Tag Archives: tomato

Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry

Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry
Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Back in March, my fiance and took our pre-wedding honeymoon trip to the UK and Ireland. What excited me most about the trip (besides visiting the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff) was the prospect of sampling the many global cuisines that these countries have to offer. They have become a melting pot of cultures over the past few centuries due to English colonization, immigration, etc., and this in turn now characterizes their food and the way people eat.

While perusing the travel book I brought along, I learned of Balti curry, a now renowned English dish that was created in Birmingham (known as “Brum” by the locals) by North Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the 1970s.

This Punjabi-influenced curry is very aromatic, filled with warming spices, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, and can be made with meat, vegetables or paneer (an Indian fresh cheese). It’s a one-pot dish traditionally served in a metal or copper, two-handled dish called a “Balti”, which means “bucket” in Hindi. Instead of eating it with rice (or even silverware), the diner will scoop it up with naan or chapati flatbread. The best thing about Balti is that it cooks up quickly, like a stir fry, and can be completed in about half an hour — no need to watch over a simmering pot for hours.

Don’t be intimidated by the myriad of spices used in Balti: most of them can be found in specialty grocery stores that have a bulk spice section and the rest can be obtained from an Indian grocer (which is a culinary adventure in itself to visit). I’ve even seen a Balti spice blend sold at Whole Foods under their own brand. As for the protein, beef, lamb, pork or even vegetables can easily be substituted for the chicken.

No need for a passport here as you can take your tastebuds for a trip to jolly old Brum with this easy to prepare, savory Balti dish.
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Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Proving that tomatoes can turn a classic dessert into a savory delight.

Even though turning on the oven in the middle of August isn’t on the top of most people’s list, there are a few dishes that are worth the extra mercury on the thermometer. Tomato cobbler is one of them.

“Cobbler? But that’s a dessert!,” is the reaction of most folks. Not in this case. This cobbler is a savory take on the classic sweet dessert and uses fresh and juicy summer tomatoes in place of the fruit (though, technically, tomatoes are also considered to be fruit).

Why tomatoes, you ask? Sure, you could throw them in a nice, cold salad, but have you ever popped them in the oven and baked them until they burst? Their natural sugars are enhanced with the application of heat and roasting them brings out their sweetness and even more flavor over eating them raw. In short, roasted tomatoes are a-mazing. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, splurge and use them in this dish as they have even more “meat” and flavor to them than most tomatoes in the market.

To make this easy tomato cobbler, the vegetables (or “fruit and veg”) are cooked in a pan and poured into a baking dish over a cornmeal batter. To give it an even more homey and rustic look, use an ovenproof or cast iron pan to cook, bake and serve it in. And if you get the hankering for this savory side dish and tomatoes aren’t in season, simply use drained, canned tomatoes (the no-salt added kind). It tastes great when served fresh out of the oven, but tastes even more heavenly if it is allowed to sit and cool a little while and served at room temperature. It also makes fantastic leftovers when reheated and served the following day.

Grab the sumptuous flavors of late summer while you still can, crank up that oven, and make this mouthwatering cobbler as soon as humanly possible.
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Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

No lettuce required: Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Salads are a staple of summer and they come in many forms. What pops into most folks’ heads when the word “salad” is uttered is most likely a plate full of leafy greens. While lettuce based salads are well and good, there are other forms of “salad” to consider this time of year, like ones consisting entirely of veggies and/or fruit. They’re a great way to utilize the best produce that this season has to offer and can be a great way to boost the nutritional content of your meal (barring they’re not swimming in mayo or sour cream because that kind of negates the “healthy” aspect).

This first recipe utilizes fresh, raw veggies that are tossed in (my take on) creamy Green Goddess dressing and it makes for a great side for a summer gathering. Instead of smothering this dish in a mayo and/or sour cream based dressing, it gets its creaminess from avocados and buttermilk — the latter being much healthier than you might think (one cup contains less than 100 calories and only 2.2 grams of fat). Make the dressing a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and feel free to toss the veggies together with the dressing up to an hour before serving.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 4 servings

2 ears of sweet corn (raw)
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 bell red or orange pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
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You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

This easy-to-prepare tomato soup is comforting goodness in a bowl.

No matter the weather or season, any time is a great time for tomato soup. There’s something comforting and restorative about a warm bowl of tomato soup — homemade tomato soup, that is. For me, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. This version in particular is so easy to prepare that you’ll be on your way to culinary bliss in no time.

When I first found this recipe and saw some of the main ingredients — tomato juice and chicken base — I worried that it would turn out tasting like something grandma would made or simply like I’d opened a can of Campbell’s (which is decent, but like I said, homemade simply tastes better). Turns out the ingredients totally work — the juice gives it added tomatoey oomph and the chicken base is a shortcut to using broth, which one would have to simmer for ages to achieve the same flavor.

The result is a pinkish-hued bowl of comfort to be served warm or piping hot (depending on your mood and the weather outside). I like to stir in chopped herbs like parsley and basil just before serving for a pop of color and flavor. As for the sherry, Ree used cooking sherry, whereas I prefer to use real sherry wine.

Sherry is a fortified wine that originates in Jerez (“Sherish”), Spain, and is typically served as an an aperitif used to “finish” and add flavor to dishes. I go by the old adage on cooking with booze: “If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.” Cooking sherry is a version of sherry which has been treated with salts and other additives so that it can be stored in the cupboard at room temperature. While this is all well and good, I’m not a fan of its flavor and prefer using standard dry (not sweet) sherry wine in its place. Don’t have sherry on hand? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry — just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let the flavors meld while they’re simmering together — or leave it out altogether.

Feel free to get a little creative with this recipe and personalize it as well. For added flavor, try throwing in a teaspoon or two of fresh, chopped rosemary or thyme when sweating the onions. Don’t want to use the cream and/or sherry? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry; just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let their flavors meld while they’re simmering together.

Not only is this tomato soup approachable for any cooking skill level, it’s perfect for a weeknight meal, as it only takes minutes to throw together and you can get it on the table in a flash. Serve it alongside a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and call it dinner.
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