// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: tomato edition //

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, the signs that summer is quickly drawing to a close are all around us.  And so I'm wrapping up this series of simple summer foods with one of my very favorite summer foods: tomatoes.  Not just any tomatoes. Fresh from the garden tomatoes.

We planted our 5th garden this summer. We do a lot of the usual veggies, snap peas, lettuce, beets, zucchini, but our crowning jewel is tomatoes. We usually do about a dozen tomato plants, and each a different heirloom variety, with maybe 1 or 2 big boys thrown in there for a little extra yield. Every year we find ourselves literally up to our shoulders in tomatoes.

The end of summer stands out as one of my favorite times of the year because of all the great tomato inspired meals we eat. And in case you are wondering what to do with all your gardening loot I thought I'd share some of my favorite tomato recipes with you.

1. Golden Tomato Sauce. I have mentioned this here before. It's from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 cookbooks. If you looking for things to do with your garden veggies, check out what Heidi has to offer.

I have made this sauce with all sorts of tomatoes, red, yellow, and whatever else we've grown.  It adapts very easily to all type of tomatoes.  But it's the very very best with Roman Candle tomatoes.

I also like to top my pasta with some feta and spicy Italian sausage. (But don't tell Heidi, she's a vegetarian!)

2. BLT's. I think everyone knows what that stands for: bacon, lettuce, and tomato.  So I'll just mention a couple tips and variations.  Bread choice: hands down, my favorite bread to use for these is sourdough.  We toast it and then spread some mayo on. If you'd like to be a little healthier (try to balance out the bacon, and the mayo that I've added) use kale instead of lettuce.  We found we actually prefer out BLT's with kale, making them BKT's. It might catch on!

3. Bruschetta: Another a classic that you probably know how to make. 2 large tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh basil, chop it up, drizzle in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper it,  and served on toasted baguette slices.

My one tip for this dish: peel the tomatoes first.  Here's how you do that. Bring a medium size pot of water to boil.  With a very sharp knife, cut a few X shaped marks across the surface of your tomatoes. When the water is boiling carefully put the tomatoes in for about 30 seconds; the skin will begin to peel back where you cut the X. Use a slotted spoon to fish the tomatoes out, let them cool a little and then simple pull the peels off. Removing the peels just makes the texture of the bruschetta even better. It's not essential, but I like to do it.

4. Caprese: Baguette slices toasted and arranged on a plate, topped with slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and torn up fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Super simple, super delicious, every time.

5. Summer Pasta. I posted this recipe about a month ago. You can see it here.  It's basically caprese with pasta instead of bread. It's also basically one of my favorite summer meals.

6. Salsa: I'm sure that my friend Jacqui, the Mexican Domestic Goddess, could give you a very authentic salsa recipe. But until then, this is how a gringo makes it:

For a very large batch:
3 large tomatoes chopped into very small pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
2 serano peppers, seeded and diced
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
a generous amount of salt and pepper.

This is the base, from here you can add as many extra things as you like, bell peppers, corn, black beans, mango, whatever strikes your fancy. Just chop it up and throw it all in a bowl.

7. Tomato Gallette: I found a recipe for a squash gallette on my other favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. At the time I didn't have any squash, and I had tons of tomatoes. So I used tomatoes instead. It turned out great! I also used feta cheese instead of fontina, and I left out the sage, because I don't really care for sage.

8. A Note On Freezing. When I really find myself with a surplus of tomatoes I freeze them.  I used to make sauce and freeze that, but then when I'd thaw it and use it, it never tasted very good. Then I heard somewhere that freezing tomatoes after they've been cooked can ruin the flavor, and it's best to freeze them fresh, and before any seasoning has been added.  So that's what I do.

Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to scoop out the seeds. Then cut them into small pieces and put them in a doubled freezer bag.  Last summer I froze enough tomatoes for about 5 batches of tomato sauce.  It was so nice in the middle of (our super awful) winter to be able to pull some of my home grown tomatoes out of the freezer and make something that reminds me so much of

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: beet and fennel salad //

I hated beets up until a couple years ago.  Well, I guess it's more accurate to say that I had never had beets until a couple years ago and just assumed they were a strange vegetable that Dwight K. Schrute from The Office grows in copious amounts and that I didn't like them.  Then a couple years ago (at a restaurant that has sadly closed down) I had beets in delicious salad with arugula and feta. The beets were so earthy, mild, but so unique, tender but not squishy, firm but not crunchy. I was in love. About a year after that I encountered beets again at one of our favorite local spots, this time with arugula and citrus fruit, and the combo blew me away. That was while I was pregnant with Johnny. So that spring, 38 weeks pregnant with a belly the size of a beach ball, I got on my hands and knees in our garden a planted some beets of my own. Just this summer I had another beet salad at one of the vintage bowling places around here (yes, we have more than one of those) that paired beets with another unusual vegetable- fennel bulb-  it was amazing!

The salad that I'm about to share with you is inspired by all three of these salads.  If you've never had beet before I hope you will give them a try, as you don't know what you're missing. And  if you don't like them, please give them a second chance, since maybe the timing wasn't right before.

1 large beet, cooked, cooled and peeled.
1 fennel bulb
1 orange
1/2 grapefruit
a few large handfuls of arugula (or salad green of your choosing)
1 tablespoon salted butter
feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

If you've never handled beets before here's a quick guide on how to prepare them. Cut off the stems and the long root and put them in a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil and then boil the beets rapidly for 10-15 minutes.  You should be able to easily insert a fork into the beets. When the beets are done remove from heat and rinse with cold water.  As soon as they are cool enough to handle peel with a paring knife.  Actually, if the beets are cooked right you can just sort of push the skin off of them with your fingers - it's a lot messier, but who doesn't like to have bright-pink-stained hands? I like to cook and peel several beets at once and then have them ready to go in the refrigerator whenever I may need them. They should last about a week after being cooked. Of course, if all of this seems like too much work for you, Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked, pre-peeled beets.

When you've cooked and peeled (or purchased) your beets, cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Trim the stems and the bottom off of the fennel bulb. Cut in half and then cut into thin, half-moon slices. These then go into a frying pan with the butter over medium heat.  Let the fennel fry for about 10 minutes until it's starting to darken and char.

While these are frying you can get started on peeling the orange and grapefruit. Peel with a paring knife, being careful to remove all the pith from the fruit, leaving some of the flesh on the peels. Reserve the peels. Cut both the orange and the grapefruit into thin slices and set aside.

Take a medium salad bowl and squeeze and juice from the orange and grapefruit peels into it. Add the olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Add your salad greens to the dressing and toss well. Add beets, fennel, orange and grapefruit, give it one gentle toss, then top with crumbled feta and enjoy! 

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: black bean quinoa salad //

This recipe is based on a salad my friend Faith makes. Her husband calls it "taco salad" because the cumin makes it taste like tacos. We call in "beanoa salad" because it has beans and quinoa in it. I also call it "clean out the fridge salad" because it's the kind of salad that you can put almost anything in.  I think the official name would probably be "black bean quinoa salad" so that's what we're going with here.

I love this salad because it's quick and easy and delish. But most of all I love it because between the quinoa and the beans this salad is packed with protein and can easily stand on it's own two feet as a complete meal. It also works great as a side to whatever you might be grilling. And it makes a great leftover. Use it at breakfast the next morning on top of your scrambled eggs! 


1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 cup of quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 cup of frozen corn kernels 
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper chopped into small pieces
1/2 red onion diced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 table spoon of cumin
1 large handful of fresh cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
1 avocado cut into small pieces

Put all ingredients except feta and avocado in a large bowl and toss well. Put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour. When you're ready to serve, add the avocado and feta and gently toss. 

If you'd like to do a little extra work you can roast the frozen corn in a frying pan with some butter and salt and pepper, but this isn't really necessary.


// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: summer pasta //

While on vacation with all the Coynes at the Coyne family farm it only seemed fitting that I post a Coyne staple recipe: Summer Pasta. Summer pasta can be found on Coyne tables all year around. But of course it tastes best in the summer, when the tomatoes and basil can come straight from the garden.


1 lb of your favorite shaped pasta. My mother-in-law uses spaghetti noodles but I like to use penne or fusilli, or shells. 
3 large tomatoes or 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
1 very large handful of fresh basil
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella 

Cut tomatoes into 1 in. cubes, or if using cherry tomatoes cut them in half. Put them in a large bowl with the basil torn into pieces and the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Add the pasta and toss well.

Right before you're ready to serve tear the mozzarella into pieces, add, and toss one more time. 

Open a bottle of your favorite red wine and enjoy! 

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: cucumber chickpea salad //

A couple years ago my fiend Kristi came over for dinner and brought this salad. It was simple and fresh and delicious and Alex and I have never forgotten it. In fact, we make it a few times a month. It's super easy, and pretty filling because of the chickpeas. It's a great summer dish, but really, we eat all year around because we love it so much. Kristi, if you are reading this: thank you for introducing us to this salad!


2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large cucumbers
1/2 of 1 red onion
1 big handful of fresh dill, or 2 tablespoons of dried dill
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

Put rinsed chickpeas into your favorite salad bowl. 

Prepare your cucumbers: You can either peel them, or leave the peel on, or use a zester to half peel them, like I did. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then in half again lengthwise, so you have 4 wedges. Cut off the corner of each wedge, thus removing the seeds. This is something I didn't used to do, but I've found that the texture is more pleasant without the cucumber seeds.  After you've cut out the seeds, cut each wedge in half lengthwise one more time and then chop them up into small pieces. Add these to the chickpeas.

Cut onion into thin half-moon slices and add to the salad.

If you are using fresh dill, remove the larger center stems, coarsely chop it, and add it the the salad bowl. If you are using dried dill just add it right into the salad.  Add olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. 

This salad can be served right away but tastes best if the cucumbers and chickpeas have had time to marinade a little.  I like to let it sit in my refrigerator for about an hour before serving. Toss it a few times while it's sitting, and again before serving. Add a baguette and some goat cheese, open a bottle of white wine and you've got yourself a very respectable and very easy summer dinner. Enjoy!

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: grilled chicken salad //

It's not too late to start a summer series, is it?

I didn't think so. 

This series, Simple Summer, Simple Food, is inspired by my need to not use my oven during the summer.  Except for on the occasional cool day (which we actually have had a good number of this year) our house does not recover from having the oven on.  It just stays hot for days on end and no amount of strategic fan maneuvering, or blasting of our little window a/c units (that's right, no central air here) can cool it off. So it's important for me to keep a running tally of meals I can make without the use of the oven, and stove too, if possible. And I'll be sharing that list with you over the next few weeks! 

And so, without further ado...

Grilled Chicken Salad

This salad is actually very simple. It's basically whatever greens you want with whatever veggies you want with sliced up grilled chicken breast on top.  

We used spring mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, and sugar snap peas (from the garden). 

Season the chicken breasts with a dry rub: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, paprika, cumin, garlic powder. Or use a rub from the store, maybe some southwestern mix! Whatever you use, coat them well and take them outside and grill them.  

Grilling is one of those things that always looks so quick and easy, but when we do it, ends up being incredibly inefficient. Either our meat's not ready and the coals are, or the coals are not lighting and we get have to wait for them. Then there's a million trips in and out of the house and by the time we get set up and get going and it always seems like a lot of work for a few pieces of meat. Don't get me wrong, I love grilling! I'm just saying that when we do grill we like to make the most of it and grill as many things as possible. So while you're at it chop up some sweet potatoes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap them in tin foil, and stick those of the grill as well. The sweet potato fries and chicken will both take about 25-30 minutes.

While those are grilling make the salad dressing:

(makes enough for two very large servings)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (find in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1/4 of an avocado cut into small pieces

Place all ingredients in large bowl and whisk until well combined. If it seems too think, add a little water.  Pour half of the dressing out into a small bowl and set aside.

Add your greens to the dressing in the large bowl and toss to coat. Pour the greens out onto your plates and top them with the veggies of your choosing as well as the sliced up chicken breast.  Drizzle the remaining dressing on top.

If you want to, mix some of that chili garlic sauce with some mayo for a nice dipping sauce to go with your sweet potato fries.

And voila! You have a yummy, filling, and pretty healthy meal and your house is still relatively cool!