Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fresh From The Garden

The garden gods have been pretty generous lately. My plants are loving the warm weather and all the extra attention they've been getting from two new members in the house now.

Our heirloom tomato plant produced its first meaty, juicy, attractive babies. Their vibrant color won me over even before tasting them. And the taste - aah! They had the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. Nothing like the grocery store varieties. I could eat these on their own!

Along with the prized heirloom produce, we picked a few red chilies, plenty of tiny purple tomatoes, and a whole lot of fragrant basil. Thank heavens for all these fresh veggies and herbs, or I may forget how things are supposed to taste.

What do you do when you have organic, flavorful produce? Not muddle the flavors! That's what I decided and made this simple tomato-pesto tart using puff pastry sheets lying in the freezer. Tart was a great choice to use heirloom tomatoes - they are firm and meaty, and hold up really well even after being blasted with heat. And their soft flesh contrasted the crunchy pastry sheet beautifully. These tarts made for a nice summer meal - crispy, light, full of bursting juices.

Heirloom Tomato - Pesto Tart

2 Puff pastry sheets
3-4 Heirloom tomatoes (depending on their size)

For pesto:
1 Cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 Garlic cloves
1/4 Cup nuts - cashews, almonds, pine nuts, or walnuts
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Olive Oil as required
Salt to taste

  • Preheat oven at 375F.
  • Add all the ingredients for pesto, except olive oil, to the food processor. Make a coarse paste, while adding olive oil little by little. I use minimum amount of oil to get a smooth paste.
  • Wash and cut tomatoes in 1/4 inch discs.
  • Thaw the puff pastry sheets just enough so that you can separate them. If you let them thaw for too long, the dough will start stretching in all directions! Cut each sheet in three width wise. I used Pepperidge Farm box which comes with 2 sheets - so I had 6 decent sized tarts.
  • Lay these sheets on a tray lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled aluminum foil. Divide the pesto and spread it on each sheet. Then lay the tomato slices, and bake these tarts for 15-18 minutes or until the pasty sheets are golden brown. The tarts are ready to eat. 

One of my very close friends, Aditi, has been a loyal reader of my blog. We keep exchanging recipes and ideas. She gave me the recipe to make Sai Bhaji - a simple mixed greens preparation using split chickpea lentils and potato for some substance. I tried it last night using fresh Swiss Chard from the garden and other greens. This recipe is a keeper. It was done in no time and just tasted 'healthy'! I was too eager to eat and took a very bad picture with my phone. 

Sai Bhaji

1 Cup of spinach, swiss chard and mustard greens each - washed and chopped. Feel free to add any other greens that are smooth in texture when cooked.
2 Cup washed split chickpeas (chana daal) - soaked in water to soften
1 Small potato - peeld and cubed
1 Small onion - finely chopped
1 Tomato - cubed
2 Teaspoons minced ginger and garlic
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste

  • Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add turmeric powder, and chana daal. Saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add ginger-garlic, onion, tomatoes, and potatoes if using, and mix well. 
  • Mix in all the greens, add red chili powder and salt to taste, and add a little bit of water (just enough to cook). Pressure cook the greens for 2-3 whistles. I cooked them without the whistle just enough so the chana daal would cook but not break. 

The Bhaji is ready to be eaten with rotis. Chana daal provided a great bite to the otherwise soft bhaji. A good dose of protein too. It had a nice tang provided by tomatoes that lifted all the flavors. I'll add this recipe to my usual dinner rounds.

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