Tag Archives: tomato

spaghetti & meatballs with a vegan (and gluten free!) twist: zucchini spaghetti and beanballs with fresh marinara + vegan ‘parmesan’ cheese

zucchini spaghetti and vegan beanballs

I came home the other week with a book called “Raw Food Detox Diet,” and I’d be lying if I said that James didn’t look just a wee bit petrified.

No, I am not on some fad diet (nor do I think the raw ‘movement’ is a fad, but I digress), but you may have noticed I’ve again been slightly scarce around here lately, and that’s because now that we are settled in to our new-ish house and hometown, we’ve been up to our usual hijinx of visitors, entertaining, eating, and drinking. We had visitors staying with us for a solid 4 weeks straight (not all the same ones, mind you), and when people arrive to your new spot the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and eat salad.

No. You’ll want to go wine tasting, and while we’re at it — toss in a cheese plate. You’ll have a hankering to make baby back ribs (3 separate times!), throw marinated flank steak, spatchcocked chicken, and lamb burgers on the grill, and whip up a ‘vodka bolognese’ (with beef and pancetta) as a birthday dinner for a dear friend. There will also be cake at said birthday dinner, and a morning spent mixing up fresh bloodies to enjoy poolside. There will be a lot of indulgences, and not much restraint. The Diem will be Carpe’d, every single day, to the absolute very fullest extent.

So after lots of meat, cheese, wine, beer, and bread (because I failed to mention the brick oven pizza place down the road we’ve been hitting up on the reg), I was left feeling a bit bleh. I, by all natural inclination, am not a huge meat eater, and after feeling like I consumed more animal products in a month than I have in some entire seasons passed, I began to feel a bit queasy.

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a farmer’s optimism: feta and herb meatballs with roasted red pepper and chard conchiglie (as seen my my iphone)

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“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”           — Will Rodgers

It’s absolutely bucketing outside – the kind of rain that recalls the old ‘cats and dogs’ idiom; the sort that keeps you from attending a yoga class you’d virtuously scheduled into your day for fear of getting ‘soaked to the bone’ while racing from car to studio, and the type that commands warm socks and your favorite hoodie as the only acceptable attire.

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For those of you that do not live in Southern California, and for me, previously, at various (well, most) points in my life, this kind of rain is usually a bummer.  Maybe it’s just that you tend to remember these sort of negative things, but in my memories, heavy rain – or any bad weather, really – has an unfortunate tendency of picking up just as a plane carrying your best friend touches down for a weekend visit, or on the very weekend that you were planning a backyard fete.  You know what I mean – inclement weather always seems to happen right at the wrong time.

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But this time, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re settled into our new house in Santa Barbara, the last of the scuffed-up and tape-heavy corrugated boxes have been broken down and hauled away, and we’re having our inaugural rainfall.  Not just any old rainfall though – a rainfall that has been hoped, prayed, and danced for by anyone and everyone in the state of drier-than-bone-dry-California (and my Mother, way across the country on Cape Cod, who has been anxiously watching the storm crawl across the doppler for the better part of a week!)

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Here in unusually hot and sunny California – and particularly in South – we’ve managed to get ourselves in a real predicament as far as the water supply is concerned….or complete lack thereof, I should say. Upon the first fat drops hitting the roof you could hear a collective squeal of joy, and when you live on an avocado farm – one that has become increasingly sunburnt and parched under this ultra-sunny Winter sky – a few days of much needed soaking feels like hitting the jackpot.

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Of course a few days of rain will do anything but solve the drought – it’s a huge help, that’s no question – but we are doing everything in our power to conserve, conserve, conserve around here.  That means a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to catch the first few chilly minutes (which in turn gets dumped on the roses), being aware of and reducing the flow when washing dishes and brushing teeth, setting dishwashers and washing machines to their express settings (read: faster and still totally adequate), and recalling the old hippie mantra, “If it’s yellow….”

Crunchy stuff, right?

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hello, august: heirloom tomato BLT salad with goat cheese and dijon vinaigrette

heirloom tomato BLT salad with goat cheese and dijon vinaigrette

There are few things in life that delight me more than fresh tomatoes ripened on the vine; that earthy and slightly spicy scent that rubs off on your fingers when you carefully twist one apart from it’s branch is, to me anyway, quite possibly one of the most intoxicating perfumes that exists in nature.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - fresh heirlooms

But tomatoes require patience, a virtue that I, categorically speaking, have not exactly been renowned to posses. For try as you may, you simply cannot force a tomato; I am a firm believer that there is nothing in this world less enticing than a watery, mealy, pale round of ‘tomato’ sliding sadly out the side of a sandwich in the middle of Winter. What’s the point?

heirloom tomato BLT salad - thick cut bacon

Sure, you can eek by with some hothouse-grown grape tomatoes in your salads for most of the year, and, in their own right, they will do perfectly fine. But if you forgo the sad and sallow ethylene-ripened specimens and hold out for the Real McCoys, that patience is handsomely rewarded.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - fresh arugula

And come August, they’re ready — and here we suddenly are.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - the makings of a great dressing

heirloom tomato BLT salad - perfect vinaigrette

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insignificant as they might be: old school spaghetti and meatballs and a simple tomato sauce (with lamb, pork, and beef)

the best old school spaghetti and meatballs and a simple tomato sauce, by cory at eatandrelish.com

I was all set yesterday to tell you about one of my favorite things to make and eat when  I crave something simple, nostalgic, and just so freaking tasty, but then….suddenly these meatballs just weren’t important anymore.  There is nothing more to say that hasn’t already been said about the tragic events of yesterday, and I can’t pretend to be eloquent enough to put into proper words that sick feeling we all carry in our guts, or the fiery rage we have yet to be able to direct at any one person or organization.

whol garlic ready to be minced

A marathon runner, I am most definitely am not, but being from Cape Cod, the Boston Marathon is an event that I grew up with, and one that has served as a point of pride and celebration for Bostonians and Massachusetts residents alike.  At any marathon, there are of course the elite competitors, those more casual “weekend warrior” athletes, the yearly pacemakers and medal collectors, and the slew of first-timer-gotta-knock-it-off-the-ole-bucket-list runners. There are those who come to stand on the sidelines and cheer for someone who is running to support a cause that is dear to their hearts, and those who come every year to cheer for no one in particular, but instead for everyone who impressively puts their mental and physical reserves to the test by donning a number and vowing to finish.

starting to cook down the grated onion and tomato paste

The entire event encapsulates just so much good, and encourages and fosters a strong bond within the community; on Marathon Monday, it’s not just about physical fitness and the fanfare of winning a first place medal, but about the words of encouragement, the triumphant faces of those who’ve overcome and endured a massive  commitment, and the brotherhood that comes along with sharing a struggle. Essentially, so many things that make up the Boston way. The American way. For a monster to come in and senselessly and cowardly take that away from the runners, from Boston, and from all of us….is soul crushing.

bright green parsley

President Obama said today “If you want to know who we are, who America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.” I know my hometown of Boston is woven of a strong and hardy bunch, and that they will, eventually, recover.  Even still, it’s of little solace in sad times like these, and my heart and mind, along with the rest of the country, and the world, will continue to be with the people and families who were so deeply affected by this despicable and senseless act.

always lots of grated parmesan cheese

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a healthy alternative: chickpea “tabbouleh” (gluten-free & vegan!)

chickpea 'tabbouleh' (gluten-free & vegan!)

I happen to still currently live in the “Gluten Free Capital” of the world (seriously….which also happens to be located smack in the center of the “Napa Valley of (glutinous) Beer” – go figure!), and though I certainly haven’t jumped on the wheat-free bandwagon and shunned all things bready, wheaty, and piled high on a blistered pizza crust (nothankyouverymuch), it has definitely influenced how I look at how much wheat I eat mindlessly on a daily and weekly basis (I do spend my days in a bakery, for Pete’s sake).

chickpea 'tabbouleh' whole chickpeas

chickpea 'tabbouleh' chickpeas chopped

I’m not about to go all glu-tard (haywire) on you and announce that I’m shunning my favorite carb, but I do like that this frame of mind has made me search for different meals and side dishes that aren’t sandwiched between two pieces of bread.

Everything in moderation, right?

chickpea 'tabbouleh' ingredients assembled

I love tabbouleh (an incredibly good plum iteration last seen here), but while making fresh hummus a few weeks ago I was struck by how similar in size and texture to bulgur the chickpeas appeared when I had coarsely chopped them in my processor. A quick google search confirmed that I was not the first to think of this, and I mentally cataloged the idea as a great make-ahead-take-along lunch.

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the conundrum: eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash, three cheeses, and a simple tomato sauce

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash, three cheeses, and a simple sauce

The problem with making ‘light’ versions of ‘bad’ foods is that I am inevitably disappointed; sure, I use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream (all the time, really), I try to cut the amount of oil in my salad dressings by using more vinegar, and I’ll try to occasionally squeeze in some low fat coconut milk, even if I know I like the regular kind so much better.

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash cheeses

Bikinis, they require these sorts of sacrifices, no? (And of course this one that I’ve got my eye on is no exception. #hellotreadmillivemissedyou.)

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash whole

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash

But what I really mean is that when I’ve got a hankering for something, like, say….eggplant parmigiano, I’m not about to try and grill it, stuff it with fat-free cottage cheese, and eat it on a rice cake to try and get my fix. (I’ve got nothing ‘gainst rice cakes, but come on.)

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash fried eggplant

eggplant parmigiano with spaghetti squash simple sauce

At best, eggplant parmigiano is nothing short of transcendent; crisp, melty, silken, and gooey in the best way that gooey can be. At worst – and, actually, most of the time – it leaves more than a little to be desired. Greasy, oil-sodden stacks of eggplant deep-fried with too much breading, elastic-y plastic-y mozzarella cheese, and a snarl of limp overcooked linguine. Not to be Debbie-Eggplant-Downer, but I rarely treat myself to a plate of it while eating out, because there is nothing more frustrating than setting yourself up for disappointment and order-envy.

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just in time: late summer gazpacho – tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, avocado

Butter.

And a whole lotta sugar.  That right there about sums up why I haven’t shown my mug ’round these parts in over two (two!) full weeks.

That I’ve been up to my earlobes in a bunch of the good stuff is an understatement; over the past two weeks, I transitioned from the cafe to the bakery, and for a good chunk of that time, I was cramming long shifts at both into days that suddenly came up much too short.

Starting my days at a chipper six-thirty in the morning and wrapping them up just before the clock turned me into a pumpkin is exhausting (to say the very least), and where on weekends I should have been catching up on my precious lost winks, I was entertaining out of town guests, dancing the night away at a wedding in California, and chasing one cheeky pug and her new BFF feline around as they terrorized and tornado’d about the house.

That all said, there are far, far worse things to be inundated with than cherry pies, blackbottom cupcakes, shortbread, and chocolate ganache, and the past few weeks have been a sugary whirlwind that would send my dentist scampering off for the hills.

Dough has been flying, bread has been rising, mixers have been whirring, and I have drank more double-shot macchiatos than I care to admit.  I’m finally almost (almost) past that awkward very beginning phase – the one where you still have to ask how to use the phone (so….do I need to dial a ‘9’?) and manage to be in the way of every baker who’s carrying a blazing hot tray of bubbling raspberry scones

The bakery is starting to feel like a warm, coffee-scented second home.

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