Another Summer Tomato Dish

With a bounty of summer tomatoes about to descend upon us Ample Bites thought it might be high time to start sharing more tomato recipes. Today’s dish is better for cooler summer days that the 100+ degree scorcher we have going on in the Midwest right now but I should share it now so you can use it later.

This is a simple baked dish with a stuffing that incorporates fresh summer basil with Italian sausage and bread crumbs.

Sausage and Basil-Stuffed Tomatoes
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of The Food Network Magazine, July/August 2012)

Serves 8

8 medium tomatoes, preferably with stems intact
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¾ lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 small green bell pepper, diced
½ large onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, diced, plus a handful of celery leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 cups bread cubes (from about ½ baguette)
1 cup fresh basil
½ cup walnut pieces (optional)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F. Using a serrated knife, slice off the top quarter of each tomato and reserve the tops. Scoop out the pulp from inside each tomato and transfer it to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the cayenne to the food processor and process until smooth; pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, herbs de Provence, bell pepper, onion, diced celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the sausage browns, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage mixture and bread cubes to the food processor and pulse until chopped. Pack the tomatoes with the sausage-bread mixture so the stuffing is domed on top. Put the stuffed tomatoes in the baking dish on top of the sauce.

Place the basil, walnuts, cheese and celery leaves in the food processor and chop. Sprinkle onto the tomatoes. Put the tomato tops, cut side down, between the stuffed tomatoes. Bake until the stuffing is golden, about 20 minutes. Cover each tomato with a top and serve with the sauce.

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Bibimbop – A Savory Korean Dish with a Fun Name

Ample Bites publishes a lot of recipes for dishes that have American, Italian, French, Cajun and Caribbean roots but don’t be fooled by the Midwestern roots of Ample Bites. I also enjoy good Asian fare, especially Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and, of course sushi and sashimi.

There is a Korean dish that has always intrigued Ample Bites as much for its name as for its healthy and savory ingredients. It is the Korean dish Bibimbop, which can be pronounced in a number of different ways including: bee-bim-bahp, bee-bim-bop, bim-bim-bop or even bop-bop-bop. The pronunciation I have heard the most and one that I like to use is bip-bim-bop. This Korean word literally means “mixed meal” or “mixed rice”. When you see the recipe and the accompanying photo you will understand why it is call Bibimbop.

This meal, dating from the late 19th century (not really all that old, right) is listed at number 40 on the World’s Most Delicious Foods in a readers’ poll compiled by CNN in 2011. The dish can be prepared with a wide variety of vegetables. Those commonly used include cucumber, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, spinach and bean sprouts. The dish almost always includes tofu and toppings can include strips of chicken or beef, pieces of seafood, and or a raw or fried egg. My recipe is as follows:


Serves 4

8 oz extra-firm tofu, drained
1/3 cup water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar, divided
2 tsp minced garlic, divided
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger, divided
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup julienne-cut carrot
2 Tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp, plus 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided
3 cups hot cooked short-grain rice
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 (5-oz) package sliced shitake mushroom caps
1 (9-oz) package fresh baby spinach
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 large eggs
4 tsp Korean chili paste, such as Annie Chun’s
¼ tsp Kosher salt

Cut tofu into ¾” thick slices. Place tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 30 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

Combine 1/3 cup water, vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon garlic, ½ teaspoon ginger, and crushed red pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add carrot, and remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Drain.

Remove tofu from paper towels; cut into ¾” cubes. Place tofu in a medium bowl. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon garlic, remaining ½ teaspoon ginger, soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon oil, stirring with a whisk. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce mixture to tofu; toss gently. Let stand 15 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil; swirl to coat. Add rice to pan in a single layer; cook 1 minute (do not stir). Remove from heat; let stand 20 minutes.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil; swirl to coat. Add 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce mixture and bean sprouts to pan; sauté 1 minute. Remove sprouts from pan; keep warm. Add 1 teaspoon to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce mixture; sauté 1 minute. Remove mushrooms from pan; keep warm. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tofu to pan; sauté 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove tofu from pan; keep warm. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce mixture; sauté 30 seconds. Add spinach to pan; sauté 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Remove spinach from pan; keep warm. Reduce heat to medium. Melt butter in pan. Crack eggs into pan; cook 4 minutes or until whites are set. Remove from heat.

Place ¾ cup rice in each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving evenly with carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, tofu, and spinach. Top each serving with 1 egg and 1 teaspoon chili paste. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Ample Bites Farm Update #3

Despite an extended drought and a string of high temperatures in the 90s the Ample Bites vegetable garden is in full bloom. The green beans have recovered from an early season infestation of some type of bug, probably an aphid of some sort. The garden has already yielded several meals worth of lettuce and spinach and a few zucchini – with many more to come soon.

The tomato plants look like they will produce a bounty of beautiful and delicious fruit.

Less than a month from juicy tomatoes

The mustard greens are the most recent harvest.

These beautiful, healthy greens were prepared using the following recipe:

Mustard Greens with Chipotle and Bacon

Serves 10

2 ¾ lb curly mustard greens (2-3 bunches), stems and coarse ribs discarded
4 bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp minced canned chipotles in adobo
½ tsp salt

Coarsely chop greens, then cook in 2 batches in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling salted water uncovered, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking process. Drain greens in a colander, pressing gently to release excess moisture.

Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, 4-5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet. Add oil, chipotle, greens and salt to fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with bacon.

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Great Sources for Gourmet Products and Ingredients

Over the past few weeks Ample Bites has learned about some great web-based sources of gourmet products and ingredients. Even though Ample Bites is an advocate for buying food locally, the Internet is a fantastic global food market where the home cook can find high-quality ingredients that may not be available to them locally. This is especially true and most applicable to oils, vinegars, sauces, spices and specialty ingredients.

Among the favorites that Ample Bites has found to date are:

Adoboloco is a Hawaiian company that makes small batch hot sauces including a jalapeno, habenero, and thai chile sauces.

Ashman Manufacturing Company makes spice blends, marinades, and sauces including KimKim Korean Hot Sauce, a 2012 NASFT Sofi Gold Award winning sauce.

Back to the Roots makes an interesting, but somewhat expensive, mushroom kit that generates about a pound and a half of high-quality fresh mushrooms. Ample Bites has tried the oyster mushroom kit and enjoyed the harvest.

DeMedici Imports sells oils, vinegars, spices and sauces that are imported primarily from Italy.

Fruit of the Land carries a variety of vegetable and fruit products including an outstanding line of gourmet tapenades.

Sullivan Harbor Farm is an East Coast purveyor of smoked salmon and other seafood products.

Vermont Creamery produces and distributes gourmet butters and cheeses.

All of these companies have on-line stores and several of them publish newsletters that can be subscribed to via email or through Facebook and Twitter. The newsletters offer recipes and information about production processes and health facts.

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Which Ingredient is the Star of the BLT?

The star of most Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich is usually acknowledged to be either the big, juicy summer tomato or the thick, salty bacon or both of those savory ingredients. A good, toasted sourdough bread, a rye or a hearty whole grain wheat is essential, but the toasted bread is largely a canvas for the artistry of this summer treat. Some diners feel that the vegetables and the decadent fatty meat taste best when accented with a rich fresh mayonnaise.

This delicious BLT recipe features a garlic aioli in place of a traditional mayonnaise to dress the sandwich.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

Serves 4

1 pound of bacon cooked to just before crisp
8 slices of wheat, rye or sourdough bread, toasted
8 generous slices of garden ripe tomatoes
8 pieces of Romaine lettuce
4 heaping tablespoons of Garlic Aioli (see recipe below)

For each sandwich dress the inside of each piece of the toasted bread with roughly 1/2 tablespoon of the garlic aioli. Place two pieces of lettuce, two slices of tomato and two – four slices of bacon on the lower half of the sandwich. Top with the other piece of bread, dressing side down. Slice in half or diagonally and serve immediately.

Garlic Aioli

Makes about 2 cups

1 large egg
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp light mayonnaise
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, blend the egg, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic together for 20 seconds. In 1 to 2 tablespoon amounts, add the oil and continuously blend until thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pulse once of twice to blend.

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Fresh Fish

After spending the better part of the last month on or near the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the streams of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Ample Bites has an even greater appreciation for the value of quality, fresh fish. All three venues yielded fish that was caught the same day I prepared them or when they were prepared by a local restaurant.

If you are not catching your own fresh fish avoid the big grocery stores and find a local fish house. In Pass-A-Grille, Florida friends introduced us to Schaner’s Land & Sea Market where, as the store name implies, they have a huge selection of fish as well as meats and poultry. Schaner’s did not disappoint the shrimp we purchased from this local store were the star of a gumbo I prepared. In Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina we purchased fresh and prepared shrimp, fresh grouper, crab spread, shrimp spread, and shucked raw oysters from a couple of local fish stores including Seven Seas on very north end of Business 17.

Making Shrimp Gumbo with large, sweet, fresh shrimp was a particular favorite of Ample Bites. See my previous post for the recipe. If you can’t get fresh shrimp where you are you can have them shipped from Cajun Grocer where they are flash frozen and shipped on dry ice.

Here in the Midwest, there is nothing quite like catching, filleting and cooking fish caught from the chilly waters of the Northwoods. Our bounty included mostly Northern Pike.

If you only have access to frozen white fish, like tilapia, halibut or catfish, try the following recipe which will summon a few of the aromas of a seaside barbecue.

Baja Fish Tacos with Grilled Napa Cabbage Slaw
(Courtesy of “The Gardener & The Grill”, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, 2012)

Serves 4

1 large head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
Canola oil, for brushing
1 cup assorted baby greens, such as spinach or Boston lettuce
8 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt

1 ½ pounds mahi mahi, catfish, halibut, tilapia, or other mild white fish
¼ cup Red Hot Blackened Seasoning (see recipe below)
8 flour tortillas, for serving
8 lemon wedges, for serving
1 ½ cups salsa of your choice, for serving

Preheat grill to high heat. Reduce to medium high before grilling.

Brush the cut sides of the Napa cabbage with oil. Coat the fish fillets with Blackened Seasoning.

Grill the cabbage, cut side down, directly over the heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage has grill marks. Remove from the grill.

Grill the fish directly over the heat, flesh side down first, for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or 10 minutes per in of thickness, Turn only once to grill the skin side, halfway through grilling.

Slice the grilled cabbage and place in a large bowl. Stir in the greens and green onions. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sour cream, lemon juice, and salt to make a dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to blend.

Place some of the grilled fish on each tortilla. Top with about 1/3 cup of the slaw and roll up, soft taco style. Serve with a lemon wedge and a small ramekin of salsa.

Red Hot Blackened Seasoning:

In a glass jar, combine ¼ cup paprika, 1 ½ tablespoons garlic salt, 1 tablespoon granulated onion, 1 ½ teaspoons each dried oregano, dried basil and cayenne pepper, ¾ teaspoon dried thyme, 2 ¼ teaspoons each of black and white pepper. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend.

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Ample Bites Farm Update #2

Despite a paucity of rain the Ample Bites Vegetable Farm is coming along nicely. In fact, we have already harvested some of the lettuce, spinach and radishes and used them in a salad.

The tomatillo plants that Sandy was given by a co-worker, and nurtured by our neighbor while we were away, did not survive. The beans are under siege by some sort of bug and a couple of the potato plants seem not to be emerging. Otherwise, all of the plants are doing very well thanks to some watering by friends and family and Sandy’s persistent weeding.

The farm really looks cool with the emerging plants and the hay that we have placed around them to help subdue the omnipresent and aggressive weeds, which seem to grow as quickly as any vegetable with or without water.

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Shrimp Gumbo

While in St. Petersburg, Florida Ample Bites was able to buy some fresh, large Gulf shrimp. Inspired by this bounty, I adapted a recipe from a friend who has been making gumbo since he was a young man growing up in Louisiana. My adaptation used the fresh shrimp and some smoked turkey sausage. The keys to a good shrimp gumbo are the roux and fresh shrimp stock. Enjoy!

Shrimp Gumbo
(Adapted from Tebo’s Seafood Gumbo)

Serves 10

2 ½ to 3 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ lbs of smoked turkey sausage, sliced ½” thick
2 large onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid
1 medium bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
4 cups sliced okra (optional)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp liquid crab boil
½ cup canola oil
5/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ quarts of Shrimp Stock
4 bay leaves

After peeling shrimp, save the shells and heads for the Shrimp Stock. Prepare the Shrimp Stock by boiling them in 3 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon of the crab boil for about 15 minutes, set aside and allow the stock to cool. Strain the stock before using.

Place the onions and garlic in one container, place tomatoes, bell pepper and green onion in a second container, and place okra in a third container. Mix seasonings (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and the remaining crab boil) and set aside.

Make roux by heating oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly until the roux is very dark brown. Be careful not to burn the roux. Alternatively, the roux can be made in a microwave by thoroughly mixing the oil and flour in an ovenproof container. Heat on HIGH in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove the roux and stir it thoroughly. Repeat the process in one-minute intervals until the desire color of roux is reached.

In a heavy Dutch oven, add the onions and garlic to the roux. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the onions are caramelized, about 12 minutes. Again, be careful not to burn the roux. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and green onions. Add the shrimp stock, okra, seasonings and bay leaves and stir thoroughly. Bring the gumbo to a boil.

While the gumbo is coming to a boil, brown the turkey sausage in a skillet with some canola oil. Drain the sausage on a paper towel-covered plate and add the sausage to the gumbo. Reduce the heat and simmer the gumbo, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Before serving bring the gumbo back to a boil and add the peeled shrimp. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the shrimp are pink. Let stand 15-30 minutes and remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve 8-10 ounces of gumbo with about 1/3 cup of rice. Add file and hot sauce to taste.

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