Tag Archives: farmer’s market

Attack of the Tomatoes, Part 1

This is just one day's worth of tomatoes from my little urban garden.

It’s the middle of July and my vegetable garden is beginning to overflow with tomatoes. I’ve also got some cucumbers that went from cute little green pups to slightly obscene 14-inch-long two-pounders overnight, but that’s another story. Right now I am focusing each day on what to do with the tomatoes while they are perfect and fresh, so that I can enjoy the memories in January when I am over the winter euphoria.

Because it’s July, it’s also bloody hot, so we are mostly eating a lot of raw tomatoes: in salad with a nice vinaigrette, on bruschetta, or just munching on them like apples or cherries, depending on the size. As usual, I’m growing several varieties this year, including Grape, Strawberry, Roma, Better Boy, Big Beef, and, of course, a wonderful heirloom tomato called Old German, which I plant each year in honor of my in-laws (and maybe now my husband, since he’s turned 50).

But sometimes you just wanna cook, so I opted last night to make a Tomato and Basil Bread Soup, which is delicious served hot, but also is terrific cold if you can chill it for about three hours before serving. I really hadn’t thought before to make a bread soup during the summer, but I recently had an amazing version of this soup at Acqua Al 2, a wonderful new Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill (a real favorite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle), and it reminded me that it would be a great recipe for using up some of the tomatoes taking up real estate on my kitchen counter.

Even though I actually had to turn on the stove to make this beauty, the cooking time is pretty quick, so your kitchen shouldn’t get too overheated. We had this as a main course, so I included garbanzo beans for a little extra protein, because that’s what I had on hand, but it would work great with cannelini beans or even chunks of Italian sausage (make sure it’s already cooked when you add it to the soup). Whether you grow your own tomatoes or pick them up at the farmer’s market, this soup is a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and is particularly good when followed by a glass of chilled Limoncello. Buon appetito!

Tomato and Basil Bread Soup

1 baguette, slightly stale and sliced into 1-inch slices

4 cups vegetable stock

3 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped

1/2 cup packed basil leaves, finely sliced into a chiffonade

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (canned is fine — just rinse in cold water)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 TB balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Toasted baguette slices and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, heat 3 TB olive oil over medium-low heat, then add baguette slices and stir them around to coat in the olive oil. Allow them to brown lightly, turning down heat to low if they are cooking quickly and drizzling with a little more olive oil. Add the tomatoes, stock, and garlic and stir all the ingredients together; the bread will start to break apart, thickening the soup into something akin to a stew.

Let the soup come to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the chick peas, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Serves 4.

To serve hot: Ladle into bowls and garnish each, if you wish, with 2 toasted baguette slices, a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, some fresh basil, and a little drizzle of olive oil.

To serve cold: Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 – 3 hours before serving. Garnish as above, or just top with a dollop of mascarpone.

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Passing the Buck

Making "chipa" in Paraguay — they sound scrumptious.I am cheating a bit this week and am sending my readers to check out a terrific blog post that was written by a high school girl in my neighborhood who is spending a semester as an exchange student in Paraguay. I’ve known Ann Elise since she was probably about five years old — she’s smart, friendly, and pretty spunky, too, judging by how fearlessly she seems to be embracing a very different life in Paraguay.

She is blogging for her friends and family about her life in another hemisphere and it is very engaging reading. I was, of course, especially captivated by a post she did all about food; it’s possible that the local food may be one of the biggest culture shocks for Ann Elise, as it might be for many American foodies — and for any kid who grew up on Capitol Hill, where the farmer’s market at Eastern Market, overflowing with fresh produce, is central to the community. As she notes, the people of Paraguay eat a lot of meat and carbohydrates, which are plentiful and cheap, and not much in the way of fruits and vegetables, which are pretty expensive. They also eat several small meals throughout the day besides a large midday meal, with a salty snack in the midmorning and a sweet snack in midafternoon.

Having grown up in hot climates, this sounds pretty familiar to me. In Paraguay, Ann Elise is having an empanada for her salty snack — in Florida, we were more likely to have french fries from Wendy’s, dipped in mayonnaise. Not to be indelicate, but you sweat a lot when you live in a hot place and that salty snack is essential to keeping your body in balance.

Ann Elise’s sweet afternoon snack generally features dulce de leche (caramel); as I wrote in an earlier post, when I was a child in the West Indies, our midafternoon snack often consisted of a can of sweetened condensed milk, which is not that different. I heartily approve of Ann Elise’s preferred method of eating dulce de leche — all by itself, with a spoon! Why mess with perfection?

Her blog post was featured on the AFS Intercultural Programs website and is well worth the read:

http://afsblog.org/2010/05/time-to-grub-reflections-on-food-in-paraguay.html

I’m hoping that Ann Elise will bring back recipes and give her neighbors some hands-on lessons when she gets home — she seems to be pretty skilled at making “chipa” now!

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