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A Taste of the Mediterranean: Catalan Bread with Tomato

So, yes, recently Mr. T and I returned from a wee vacation in Spain with the rest of the family T. And, while there was allegedly internet access (via “dongle”), it wasn’t all that reliable and there were so many other pressing things to do… playing with adorable the niecelet, conquering castles, eating tiny fish, and, uhm, sitting on the beach, sitting by the pool, etc.

In any case, though, how about a lovely little snack for when you’re not doing any of those things, but would like to be? Direct from Spain–or Catalonia, depending on where you are and who you ask–and far more than the sum of its admittedly humble parts. This is one of those, “really, this is going to be tasty?” recipes. I mean, at it’s most basic, it’s just a piece of toast with garlic and tomato smushed into it.

Doesn’t sound that all that appealing, really. But it is. Crunchy bread; hot, pungent garlic; sweet, juicy tomato. It’s really got everything–particularly when you opt to lay on a few olives or bits of anchovy. Even better!

As with all simple things, this one really depends on the quality of your ingredients. You want a nice, big, end of season tomato that, hello, tastes like a tomato. A nice, knarly-looking heirloom that might just be a bit too soft for salads? Perfect.

Your bread should also be beyond reproach–a nice simple country loaf will do fine. Avoid sourdough. Use the finest salt and olive oil that you have, and if you’re going to garnish with anchovies or olives (and I suggest that you do) for lord’s sake use good ones.

The below recipe is for two slices of bread. Obviously, this can be multiplied several times over with ease, and the finished slices could be cut into smaller pieces for a cocktail ‘do and that would be totally bueno. Just remember that they shouldn’t sit around too long. The bread should still be warm and the tomato should only penetrate so far. There’s no magic in cold, soggy bread; so serve them up as you make them with sunshine and panache.

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Song of Summer: Corn, Tomato, & Basil Salad

Sweet corn. Tangy tomato. Pungent basil. It doesn’t get more summery. Put them together, and you pretty much have the apotheosis of hot weather deliciousness. And put them together we shall, tossed together with a lightning quick vinaigrette that delivers a little extra zing that makes this easy salad compulsively nibbleable.

Given that this is the glory season of spectacular beefsteak heirloom tomatoes, I feel kind of dreadful recommending cherry tomatoes for this… but they really work better. The big tomatoes, delicious as they are, kind of break down and get all weepy while the little ones hold their shape and flavor better. I’ve made this several times since the version pictured, and it’s just better with the baby tomatoes. Keep your big fancy tomatoes for eating on their own or in a Caprese salad.

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Mid-East Mashup: Tabbouleh 2.0

Ah, organizational skills. If mine were slightly better, this is what I would have taken to the Pride bar-be-que I went to on Saturday. But no, not quite that together. Not that anyone complained, mind you, as I showed up instead with one of WhiskedDC‘s super tasty strawberry-rhubarb pies–which got snarfled up pretty much instantaneously. Good stuff. Also good, however, is this verdant, lemony tabbouleh-esque salad… particularly now that the summer has definitively arrived in D.C., crushing everyone under its hot, sweaty fist.

Although you’d not know it based on many of the tabboulehs  available in this country, it’s MEANT to be a green salad of parsley with a little bit of bulghur mixed in–not a tan salad of bulghur with a little bit of parsley mixed in. Of course, there are challenges to making a salad that’s mostly parsley. While I love its bright, grassy flavor, most of the parsley I can get my hands on is huge and tough. And, when tossed with its super lemony dressing, the parsley manages to go all wilty, yet remain tough. Tiresome.

Since I’m not about to start growing my own tender young parsley for salads–I’d need several more balconies–I thought about other greens that might also play well with the parsley I was committed to keeping for the sake of flavor (and tradition). Spinach? Nope. Too delicate. It’d just wilt down into snotty green hankies. Ech. But kale? That could work. It’s rugged enough to stand up to the dressing, but once cooked, isn’t as throat-ticklingly tough. And chic peas? Also not traditional, but a nice addition that adds some creamy heft and enhances the veggie-friendliness of your menu.

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Recovery Sunday: Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Tomato

So, after a week in New Orleans, a barbeque cocktail party, and a delicious Persian dinner (khoreshte aloo esfenaj–my faaavorite), I found myself in need of some recuperative sustenance. I often turn to rice in such dire times, and what better accompaniment than a super simple scrambled egg and tomato stirfry? A fond memory of my long-ago studies in Beijing, 番茄炒蛋 is an ur-food in China. You’d never see it on any menu, but I’d wager that every even vaguely Chinese person on the planet holds it close to their hearts. It’s such a cultural touchstone that it was used to describe the (somewhat unfortunate) red and yellow uniforms the Chinese Olympic team wore…

I learned this by watching the cooks in the cafeteria every morning. It’s pretty basic, and while you could add ginger or garlic (or “magic taste powder”, ahem), I like this fairly unadorned–particularly perfect after a week of partying. It’s a comfort food for, like, 1.3 billion people; how bad can it be?

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ToMAYto, ToMAHto: Summer Stuffed Tomatoes

Naturally, now that I’ve totally missed the deadline for the Post’s annual summer tomato recipe contest, I found myself with a big handful of home-grown Juliette tomatoes–from my boss’ garden, no less. Given this somewhat belated bounty’s very special provenance, I felt the need to do something special with them.  As I toyed with them in my office trying not to just eat them there and then, it occurred that they’re a lovely size for stuffing–petite oblongs just shy of 2″ long. Perfect for a nice cocktail nibble.

But… the stuffing. I knew what I didn’t want in the filling for my summery tomatoes: anything bready, cheesy, hot or heavy. I did, however, want to include sundried tomato to punch up the flavor. What else could improve tomato but another form of tomato? Well, how about some basil, garlic, and briny caper? To stick it all together cream cheese could have been just the thing, but then I wouldn’t have been able to eat them. Boo. So I turned to cannellini beans, my secret weapon for turning just about anything (savory) vegan. With a tomato-y riff on my beloved Tuscan bean dip, I’d have a tasty filling for my fancy fresh produce. Excellent.

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