13 Best Tomato Recipes

I did it again. 
Every year when the end of May rolls around, I forget. Unlike other bloggers who spend weeks building up to the big day, planning giveaways and making special recipes, it passes me by, and few weeks later I think – oops, I forgot again. 
I’m talking about my food blogging anniversary. Fake Food Free has been alive and well for over 5 years. It’s overwhelming to think where this blog has taken me since I began typing my first words in our apartment in Southern Brazil. 
Things have evolved through my travel, adventures in food culture and gardening. My photos are a bit better than those dark point-and-shoot images I started with, and I’d like to think my recipe writing has improved as well. I’ve met amazing people, and now I’m at a place where health, food and recipe writing, and taking food photos are my work. As you’ll hear me say often – Life is good. 
And it all started with this blog.
While things have changed a bit here, and I don’t get to post as much as I used to, this is certainly not a farewell post. It’s a big Cheers, Prost and Saúde to another 5 and beyond!
What better way to celebrate than with tomatoes! Well, okay, a cocktail might be better, but right now we’re in the heart of summer and all I can think about are beautiful heirlooms, sweet cherries and plump Romas. 
After 5 years of blogging, I’ve created and adapted my fair share of recipes using my favorite part of this season. 
Here are 13 that you must make before the 2013 tomato season passes us by! (Click on the name and it will take you to the post with the recipe.)

Arugula and Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese Orange Walnut Dressing Recipe

You remember this garden, right?
Well, I had to leave that garden in Kentucky. I miss it dearly, but there are new adventures ahead. They might even be more challenging adventures that will teach me a lot. 
Why? Because this is our new garden.
Smaller, yes. But I’ve learned over time that it’s difficult to kill a plant that you stick in the ground. A plant in a pot is a whole different story. So begin my adventures in balcony and container gardening!
We started small with herbs, spinach, arugula, lettuce and chard, and I couldn’t resist trying out a few strawberry plants. (There’s also a new citrus tree, but I’ll save that for another post.) Everything is perky and green so far so I have high hopes. 
It’s doing so well that I decided to trim off a little arugula for a salad. The spinach has a ways to go so I picked that up at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. And you just know that oranges had to be in there somewhere. 
Cheese is a requirement on my salads and the more flavorful and stronger the better. I like goat cheese. Well, some goat cheese. I seem to be getting pickier. If it’s mild in grassy flavor then I’m a huge fan. 
Instead of topping my salad with goat cheese, I blended it with the dressing. Wow, do I love this dressing – nutty, sweet, tart and creamy. It’s a thin dressing so if you prefer something thicker I’d suggest cutting back a bit on the orange juice or adding a little more cheese. 
Fingers crossed that there are more apartment garden salads to come!

 Arugula and Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese Orange Walnut Dressing Recipe

3 cups spinach
1 cup arugula
1 orange, peeled and sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries
Dressing
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 tbsp chèvre (goat cheese)
1 clove garlic
Juice of one orange
Sprinkle of salt and pepper, to taste
Arrange the spinach and arugula on two plates, about 1 ½ cups spinach and ½ cup arugula on each. Top each plate of greens with half of the orange slices. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cranberries on each salad.
To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a small food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are ground fine and all ingredients are combined. (Makes about ¼ cup.) 
Drizzle each salad with half of the dressing. Makes 2 servings.

Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Black Bean Soup Recipe


If you are like me, you are prepping for the big day.

By big day I mean Thanksgiving. By prepping I mean keeping a close eye on healthy eating.

All this leads to one thing in my kitchen – soup. I have loads of frozen tomatoes waiting to be used, but chili wasn’t sounding right. I needed something more exciting than the basic tomato soup, too.

I’ve come to realize that a head of creamy, sweet roasted garlic makes just about everything better. This soup is no exception. Along with the garlic, I added some black beans for texture and protein.

This soup is sweet, rich and hearty all at the same time. I used about a gallon bag full of mixed frozen tomatoes from the garden. Skin on, whole tomatoes. It all gets blended by the immersion blender so leaving everything intact isn’t a problem for me. You can use whatever you have on hand – frozen, fresh, canned, whole, puree – it will all ultimately result in a tasty soup!

Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Black Bean Soup Recipe

1 head garlic
Olive oil
~ 8 cups frozen whole tomatoes, thawed
2 tbsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mascavo or raw sugar
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Tear off about a 4×4 inch square of aluminum foil. Cut off the top of the full head of garlic removing just enough so that all the cloves are exposed. Place the garlic in the center of the foil, cut side up. Drizzle with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and roast for about 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from the the oven and allow to cool.

While the garlic is roasted, begin to prepare the soup. Pour any excess water off of the thawed tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a large soup pot and heat to medium-high. Allow the tomatoes to cook down, crushing them with a spoon or potato masher as they cook, for about 15 minutes. Remove any foam that rises to the top, if desired.

Stir in the basil, red pepper, salt and sugar. Unwrap the garlic and squeeze all of the roasted cloves into a dish. I think using your hands is the easiest. Be sure to separate out any skin and leave only the soft flesh. Add the garlic to the soup. Remove from the heat.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup and puree the tomatoes. You can also transfer it in batches to a blender to do this. Once everything is smooth simmer over medium heat for 5 more minutes and let the soup thicken.

Finally stir in the black beans and heat through. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and croutons if desired. Makes about 4 servings.

Smoky Tomato Jam


 
You will never hear me use the word guilt in association with food and eating. Personally, I think it is a damaging word that has shaped our thoughts on eating habits, weight and health for far too long. 
That being said, I have one exception. 
The garden.
When this time of year rolls around and I see hot peppers so heavy on the plant that they touch the ground, and tomatoes that are ripe, but a little ugly, I start to feel guilty. It’s food, I can’t let it go to waste! And while I’m exhausted from thinking of ways to use it, I just can’t leave it out there to rot, or pull up the plants knowing they have some life left in them.
So with a full freezer, I turned to a little more canning this past week. 
First up? Tomato jam. 
 
I’d been entertaining the idea of making tomato jam, most of the summer, but never committed. Then I found a recipe from Food in Jars for Orange Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika.  It was the smoked paprika that got me. I love that stuff!
So I gathered up the last of the tomatoes, and got cooking. Our orange tomato plants are done producing, but I still had Better Boy and San Marzano hanging on. They worked perfectly. I also used dried ginger (half the amount) instead of fresh, and skipped the cayenne simply because I didn’t have any dried on hand. 
You can find the recipe on the Food in Jars blog. This jam is the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and smoky. Next year, I will be pulling this recipe out early to get a head start during prime tomato season. Yes, it’s that good.

Homemade Garden Chili Slow Cooker Recipe


Chili is one of those foods that I get burned out on by December, but every time the next September rolls around, I’m ready for it all over again. My cravings for it this year started this past week, and they are just about spot on, considering we are moving towards the end of the month.

As you can probably tell from my posts, it has been a great garden year. We are still bringing in more tomatoes than I know what to do with, and I have plenty of frozen veggies from harvests earlier in the summer. With the weather turning cooler here, chili seemed like the ideal way to use them up.
My goal was to use a lot of fresh tomatoes, so this recipe does take some prep work. For me, this is just the kind of thing I enjoy doing on a quiet Sunday. Once it’s all in the slow cooker, it’s low maintenance from there on out. 
Feel free to substitute different kinds of vegetables. I’ve been shredding and freezing zucchini all summer, and we also had some sweet corn tucked away in the freezer. Both ended up being a great addition to this chili.

Homemade Garden Chili Slow Cooker Recipe

6 – 8 lbs of tomatoes (you’ll need about 6 cups of sauce)
5 cloves garlic
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups black beans, soaked overnight
2 cups shredded zucchini, thawed if frozen
1 cup sweet corn, thawed if frozen
1 cup water
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 scotch bonnet peppers (or your favorite hot pepper)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut de-stem and core tomatoes if necessary, and cut in half. (I used a mix of San Marzano, Beefsteak and heirlooms.) Arrange cut side down on a baking sheet with the garlic and drizzle with a little olive oil. In batches, roast for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Add the onion and black beans to your slow cooker. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and place the pulp and the garlic cloves in a blender. Blend in batches until a smooth sauce results. Pour the sauce into the slow cooker. Set to high.
Add the zucchini and corn. Add the water. Stir in the chili powders, cumin, salt and black pepper.  Take the scotch bonnet peppers and de-stem them. Cut a small slit in the side of each. Place the whole pepper in the soup. Put on the lid and cook on high for about 4 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.
Before serving, remove the two peppers and discard. Serve with your favorite toppings. Makes about 6 servings.

Roasted Eggplant and Black Lentil Soup Recipe


It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since our Kentucky Food Blogger group got together. We attempted all spring and summer, but busy schedules wouldn’t allow us to find a date that would work for more than a couple people. 
That changed this past Friday night with the help of Whole Foods Market in Lexington. We were invited out to attend a special edition of their Flights After 5 event. Flights After 5 is a Friday night get-together where 5 beer tastings are matched with 5 appetizers at stations throughout the store. Last Friday Kentucky beers were featured including two of my favorite breweries West Sixth and Lore Brewing
Several area bloggers joined the staff at Whole Foods as they told us a bit about the work that they do, and about the mission of the store. I will admit that I’m not a 100% Whole Foods shopper, but I do appreciate the products I buy there – grains from the bulk bins, my puffed kamut, and Ataulfo mangos, when they are in season.

I really like that on their website you can find Unacceptable Ingredients for Food and their Meat Animal Welfare Standards.That makes shopping easy. Through my work in agriculture, I’ve come across many local meat producers and produce farmers who supply Whole Foods. The combination of local support and global projects makes me a fan. We also learned that they price match with surrounding competitors, which explains why I’ve always felt that many things at Whole Foods aren’t any more expensive than they are at other area supermarkets. 
Along with a little education, good beer and snacks, and great company, we received every food bloggers favorite thing – a goodie bag! They kept our cooking in mind and filled it with several ingredients, perfect for putting together a few new recipes. I was happy to see black lentils in my bag. I’ve used their brand before, and I was excited to create something new with them. 

Baba ganoush was one of the appetizer offerings that night so I had eggplant on my mind. Lucky me, we just happen to still have eggplant from the garden. 
I had no idea what direction I would go with the soup, but the more I tasted it, the more I felt it needed some Indian influences, which ended up making it a lot like daal. (And I’m definitely not complaining.) Tahini and garam masala came to the rescue, and I added some crushed red pepper for heat. It turned out to be a great way to celebrate the start of comfort soup season!

Roasted Eggplant and Black Lentil Soup Recipe  

6 small eggplant (you need about 1 cup roasted pulp)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp tahini
1 cup black lentils
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garam masala powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If your eggplant is round, de-stem and cut each in half. Longer Japanese style can be roasted whole. Lightly coat with olive oil and spread in an even layer, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until pulp is very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium to medium high until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the stock. (How much will depend on how thick you like your soup. You can reserve some to add later if needed.) Simmer for about 3 minutes.
Scoop out the cooled eggplant pulp and transfer it to the soup pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the eggplant, onions and garlic with the stock until smooth. 
Add the tahini, and bring the soup to a low boil. Stir in the lentils. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add the salt, black pepper, garam masala and crushed red pepper. Add more or less of each to taste. Simmer for another minute or two and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Voting for the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards ends September 17! Fake Food Free is a finalist! If you enjoy my blog, I’d truly appreciate your vote for Reader’s Choice. You can vote here, no sign in or registration required. 

Disclosure:  Some products in this recipe were given to me free of charge from Whole Foods Market. I was not required to post about them and received no compensation for doing so. Thoughts here are my own. 

Cheddar, Sun-dried Tomato and Zucchini Scones Recipe

I’m no stranger to scones. I’ve written about my favorite breakfast pastry a few times in the past. But I rarely make savory scones. 
Our zucchini plant just stopped producing this week, so I’ve had plenty to work with this year. When I was trying to use it up, scones seemed a logical choice. I stepped out of my sweet comfort zone, though, and decided to do something a little cheesy and spicy.
These scones are great by themselves, but they also make a good base for a breakfast egg sandwich.  If you happen to have a tomato jam, that would dress them up nicely too. 

Cheddar Sun-dried Tomato and Zucchini Scones

2 ½ c white whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup shredded zucchini
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
1 tbsp hot sauce
¾ cup + 1 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter cubes and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until it is in pea-sized pieces. 
Stir in the zucchini, sundried tomatoes and cheese. Add the hot sauce and milk, and mix ingredients until a dough is formed. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently a couple times. 
Shape the dough into a rectangle, about ¾ of an inch thick. Cut into 8 to 10 squares.

Place the squares on a baking sheet and top each with a small amount of shredded cheese and press it gently into the dough. 
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until the cheese and edges are browned. Makes 8 to 10 scones.

Grilled Marinara Pasta Recipe


We’ve been making grill packets all summer so when I was thinking of how I could put a twist on a classic tomato sauce, they were the first thing to come to mind. Packets of potatoes, onions, peppers and summer squash work on the grill, so why wouldn’t tomatoes, right?

I have to admit when I got all the grilled veggies pureed and took a taste, I was disappointed. The flavor I wanted just wasn’t there. But then I added salt. The next bite popped in my mouth! The salt brought out the smoky flavor from the grill which is exactly what I was hoping for.

A few packets of tomato may not be enough for heating up a large grill, but this marinara is the perfect thing to make when you have the grill up and running for other things. (We grilled ours while making a chicken this weekend.) Then you can quickly throw the sauce together and freeze it for another day if it doesn’t fit on your current menu.

This ends up being a basic marinara for any type of pasta. I am a huge fan of homemade, but I went for a quick meal this weekend and used a whole wheat penne. The veggies only need to be roughly chopped for the grill packets. They’ll be going straight to the blender to puree so there is no reason to spend a lot of time on the prep.

I’ll be doing this with our tomatoes for the rest of the season! The flavor is so much more interesting than when I roast the veggies in the oven.

Grilled Marinara Pasta Recipe

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
~2.75 lbs tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, cored and chopped
~15 leaves fresh basil
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 lb pasta, cooked

Preheat the grill to 325 degrees F.

You will need 3 large pieces of aluminum foil, about 14 to 16 in long. You want the veggies wrapped well, so be generous.

Divide the onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes, bell pepper and basil evenly on each of the three pieces of foil. Drizzle a little of the olive oil on each packet and move the veggies around a bit to coat them.

You can use any packet making techniques because I’m no expert, but I fold the long sides in first. Then I pull the two ends together in the center to meet and roll them down, smashing things together as I go. As long as you have a sealed packet, you’ll be fine. Need help? Here’s a post with instructions.

Place the packets on the grill, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Remove them from the grill and transport them into the kitchen.

Once they are cool enough to touch, place the veggies in the blender in batches. Puree until smooth and pour the puree in a soup pot on the stove. Turn on low heat, and add the balsamic vinegar and the salt. Stir occasionally. You are only warming the sauce again until you are ready to eat it. If you plan to freeze it, you can skip the heating, mix in the vinegar and salt and portion it for freezing.

Pour the sauce over pasta and garnish with basil and parmesan cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
 


Come share in the tomato love at the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, hosted by Gimme Some Oven & Bake Your Day, sponsored this week by Pappardelle’s Also visit Recipe for Change to learn more about how to support tomato farmers.

Black Rice and Sausage Stuffed Patty Pan Squash Recipe


I love that I made the decision to start a food blog a little over four years ago. But I’m not the only one that will tell you – the fun has a way of fading to stress from time to time. Pressures of creativity, uniqueness, pretty pictures, and “what if they don’t like me?” can rear their ugly heads.

These are the times when you have to remember that, while we would all like to be wildly successful, it’s important not to lose yourself along the way. This is supposed to be a happy place!

When I stop worrying about numbers and return to why I started blogging, I find myself noticing the posts that are visited the most often on my site. I love how this changes from season to season. It reminds me that, yeah, the post I did two years ago does have some value.

Right now the top post on my blog is Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Basil Orzo. I made it a few years ago after first discovering this veggie. Everyone seems to want advice for how to tackle patty pan’s pretty, yet hard to handle, shape in the kitchen.


I’ve felt challenged to come up with a new stuffing since I made that first patty pan, so here we have it. This time the squash came straight from the garden.

I’m continuing the recent trend of using black rice, and with pastured heritage breed sausage, this recipe doesn’t leave out the meat-lovers.

It’s tasty on it’s own, but if you have some warm marinara on hand to spoon on top, it’s even better!

Black Rice and Sausage Stuffed Patty Pan Squash Recipe

Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 patty pan squash
1/2 lb ground pastured pork sausage
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups black rice, cooked
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinara for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 in baking dish lightly with olive oil.

The recipe will fill 6 small squash or 4 larger squash. Wash the squash. Slice off the tops, and using a spoon, gently scoop out the insides. Don’t scoop all the way through the bottom. You want to create a cup to hold the filling. Chop up the squash you scooped out and set it aside.

Lightly coat the squash cups in olive oil and pierce with a fork in a few spots. Bake the squash for about 15 minutes, until they begin to soften. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a skillet, brown the sausage on medium heat. When it is about half way done, add the bell peppers, onion and the chopped squash you scooped out. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink.

Stir the rice, bread crumbs and ricotta into the sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the filling is cool enough to handle, divide it evenly into each squash. Pile it high and press gently with a spoon so that it is compact.

Bake for 20 more minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Top with marinara before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Beer Cheese Tomato Soup Recipe

When it comes to soup, tomato is my favorite. Before your mind jumps to visions of cans and concentrates, allow me to explain. Homemade tomato soup with fresh spices, splashes of balsamic vinegar and wines, and olive oil is my favorite.
I love it straight with basil, but sometimes I like to get fancy.
Enter beer cheese.
Okay, so maybe it’s not fancy, but it is a Kentucky staple. There is even a festival at which I had the opportunity to judge the competition last year. 
If you are unfamiliar, there are as many recipes as people who love it. But to simplify, it is cheddar and beer turned cheese spread.
I’ve grown to love it, and I can no longer imagine a tailgate at a football game or at the horse track without it.
So when I was thinking about tomato soup for this round of the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, I first considered beer. Then I considered cheddar. Then, well, why not?
This recipe experiment is a winner. The mild tang of beer and the sharpness of cheddar pop with the sweet tomatoes. I may no longer be able to have tomato soup without beer cheese again!

Beer Cheese Tomato Soup Recipe

Basic Beer Cheese
4 oz block of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/8 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
¼ cup beer
Tomato Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 lbs tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
In a small food processor, add the cheese, 1/8 cup onion, 1 clove garlic, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Pulse until the ingredients are blended. Pour in the beer and continue to pulse until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Set aside.
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium high, and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.
Once the tomatoes begin to break down, remove the pot from the heat. Use an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a blender. Puree until smooth. 
Stir in the basil, sugar and red pepper. Add the salt and pepper. Return to the heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Stir in the beer cheese. Serve warm. Makes 4-6 servings. 
Come share in the tomato love at the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, hosted by Gimme Some Oven & Bake Your Day, sponsored this week by Le Creuset.  Also visit Recipe for Change to learn more about how to support tomato farmers.