fresh tomato, basil and bread soup

A tomato grown in New Jersey just tastes like a Jersey tomato. ~ tomato grower David Shepherd

What’s so special about a Jersey tomato? I’m not sure. I’m now on my second season of Jersey tomatoes, and I have to admit when I first tasted one late last summer, a memory revived with a tiny shock.

It reminded me of another lifetime ago; maybe the time I tasted my first garden tomato from my friend Jeanne’s grandfather’s backyard, or when I lived in the very southern part of Florida where tomatoes were abundant and at their prime in December, when I’d last cut into a heavy, ripe tomato that was still warm from the sun, deeply red all the way through. There was that taste of TOMATO that I can’t find the exact words to describe – somehow sweetly meaty and delicately tart, fruity and savory all at once. That flavor has nothing to do with the greenhouse-grown tomatoes I buy – we all do – all year round, that look red and perfect and lovely but taste like … not much.

Could be it’s marketing and hype at work  -  yes, the term  “The Jersey Tomato” has been trademarked – and also the fact that my attempts at growing tomatoes tend to end badly.

The cute and beautifully colored cherry tomatoes I cultivated by the back deck became snacks for hungry squirrels, and the fancy heirlooms I planted in a raised bed produced more sprawling foliage than fruit. It’s been a while since I’ve had a super-fresh, home grown tomato that actually made me pause. [Read more...]

italian summer country cake

I’m eating a piece of cake, remembering when my kids had birthday parties…the clearing of the table right after the cake, just before the presents, and all those paper plates with beheaded cupcakes on them.

Little cakes in paper liners with their fancy frosted tops chewed right off. I know some grown-up children who still consider cake a mere delivery vehicle for cream, fudge or frosting, but for me it’s always been the opposite.  As a girl, I’d scrape off the frosting and go all in for cake.  [Read more...]

Roasted Vegetable & Barley Salad

In the spirit of the season, I’m revisiting one of my go-to recipes that makes the best of summer produce. This barley salad with roasted Mediterranean vegetables is a great choice for sharing with family and friends at picnics, potlucks or parties over the next few summer months.

I originally posted this recipe in 2007, and haven’t really changed much except to simplify and punch up the flavor a little.

Happy summer!

Roasted Vegetable & Barley Salad

Serving Size: 6 - 8 side dish servings

I like to arrange some arugula or baby spinach leaves on the bowl or platter before piling on the barley mixture.

Make ahead note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, diced
  2. 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (2 pint containers)
  3. 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  6. 1 red onion, chopped
  7. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  8. 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  9. 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  10. 1 1/4 cups pearl barley
  11. 3 cups water
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  13. 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  14. 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
  15. 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  16. 1/2 cup crumbled goat feta cheese
  17. Arugula or baby spinach leaves; a few handfuls

Instructions

  1. Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 425°F.
  2. Toss eggplant, tomatoes and bell pepper with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast vegetables until eggplant is golden brown and tender and tomatoes are shriveled, stirring halfway through, about 25 minutes.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil for 1 minute more. Add water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer barley to baking pan with roasted vegetables and spread to cool, about 20 minutes.
  5. Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, honey, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and oil; pour over the barley and vegetables along with the basil and feta; mix together, and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.
  6. I like to arrange some arugula or baby spinach leaves on the bowl or platter before piling on the barley mixture.
  7. Make ahead note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/07/roasted-vegetable-barley-salad/