Green Tomatoes: The Fall and Rise of a Damaged Vine

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what do you do when life gives you a hurricane that rips almost all of your premature green tomatoes off of its vine? Last week’s massive storm that rolled through our area did just this. To say that I was heartbroken is an understatement. Thankfully our next door neighbor, along with being incredibly kind and patient with our kids, has the greenest thumb around! Almost immediately after telling her about my tomato tragedy, she had searched out this great website that offer suggestions for green tomatoes (click here for the site). Thank you, Fran, for taking the time to help out with suggestions!

I read through a few websites and found quite a few intriguing ideas. Of course, fried green tomatoes were on the top of every list that I read. But I was on a mission to try something a bit more unique and challenging. Listed below are the three ideas that I went with, in order that I made them. Two were inspired from recipes that I found on other websites, and the third was improvised. Thankfully I was able to put to use almost all of the prematurely picked tomatoes. The remaining greens are gonna get fried!

GREEN TOMATO SPICE CAKE
Courtesy of allrecipes.com

This recipe incorporates puréed green tomatoes into a standard spice cake recipe. Similar to a zucchini bread, the green tomatoes are added more for texture and nutrients, rather than taste. It’s a bit more moist that a traditional zucchini bread, and you do notice the occasional tomato seed, but the spice really shines through on this. Serve as is, dust with powdered sugar, or top with a cream cheese icing.

Ingredients
4 cups chopped green tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Place chopped tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.
Place in a colander, rinse with cold water and drain. Purée in a food processor.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until creamy.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add raisins and nuts to dry mixture; Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Dough will be very stiff. Mix well.
Add puréed tomatoes and mix well. Pour into the prepared 9 x 13 inch pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

GREEN TOMATO FAJITAS
This recipe was totally improvised. I started off by sautéing some garlic and onions in olive oil until onion was translucent. I added a chopped green pepper, stirred it until tender, then added the tomatoes, again cooking on medium until tender. I then added some chopped chicken, salt and pepper and some dried barbecue spice. Served it on warm tortilla shells with shredded cheddar cheese. The end results were fantastic! The onions, garlic and peppers help liven up the bland taste of the green tomatoes, and the oil and salt helped soften them up to a nice tender texture. Gonna get this in my summer rotation often!

GARLIC PICKLED GREEN TOMATOES
Here’s an old world recipe that’ll put a large amount of the tomatoes to good use. Very good use! The jars that I made are still settling – you’ll need about two weeks to let them fully marinate. Look for a follow up post when I crack open my first jar. Let’s hope for tangy-liscious results!

Ingredients
5 pounds small, firm green tomatoes
3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
One fourth cup canning salt
6 or 7 garlic cloves
Pickling spices (a combination of spices, such as mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill, coriander seeds, cloves, and red pepper flakes)
6 or 7 bay leaves

Directions
Wash and core tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters. Combine vinegar, water and salt; bring to a boil. Pack tomatoes into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Add 1 garlic clove, 1 heaping teaspoon of Pickling spices, and 1 bay leaf to each jar. Pour hot liquid over tomatoes, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath. Yield: about 6 or 7 pints.

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Grilled Calamari Salad

July 10, 2011 Menu No Comments

If you’re a fan of calamari, and if you like to experiment on the grill, I highly recommend you give this recipe a try. It’s very simple and quick to prepare, and looks really impressive when plated on a bed of fresh spring mix salad. I guarantee that when you serve this to your friends, you’ll come off like a rock star.

You’ll use about 30-40 1″ thick calamari rings for this dish, which comes out to about 8-10 calamari tubes thinly sliced. You can also use pre-sliced calamari rings, which can often be found in the frozen seafood section of your grocery store. I usually only use the body of the calamari for this dish, but you can also use the tentacles if you like.

 

 

 

GRILLED CALAMARI SALAD

Ingredients
30-40 1″ clamari rings (which is about 8-10 calamari bodies sliced)
1 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tspn kosher salt
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tspn fresh chopped basil
1 tspn fresh chopped mint
*optional – 1/2 tspn peperoncino flakes for a little spice
spring mix salad

Directions
Place dried calamari rings and chopped peppers into a bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour half of the liquid mix over the calamari, reserving the remaining mixed liquid. Toss calamari and peppers to coat, let marinate for about a half an hour. In the meantime, fire up your grill and get it nice and hot (you want to cook this at about 400º). After the calamari and peppers are done marinating, you’ll want to pour them into a grill tray or grill wok, placed over direct heat. The calamari and peppers will sizzle when first added to the grill. Mix everything up well and then close the lid, checking and mixing every few minutes. You’ll want to grill for about 15-20 minutes, until the calamari are tender and golden brown. Carefully remove one piece of calamari and taste for desired texture. When done to your likeness, carefully remove the entire mixture from the grill. Spread the grilled mixture over a bed of spring mix salad, drizzle with the remaining dressing. Sprinkle with a little fresh grated parmesan cheese and some fresh black pepper.

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Boston Baked Beans

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve submitted a recipe to Cucina Domenico, but I thought that since Independence Day is this weekend, now would be a good time to share a great recipe for baked beans with you. I love it because it only requires one pot, it reheats wonderfully (actually, it’s even better the next day), it serves a crowd, and, if you’re not feeding a lot of people, it freezes well.

I found this recipe through Fine Cooking. I’m sure that by now you’ve noticed that Fine Cooking is one of my favorite sites for recipes. This is for a very good reason – their recipes almost always yield terrific results. This recipe in particular is one of them. I made one very minor change, but it made a huge impact on the flavor. The original recipe calls for salt pork, which is a saltier and usually much fattier version of bacon. Initially, I made it this way. It was very good, but not great. So I tried making it again using bacon instead. This time the results were much better, but still I felt it lacked something. Then I came across another recipe for baked beans which used a meaty smoked ham hock, so I decided to try it.

I’m still not sure what the difference between a ham hock and a ham shank is, but I purchased the latter one by accident. I use pork shanks to make soup all the time so I figured it would work. And it did, perfectly! Depending on the size I buy, I don’t always put all of the meat back in with the beans. Of course, none of it ever goes to waste. The leftovers make an awesome sandwich, ya know.

If, for some reason, you can’t find a ham hock or shank, do not hesitate to make this using the bacon. Don’t get me wrong, we ate the first two batches of baked beans without complaints. Both were better than anything you can buy in a can, but the third version is the cream of the crop. It is very meaty, and it has a wonderful smoky flavor.

Here’s a few tips:
First, don’t salt this dish (or any dish that has uncooked beans in it for that matter) until the beans are completely cooked. Adding salt before the beans are cooked can cause the beans to become tough or not cook through properly. Some people will dispute this, but, in my experience, I say not to. I’ve chosen to ignore this advice a few times and each time I regretted it.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, this is much better the next day. The flavors really come together and once it cools, it thickens nicely. That doesn’t keep me from making this the day I plan on serving it though. Oftentimes, I’ll just make it in the morning and let it cool on the stove until we are ready to eat. By then, the beans usually have a nice consistency, and no one ever complains about lack of flavor.

Boston Baked Beans
Adapted from Fine Cooking

Ingredients
1 lb. navy beans, yellow-eye beans, or other dried white beans (I use great northern beans, and the cooking time is approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your bean.)
1 meaty smoked ham hock, ham shank, or 4 oz. of bacon or salt pork (rind removed and reserved)
1 chopped medium onion (5 to 6 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic (optional)
4 to 5 cups water; more as needed
2 Tbs. dark molasses (but not blackstrap)
2 Tbs. maple syrup
3 Tbs. Heinz chili sauce or tomato ketchup (I always use ketchup)
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
1 Tbs. apple-cider vinegar

Directions
Pick over beans and soak them in water overnight. The next morning, discard any beans that are floating on the surface, and drain the beans.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large 5-qt Dutch oven. If using the ham hock or shank, add about 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil to the pan, and add the onion and garlic and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. If using the salt pork or bacon, omit the olive oil, add the salt pork or bacon to the pot, and cook until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. At this point you should have enough fat to cook your onions and garlic in.

Add 4 cups of the water, the molasses, maple syrup, chili sauce or ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Stir well to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the drained beans and the reserved pork rind, ham hock, or ham shank (if using) and wait for the boil to return. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven.

After the beans have been in the oven for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 300°F. After 1 hour, check the pot and add water as needed to keep the beans just barely covered. Also, if using a ham shank, turn about every half hour to be sure it cooks evenly. Check it again every half hour. You may need to add up to 1 cup for navy beans and 1-1/2 cups water for yellow-eye beans, but be wary of making them too watery, especially near the end of cooking. If the ham shank or hock starts to fall off the bone before the beans are finished, carefully remove it from the pot with tongs and place it on a cutting board to cool. Once cool, shred the pork with your fingers and add the meat back to the pot with the beans.

The beans are ready when they’re very soft and tender yet still retain their shape, about 2 to 2-1/2 hours for navy beans; 3-1/2 hours for yellow-eye beans. Remove the beans from the oven and discard the pork rind (if using) or the ham shank or hock if you haven’t done so earlier and proceed as described above. Add the vinegar and season the beans with salt and more pepper, if you like. Stir the beans gently; as you stir, the starches will be released and the baked beans will become lightly thickened. Don’t over mix when they’re this hot. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. They can also be cooled completely, refrigerated, and then gently reheated.

 

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