Jersey No-Cook Pasta Sauce

All summer long, I’ve been covering the Blackwood Farmer’s Market for the Gloucester Township Patch. It has been pretty much a dream, combining two of my favorite things: food and writing. 

One of my favorite things is finding out everyone’s favorite recipes. One of the weekly vendors, Dave Monteleon Farms, is always bursting with tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, beets, corn, peppers, peaches, basil and everything under the Jersey Summer Sun.  Doris Monteleon shared her favorite summer pasta recipe.

The recipe uses Juliet tomatoes, which sort of look like mini-plum tomatoes. You can truly use any tomato you like–I used Juliets plus a few tomatoes from our own backyard garden. To my recipe, I tossed in a few cloves of fresh garlic (Doris did not include this ingredient in her original recipe).

This sauce is bursting with garden goodness–you can taste the sunshine and the rain in every bite. It sort of makes you believe that miracles do happen–after all those tomatoes just started with a tiny seed in a green house way back in the dark days of winter.

The leftovers (if you have any) are great cold. I am eating some right now. ( :

The goodies:
1 pint Juliet tomatoes, plus 2 or 3 medium tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
handful of fresh basil
3 T. olive oil
1 pound curly pasta noodle, such rigatoni or cellentani
1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced

 The work:
1. Quarter the smaller Juliet tomatoes and coarsely chop the larger tomatoes. Place in a large bowl.
2. Grate or mince garlic. Coarsely chop fresh basil. Combine garlic, basil, tomatoes, olive and salt/pepper.
3. While the tomatoes mixture is sitting, cook pasta according to package instructions.
4. Drain cooked pasta. Add mozzarella to tomato mixture.  Top the pasta with the cheese/tomato mixture. The cheese melts, the tomatoes release a little juice and the basil sings.

It is THAT good!


Squash Soup 1: Coconut and Lemon grass

We have a bumper crop of this gorgeous heirloom squash called Galeux d’Eysines. The name means “embroidered with warts from Eysines (a small town in France). ” These warts are actually produced from the sugar in the squash.
Mike grew squash because we eat it often-roasted, on salad greens and in soups. I made this fabulous Coconut and Lemon grass soup last week–the perfect transition from Summer to Fall. The coconut and lemon grass are reminiscent of a tropical, beach-y meal. There is nothing more “Fall” than creamy smooth squash.
While I used our Galeux d’Eysines, you can use any variety of winter squash or pumpkin for this soup. To make your life easy, pick up a package of pre-cut and peeled butternut squash in the produce department.
Lemon grass add a light citrus flavor to the soup, balancing the richness of the coconut milk and squash. You can find fresh lemon grass in the produce department. Find a great guide on the use of lemon grass here. I could not find fresh lemon grass, but found prepared lemon grass, in a tube, in the produce department at Wegmans. Use either option–although the tube option is quick and easy to use!
This soup cooks quick and freezes great. The recipe below serves 4. Serve with some garlic Naan or a baguette.

The ingredients:

3 cups squash–peeled, cut into 2-3″ chunks (any variety, butternut, acorn, pumpkin)

1 tablespoon EVOO
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced
1 whole jalapeno
1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and diced
1-2 stalks of fresh lemon grass, yellow/fleshy section, chopped OR 2 tablespoons of prepared lemon grass (in a tube, source: Wegman’s produce department)
15 oz can of coconut milk
Fresh cilantro
Get soup-y
Preheat oven to 400F. Place squash chunks in a large baking dish, toss with olive oil and salt/pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it is soft, with some brown caramelized edges.
After squash is cooked, remove form oven and put aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot. Add to butter shallots and ginger, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until shallots are translucent and ginger is fragrant.
Add WHOLE jalapeno and lemon grass, stir. Cook 2-3 more minutes.
Add cooked squash, stir.
De-glaze the pan with can of coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove jalapeno.
Using an immersion blender, puree in pot until smooth. Or, puree in a blender in batches.
Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Cooking together: Peachy Keen Salsa by Trish & Miranda

I love my girlfriends–especially as I plunge headfirst into motherhood and my 30s. This week, I had the joy of cooking with one of my favorite Nana’s-in-Training Miranda (author of the fab blog At the Cookery). We cooked and canned up a batch of Peach Salsa–it is sweet and spicy and oh so peachy.
While we chopped (and I made her chop the jalapeno, sort of a hazing into the Nana program), cooked and canned; we chatted. It made me think of women everywhere–those of today and those of centuries ago. Whether it is women working together in an office to build a corporation or two fabulous Mommas preserving summer in jar–it is the sharing of stories, tips and laughs that makes the end product special.
In each jar of our Peachy Keen Salsa, there is laughter and love and friendship. There is the background noise of our children–Max, Emma, Lily and Chloe–laughing and throwing toys around the room. When I eat this salsa, I’ll always savor the taste of my girlfriend and our day together.
Let me tell you a little about my girlfriend Miranda. Miranda is absolutely a Nana-in-Training. She loves finding authentic solutions for her family–whether it is monthly meal planning, cooking for the season or planning a meal that even a picky 3-year-old will eat–Miranda is a solution oriented momma. She is way more analytical than I could ever be-
-which is a wonderful complement to my wayward and wandering ways.
Our Peachy Keen Salsa is tomato-less. Even though I love tomatoes, I really wanted to make something that showcased peaches. We produced 20 half-pints. You could halve (or quarter) the recipe and just make a batch for your refrigerator too. If you don’t can it, still simmer it together–the heat softens the peaches and melts their natural sugar into the spice of the jalapenos and cayenne. Also feel free to adjust the heat of the salsa–adding less or more peppers.
We snuck some from the pot and tried it with tortilla chips. Miranda can’t wait to try it on shrimp. I think it would also compliment a firm white fish–Mahi Mahi (which will be our dinner tonight!) or even pork.
Here’s the recipe we followed (based on something I found online called Katie’s Peach Salsa).
Peachy Keen Salsa
18 peaches-diced, skins left on
3 small-medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 jalapeno peppers chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup lime juice (if you can, use bottled lime juice. if you are not canning, you can use either fresh or bottled)
4 tablespoons local honey
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
Toss everything in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. If processing, pack into hot jars and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Eggplant Prep–salt, sweat and rinse

A common complaint amongst eggplant or aubergine lovers is the sometimes bitter flavor.
Most smaller varieties of eggplant (japanese, fairy tale, etc) do not become bitter when cooked. The larger eggplant varieties can be bitter. (The seeds contain something related to the tobacco plant that produces that bitter flavor when cooked).
To reduce and avoid bitter taste, slice and salt the eggplant (using kosher salt). Let the salted eggplant sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The eggplant slices will “sweat” and then you can rinse the slices, removing the bitter flavor.
Salting and sweating the eggplant will also reduce the amount of oil absorbed when frying or sautéing. It is a quick, fabulous step that will ensure the rich flavor of the eggplant shines through!

Triple mini tomato bruschetta

Tomato bruschetta was the first grown up dish I learned to make. Over the years, I’ve played with my recipe a bit and finally, I think I’ve stumbled on the most brilliant variation using food from the season.

I am absolutely loving the variety of summer tomatoes. You will love this triple mini tomato bruschetta made a mixture of yellow grape tomatoes, purple cherry tomatoes and red teardrop tomatoes. The variety of mini tomatoes infuse this bruschetta with sunshine and soil. It is absolutely fantastic. Bruschetta is great on fresh bread or use to top a salad, as a no-cook pasta sauce or on chicken or fish.

The good stuff:
About 1 pint–mixed variety of mini tomatoes (grape, cherry, teardrop), cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, snipped/chopped into thin strips
1/4 cup EVOO
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
2 baguettes, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
Mix tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, EVOO, vinegar and salt/pepper (to taste). You can serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with sliced baguettes.

Weekend meals: World’s Best Chicken & Shrimp Skewers with Balsamic Grilled Vegetables

We’ve had a fair share of weekend company this summer and since our patio is bigger than our dining room, I always want to grill. This dinner is so easy–just takes some advance cutting and marinating. The cooking time is short and with veggies, chicken and shrimp–there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Serve it up with fresh corn-on-the-cob and maybe my Triple mini tomato bruschetta . If there are any leftovers–make salads or sandwiches the next day.
Chicken and Shrimp Skewers
1 lb boneless chicken breast cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb peeled/deveined raw shrimp (medium to large in size)
4 cloves garlic–shaved across a micro-plane to make a paste
4 lemons-juice and zest
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of fresh herbs, chopped (I typically use basil and parsley–but use what you have)
Mix garlic, lemon, oil, herbs and s/p in a large bowl.
Put the chicken and shrimp into separate large ziploc bags (or tupperware containers). Pour half of the marinade into each ziploc bag. Place in refrigerator and marinade for 30 minutes-1 hour. Don’t marinade too long–the citrus cooks the chicken and shrimp.
Thread chicken and shrimp onto skewers. Don’t mix–the shrimp takes about 5 minutes to grill and the chicken slightly longer. Grill over medium-high heat outside (or inside on a grill pan). Place chicken on first–after about 3 minutes, add the shrimp. Grill both until cooked about 10 minutes for chicken and 5 minutes for the shrimp.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand–this was what was in my veggie drawer.
2 eggplant–sliced 1/4″ (see note about salting and rinsing eggplant)
1 zucchini–sliced long way, 1/4″ thick
1 yellow summer squash-slice long way, 1/4″ thick
1 red onion-sliced 1/4″ rings
2 red peppers-quartered
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup feta cheese
Place vegetables in a large plastic bag or dish. Pour vinegar and oil over vegetables and toss to coat. Add s/p to taste. You can let the vegetables marinate or grill immediately.
Grill over medium heat on stove top (in grill pan) or outdoor grill. Grill in batches, cooking about 2 minutes per side. Vegetables are done when slightly softened and caramelized on both sides. Removed cooked vegetables to a platter. When all vegetables are cooked, top with feta cheese and serve immediately.

In a pickle: garlic-dill pickles


I am a pickle fiend. When I was turning 9, I begged my Dad to bring me home a large vat of pickles from Southampton Estates (where he worked as an overnight security guard). He did and I ate those hamburger dills until I was ill. My Nana always put out a pickle and olive tray with dinner. Nana typically included Heinz sweet gerkins. Yum. Sometimes she would include her homemade Bread and Butter pickles-which are sweet and sour and simply perfect.
Mike and I met in high school. One day after school, I tried a batch of his Grandma Rudko’s pickles. Those pickles were soaked in a garlic-dill brine and topped with oak leaves (so old school and marvelous!). After one bite I decided that I would marry Mike–if only to get more of those pickles.
I love our shared family tradition of pickling. Mike’s Uncle Vic cans pickles every year–and now, so do we. Mike and I have played with many recipes and finally, I think we came up with our own version of garlic-dills. This year Lily helped me the first batch.
The best part of pickling is working together. Lily is a pro at packing the pickles and pretty good company as she serenades me with whatever song is stuck in her brilliant little head!
You can use any size pickling cucumbers (which are available at farm stands and markets all over this time of year. It seems the small pickles can be hard to find–so sometimes I make batches of spears or chips (if I can’t find enough small whole pickles to fill a jar).
As you jar these up, if you run out of brine, just make more. This yielded about 4 quarts and 6 pints. Ha

ve enough supplies to make more than you think! Pickles are such fun gifts during the holidays–we pass out to neighbors, friends, teachers and anyone who mentioned that they love pickles!
If you aren’t up for the whole canning process–you could halve the recipe and just make this pickles in your refrigerator.
Pickling Cucumbers (4-5 pounds), washed
6 tablespoons kosher salt
4 1/2 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
2 large bunches of dills, washed
2 bulbs of white garlic-cloves separated, peeled
Mustard Seed
Bay leaves–a bunch
The process:
1. Wash, clean and sterilize your canning jars, lids and rings. If you need more instructions on how-to can, take a peak at the Ball website.
2. Fill your sink or a large basin with ice and water. Place cucumbers in ice bath. They will soak in ice bath for about 10-20 minutes, while you get everything else together. The ice bath helps ensure a crispy pickle. You can soak the cucumbers whole and then if you want to cut into spears or chips, do so right before you pack the jars.
3. Combine salt, water and vinegar (this will be the pickling brine) in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Heat water in your canning pot (or, we use a large pasta pot for processing).
4. While the brine and processing water heat, pack your jars. Place whole or cut cucumbers into jars–filling in the larger spaces with cucumbers (it is sort of like a puzzle). Leave 1/4 inch of head space.
5. To each jar add: 2 full stalks of dill, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon mustard seed and 3-4 cloves garlic.
6. Fill each jar with hot brine, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
7. Cap and process 15 minutes in boiling water.
Store pickles in a cold dark place (like your basement or pantry). Label and date!

Fresh Tomato Tart

I think garden fresh tomatoes are quite possibly manna from heaven. I love all the varieties–especially the heirloom tomatoes Mike grew this year. I can’t stop myself from popping the tiny teardrop tomatoes in my mouth (every five seconds, like they are candy) and from slicing up the larger beefsteak varieties, topped with salt and pepper. I am always on the search for new delicious ways to use up our crop.

I missed the boat on Quiche-tastic Monday this week, so I had some extra pie crusts. I’ve always wanted to make a Tomato Tart–it sounds so French. This tart is so easy–it takes minutes to put together and about 20 minutes to bake. Serve it along side a green salad and it is a perfect meal!
The goods:
Refrigerated pie crust (or make your own)
2 tablespoons hot or dijon mustard (I used Nance’s Hot mustard; but a good dijon would be great)
2 medium-sized tomatoes
handful (about 6) teardrop, grape or other small tomato
1 garlic clove, sliced extra thin
Dozen fresh basil leaves, sliced
4 oz goat cheese
Olive Oil
Make it:
1. Preheat oven to 450F
2. Roll out pie crust into a tart pan. Pitch the sides to make a nice edge.
3. Evenly spread mustard onto bottom of tart crust. Let sit while you slice tomatoes–medium tomatoes should be sliced into 1/8 inch slices; small tomatoes, slice into thirds.
4. Evenly distribute larger tomato slices on bottom of pie crust. Fill in any gaps with the small tomatoes.
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, basil and garlic slices
6. Slice goat cheese (it won’t slice neatly like other hard cheeses) and distribute on top of the tomatoes and herbs.
7. Drizzle a little olive oil on top. Bake for about 20 minutes.
8. Let sit for 5 minutes and slice. This is great room temperature or even cold.

Quiche-tastic Monday: Go greek with zucchini and feta

Zucchinis are abundant this time of year. It is a versatile summer squash–but so often I buy a bunch and I am left wondering what to make. One of besties, Rachel, always has an abundance of zucchini from her backyard garden. Rachel came over for lunch today, so I thought I’d give a zucchini quiche a try.
This yummy and summery quiche is filled with fresh zucchini, carmelized onions, fresh tomato and topped with feta cheese. I love feta cheese–it reminds me of a trip I took to Lesvos, Greece. The island was bursting with tomatoes, zucchini and feta. It seemed every meal included a sprinkling of this distinctive cheese (and a gallon of Ouzo).
And like all my quiche recipes–make two at a time and freeze the second–makes for a great meal in a week.
The stuff
2 small zucchinis
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten until they are frothy
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 T. mixed fresh herbs, chopped ( I used a mixture of parsley, chives, marjoram, basil and mint–use what you have)
1 teaspoon of dried dill
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Crust: make your own OR be lazy like me and use the pre-made kind from the refrigerated section of the grocery store OR go crustless, just spray your pie pan with olive oil before baking.
Get cooking
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice eight rounds of zucchini (about 1/8- 1/4 inch thick). Reserve for later.
3. Grate remaining zucchini using a hand grater (it grates up super fast.) Place in a colander and press with a bar mop or paper towels to squeeze out excess moisture.
4. Melt butter in skillet over low-medium heat. Add sliced onion and cook until caramelized (translucent and caramel-y brown at the edges) about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Beat 4 eggs, by hand until pale yellow and frothy. You want to add air to the eggs–this could take 5-10 minutes (it is a fabulous arm workout, like yoga in the kitchen)
6. Carefully unroll your pie crust into a pie pan. Pinch the edges. Indent the bottom of the crust with a fork (let’s steam escape).
7. Stir 1 cup milk, shredded zucchini, fresh herbs, dried dill and salt/pepper into beaten eggs. Pour into crust.
8. Top with caramelized onions. Then arrange 8 reserved zucchini slices along the outside edge of the quiche. Arrange the 8 pieces of cherry tomato on the inside ring of the quiche, seed side down.
9. Evenly sprinkle feta cheese on top.
10. Bake for about 45 minutes or until quiche is set. If edges of crust burn too quickly, just cover with foil.
And of course, Eat it!

Garden Girl: Thai-inspired Sunday dinner

It has been a produce inspired weekend! I love this time of year–meal options are endless with so much in season. I picked up these gorgeous Fairy Tale Eggplants. I could not resist their purple and white stripes and I was enticed by the name. Then, Lily and I harvested Mike’s crop of edamame from our backyard garden. So, what to make?

I had no idea what to do with the Fairy Tale Eggplant, so I googled and found a fabulous blog (called Figs with Bri, totally worth a follow!) and
a super yummy recipe for a Vegetarian Thai inspired dinner with Fairy Tale Eggplant, Red Curried Tofu, Basmati Rice and Green Beans.
The meal was amazing. I swapped out the green beans and steamed fresh edamame instead (in the pod, sprinkled with kosher salt). The Fairy Tale Eggplant was super tender and delicious with honey, soy sauce, ginger and serrano pepper. (I am addicted!). The curried tofu was easy to make (I used extra firm, versus firm and dusted the outside of the tofu with pan-searing flour before cooking) and satisfying. The sides of

rice and edamame rounded out the meal perfectly.
It was definitely a 4-pot meal–but it cooked up quickly. I used Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice-Basmati, instead of making my own. It tastes great and takes about 2 minutes to warm up.
And there were enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
Check out the recipe here.