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Cookin’ Like Summertime….

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Fresh tomatoes. Beautiful aren’t they? But you may be asking yourself what am I doing with fresh tomatoes in January. Well, I work in a grocery store. And as we all know grocery stores portray food as if everything were always in season. But also, one of the benefits of working in the particular store that I do is that food that is culled from the shelves and deemed unsalable (for a variety of reasons) is offered to the employees before being given to various organizations. This said, there were a bunch of packages of fresh tomatoes in which the seals were broken, thus they were not able to be sold. So this is how I found myself in possession of these beautiful tomatoes and cooked dinner with them on a cold, grey, and rainy January evening.

Anyhow, my son came over for dinner last evening and I made us Pasta Fra Diavolo (to read about the origin and etymology of the recipe, read this post). There is a recipe below for this dish, but the one that I made with these tomatoes was slightly different in that I used fresh tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes were first processed and then simmered down to a thick puree. The recipe that is listed is actually more appropriate for this time of year as it uses canned tomatoes. And as usual, this recipe is not carved in stone, it is simply a suggestion. Add or delete or interchange ingredients to suite your tastes.

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Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate

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Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

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This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.


Urban Simplicity.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses (yum!)

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Okay. So this is really delicious. How delicious is it, you may ask? Well if you notice in the servings I wrote that it makes either four small or two large portions. When I first put it in the oven I looked at it and thought it would easily serve four, but when it came out it was so delicious I ate half of it.

Anyhow, as usual this is just a guide…use different ingredients or interchange them. I just happened to have some cauliflower in my cooler I needed to use up. You can also multiply this recipe, or make extra because leftovers are equally good.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses

Make four small or two large servings

1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ head cauliflower, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 tomato sauce

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

2 ounces grated Parmesan


Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy.