Roasted Tomato and Pineapple Salsa

Roasted Tomato and Pineapple Salsa

“Family Meal” is a common tradition in the restaurant world.  Around 4 o’clock every day, cooks are sitting down together for their pre-service meal.  Don’t be confused, though.  It’s not social hour, it’s not relaxing, it’s more like ‘how fast can I scarf this down so that I can get back to my station to finish the 2500 things I need to do before service starts in 1.5 hours’.  That’s more like it.  It is also not a meal for the picky palate… nope, we don’t eat samplings of that’s night special or the new summer squash that just came from the local farmer.  At least not at most restaurants.  Family meal is conglomeration of left overs…left overs from past dishes, unused party food, greens on their way out of the door, you get the picture.

At Rouge Tomate, we had a “family shelf”.  This is where all left overs/old food was placed, anything on that shelf was free game for family meal.  Each station was in charge of a certain part of the meal… Pasta cooks always made the starch, Pastry always made dessert, Garde Manger always made a salad.  Most days, I would chop a few vegetables and toss them into greens, whisk together a quick salad dressing 5 minutes before 4:00.  I must say, I became very good at improvising yummy vinaigrettes.

On the rare day, though, I had time to put thought and effort into what I made.  One of these days came on “Taco Family Meal” day, and I spent my spare time during service chopping a few things to make salsa.  The flavor was good! So I asked one of the sous chefs to have a taste and critique it.  He took a spoonful, thought about it for a moment, and said “this is good! you’re on to something.” This might have been one of my proudest moments at Rouge Tomate…

This is restaurant-style salsa, with a little bit of a twist.  Serve it at a party and I promise, you will be wishing you had made 2 batches!

The Recipe…

1 can Whole Tomatoes
2 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar
Juice of 2 Limes
3-5 Garlic Cloves
1-2 Jalapenos*
1/2 Bunch Cilantro
1.5 Cups Pineapple, small diced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Kosher Salt, plus more
1/2 tsp Black Pepper, plus more

*1 jalapeno = mild; 2 jalapenos = medium/spicy

Preheat oven to 500F.  Drain tomatoes, reserving tomato juice.  Split tomatoes and scrape out seeds.  Lay flat on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over tomatoes and roast for 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are charred and there is only a little bit of juice.  Set aside to cool.

On grill pan or stove top, grill jalapenos until charred on all sides.  Once cooled, peel and remove seeds.  If you prefer spicy salsa, save a couple of seeds for your salsa.

Using the food processor, blend reserved tomato juice, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, honey, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Blend until mixture is only slightly chunky, making sure that there are no large bits of garlic.

Add roasted tomatoes and pulse 5-10 times.  Salsa should be chunky.

Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl, fold in pineapple, and season with salt and lime juice.  Chill and serve!

*Side note – I love using pineapple in salsa, but you can use any fruit you choose! I’ve tried watermelon, mango, peaches… be creative!

Roasted Tomato Salsa

… enjoy.

Asian-inspired Steak

Being newly-married, I am having to adjust to cooking for a boy.  If it was just me, I could live off of apples, vegetables, and a crusty piece of bread.  But it’s not just me.  Thankfully.

I’ve been researching a lot of new recipes for meat, expanding my palate and knowledge. I borrowed this great recipe for skirt steak from The Pioneer Woman, it’s absolutely delicious.  I wish I had more pictures, but I made this long ago, before the blog even began.  I’ve shared it with so many people, though, that I thought it deserved a bit of attention.  The marinade in this recipe is really versatile and can be used for chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, even a sauce…

Asian-inspired steak paired with crispy broccoli and brown rice

The recipe…
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sherry
1/4 cup Honey
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 1/2 Tbsp Ginger (heaping)
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Flat Iron/Skirt Steaks (or any steak you like)
Garnish: Scallions and toasted sesame seeds

Combine and whisk soy sauce, sherry, honey, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes.*  Pour over steaks and marinate for at least 4 hours.  Grill steaks on high heat for 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare steaks.**  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Toast sesame seeds at 350 until slightly browned.  Slice scallions on a sharp bias.  After slicing meat, sprinkle over top of meat.  In my opinion, you can never have too many scallions or sesame seeds.  They add so much flavor and texture.

*Make additional marinade or reserve a portion of the marinade to make a sauce.  Simply put all ingredients into a sauce pan, bring to a boil, and allow to reduce by 1/4- 1/2. Strain out ginger.  Pour over sliced steaks and rice.

**Optional cooking method: preheat oven to 350.  Sear steaks for 2 minutes on each side and then put in oven for 5-10 minutes.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

I served this with roasted broccoli and brown rice.  It was a perfect Saturday night, manly meal!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I gave up chocolate for Lent.  Always a bad idea.  Last night I dreamed about warm, chocolatey brownies.  I know writing a post about chocolate chip cookies won’t help the cravings, but I can’t help indulging just a little bit!

When I lived in New York, I was shamelessly familiar with the city’s multitude of bakeries.  My favorite chocolate chip cookies were those of Levain Bakery in the Upper West Side and City Bakery in the Flatiron District.  The chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery is dense, slightly crisp on the outside with a soft, luscious center.  City’s chocolate chip cookie is buttery and chewy with thick chunks of chocolate in every bite.  I love munching on either one of these cookies while wandering through the streets of the city.

I didn’t grow up in NYC, though.  I grew up in a small town in Mississippi eating my mom’s version of nestle tollhouse cookies.  She always used 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening instead of the 2 sticks of butter that the recipe calls for.  I know I am supposed to be Southern, but I can’t bring myself to use shortening.  I’ve created my own version of this cookie, though… it’s gooey, dense, chewy, slightly crispy… best paired with a cold glass of milk!

The recipe…

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chocolate of your choice

Preheat oven to 350F
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Beat butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract for 1 min. Add granulated sugar and dark brown sugar and cream until fluffy.  Add in eggs 1 at a time and mix thoroughly.  Mix in flour mixture in 1/2 cup increments until fully combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and chill for 30 minutes.
Scoop onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

…enjoy!

“French” Fennel Soup with Kale and White Beans

It’s been cold in Dallas… soup weather.  I started a new job in January and it’s not always easy to come home and cook dinner, especially after working 12 hours.  Having a pot of soup in the refrigerator is such a treat!

The problem with soup is that it’s either light, leaving you still hungry, or creamy and heavy, leaving you feeling stuffed.  This soup is light but hearty, sweet but salty, creamy but not rich, it’s the perfect soup to me.

Don’t be tempted to omit the slice of bread and melted cheese on top.  The bread soaks up all of the wonderful flavors and the cheese adds elements of salt and creaminess to the soup that make it so satisfying!

The recipe…

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp rosemary, chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 c. vegetable stock
1 bunch Kale, stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces
1 loaf French bread, sliced thickly, grated
1 cup Gruyere cheese (or whatever is on hand)
1 bay leaf
Salt
Black pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot and add onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add fennel.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 20 minutes, add garlic and cook for 2-3 minute.  It is important to add these 3 ingredients in steps, this helps to build flavors with depth.

Add oregano, rosemary, a pinch of black pepper, and bay leaf.  Stir to incorporate and then add beans and stock.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour, uncovered.  Remove the bay leaf and check seasonings. Adjust to salt to taste (I added an extra teaspoon or 2).

Before serving, stir in kale and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Ladle into oven-proof bowls, float slices of bread on each, and cover with cheese.  Put into oven under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until cheese bubbles and slightly browns.

Careful not to burn your mouth!

… enjoy

*On a side note, sorry about the lack of pictures! I am still adjusting to cooking for a blog!

Fresh Pasta with a Simple Tomato Sauce

I have a distinct memory of eating spaghetti at a small trattoria in Venice, Italy. Running through the corridors of Venice to escape a rainstorm, I ducked under a red and white awning and through the doors of a quaint restaurant with only a few tables, a chalkboard menu, and tiny, flickering candles set on each table.  I wish I could remember the name… I would fly back to Venice for this one meal.  The pasta was rich and smooth, perfectly cooked.  The part that keeps drawing me back, though, was the tomato sauce.  It was simple, clean, pure, heavenly… I loved it! The chef was able to create a deep and complex flavor that spoke to me, it drew me back bite after bite.  One day I will find that restaurant again…

Scott (my husband, of 2 1/2 months!) could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’ve never really met anyone like him… let’s just say, in college, he won the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl Challenge” by eating 5 3/4 bowls of pasta, second place could only eat 4… I don’t think I could even eat 1 bowl. Needless to say, one Saturday night we decided to make our own pasta.  In culinary school, we had a whole class on pasta making, but I hadn’t made it since then, so I wasn’t confident in our skills.

We used the “well” method by putting flour on a board and creating a center well. Crack the eggs into  the well and slowly begin mixing with a fork.  If you want a richer pasta, add an extra egg yolk or 2.  Our dough seemed a little bit dry, so we added a few splashes of water.  Each time you make pasta, things will be slightly different depending on how big or how fresh the eggs are, the moisture in the air, the flour… so many variables! Once the dough is fully mixed, knead it a few times, wrap it in a piece of floured parchment paper and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Before you begin rolling, prepare a sheet tray with at least 3 layers of floured parchment paper. It also helps to flour your working surface and hands.  We have an Imperia pasta roller and it works wonderfully! The pasta attachment of your kitchen aid mixer also works great for rolling dough. Whichever method you choose, have the roller set on the widest setting, cut a tennis ball size piece of dough and begin feeding it through the roller.  After your first pass, fold the strip in to thirds and pass again on the same setting.  I would do this 3-4 times before you lower the setting.  The action of passing and folding helps to create a more smooth, luscious texture! Continue rolling and reducing until you’ve reached the desired thickness (once you’ve passed setting #1, you do not have to use the folding technique). Dust the pasta with semolina flour and lay on the parchment paper.  After you’ve rolled all of your pasta, you can use these sheets for lasagna, or you can cut the sheets into what ever shape you desire.  Just remember to let the pasta dry a bit before cutting so that the pasta won’t stick to the knife.  We let ours dry for about 5-10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for  3 minutes.  Drain the water and immediately mix with your sauce.  The starches of the fresh pasta will create a wonderful stick so that the sauce coats each strand! It’s delicious!

We used a simple tomato sauce (my go-to tomato sauce for pasta, pizza, anything!), lightly sauteed shrimp, and topped it with a chiffonade of basil and parmesan cheese.  Amazing. After dinner, we stood at the stove, unable to stop eating the sweet tomatoey strands of pasta…

The Recipes…

Homemade Pasta
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons water
extra flour for dusting

See method above

The Best Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Giade de Laurentiis
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeling and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 (32-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (28-oz0 can whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 dried bay leaves

Preheat oven to 450F.  Drain whole tomatoes, reserving tomato juice, gently deseed each tomato and place on foil-covered sheet tray.  Spread brown sugar evenly across tomatoes and roast for 20-30 minutes.
While tomatoes are roasting, heat olive oil in large pot and gently saute onions and garlic (5-10 minutes).
Add carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and saute until all vegetables are soft. Add tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, and bay leaves and simmer for 1 -2 hours (until sauce thickens).
Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

This sauce can be frozen and used for any recipe requiring tomato or marinara sauce.

…enjoy