Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

sausage and tomatoes

Fire roasted canned tomatoes are without a doubt one of the most delicious supermarket finds I’ve discovered lately. While plain canned tomatoes have their place—they’re my go-to if fresh tomatoes aren’t in season or look unpalatable—fire roasted canned tomatoes put them to shame. I first used fire roasted tomatoes in Heidi Swanson’s tomato soup recipe, and ever since I tasted their smoky, charred flavor, I’ve been dreaming of all the dishes they would kick up a notch—chilis, pastas, soups.

grilled veggies

sauce sausage pasta

A couple weeks ago I finally stopped dreaming of fire roasted canned tomatoes and incorporated them into this pasta dish. I love pasta dishes that are light on pasta and heavy on veggies, and this pasta fits that bill. I made a simple tomato sauce by pureeing a couple cans of fire roasted tomatoes (mine contained green chiles, which added extra kick). Then I added chopped grilled eggplant, zucchini, red onions and bell peppers.  Crumbled spicy Italian chicken sausage rounded out the mix-ins and added even more spice. I served the sauce with farfalle, but of course you can use any pasta you like.

farfalle with grilled vegetables and fire roasted tomatoes

If six servings of pasta is more than you need, consider cooking all of the sauce, grilled veggies and sausage but not all the pasta. Save the leftover sauce-veggie-meat mixture for another dinner and cook the pasta as you need it.

Serves 6

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food’s Ratatouille Pasta (June 2012).


1 medium Globe eggplant
½ medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
2 zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (15 oz.) cans fire roasted tomatoes
4 spicy Italian chicken sausages
1 pound farfalle pasta
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Make the Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Preheat grill to medium. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and onion lengthwise into ¾ inch thick slabs. Thread the onion onto skewers if you’re worried they might fall apart on the grill. Cut the red bell pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem and seeds. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and grill until tender and lightly charred. When vegetables are cool enough to touch, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, puree the fire roasted tomatoes with an immersion blender. Remove the casings from the sausage and crumble into bite-sized pieces. If the sausage is not already fully cooked, cook it in a skillet over medium heat. Combine the pureed tomatoes and cooked sausage in a large pot over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped grilled vegetables and stir well.

In another large pot, bring several quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, add the farfalle and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until done to your liking. Drain the pasta and add the pasta to the pot of sauce, vegetables and sausage. Stir well, and when all the ingredients are steaming hot, add the parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir until well incorporated. Plate the pasta and garnish with the basil.

Tomatoes, simply

heirloom tomato sliced

I used to hate tomatoes. If you were to tell my 8-year old self that one day I would have a blog named Tomato Tango, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. And if you were to tell me that not only would I grow to love tomatoes but as an adult I’d happily eat them without smothering them with ranch dressing, I would have thought you were nuts.

Somewhere between my 8-year old self and now, however, I discovered cherry tomatoes. Mostly sweet, kid-sized and vibrant in color, they were easy to pop in my mouth, and it was fun when the juice squirted between my teeth as I bit into them. I suspect cherry tomatoes are responsible for dissolving at least some of the layers of prejudice held by most tomato-hating kids.

tomato and basil

Then I learned to drown tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and top them with feta or mozzarella. With enough vinegar, you couldn’t even taste the tomato. Add cheese and the combination was positively delicious.

Slowly, and I really don’t know how it happened, I came to realize that tomatoes can taste good all on their own. They don’t need vinegar. They don’t even need cheese. I finally understood one of the fundamental principles of cooking: the things you put with tomatoes shouldn’t cover them up; they should bring out everything that is unique to tomatoes. Now, my favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes requires only three additional ingredients: olive oil, fresh basil and salt. I like to call it “Tomatoes, simply.”

tomatoes, simply

It goes without saying that the best tomatoes are from home gardens or Farmers’ Markets. I love buying tomatoes at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in San Francisco, where they are sold at very good prices ($1-3/lb.). Store your tomatoes at room temperature for best taste and texture; putting them in the refrigerator makes them mealy. 

Tomatoes, simply

Heirloom tomatoes, must be fresh and fully ripe
Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse grain sea salt

Wash and dry tomatoes. Slice tomatoes into ½-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Spread tomato slices on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil and salt. Eat with a knife and fork. Enjoy.

Tomato in box

Tomato and Zucchini “Pasta” Salad

Tomato and Zucchini Pasta Salad 2

I know. Some of you grammarians might be cringing to see “Pasta” in quotation marks because far too many people use quotation marks when they are not necessary. Trust me here. In this salad, there is no traditional semolina pasta; the zucchini itself is the pasta. Quotation marks work. You know what else works? This salad. I could eat it everyday.

I had seen recipes for zucchini “pasta” on a few food blogs, but I never tried the recipes because I didn’t have a vegetable spiralizer or fancy tool to cut the zucchini into pasta-like shapes. In lieu of special equipment, this Whole Living recipe implements a little time and elbow grease to carefully slice the zucchini into pasta-like strips. While the hand-cut method works well for small batches of the salad, I would want a quicker, more-efficient method if I were making it for a larger group.

Tomato and Zucchini “Pasta” Salad is a delicious and creative way to prepare zucchini and doesn’t even require turning on the stove or grill. Simply cut strips of raw zucchini and dress with fruity extra virgin olive oil, ripe tomatoes, walnuts, garlic and basil. The salad could be a light lunch all on its own or a side for just about any grilled summer dinner. Make sure you use really ripe and flavorful tomatoes; the salad will only be as good as the ingredients you put in it.

Tomato and Zucchini Pasta Salad

Recipe from Whole Living magazine (Aug 2011, p 101)

Serves 2 generously (can easily be doubled)


8 oz. tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped raw walnuts
2 Tablespoons torn fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Sea salt
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise into pasta-like strips

Make the Tomato and Zucchini “Pasta” Salad

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, basil and olive oil. Season with salt and let stand 20 minutes. Toss with zucchini and garnish with basil. Serve.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Something has gone terribly wrong with grocery store tomatoes. They masquerade as plump, fire-colored fruit, but if you look closely, you’ll notice their hue is pale. Take one home—and this will put a pretty dent in your pocketbook—and you’ll discover it is mealy, tasteless, an utter waste of money.

But there is a silver lining: the awful quality of grocery store tomatoes make tomatoes the easiest fruit to eat in season. I am convinced that no tomato can taste good out of season, so during these months I usually opt for canned tomatoes or no tomatoes. When tomatoes started showing up at the Farmers Market and the prices dropped to $1/pound, I sang for joy.

A revival of home canning and preserving has been sparked by the push to eat locally-grown and in-season foods. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver outlines three simple tomato-based recipes to preserve tomatoes. Even the local hardware stores are recognizing that canning is stylish again, offering special discounts on canning sets. While I contemplate whether I should try to tackle canning this year—I’m a complete novice—I tried a much simpler method of preserving tomatoes: oven drying. Baking the tomatoes at a low heat for several hours condenses the sweet, tomato flavor into a pliable, chewy tomato indulgence. Toss them in a salad, sneak them into a sandwich or just eat them as is.

Since these tomatoes aren’t completely dehydrated, they do need to be kept in the freezer for long term storage. Watch out when you make these, though—they’re so tasty they might not even reach the freezer.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes 2

Oven-Dried Tomatoes


olive oil
salt and pepper
herbs (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 200° F or the lowest setting. (My oven’s lowest setting is 275°)
  2. Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and seed them.*
  4. Drizzle olive oil over a baking sheet and spread to cover the entire surface evenly.
  5. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. You can add other herbs if you like.
  6. Bake the tomatoes in the oven for 2-8 hours or until dry, soft and pliable, like a raisin. The baking time will depend on the type of tomatoes, oven temperature and your preference. I baked my cherry tomatoes for 2 ½ hours and the larger Early Girl tomatoes for 3 hours at 275° F.
  7. These tomatoes can be kept in the fridge for short-term storage; freeze for long-term storage.

*To seed a tomato, cut it in half lengthwise, push your thumb into the cavity and force the seeds of the tomato. This is best done over a compost pail or sink with a garbage disposal.

Grilled Sourdough Panzanella

Panzanella is an Italian bread and tomato salad that is popular in summertime. Like much Umbrian and Tuscan cuisine, it was at first more practical than gourmet: a good solution for using day-old bread and summer’s plentiful tomatoes. Excellent served with grilled chicken. Also a good picnic food, but take the bread, vegetables and vinaigrette in separate containers, combining just before serving.

Serves 4-6.

4 – ½ ” thick slices sourdough bread
½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 ½ lb. ripe, meaty tomatoes, cut into ½ ” cubes (yielding 3½ cups)
1 small English cucumber, seeded and cut into ½ ” cubes (see note)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained


Brush the bread with ¼ c. olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with ¼ t. kosher salt and black pepper. Grill on both sides until brown. Cut into ½ ” cubes when cool.

Soak the onion in the vinegar for 10 minutes. Drain the onions and reserve the vinegar, placing the onions in large bowl.

Sprinkle garlic with ¼ t. kosher salt and mash into a paste. Whisk mashed garlic into reserved vinegar. Add ¼ c. olive oil, ¼ t. kosher salt, 1/8 t. pepper until well combined.

Toss bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber,basil, mint, capers and vinaigrette in the bowl with the green onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Note:

To seed the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise then drag a small spoon or melon baller across the seedy flesh. The cucumber slices will be crescent-shaped.

From Fine Cooking (September 2008 No. 80).

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