Saturday, July 24, 2010

Culinary SMACKDOWN: Summer Veggies

Due to Eggy's phenomenal win last month, she has been chosen as the hostess with the mostest for this month's culinary contest. Her theme?


I chose:

Tomatoes and Green Chile.

Tomatoes because, yes, I KNOW they're a fruit, but let's face it: they TASTE like a vegetable, look like a vegetable, and smell like a vegetable. Plus, they are the most abundant crop of these here sweltering summer days.

The chile, well, that's native to my part of the world and crops down south around Las Cruces and Hatch are just now being harvested. The chile I used in the pizza recipe below is from last summer, kept safely frozen in Ziplock baggies for use throughout the year, because I won't be doing this for about another month. In some parts of the world, a pizza just isn't a pizza without pepperoni. In my world, it's nearly inconceivable to think of eating one without green chile on top.

The tomatoes in this recipe were sent to me by my father-in-law who lives and gardens in South Louisiana. They arrived along with about seven dozen fresh figs off his prodigious tree, but, alas, even packed well and sent two day air, by the time the figs arrived, they had composted down to a slimy stew appropriate only for the birds. Which gobbled them up greedily, so at least someone was happy. So, le sigh, still no fig tart por Moi. Or Eggy's savory fig bread. The tomatoes, however, were fine. And delicious. I ask you: IS there anything more tasty than a fresh-from-the-garden tomato? I say: no.

When cooking with garden fresh tomatoes, I think simple is best. Like this quick and easy pasta dish:


Serves Four

8 ounces (1/2 pound) spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup of virgin olive oil
Four large ripe, garden fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of fresh spinach, loosely packed
1/2 cup of fresh basil, loosely packed
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
8 ounces of feta, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil noodles to al dente stage. Strain through colander but do not rinse. Set aside. In same pot you boiled noodles, heat olive oil and saute garlic and tomatoes together until tomatoes are just soft. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add spinach, basil, parsley, and feta. Stir until heated through and spinach is slightly wilted. Add noodles and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Recipe #2: Grilled Pizza

A buddy of ours was up last weekend to train for La Luz (yes, here I go, again) and had the great idea to grill pizzas for one of the evening meals. I've never done it before (we have access to what I consider to be some of the best pizza around about 10 minutes to the east of us), but it's likewise easy and tasty.

Buy about one pound of pizza dough, either pre-made from the store or from your local pizzeria (or if you're really game, make your own), make some sauce (we made traditional red tomato and a white sauce, which is basically a bechamel to which I added a little nutmeg and some cooking sherry).

Roll out a quarter pound of dough for each pizza. Don't worry about getting it perfectly shaped. Rough and rustic is the goal here. Lay the dough out on a flat board or baking sheet and brush olive oil on both sides.

Prepare your grill. Once hot, grill the dough until golden brown on both sides. Then, add your sauce and toppings and grill until cheese begins to melt. If you think your crust is getting too toasty, you can always remove and finish cooking the toppings in the oven.

Toppings used: fresh mozzarella, provolone cheese, tomatoes, pepperoni, olives, grilled onions, peppers, roasted garlic, spinach, fresh basil, and roasted green chile.

And now, head over to Intuitive Eggplant's blog to see who else is up and running in the Smackdown.


Pam said...

Mmmmmmm on the pizza and pasta dishes. I could dig in right now. I heard this week that a tomato is actually a berry (was that from Fishy?) ... so now I'm really confused. But have been reading about the benefits of the vine ripened ones (no surprise there) so enjoy 'em while you got 'em!

Sharon Rudd said...

What a lovely, fresh pasta dish, and I'm diggin' those grilled pizzas too. What interesting topping combinations! Great job, Moi, and thanks for playing!

P.S. I am so sorry to hear about your figs.

Heff said...

That Pizza looks INCREDIBLE Moi !

moi said...

Pam: Seriously? What's next? Proof that tomatoes are actually an alien life from from a distant galaxy getting ready to take over? Which wouldn't be half bad if our enslavement included 24/7 pizza.

Eggplant: Grilling those pizzas was the most fun I've had with food in a while.

Heff: Thank you, Señor!

chickory said...

yeah i make fresh veggie pasta almost every night because i have to. but those PIZZAS! those look great and i am going to try that. what a great way to do it because if you use the oven it heats up the house - a big NO if you are AC free as i am. great entry, Moi. good luck!

moi said...

It's pretty much pasta central around here, too, because, hey, what can one NOT put on a pile of noodles, right? But I'd never done pizzas before. Try it! It sure saves heat in the kitchen and it's a lot of fun.

Aunty Belle said...

that grilled pizza gits mah mouth waterin'!

Oh I does hate to hear of the fig fate. Newly enamored of figs in unexpected presentations, it seems to me a double shame since figs is sometimes hard to come by.

A bit off topic--does ya know what kind of pepper I has that the devil hisself cain't eat--the wicked thang is a small, 3/4 inch, pale yaller elongated pepper, that turns red. It has smoothish leaves and done growed to about a four foot high bush. Ain't tried the ripe ones, but the pale yaller stage? reminds me of the youtube whar' the fool snorts wasabi powder then screams " Oh GOD oh God, My brain hurts". Anyhoo, Uncle likes hot, but this thang is the big bang. Or, mebbe we's jes' sissies.

I doan know its name.

LaDivaCucina said...

YUM! I make a similar pasta very often but mostly just use hard cheese, not feta! I suppose it's a great "go to" summer pasta dish you can always do a lot with.

I've not bothered to grill pizza. Probably cuz we have to actually light coals and if I'm going through that, it's going to be to make something that takes longer to cook than pizza! Is the flavor any different? I love the idea of the white sauce and the roasted green chiles!!! Very nice, Moi, well done!

LaDivaCucina said...

You know what? You've inspired me! I'm going to make a fresh tomato pasta sauce tonight too!

moi said...

Aunty: Hmmm . . . not sure. Sounds like a pepper that falls under what's called an ornamental edible. There are dozens of varieties. Did you Google chili pepper varieties to see if you can find a photo?

La Diva: I think the biggest difference in flavor is the crust. I used a prepared Pillsbury product and it was tasty crisped up, not so much less so.

Aunty Belle said...

hmmn....ok, I looked on the net--looks closest to a Datil Pepper, which is small, yellow, conical ...and grown in Florida, BUT
mine finally turn red--not sure the Datils go red.

really waanna grill a pizza now--our local grocery offers fresh pizza dough every mornin' in the bakery--yeasty balls of premade dough make it a snap.

Sharon Rudd said...

I have a question for you, Moi, if you would be kind enough to email me.

Thanks, eggy

Buzz Kill said...

Two outstanding dishes Moi. I like the pizza on the grill idea. Did you put them on pans or directly on the grill. I think I would add some mesquite chips to the fire to get that wood-fire oven affect.

moi said...

Aunty: If it's a Datil, it's a hot one. They eventually will turn red, only I believe they are usually picked yellow.

Eggy: Will do!

Buzz: Yup, the dough goes directly on the grill (you can see the marks if you enlarge the photos). I agree about the mesquite, although the chips we used, I couldn't really suss out the flavor.

Making Space said...

Oh. God. That. Pizza.

Karl said...

Good afternoon Moi,

You could teach a class "How to push Karl's buttons 101" both recipes look so very tasty. The first recipe includes all of my major food ingredients, if I'm cooking they're likely to be in it.

The pizza looks wonderfull. I would've likely thrown a stone underneath to balance the heat. Yet your results prove it would've been unnecessary.

Great job! If you do it again, I would happily bring the beer;)