Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grape Tomatoes Galore

Overflowing. The vines and now our kitchen bowls and countertop have been overflowing with grape tomatoes this summer.

Unlike their larger counterparts that grow one row over in our raised bed gardens, the grape tomatoes are not smaller and cracking open thanks to the hot, dry summer. They are bright red and plump.

So, what do you do with quart after quart of bite-size tomatoes?

My husband and I have eaten our fair share in salads this summer, but, honestly, I'd much prefer a slice of a vine-ripened, larger tomatoes for a salad if one's available.

So that sent me looking for new ways to use our grape tomatoes.

The first thing I made was a very simple bruschetta from Rachael Ray on the Food Network Web site. Although recipes for the easy Italian appetizer don't mention using grape tomatoes, they are perfect for this before-dinner treat. Grape tomatoes aren't too juicy, and they are easily cut into cubes without really losing their shape. And, to make it even better, I was able to use fresh basil, which is also growing in my backyard. That means all I had to buy for the bruschetta was a small loaf of Italian bread because I already had garlic on hand.

Reggie and I ate so much bruschetta the first time I made it that we almost forgot to eat the main course!

Even after making bruschetta a few times, plenty of grape tomatoes were left sitting on my countertop. So I went back to my search for new recipes. I really wasn't looking for a soup recipe. It's much too hot for soup, right? Turns out I was wrong, this tomato-based soup is so smooth, light and delicious that it was actually a wonderful treat for a hot Sunday night meal with my sister, Susan, and her girls.

The recipe is Roasted Grape Tomato, Corn and Pasta Ribbon Soup. I found it online at www.muellerspasta.com.

Once I saw that the grape tomatoes and corn are roasted along with garlic, I knew I had to make it. One of my favorite new recipes from last summer starts with a variety of roasted vegetables, including grape tomatoes. I love roasting vegetables and knew the addition of fresh corn, which we had purchased at the farmers market, would make a delicious combination.

The recipe isn't complicated. It takes a little time to cook because the tomatoes must roast for a half hour.

The recipe suggests pouring the soup into a blender to puree. Instead, I used my immersion blender. My immersion blender doesn't do as smooth a job blending, but it was perfect for this soup, I thought, because although the base was smooth, it left a few pieces of corn and tomato, adding a nice texture to the dish.

I made several changes to the recipe. The original recipe said to roast the fresh rosemary with the vegetables. I don't like rosemary very much, neither does Susan, as it turns out, so I left it out. I've never found a vegetable broth I particularly like, so I used low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth. I also omitted the balsamic vinegar and black pepper, because we liked the way the soup tasted without those ingredients. My husband did add apple cider vinegar to his soup and said it was a very good addition.

We never found the specific pasta called for in the recipe, whole grain wide pasta ribbons. Instead, Susan picked up another whole grain fettucine. Really, any pasta would work. Next time I make it, I'll pick a small, whole grain pasta.

I have so many grape tomatoes on hand right now, that I'm going to make a double batch of the soup this week for the freezer. I'll omit the pasta for now but will add it when I'm ready to eat it.

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
  • 1/2 baguette or crusty long loaf bread, sliced (12 pieces)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, cracked away from skin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 small plum tomatoes, halved and seeded (I used grape tomatoes)
  • 20 fresh basil leaves (I didn’t use that many)
  • Coarse salt
Preheat broiler to high, (if you prefer you can also grill the bread). Place bread slices on a broiler pan. Char bread on each side under hot broiler, keep an eye on it. Rub toasts with cracked garlic and drizzle with oil. Chop seeded tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Pile basil leaves on top of one another and roll into a log. Thinly slice basil into green confetti and loosely combine with tomatoes. Add a drizzle of oil and a little coarse salt to the bowl and gently toss tomatoes and basil to coat. Pile toasts around the bowl of topping. Place a spoon to scoop topping in bowl and serve.

Rachael Ray

Roasted Grape Tomato and Corn Ribbon Soup
  • 6 oz. whole grain pasta (fettucine or small pasta should work fine)
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups low-sodium, low-fat chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh, optional
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine grape tomatoes, corn and garlic. Toss with olive oil. Pour onto baking sheet, prepared with olive oil or covered with parchment paper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes. Tomatoes will start to split. Let cool slightly. Mash garlic with a fork.

Spoon vegetables into large stock pot and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Blend with immersion blender until desired consistency. (You can also use a blender.) I like to leave a few pieces of vegetables, but leave most of the soup smooth.

Add remaining stock and bring to a boil.

Stir in pasta and simmer until pasta is tender but firm, following cooking times on package.

Garnish with basil and pepper if desired.

* The original recipe from Muellers roasts 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary with the vegetables, uses vegetable stock instead of chicken broth and mixes in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the finished product before pouring into soup bowls.


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