Tag Archives: Tomato

Meatless Monday: Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons” and Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

Meatless Monday seems to be growing in popularity and meat lover that I am, I’ve been avoiding it like the plague! But now that the holidays are over and I’m back to eating relatively healthful food day to day but…I still have pants in the closet that I can’t fit into anymore!

While I’m well aware that eating veggies only once a week isn’t going to make a significant impact it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It also starts off the week with a kick to my immune system and sets the stage for eating good wholesome food throughout the rest of the week.  So, meatless Monday it is!

Bacon bits just wouldn’t have been right so I went with the garlic “croutons”. These are not actually croutons but simply pan toasted chopped garlic. These yummy little tidbits pack a punch, are easy to make and great as a garnish for soups, salads, or even cooked vegetables.

I use a little dairy in both of these recipes. If you avoid dairy try making the tomato stack with firm tofu in place of the mozzarella cheese and unsweetened almond milk would be very good in the soup.

Note: The soup is best if made the day before and it also makes this an easy dinner to prepare on a Monday night!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 – Large butternut squash
1 – Whole head of garlic
1 – Med yellow onion, halved then sliced thin
1 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, grated
6 Cups – Low sodium vegetable broth
1 Cup – Low fat kefir, plain (or non-fat buttermilk)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil (or canola)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spritz with cooking spray. Quarter the squash leaving the seeds intact and place skin side down on the baking pan. Spritz the squash with a little of the cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.

Very carefully cut roughly ½ inch off the top (pointy end) of the garlic head. (The idea is to expose as many of the cloves as possible without removing too much of the meat.) Place the garlic on a piece of foil then drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil evenly over the top. Season with salt and pepper then bring the edges of the foil together over the top of the garlic head to seal.

Now place the baking sheet into the oven then place the neat little package of garlic on one of the corners of the baking sheet alongside the squash. Bake for 45 minutes, carefully remove the garlic and bake the squash 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooling add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a 4 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the pan is sizzling and the onion has begun to become transparent. Lower the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion turn golden, about 10 minutes.

When the squash have cooled enough to work with remove the skin and the seeds. (If they are not too burned; save the seeds for garnish or to munch on later.) As you work, place the cooked squash pieces into the pan along with the onions continuing to stir once in a while. Carefully remove the garlic cloves from the head and gently squeeze the roasted meat out of the skin, adding this to the pan with the onions and squash.

When you have all of the squash and the garlic added to the pan, add 2 cups of the broth, raise the heat to medium high and cook stirring often until most of the broth has evaporated. Stir in 3 more cups of broth and reserve the remaining cup for later. Allow the soup to just come back to a boil then remove it from the heat.

With the pan off of the heat, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the soup while adding the kefir a little at a time. Blend until all of the ingredients are well pureed and the soup has become silky smooth. Check the flavor and add salt and pepper if needed then return the pan to the heat and cook stirring often until heated through. If the soup is too think stir in the reserved cup of broth to bring back the consistency. Serve garnished with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons”

1 – Med to med-large very fresh, very ripe tomato per person, rinsed well
4 – ¼ thick slices fresh mozzarella per tomato
1 branch – Fresh basil, per tomato
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used12 year old)
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed baby greens salad
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Slice enough off the bottom of each tomato to allow it to sit flat. Working one tomato at a time and slicing horizontally cut each into five equal slices including the top. Position the tomato slices in such a way that you can easily reassemble them into the original tomato shape.

Starting at the bottom, sprinkle the first slice with a little kosher salt & pepper. Now add a slice of mozzarella and a leaf or two of fresh basil, then drizzle this with a little of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set the next tomato slice on top and repeat the process until the tomato is reassembled with salt and pepper, cheese, basil, and oil and vinegar between each slice.

Before putting the top back on the tomato carefully cut out the stem, then after placing the top back on the tomato, drizzle a little more oil and vinegar into the hole left behind. Pinch the top of f of a branch of basil and place the stem end into the same hole so that it appears to be leaves on the tomato.

To serve, spread a serving of mixed baby greens on the plate then carefully set the tomato in the center. Sprinkle the greens with a little of the oil and vinegar, then garnish with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Toasted Garlic Croutons

 2 to 4 Tbsp – Garlic, roughly chopped (large mince)
2 Tbsp – Olive Oil
1 – Pinch of kosher salt

Warm a small non-stick pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer lower the heat to low and stir in the garlic. Stirring very often to avoid burning, cook until all of the garlic has become evenly cooked and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic to drain on a paper towel much as you would with bacon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and shake the paper towel a little to distribute and to spread out the garlic so the pieces don’t stick together. Allow “croutons” a minute or two to dry before serving.



Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

I actually made the dish in the photo one evening while my wife was out of town. After a couple of nights of take-out food I was ready for a real meal so I stopped by Costco on my way home from work. I was happy to find they had one of my favorite fish in the fresh fish section, Corvina! With this beautiful fish and the fresh lemons I already had on hand it wasn’t hard to decide on a theme for my dinner for one.

Often when preparing a meal I look for one common theme that will highlight each part of the menu. Whether it’s garlic, an herb such as thyme or rosemary, or in this case fresh lemon, I use my theme ingredient in each of the dishes I serve. To my thinking this creates a common thread throughout the meal that not only links and compliments the flavors of the food…I think it makes the meal that much more interesting!

The recipes for this menu are written for two but the ingredients can easily be doubled. The Cool Beans Salad is best made ahead of time and refrigerated at least two hours.

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

For the Cool Beans Salad…

1 – 14.5 oz Can of Cannelloni (white kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ Cup – Fresh Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
¼ Cup – Fresh Tomato, mostly seeded, and cubed
1 Branch – Celery, diced
1 – Med Shallot, minced (Optional)
1 Tbsp – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Packet – Good Seasons Italian All Natural Salad Dressing Mix
½ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ Cup – Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp – Fresh Water

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. Follow the directions on the package for mixing the dressing, using lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Gently toss the salad with only enough dressing to coat. (There should be very little pooling of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.) Chill before serving.

For the Squash…

Two – Med. Zucchini, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
Two- Med. Yellow Squash, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
1 – Small Onion, Quartered, then sliced
1 – Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions and cook stirring often until some browning begins to occur. Add the squash (zucchini and yellow) and thyme, and continue cooking.  Stir occasionally until squash is mostly cooked but still a little firm in the center (tender crisp) then season with salt & pepper. Toss with the lemon juice, turn off the heat, and leave the skillet on the burner to stay warm until serving.

For the Fish…

2 Fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each – Fresh Corvina (Grouper, Snapper, or Tilapia may be used)
4 Tbsp – Unbleached or Whole Wheat Flour
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Tbsp – Olive Oil

¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
Juice of one half lemon
Slices of one half lemon
2 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp – Fresh Herbs such as Parsley or thinly sliced Basil (Pictured)

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Season fish pieces with salt & pepper, dust each with flour (shaking off excess), then dredge in egg to completely coat. Gently and carefully lay the fish into the pan, you should immediately hear sizzling.

Watch fish closely until you can see good browning around the edges, lifting gently after 2 minutes to check the bottom surface. After 2 to 4 minutes, or when the bottom looks nicely browned but not too brown, gently turn the fish over and repeat. Remove the fish to the serving plates. (Note: If your fish is more than ½ inch thick you may want to place it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven to finish cooking while you make your sauce.)

Drain any excess oil from the fish pan and discard. Back on the heat, add wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve any brown bits. Boil until about half the wine has evaporated (reduced), then add the lemon juice and 2 lemon slices. Continue boiling, whisking occasionally, until most of the total liquid has reduced and some thickening has begun. (If the liquid seems to boil too rapidly just move the pan off the heat until it is back under control.)

When the liquid has reduced to almost a syrup, remove the lemon slices and turn off the heat. Add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time whisking into the sauce as the butter melts. When each addition of butter has completely melted, add the next 2 or 3 pieces until all has been incorporated into the sauce. By the time the last of the butter has been melted the sauce should be just the right consistency. If it is too thick, stir in a splash of wine to loosen…if it is too liquid just let it cook with the residual heat another minute or so. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs.

Serve the fish with a lemon slice and the sauce and enjoy!


Mock Carbonnade a La Flamande

Dear friends of ours stayed at our house for a few days this past week and as dear friends will do, they left a few beers behind. As I surveyed the fridge situation on Sunday morning I was already thinking of beef, maybe a pot roast or a stew, and when I spotted the bottles of Shiner Bock my mind was made up…Carbonnade a La Flamande! At the market I found a sale on beef chuck mock tenderloins and decided this would be a fun challenge.

Carbonnade a La Flamande is a rich Belgian stew of beef, caramelized onions, and beer usually with a sweet and sour flavor not unlike a good sauerbraten. The irony was that I was using Shiner Bock instead of a deeply flavored Belgian ale as the base in a stew of “mock” tenderloin steaks. So while this is NOT a true Carbonnade a La Flamande, it does borrow some of the great character from one of my favorite Belgian dishes.

If you are not familiar with beef chuck mock tenderloins they are simply steaks cut from the chuck eye roast. They produce a mostly round steak that looks something like a tenderloin steak. Chuck is still chuck though and tender they are not, hence the “Mock” part of the name. This cut is flavorful but best suited to slow braising or long tenderizing marinades.

Other notes: Brown the steaks in a pan if you prefer, I kind of like the broiler for larger pieces of meat. A mostly whole star anise should do the trick but be sure to remove any pieces that break off during the cooking. I served these with whole wheat wide egg noodles and blanched then sautéed snap beans with garlic. Oh, and if you want to use a real Belgian ale I recommend Chimay Blue …just be sure to have another one on hand to enjoy with your steak!

Mock Carbonnade a La Flamande

5 to 7 – Beef Mock Tenderloin Steaks (About 2 Lbs)
3 – Medium Onions, Sliced
1 Tbsp – Tomato Paste
12 Oz – Medium Bodied Beer
1 Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp – Beef Soup Base (I used Demi-Glace Gold )
1 Star – Star Anise
1 Large Sprig – Fresh Thyme
1 Large Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 Tbsp – Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy stew pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in tomato paste, star anise, onions, and a ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. As the onions begin to sizzle lower the temperature to medium low and continue cooking stirring often. Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and coat with a thin film of oil (I used a spritz of Olive Oil Cooking Spray). Use a paper towel to pat the steaks dry and arrange them evenly on the cookie sheet. Brush or drizzle each steak with olive oil and season well on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring the onions 15 minutes or so until they begin to turn a deep golden color then stir in the thyme and rosemary…keep cooking and stirring the onions while you brown the steaks.

Set the oven (broiler) rack 3” below the element or flame. Place the steaks on the rack and turn the broiler on high. (Note: If your broiler is electric leave the door slightly ajar; if your broiler is gas fueled close the door.) Broil the steaks 4-6 minutes watching them closely until a nice brown crust has formed, carefully turn and broil 4 minutes more or until nicely browned.  Remove the steaks and set aside to rest while prepping your braise.

Reduce the oven heat to 300. Remove the star anise from the onions and discard. Stir beer, soup base, and chicken stock into the onions and raise the heat to medium high. Stir occasionally until the liquid just begins to boil, place the steaks into the pot, cover firmly and bake for 2 hours. After two hours remove from heat, leave covered, and set aside to rest.

Wait at least 20 minutes to remove the steaks to a serving platter; place the pot back on the burner over medium high heat. As the liquid comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium, stir in the vinegar and allow the gravy to cook until your desired thickness is reached.

Spoon the gravy over your steaks, serve and enjoy!

Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

Frittatas are another very versatile and fast way to whip up a great dinner. This one calls for Spinach and Tomato but, like pizza, the ingredient list is limited only by your imagination. Some of our favorite combinations include tuna & scallions, diced ham & fontina with scallions, and asparagus, artichoke hearts, tomato, & onion. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese is a constant for me and I even sprinkle some over the top for an added flavor boost. Though I used Soy Milk in this recipe you can use skim milk, whole milk, or even half & half in yours. Get creative and have a little fun!

Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

1 package pre-washed fresh spinach, about 12 oz
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, patted dry, and sliced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced large *See my note below
1 large tomato, peeled and sliced into 7 equal slices
2-3 med red bliss potatoes, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch-thick
8 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus about a tablespoon reserved
1 pinch fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 1 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is beginning to shimmer, add the leeks and about 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes until the leeks are just transparent. Remove them to a bowl to cool. Using the same pan, raise the heat to med high and bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Dissolve about 1 tbs of kosher salt, then carefully add the spinach. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until spinach is wilted then pour into a colander to drain and cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, in a dishtowel, gently squeeze out excess water. Hold the spinach in the same bowl with the leeks until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with the soy milk. Gently fold in the flour and the nutmeg, then the spinach, leeks, diced tomatoes, ricotta, and most of the Parmesan cheese, reserving about 1 tbs. Warm the same pan over med heat with 1 tbs of olive oil. Meanwhile carefully distribute the potato slices evenly around the pan trying not to overlap. When the potatoes begin to sizzle, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Use a spoon to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Lower your heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have begun to set and pull away from the side of the pan.

Remove the cover and evenly distribute the tomato slices around the top, sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan then carefully place the pan in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the eggs in the top center appear to be completely set. Remove the pan from the oven and using a thin spatula carefully loosen the frittata from the pan all the way around the edges. When the frittata is freed from the pan, gently slip it out of the pan and onto a cutting board to rest. Rest 10 minutes, then slice into pie shaped pieces to serve.

* Note: Tomatoes are easy to peel if you blanch them in a little hot water for a minute or two. For this recipe, slice about a 1/2 inch “X” in the bottom of your tomatoes (opposite the stem end). Gently drop them into a pan of water heated to near boiling and simmer for two minutes or so until the tomato skin at the “X” begins to pull away. Now removes the tomatoes and cover them in cold water to stop the cooking.

Once the tomatoes have cooled the skin will be very easy to peel; I use the edge of a knife to grab it and gently peel it away.

To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half cross ways (midway between the stem and the bottom) and gently squeeze the tomato to force out the seeds  using the tip of your knife to remove any stragglers.


After seeing the photo in my blog header, my friend Jackie really wanted my bruschetta recipe. I told her this was only one of about a million ways that bruschetta is made and explained how I prepared it on this particular day.  She still insisted that I share the recipe so Jackie…this one is for you!

The word bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is usually grilled or toasted, drizzled with good olive oil, then rubbed with a fresh cut clove of garlic. The “bruschetta” is then often topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A quick search of bruschetta on Google actually returns over 7,150,000 results, many of which are delicious recipes and the common denominator in nearly every one is the bread, the most important ingredient.

Traditionally bruschetta was a use for old bread that was or about to become stale. This was the good, crusty stuff that mom baked in her kitchen or picked up from the local bakery. So in keeping with tradition, when I make bruschetta, I always look to start with a good loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette. And, for the best taste and texture, I always try to serve my bruschetta while it is still warm.

To make bruschetta place a whole loaf of good crusty bread on your cutting board so that the right end is pointing towards the lower right corner of the cutting board, and the left end is pointing towards the upper left corner or roughly a 45 degree angle. Now cut ½ inch thick slices with your knife blade parallel to the sides of the cutting board. This should give you nice oval shaped slices of bread. Now lightly toast the slices on a grill or under a broiler until they are crisp but not overly browned. (I toasted mine on a dry cookie sheet placed 6 inches under the broiler just until they were golden.) Once toasted, lightly brush each slice of bread with a little extra virgin olive oil then rub gently with the cut side of a freshly cut in half garlic clove.  Now you are ready to make bruschetta magic!

On the day the photo was taken, I wanted to make my bruschetta in the style of an Insalada Caprese. So after toasting and following the steps above, I drizzled each piece with a little balsamic vinegar; probably no more than ¼ teaspoon on each. Then I topped each bruschetta with a slice of soft fresh mozzarella, a slice of super ripe fresh tomato, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a few ribbons of fresh basil chiffonade.

I hope you enjoy this bruschetta and be sure read through a few million of the other recipes on Google <wink!> or use your imagination to come up with your own yummy topping combination!