Homemade Tomato Jam Crostini – with Lemon Ricotta

My favorite season? Easy, tomato season. I wait for this all year … and when it hits, I’m the first to the Farmer’s market to buy beautiful slicing heirlooms, and then the last to the Farmer’s Market to buy up the scratched/dented/bruised tomatoes for sauces and jams, at a discount. Actually, I owe a shout out to the nice folks at Crystal Organic Farms who are nice enough to set aside their “seconds” for me each week now!

Last week, I decided to turn the bumper crop of beautiful Black Krims into a homemade tomato jam. I made a few different batches to play around with the ingredients and ratios, and this one produced the hands-down favorite!

Tomato Jam Crostini

Lemon Ricotta and Homemade Tomato Jam Crostini

Fresh bread – whole wheat baguette or sourdough are my favorites – thinly sliced on the bias for 4-6 large slices
Fresh whole-milk ricotta – about 1/2 lb
Fine zest of 1 organic lemon
Homemade tomato jam (see recipe, below)
tiny pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, washed and torn by hand

Zest the lemon into the ricotta, add pinch of salt, and stir. If you can, let sit for 30 minutes or so to let the ricotta come to room temp and to give the lemon a chance to flavor the cheese.

Turn on broiler to start warming. On the stove in a seasoned cast iron pan, grill the thin bread slices on both sides (sure, you can just use a toaster, but grilling is tastier and just as easy!)

Spread the ricotta onto the bread slices and put under the broiler for a few minutes to let it warm and slightly brown. Remove from oven and spread the homemade tomato jam over the ricotta. Top with fresh ground pepper and torn basil to taste, and serve.

Homemade Tomato Jam

About 6 pounds of Black Krim tomatoes, with the cores and seeds removed (NOTES: I do this by coring the tomatoes and then squeezing them – some of the seed are left and I’m OK with that. Also peel them if you’re a purist – I usually just pull the skins out while cooking, and am not bothered if a skin or two is left.)
1 cup cider vinegar
5 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
4 tablespoons grated fresh turmeric (substitute ginger if you don’t have fresh turmeric)
1/4 cup raw sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (be sure to use organic since you’re using the peel)
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Put all ingredients into a large pot (do not use uncoated cast iron). Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat then reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally (more often as it reduces), until jammy. Depending on how well you squeezed the tomatoes, this can take 3-5 hours.

To can the jam: ladle the jam into 3 hot sterilized canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headroom. Seal with hot lids and process the jars for at least 10 minutes.

To store for <1 month (it doesn't last anywhere near that long in my house): store in a covered glass jar in the fridge. Other usage ideas for jam:

Serve over warmed brie, feta, or pretty much any other cheese
Serve over quick-sauteed spinach, swiss chard, or kale
Serve alongside pretty much any egg dish, like quiche or omelettes
Serve on toast in the morning – delicious!
Stir into pan-sauteed fresh corn
Eat straight out of the jar (seriously)

Sweet, Spicy, Savory Rainbow Chard Pasta

This recipe will make chard-haters lick the bowl, I PROMISE. It has a flavor that is hard to explain until you try it … and it’s so easy, fresh, and healthy, you’ve gotta try it!

RainbowChardPasta

ingredients:
~ 1 large bunch multicolored rainbow chard
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 5 garlic cloves, crushed (you get more flavor and nutrition by crushing them!)
~ 3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
~ 1 tsp red chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
~ 1 tbsp raw honey
~ 1/2 lemon, juiced
few pinches of sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
pasta

How to Make:
rainbowstemsWash and clean the chard. Fold the leaved in half, and using a small, sharp knive, separate the leaves from the stems. When done, take the stems and slice them in pieces about 1.5 – 2 inches long. Put the leaves in a rough pile (this doesn’t have to be perfect), roll them up, and slice crosswise into 1/4″ strips.

This dish looks so pretty because the stems and leaves are cooked separately, so the stem colors stay strong and they really pop on the plate. You can cook them at the same time in different pans, or one at a time, stems first, in one pan.

First, start your pasta (any kind, enough for 2). It can cook while you’re cooking the chard, but you’ll want it to be ready when the chard is ready.

stemscookingTo cook the stems: place them in a small pan with a few tablespoons of water, a bit of salt, and about 1/2 tsp olive oil. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add just a bit of lemon juice when you’re adding lemon to the chard leaves, and toss.

garliccookingTo cook the chard leaves: add about 1.5 tbsp of olive oil to a large pan. Add the crushed garlic, chopped rosemary, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and honey. Let cook on medium to medium-high for about 4 minutes until bubbly and just starting to think about browning. Add the chard strips and toss, letting cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until soft and tasty (yes, please taste as you go and correct the salt if needed!). About 2 minutes before it’s done, sprinkle the lemon juice over all and continue tossing. NOTE: the broth flavor in this recipe is AMAZING, so I usually make sure that it has a nice brothy bottom by adding about 1/4 cup of the water from the pasta along with the lemon juice, and cook it down just a bit.

donePlate, starting with the pasta on the bottom, then a nice hearty serving of greens, then the colorful stems on top. Add fresh ground pepper, or not, to taste. Enjoy!

Super-Healthy, Low Carb Potato Cauliflower Salad

Potato Cauliflower Salad

If a picnic’s not a picnic without potato salad … but you’re avoiding overdoing the potatoes, not to mention mayonnaise … give this simple recipe with a healthy kick of turmeric a try!

Super-Healthy, Low Carb Potato Cauliflower Salad

Ingredients

1 large head of organic cauliflower, or two small ones
5-6 organic red new potatoes – medium-sized, like a small plum
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp coconut oil
t tbsp turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
Ground pepper to taste
Arugula for base
Optional: Something pickled, like cucumbers or turnips

Cut cauliflower florets away from the stalk, and cut potatoes into about 6 pieces each. Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Add in a single layer to a 12″ fry pan, pour about 1/2 cup water over all. Add coconut oil, turmeric, and the bay leaf, then cover, and cook over medium-high heat until the veggies are almost fork-tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove lid and continue cooking until water is gone and potatoes are just beginning to break apart, about 4 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Note: everything will turn a lovely shade of yellow from the turmeric – that’s good, because it makes you feel like eggs have been added for a more traditional potato salad at the end. Also, when warm, this mix has a sort of voodoo loveliness and you’re going to want to eat it now … and that’s fine if you want a warm salad side … but keep going if you’d like a potato salad stand-in!

Put whole mixture (remove bay leaf) in fridge and let cool. When cool, chop into smaller bits – I love to use Toss & Chop salad scissors for this, but if you don’t have them, just use a good knife and break down the pieces so that they mix really well. If you like the taste of something pickled in your potato salad, chop it up and add it now, and maybe a teaspoonful or so of the brine also.

Plate the potato salad over some fresh arugula or other lettuce and serve! You’re eating mostly cauliflower, but your palate will taste potato. Add some fresh coleslaw for a fantastic summer picnic feast!

Summer Watermelon Salad Bites

Summer Watermelon Salad Bites

There are only so many days of summer … celebrate them ALL! These Summer Watermelon Salad bites provide a blend of unexpected flavors that combine to say SUMMER!

Ingredients

Organic Watermelon
Tiny bit of Ricotta Salata
Fresh mint leaves
Juice from half a lemon – preferably a Meyer lemon
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Slice watermelon into one-to-two-bit bits (squares, circles, or whatever you like – use cookie cutters if you like) and arrange on platter. Squeeze Meyer lemon over the watermelon; some of it will remain on the plate – that’s fine, the watermelon will soak it up. Place a mint leaf and a tiny bit of Ricotta Salata on each watermelon bite – seriously, a small bit – you want this to be a little salty, but not have the cheese overwhelm the mint and watermelon. Grind just a bit of pepper over all of it, and serve!

Nick’s Summer Ratatouille – Delicious!

Nick's Summer Ratatouille

For me, it’s not summer without ratatouille … and I usually just take the shortcut of dicing and sauteeing the veggies, throwing on a few herbs along the way. However, this recipe was perfected by the young son of a friend – and it takes my “casual” version up about 5 notches! I think Nick has a future in the kitchen, don’t you :-)?

I love this hot or cold, as a side dish with just about anything, and it’s a great dish to take to a gathering – trust me, it’s so delicious that no one will realize that what they are eating is actually super-healthy!

Nick’s Summer Ratatouille

How to make:

Add to pan over medium heat:
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tsp butter (for a vegan version, eliminate butter and double the olive oil)
1 tsp olive oil

Cook for ten minutes.

Then add the following to this mixture, cook for three more minutes.
2 green chili pepper, charred, peeled, seeds and ribs removed.
1 clove garlic
salt (pinch)
pepper (to taste)

Next, add the following, cook until bubbling (stirring occasionally), then reduce temperature and cook for 20 minutes.
28 oz crushed organic tomatoes – be sure not to buy the kind with added sugar!
2 pinches of thyme

While the sauce is cooking, mix the following in a small jar or glass:
4 tbsp organic olive oil
2 tsp minced or crushed garlic
2 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
pinch of salt
ground pepper, to taste

When the sauce is ready, let it cool until it is safe to handle, then place in food processor with 2 pinches dried basil, or 5-6 leaves of fresh, and puree until thick. Pour into bottom of dutch oven or other large casserole dish.

Ratatouille Layers

Nick adding layers of veggies.

Layer vegetables on top of sauce in dutch oven, starting with tomatoes, zucchini, squash then eggplant.
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
2 yellow squash, sliced thin
2 zucchini, sliced thin
2 japanese eggplants, sliced thin

Gently and fairly evenly pour about half of the oil mixture over the vegetables.

Cook covered at 280 degrees for three hours. Pour remainder of olive oil mixture over dish, refrigerate until next day.

When ready to serve, warm for 45 minutes at 280, then drop to 225 degrees for another 45 minutes. Delicious served warm, or cooled.

Simple Eggplant Hummus (a/k/a Baba Ganoush)

Eggplant Hummus

I make this Baba Ganoush at least once a week in the summer – often, twice! It’s great as a dip, a side dish, a sandwich spread, a salad addition, and more!

Ingredients
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
1-2 cloves garlic (to taste), pressed
About 1/4 cup olive oil
Several pinches of sea salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1-2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Oven: Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice eggplant in half and liberally spread cut sides with olive oil and salt. Bake cut side up for about 20 minutes, until the interior is soft and it is quite brown on the top.

Grill: Prep the eggplant in the same manner, but grill the slices over a hot gas grill for about 10 minutes.

As the eggplant cooks, add the rest of the ingredients, except any leftover oil, to a food processor, and pulse a few times until mixed. When the eggplant is ready, let it cool, then scoop out the pulp, leaving the skin. Add the pulp to the rest of the ingredients in the food processor, and process until smooth. Taste, and add salt/oil as needed. Garnish with parsley or lemon slices.

Simple Okra Salad

Roast Okra Salad

Delicious … if you think you don’t like okra, you’ve probably only had it fried or stewed … and you really owe it to yourself to try this simple and delicious roast okra salad at least once.

Ingredients
1 head butter lettuce, or similar
20 fresh okra pods, washed and sliced about 1/3 inch thick
1 in-season tomato, cut into wedges
1/4 cup crushed pecans or pecan halves, crumbled
1 tablespoon coconut oil, liquid (melt if necessary)
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar, optional

Directions
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
Arrange the okra slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and mix well. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean the lettuce and tear into bite-sized pieces. place tomato and pecans over the lettuce. When the okra is ready, place warm over the salad, and eat. Delicious with no added dressing, but if you’d like a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, that is delicious as well!

Mediterranean Feast in <5 Minutes!

Weeknight Mediterranean Platter

With just a little planning and some common prepared foods on hand, weeknight dinners can look like this Mediterranean Feast – in under 5 minutes! Be sure to plate them in a way that pleases your eye as well as your palate (yes, it matters) … those fast-food places on your way home won’t stand a chance.

Plus, this kind of eating – little bits of several high-nutrient and high-quality foods – is a great way to give your body a variety of nutrients to support your health!

What I used:
Organic Hummus
2 organic peppers – red, and purple
2 pickled hot peppers (I made these over the weekend in a simple vinegar brine)
A couple of bits of cheese – I had a goat brie and a bit of Iberico
Bagged greens – I love the Cruciferous Crunch Collection that Trader Joe’s sells, but you can use kale, chard, or lettuces if you prefer
A bit of wine vinegar and olive oil to sprinkle over the greens
sliced mini-cucumber
sliced tomato
A few wheat crostini
Salt and fresh ground pepper
100% grape juice

What I might have also used, if it were handy and sounded good:
Any other in-season veggies – avocado, chickpeas, carrots, celery, etc.
Herbs to mix into the greens
Raw, organic almonds, cashews, etc.
Leftover grains of any kind – quinoa, freekeh, etc.
Wine

Lemony-Hot Summer Squash Salad

Lemony Summer Squash SaladWhen it’s hot outside, lemon is refreshing, and spicy foods actually help your body cool down (that’s why they’re so popular in hot climates like Mexico). Give this salad a try!

Ingredients

Dressing

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 crushed garlic clove
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Salad
1 pound summer squash (a mix of green and yellow)
1 fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely minced
Chopped cilantro, to taste
Few tablespoons of Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese (optional, omit for vegan version)

Preparation

Put olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic clove, and kosher salt (to taste) into a jar and shake it (or a bowl and whisk it) until well mixed. Set aside.

Trim the ends off summer squash. Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, thinly slice the squash lengthwise into strips and transfer to your serving bowl. Top with minced pepper.

Pour dressing over vegetables. Toss, and let stand for about 5-10 minutes, toss again, then sprinkle with the cheese if using. Season with more salt if needed, and freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

Note: This is also extra-tasty over a bed of peppery arugula … delicious!

Farmer’s Market Peach Crisp

Farmer's Market Peach Crisp

Peaches are naturally juicy and sweet … so they need very little added to them to be amazing! Take this basic recipe and experiment all Summer – try adding a handful of raspberries … basil … even some grated ginger!

Buy organic peaches for your health and the health of our planet … and ask the growers at your farmer’s market whether they have any “scratch and dent” peaches with bruises or other imperfections. Not only are they a fraction of the price of perfect peaches, they’ll be the fruits that are ripe and ready to use when you get home!

Farmer’s Market Peach Crisp

Ingredients

6-10 medium scratch/dent (or other) peaches
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp almond extract

1 cup whole oats
½ cup almonds
½ cup walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup brown sugar OR 1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
pinch of salt

Preparation
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Peel the peaches, remove any soft or bruised areas, and chop into about 4-5 slices per peach
3. Combine the peach slices with the lemon juice, coconut flour, and almond extract in a large bowl. Toss until the peaches are well coated.
4. Put the peaches into a casserole dish or lasagna pan.
5. Add the the oats, almonds, walnuts, and coconut flakes in a processor and pulse to break up into a coarse but fairly even mixture. Be careful here, don’t over-mix or you’ll wind up with nut butter!
6. Put this mix in your bowl, add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and salt, and mix with a spoon.
7. Place this mixture over the peaches.
8. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the peaches are bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.

Top with greek yogurt or a small scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream.

Most important: sit and really ENJOY the amazing taste of summer … preferably sharing with family and friends who share your love of healthy, delicious food!