52 Foods Week Forty Two: Tomato

With the school year in full swing and a busy month of birthdays, out of town guests and costume parties, it’s sometimes hard to carve out time to cook. Fortunately, this lack of time coincided with the end of tomato season, a confluence that naturally led to cooking a big batch of tomato sauce that we could freeze for nights when boiling pasta water is about all the cooking energy we can muster.

Tomato sauce was at least a weekly staple in our home when I was young, and it was also one of the first things I learned to cook after going to college. My recipe, which has served me well for over a decade, uses tomatoes, an onion, a few garlic cloves, salt, red wine and a whole lot of (ideally fresh) rosemary.

We ordered a load of roma tomatoes from Gauchito Hills Produce, a CSA started by a couple of our friends. Ripe roma tomatoes are ideal for tomato sauce, having a great balance of flesh and juice. The end of the season romas were soft and super ripe. I couldn’t wait to get them peeled and into a large pot.

I washed the tomatoes then cut an X on the bottom end of each one and placed them in a pot of boiling water to loosen the skin.

Sliced On the Bottom

After each tomato had soaked for five or ten minutes, I pulled them out and let them cool to where I could remove the skin. I sliced the tops off them as well, and soon had a large bowlful of whole, peeled tomatoes.

Peeled Tomatoes

I chopped an onion and peeled and smashed five or six garlic cloves then tossed those in a large pot with some olive oil to sauté. On top of this, I added three sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Onion, Garlic and Rosemary

After the onions were translucent, I poured in the bowl of tomatoes, followed by red wine and some salt, then covered them to simmer over low heat for three hours.

Add Tomatoes, Wine and Salt

I mostly left the tomatoes untouched while they cooked, only taking a minute to break them up midway through. After three hours they had caramelized a bit, and darkened to a familiar tomato sauce hue. I removed them from heat and let the sauce cool.

After Three Hours Cooking

When it came time to eat our first tomato sauce meal, I pulled the full batch of sauce from the fridge and puréed it all in the food processor. After reserving a portion to heat for dinner, I poured the rest of the sauce into a couple jars to freeze.

In Jars

We enjoyed the first round of tomato sauce over al dente spaghetti, with some freshly ground pepper and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

On Spaghetti

The photos are here.

52 Foods Week Forty One: Black Radishes

Some foods are charismatic by virtue of their story. The Poulet Bleu’s development in North America is as exciting as its blue feet, and while Jimmy Nardello peppers look entirely commonplace, their name, and the history it alludes to, give them a leg up on other, similar foods. Still others wear their oddities in the open in odd shapes and colors, such as the Black Spanish Radishes from Fiddler’s Green Farm that we picked up at the Farmers’ Market.

Black radishes have a dark black skin and resemble beets in shape and size, being much larger than the red radishes we typically eat. Our radish monger advised us to peel and roast them as we would potatoes. Being a household that often roasts root vegetables in the winter, it seemed like we could easily fashion a recipe around these dark specimens.

We began by peeling the black skin to reveal the pale white flesh. The contrast between the outer and inner radish was rather impressive and surprising.

Peeling the Radishes

I sliced the radishes into bite sized pieces and took the opportunity to taste a bit. Raw, the radish was extremely bitter and astringent. Jen gave me a look that questioned my resolve to continue with the dish, but I assured her I thought that roasting would mellow the flavors and arrive at a mild but interesting vegetable dish. We combined them with a chopped onion, seasoned them with salt and thyme, then drizzled on some olive oil and white wine and placed them in the oven to cook.

Chopped with Onions, Oil, Wine and Thyme

The radishes took about an hour to cook through, becoming slightly translucent and a little brown around the edges. We plated them alongside a tasty piece of swordfish and headed to the table to enjoy the meal.

Chopped with Onions, Oil, Wine and Thyme

Unfortunately, I can’t say that the roasting did enough to mellow the bitterness. I made it about halfway through my serving, Jen less than that, before we both decided to drop the brave faces and admit defeat. I had to concede this round to the radishes, but I’ve read that covering them with salt then squeezing the juice out can reduce the bitterness. I’ll have to try that in the future. In the meantime, at least the swordfish was good.

Roasted Black Radishes and Swordfish

52 Foods Week Forty: Misome

Last week at the Farmers’ Market we discovered misome, a hybrid asian green designed for high temperatures. High temperatures are exactly what Fiddler’s Green Farm, a Yolo County grower, contends with. We brought home a large bunch, unsure what to do with it. Misome resembles a cross between baby bok choy and kale, with dark leaves and thin, pale stalks. Raw, the stalks are firm and a bit creamy and the leaves taste like broccoli, with a tinge of spiciness at the end.

My research suggested that either pickling or stir frying would be a good preparation. We opted for a stir fry with shitaki mushrooms and skirt steak. I started by sautéing some chopped onions and garlic in grapeseed oil.

Onion and Garlic in Grapeseed Oil

When they became translucent and soft, I added shitaki mushrooms.

Add Shitaki Mushrooms

While the mushrooms softened, I washed the misome and chopped it in half, separating the stalks from the leaves.

Separate Stems

Next I added the stalks to the pan to let them get tender.

Add Stems

After about five minutes, I added the misome leaves as well.

Add Leaves

When the leaves were wilted, I removed the vegetables from the pan and added some crushed red pepper flakes. Then I prepped the skirt steak. We are big fans of Five Dot Ranch’s beef, and their skirt steak in particular. It’s nicely marbled, and cooked for a few minutes to medium rare it requires just a little salt and pepper to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Five Dot Ranch Skirt Steak

I sliced the steak into small strips, about 3/4″ wide, then added it to the pan.

Add Steak to Pan

I let the steak sear all over, then poured a little soy sauce over it.

Add Soy Sauce

I also poured some teriyaki sauce over the vegetables, then returned them to the pan with the steak.

Return Veggies to Pan

I stirred everything together and let it cook for another couple minutes, then removed it to a bowl and poured the pan juices on top.

Finished Stir Fry

We enjoyed this stir fry over white rice. The cooked misome was robust, with a bit of spice and bitterness, and accompanied the steak and shitakis nicely. I expect that using a second bunch of misome instead of the steak would be very successful as a vegetarian stir fry, if that were your preference.

Misome, Steak and Mushroom Stir Fry

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Thirty Nine: Red Ruffled Pimiento

The end of summer is truly the best time for the Farmers’ Market, both due to the tremendous selection and the incredible colors of the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini that populate so many tables and produce baskets. Among the notable specimens a few weeks ago were the red ruffled pimientos from Lloyds’ Produce. These pimientos are bright red, about the size of a nectarine and a little squat. I grabbed five of them in a trip that also yielded three pounds of bacon, some heirloom tomatoes and I can’t recall what else.

I picked up so much produce that I actually forgot about the pimientos until a few weeks later, when I uncovered them in our quite full produce drawer. Fortunately, they were still intact—firm and bright red. One thing I could say for these guys before I even tasted them was that they were hardy. I recently made a big batch of meatballs and saved a lot of the meat for later use. The pimientos were about the right size to accommodate a meatball inside, so I decided to stuff them with some of the meatball mixture. I began by cutting the caps off and removing the seeds.

Tops Cut Off and Seeds Removed

I spooned the meatball mixture into each pimiento, filling them to the brim. My meatball recipe is one of my only cooking secrets, but I think any dense ground meat mixture would work, as would Italian sausage. Once stuffed, I put them in the oven to bake at 350ºF.

Stuffed with Meatball

After 30 minutes, I pulled them out and flipped them meat side down. Then returned them to the oven.


After another 15 minutes, I flipped them back over and covered the tops with shredded parmigiano reggiano, then returned them to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, using the broiler for the last three minutes.

Cover with Parmigiano

The pimentos came out soft and lightly charred around the edges with the cheese and meat browned on top. We served them atop toasted fregola with tomatoes and garlic. The red ruffled pimientos were a little spicier and less sweet than a red pepper, but not hot. The meatball complemented them well, and together with the tomatoes in the fregola created something like a deconstructed arribbiata.

Meatball Stuffed Red Ruffled Pimientos over Toasted Fregola

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Thirty Eight: Eye of Round

Along with the previously cooked ribeye steaks, our Nevada County grassfed beef order included a lovely eye of round steak. Frequently a braising cut, due to its leanness, eye of round presented an interesting challenge for me. I generally gravitate towards fatty cuts like chuck and ribeye for roasting, or quick cooking lean cuts like skirt and flank. A nearly three pound, thick piece of meat, whose only fat was on the outside, required some consideration if I was going to cook it using my favorite method: the Weber rotisserie.

My rotisserie setup offered both an advantage and disadvantage when it came to the eye of round. The advantage was that the turning would allow the fat to run along the meat as it melted, rather than dripping right off. This could help maximize the flavoring and tenderizing action of the fat. The disadvantage was that the grill tends to be a fairly dry cooking environment, which would not help the lean steak stay moist. To address the second issue, I began by puncturing the beef allover, then marinated it in a mixture of red wine and grapeseed oil—the wine to help tenderize the meat and the oil to provide some additional fat to the inside of the roast.

Red Wine, Grapeseed Oil and Water to Cover

I let the meat marinate for almost three hours before starting the grill. Then I removed it from the marinade, gently patted it dry, and prepared a rub of large grained salt, crushed red pepper flakes and coffee grounds. I really enjoy the coffee grounds on beef roasts; I find they impart a wonderful earthiness and a slightly bitter flavor that is great complement to a good piece of beef.

Salt, Coffee and Red Pepper Flakes

I covered the roast with a generous helping of the rub, massaging it a bit and repeatedly applying it—with a little water when needed—to get the mixture fully covering the meat.

Rubbed Steak

I prepared the grill with mesquite charcoal laid on either side for indirect cooking and placed a pan of water in the center to keep the air moist.

Grill Prepped

With the grill ready to go, I slid the roast onto the rotisserie skewer, secured it tightly, arranged it on the Weber and set it turning.

Steak on Rotisserie

I let the eye of round cook mostly uninterrupted, other than a couple interventions to check the heat and add more charcoal. I cooked it about three hours, before removing it to rest for a few minutes.

Resting Eye of Round Steak

Finally, I sliced the steak as thinly as possible, revealing a medium to medium rare center, with reasonable moisture. I would liken it to a good roast beef in terms of juiciness.


It was certainly not as tender as a well marbled cut would be, but overall it made for a very nice dinner, with the rub on the outside providing adequate seasoning to make each slice a little spicy and salty. For those who prefer lean beef, this would be a very nice way to enjoy a barbecued steak with very little fat.


All the photos are here.