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Archive for the ‘Tomatoes’ Category

Misfits, I am blown away at the response I’ve received to this vegetarian, mayo-free pasta salad.

I mean, I invented it on a whim.  In the kitchen.  Just, on the fly.  Without any magic sauce (mayo).  And oh.  Wow.  My inbox/voicemail/motherfucking carrier falcons have been flooded with requests for the recipe.

And it’s a pretty risky thing to overwhelm a carrier falcon.  They have those badass talons and shit.  So that tells you how good this stuff must be.

It’s guaranteed to please, impress, and save lives.  Pretty much a sure thing in an uncertain world.  So basically, I’m like the Red Cross.

Exactly!

So I recommend that you use this pasta salad to mitigate the risk in life’s various tenuous moments.  That barbecue your lover’s boss is throwing?  Bring this.  Your friend’s casual patio potluck wedding shower but oh my god no one I mean no one likes the guy she’s marrying he’s such a mama’s boy you know it’s going to be an uphill battle against her witch MIL for their whole marriag–

Where the fuck was I?

Oh, right, bring the pasta salad.  Your first date picnic?  Stow this in your basket, snuggled safely between the sparkling wine and the contraceptives.

What?  WE WERE ALL THINKING IT.

So to let tomato and basil (and pesto) season pass us by and keep this recipe all to Bad Mama Genny’s self?  Would be unthinkable.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I’m too much of a cupcake.

And you’re just too adorable when you flash me those big, sad, misfit eyes.  Yes, you are!  Ooooh, YESH YOU ARE WHO’S ADORABULZ PEEKABOO YOU ARE YESH YOU ARE!

Let’s never again speak of this moment we’ve shared.

So here you go: BMG’s Caprese Pasta Salad.  Make it and be just like the Red Cross!

Apparently.

My Most Requested Recipe of the Year: BMG’s Caprese Pasta Salad


Go Get:
1 lb. pasta (Campanelle is a great, dramatic shape for this, I used farfalle this time)
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (or several large tomatoes, diced, with extra tomato juice squeezed out for another use)
1 lb. small, fresh mozzarella balls, halved (or if you’re using one large mozzarella ball, cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
1/2 red onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper (a little coarse is best)
2 lemons, juiced
olive oil (about 6-8 Tablespoons, give or take)
a generous handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded finely; if it’s out of season, use 2 pesto buttons
3/4 to 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, depending on your tastes (parmesan works, too, but the flavor will be different)

Go Do:
Boil the pasta, keeping it pretty al dente. Rinse under cold water, toss with a bit of olive oil, and leave out about 2-3 cups for another use (otherwise it’s too many noodles).

Toss the tomatoes, red onion, basil strips, and mozzarella balls with the pasta.

In a large bowl, use a fork to smash 3 cloves of garlic into the salt and some freshly ground pepper.

When it’s a chunky paste, whisk in the lemon juice.  Now, while still whisking, drizzle in the olive oil.  Taste it.  Is it too sour?  Add a little more olive oil.  If you’re using pesto sauce instead of basil, whisk it in until evenly distributed.

Now use that fork to incorporate the pecorino romano cheese.  This dressing will be thicker than your average vinaigrette–kind of like a runny paste.  Add until you like the taste and texture.

Now toss the pasta stuff with the dressing stuff.

Taste it.  Adjust the salt, pepper, or cheese if necessary.  Refrigerate until serving.

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Monitorpop at en.wikipedia

Hey, there, sugar donuts!  Today, I’d like to draw your attention to a comment left on this post by The Other Girl:

Hi Gen! As I prepare to plant my tomatoes, I have to ask what you use as a growing medium in your pots? One could spend a small fortune on potting soil and a lot of the commercial mix has chemical fertilizers added – something I’m guessing you shy away from.

This is a great question that I’ve gotten multiple times via my Twitter, text, and private message.

Seriously, people, as I mentioned here, you have nothing to lose by leaving these messages as public comments.  The Gen Person will not allow anyone to tease you on Her Almighty Comment Board!

I answered The Other Girl’s question in the comments section, but I’d like to post it for you here. It includes a basic and relatively inexpensive recipe for a homemade tomato mix, should you not be into expensive pre-made mixes or some of the involved processes I get myself into.  And I get myself into a lot of involved processes ’round here.

Here’s my answer:

Hi, The Other Girl!

If you’re buying a ready-to-use potting mix, I like the ones by Happy Frog and Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest Blend (both are, yes, pretty pricey). The Ocean Forest has been giving me GREAT results…it’s natural, with organic plant food materials in the mix, along with microrhizae (a beneficial fungus) that colonizes along the plant’s root structure and aids it in nutrient uptake. This year I’m really big on symbiotic relationships and beneficial bugs, so I’d try that if you’re looking for a ready-made thing. In some of my larger containers and the raised beds I built for my mother, I made a layered mix that turned out very well. It was a layer of pine straw (acidifier, soil lightener, drainage, etc.), then “organic” cow manure (well-rotted), then a light and fluffy very basic soil mix, with healthy amounts of bone meal, blood meal, and microrhizae mix turned into it (Espoma is a good brand for these). Then I repeated the layers and topped the whole thing with more straw for mulch. Put your stakes/cages in, dig your hole, crumble some eggshells into the bottom, and put in your plant, with a few of the bottom sets of leaves under the soil line. Then fill and firm the planting hole, make a mix of epsom salts and lukewarm water, and water the tomato thoroughly. The tomatoes I’m putting through this process are LOVING it. Every day they look bigger. And that’s saying a lot, consider the storming and fluctuating temps we’ve had.

Hope that helps, and keep me posted! Let me know if I can help with anything else!
Gen

So while you can make it more complicated than that, this is a great and simple way to start your tomato plants off right.  So they can grow healthy and strong and eat their metal cages and then cause you to have fear feelings.

I like having fear feelings caused by overzealous tomato plants.  But that’s just who I am these days.

What are your tomato secrets?  Are there any super special soil recipes floating around out there?  You KNOW how I feel about sharing recipes…

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When you’ve got a head cold to beat the band…

(whatever that means)

And you haven’t left the house in five days…

(so you greet The Boy at The Door like you’re an overly-excitable golden retriever)

And you don’t care if you obstruct half of the finished photo with the lurking shadow of your pasty, mouth-breathing self…

(Sexy.)

Focaccia is there to provide you with a project.

Now I’m not saying you should jump at the chance to bake for loved ones when you’re all sick-like.  But since my ILLLLNESSSSS came from The Boy to begin with so he’d already had and beaten and built up immunity to this OH MY GOD THINNNGG, I felt comfortable with passing the disease around all willy-nilly.

I’m scientific like that.

If you’re looking for uses for your sourdough starter, Your Bad Mama Genny can’t think of a better one.  Probably because I’m stuffed up and can’t think at all.  You might be able to think of better ones.

So what I’m saying is, focaccia is an excellent use for your sourdough starter.  Most excellent, indeed, my precious, precious mofo’s.

If you have access to some greenhouse cherry tomatoes (<raises hand>), even better.  If not, hang onto this recipe until tomato season, or do a variation.  I love red onion, sea salt, and rosemary on focaccia.

Focaccia.

FOCACCIA.

I’m woman enough to admit that I Googled to make sure I was spelling it right.  And now I’m flaunting it.

FOCACCIA!!

Oh, sweet mother, FOCACCIA!

Can you tell that I’m still sick?

Moreso than usual, I mean.

 

Sourdough Polka Dot Foccacia

Go Get:

1 cup PROOFED sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups white flour
1/2 cup olive oil, plus some for the cookie sheet
1/4 cup sliced garlic
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
several sprigs’ worth fresh rosemary leaves
coarse sea salt for sprinkling over the top (approx. 2 teaspoons)
Approx. 2 cups of cherry tomatoes–in varying colors if you can swing that (alternatively, try thin slices of red onion or even leeks)

Go Do:

Mix the sourdough starter with the water.  Gradually add in half the flour and mix until blended.  Toss the salt with the remaining flour and mix into the dough.  Sourdough starters vary in consistency, so be a doll and make sure this holds together in a tacky, but not sticky, dough ball before you go on with the recipe, mmmkaaaay?  Mmmmmkaaaay.

Mix the dough well before transferring to a lightly-floured surface.  Knead that sucker.  Knead it good.  Knead it ’til it’s a wee bit elastic.  Then stop kneading already, Jesus.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Oil a cookie sheet.  Spread the dough out onto the sheet until it’s a roughly half-inch thick rectangle.  Use your finger to make little polka-dot indentations all over the dough.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat until the garlic is cooked (approximately 5 minutes).  Your house will smell like a freaking dream.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then spoon it evenly over the focaccia dough.  Press the cherry tomatoes into the dough at random (or hell, in an organized pattern.  That’s okay, too.  I just have to wonder why you’re trying for organization when you have a the bubonic plague (OH WAIT YOU DON’T HAVE THE BUBONIC PLAGUE THAT’S JUST ME.)  Now sprinkle the salt and rosemary leaves and walk away, leaving your focaccia in the warm kitchen.

But don’t, like, walk off for good.  Come back and check every so often, ‘kay?

When the dough has doubled and mostly swallowed your cherry tomatoes (so cute!), stick the whole thing in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes (I started checking at 25–I suggest you do the same), or until deeply golden.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle immediately with Pecorino-Romano Cheese.  Let cool until  you can handle it (but it’s still warm), then cut into squares (only as many as you’ll eat that night.  The rest will stay moist longer if it’s in a solid slab).

Enjoy the admiration of your friends, lovers, and associations for which you have positive regard.

Sneeze a lot.

The end.

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Folks, I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  Your Bad Mama Genny just hasn’t had the time or the inclination to impress anyone lately.

Firstly because I’ve been really busy, what with deadlines and watering the jungle and attending the National Homebrewer’s Conference with The Boy.  But also because impressing people can be problematic.  It can raise expectations.  It can set the bar too high.

It can result in people expecting you to be decent.

And who wants that?  Then when you decide to be indecent, people are all shocked and all offended and all put your pants back on and oh think of the children and whatnot.

See what I mean?  Totally not cool.

That’s why you need a good Antipasti Platter like this one in your arsenal.  Because if you’re anything like me, which for your sake I hope you’re not but let’s pretend, you’ve already been invited to at least fifty barbecues this summer and half of them fall on the same weekend.

That’s not good.  That’s not good for anyone.

Least of all people of the pale persuasion, like myself.  But the point is, you’re usually expected to bring something to said barbecue, and not having enough time to make something from scratch can render one sad, depressed, listless, and prone to alternating crying jags and fits of mania.

This just in: The Boy has informed me that neither fits of mania nor crying jags are verifiable symptoms of being invited to barbecues.  Thanks, The Boy.  I so appreciate your contribution to this blog post.  I hope that knowledge gives you peace as you sleep on the couch tonight.

Anyway, Antipasti platters, in case you haven’t noticed, are gorgeous.  They can also theoretically be constructed from all store-bought ingredients.  Granted, I threw a loaf of from-scratch baked artisan bread in with mine, but bread-baking is like breathing to me now, and WHAT NOW YOU DON’T WANT ME TO BREATHE I DO SO MUCH FOR YOU AND SLAVE AWAY AT THIS KEYBOARD AND NOW YOU CRITICIZE MY BREAD-BAKING ADDICTION HOW ABOUT I CRITICIZE YOUR ADDICTIONS HUH HOW ABOUT I MENTION THE LITTLE DEBBIES HIDDEN IN YOUR JUNK DRAWER OH WHAT’S THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO CRITICIZE ME ANYMORE THAT’S NICE I THOUGHT SO.

What in the hell was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  So you could throw in a loaf of fancy schmancy bread and some dipping oil with this here Antipasti Platter, but some nice skinny breadsticks from the grocery store would do just as well.  I also included some homemade arugula pesto butter, fresh apricot preserves, and some homemade ricotta, which is always inexplicably appearing at the back of my refrigerator (I said, INEXPLICABLY, and I meant, INEXPLICABLY).

But let’s get down to business, shall we?  Here are my suggestions for an appetizer that will have everyone stuffing their faces while simultaneously not raising their expectations of you.  Wanna send them over the moon?  Bring a nice, juicy, full-bodied red wine to serve with this.

But they might start expecting things.  I’m just warning you.

Antipasti Platter

Go Get:
Pepperoncini
Fresh Mozzarella Balls (either marinated or not, up to you)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Marinated and quartered artichoke hearts
Roasted red peppers, marinated or not
Mixed marinated olives (I like to use kalamatas and stuffed green Spanish olives, but you feel free to go nuts)
Thinly sliced salami
Cubed provolone
Other options not pictured here:
Additional hams and sausages such as serrano, chorizo, etc.
Pickled cornichons
Sundried tomatoes
Infused olive oils
Roasted and mashed garlic cloves
Some nice pesto
Those apricot preserves I talked about
That fresh, homemade ricotta cheese I mentioned
Those delicious breadsticks, or that crusty home-baked artisan bread I noted
Some thin shavings of aged parmesan
Small cubes of a sweet melon, such as cantaloupe
Your firstborn child (Just kidding.  Mostly.)

Go Do:
Arrange this bad boy however you like.  As you can see, I used a decorative 13 x 9 dish with the ingredients arranged in rows, but a large, round serving platter with ingredients lined up in concentric circles or pie wedges would be striking as well.  Butters, oils, and soft cheeses can take up residence in ramekins that you smush onto the plate.  Breadsticks look striking in a tall glass, and a fresh loaf of bread would be just dandy in a kitchen towel set in a basket.

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