomatoes in half. (Chilling the soft cheese makes much easier to break up later.) Add the sliced tomatoes to the dressed pasta, then use a butter knife to chip the cold goat cheese into the salad. Gently stir the finished salad to combine all the ingredients and chill it for at least an hour in the fridge before serving.