Archive for the ‘Tomato’Category

Even more decadent grilled cheese and truffle sandwich

ingredients for truffle grilled cheese sandwich
Some foodies love to play the “last supper” game: What would you want to eat for your last meal on earth? Pat and I are in accord on this one. It would probably be this elegantly simple grilled cheese sandwich with Comté, prosciutto, ripe tomato and truffle. Cooked just enough to brown the bread in butter (an omelet pan is perfect for the task), the Comté brings out all the high, resinous notes in the black truffle. You could die happy just biting into the sandwich, which gives you a strong whiff of truffle just before you actually taste it.

grilled cheese and truffle sandwich In the interest of research, we tried this sandwich in the purist form—just Comté and truffle—before adding the prosciutto and tomato. The basic sandwich shown here is very, very good. But it’s only good enough for a last lunch, not a last supper. We chose Comté, by the way, because it’s the standard cheese for making a great croque monsieur. Although we’ve never been able to lay hands on Patricia Wells’ book, Simply Truffles, we’ve read that she includes a recipe for a truffled croque monsieur. Any cheese that can stand up to béchamel sauce, we figure, can stand up to black truffles. The addition of prosciutto was also in homage to the croque monsieur. Using paper-thin prosciutto gives a lot of flavor without interfering with the toothiness of the truffle. Like the burger, we think this dish is the apotheosis of an American classic.


Makes 1 grilled cheese sandwich

2 slices excellent white sandwich bread
butter (lots of butter)
2 oz. aged Comté cheese, coarsely grated
1 slice prosciutto large enough to cover bread
1 ripe tomato, skin removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
10 grams black truffle, thinly shaved

Butter both slices of bread. On one buttered side, place half the cheese, then a layer of prosciutto, the truffles, the tomato slices, and then the remaining cheese. Top with other slice of bread, butter side toward filling.

In an omelet pan, melt a knob of butter and swirl it around the pan to coat. Place sandwich carefully into pan and press gently with a spatula. Cover with a pot lid and let cook over medium heat for up to 90 seconds. Remove lid and flip sandwich over. Top should now be golden brown. Place lid back on and cook another 45-60 seconds until other side is browned and cheese is just melted. Remove from pan and cut on the diagonal. Eat while hot. Alternate bites with sips of cold Chablis.

Try not to die just yet. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.
grilled cheese truffle prosciutto and tomato sandwich


07 2015

Black truffle pizza tricks

truffle pizza
I got some of my best ideas about how to adapt truffles for home preparations from Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak (, RPM Italian (, and Paris Club ( in Chicago, who is the biggest user of Aussie truffles in the U.S. Psaltis credits his comfort level with truffles to the seven and a half years he spent working for Alain Ducasse (he opened Mix in New York).

chef Doug Psaltis loves black truffles “I learned the best thing about truffles—that they are really delicate and not overpowering,” he told me. “There are a lot of aromas to truffle dishes but what I really savor is the actual flavor of truffle. Handled right, it’s light and delicate. You can add lots of butter and lots of cheese to make a Parmesan pasta with black truffle and it’s great. But sometimes I just prefer some crushed truffle, a little bit of garlic and pine nuts and just a sprinkle of cheese tossed in great pasta. Then the truffle comes through.”

Psaltis’s advice to cut back on the fat gave me a new way of thinking about truffles, since most traditional truffle recipes pair the fungus with lots of butter, beef juices, or other fat. (I’ve even seen chefs in Italy’s Piedmont shave white truffle over a plate of lardo, which is pure raw pork fat.) One of Psaltis’s other favorite treatments surprised me.

“I love a great burrata with tomatoes and black truffles,” he said. “You get a little bit of the earthiness and the tang from the burrata and the acid of the tomato and a little bit of raw garlic in there with the truffles.”

I’m looking forward to trying both of Psaltis’s treatments this summer when the new harvest is available. And when a chef of such accomplishment spoke about the simple pleasures of tomato, mild cheese, and black truffle, it inspired me to bring some of those same flavors together to make a black truffle pizza.

Restraint is part of the secret of any good pizza, and for a black truffle pizza it was even more important. I use a pretty standard pizza dough that’s easy to make but requires several hours to rise. It’s been adapted from a pizza class adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated adaptation of a New York baker’s no-knead dough that rises in the refrigerator. It’s best if it rises overnight in the fridge, but it works fine if you let it rise all day on the counter.


210 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
150 grams ice water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In food processor fitted with steel blade, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Process 30 seconds to mix. With processor turned on, dribble ice water through feed tube until absorbed. Process another 30 seconds.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before proceeding. This allows the yeast to get a head start on the salt.

When the wait period is over, add salt and olive oil and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl.

Turn out and place in greased 1-quart bowl to rise, preferably six hours or more. Punch down periodically when dough reaches rim.

This recipe requires some modest kneading on an oiled surface and then working by hand to stretch the dough into a 16-inch round. Cooked at 450°F, it produces a Neapolitan-style crust in about 10 minutes—crisp and browned on the bottom and slightly chewy on the top.


truffle pizza 2The firm cheese is an aged goat cheese from the French Pyrenees that has a grassy/fruity flavor and melts very smoothly. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it for the perfect pairing with the delicate truffle flavor. The truffles only go in the oven for the last few seconds that the pizza is being cooked, mostly to activate their aroma and let the cheese melt around them.

Crust (as above) rolled out on pizza pan
3 ounces tomme de chevre Aydius, coarsely grated
1 ounce fresh goat cheese
1 cup diced fresh tomato, well drained
10 grams grated or shaved black truffle
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced

Distribute cheeses evenly on crust and top with diced tomato, as shown above.

Cook until crust starts to brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and sprinkle pizza with black truffle. Return to oven to cook another 30-45 seconds. Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and cut into slices.


06 2015

Pomodorina belies canned tomato image

Spaghetti with Pomodorina and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese Pomodorina is tomato sauce rethought, and it’s my most unexpected find on a recent research trip to Modena. We’ve already written about “What to buy in an Italian grocery store,” but here’s a product I’d definitely add.

Pomodorina has been the best-selling product of one of Italy’s best food factories, Menù, since it was introduced in 1967. It’s made only during the roughly six-week tomato harvest season and combines freshly harvested and cooked tomatoes with celery, carrots, onions, fresh basil, and some olive oil. Menù sells it as a base ingredient for sauces, but I discovered that some restaurants consider it good enough to sauce pasta on its own. That’s spaghetti sauced with Pomodorina above, and it was delicious.

Pomodorina sauce can Menù ( is based in Medollo near Modena and launched as a salami factory in 1932. In 1941, the company branched out to make a ragù meat sauce and moved into a variety of ready-to-eat foods for the catering industry by the mid-1950s. Today it sells more than 450 items from its catalog to more than 30,000 customers that range from small catering companies and restaurants to large institutions like school systems, corporate cafeterias, and restaurant chains. Pomodorina is shipped to the U.S. for the food trade but not for retail sale. But in Italy, home cooks can have it too. You’ll find Pomodorina on the shelves of supermarkets, sometimes in the can (pictured here) and sometimes in a glass jar holding 750 milliliters, or about 28 fluid ounces.

I brought home a can and one night when we were in a hurry for dinner, I heated up the contents with absolutely no additions, tossed in some freshly cooked pasta, and served (as above) with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It was good enough that I’d serve it to company.

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04 2015

Celebrating great dining in Dublin

New Year in Dublin We just returned from Dublin’s New Year’s Festival, celebrated over three days from December 30 through January 1. This was the fourth year of the festival, and the biggest yet. Along with the raucous parade (above), it featured live rock concerts, a Spoken Word Festival of poetry and rap, other music that drew on traditional and classical genres, special museum and gallery shows, and a whole lot of fun.

The Irish know how to celebrate, and it turns out that they have a lot to celebrate year-round with the new Irish cuisine. Ireland has always had the makings of great food — from the sweet vegetables to the succulent meat from animals grazed on its rich green grass to the fish and shellfish from its coastal waters. Now classically trained chefs are embracing their Irish roots and that great Irish provender.

Dining room at Cleaver East in Dublin A case in point is chef Oliver Dunne, who followed up on his Michelin-starred Bon Appétit in Malahide (north of Dublin city center) with Cleaver East (6-8 East Essex Street, Dublin, +353 1 531 3500, It’s inside the Clarence Hotel, just off Wellington Quay on the south bank of the River Liffey in the Temple Bar entertainment district. The hotel is partly owned by Bono and The Edge from the band U2, but to our way of thinking, Dunne is the greater star. He was schooled the old-fashioned way–by cooking in the kitchens of great chefs, including Gordon Ramsay.

Salmon with apple fennel salad at Cleaver East in Dublin When he came home to Ireland to open his own restaurants, Dunne chose to serve simple dishes based on local ingredients in an informal environment. Cleaver East is an Irish interpretation of a bistro. The bar dominates the middle of the room and it’s surrounded on three sides by dining tables, with a few more tables on an upstairs balcony. As big as the bar is, the plates are a far cry from bar food. Dunne is something of a magician. He drew on Irish salmon, crisp apples, and crunchy fennel for a starter that used a touch of lemon and grapefruit to cut the unctuousness of the salmon and give a little bite to the apple-fennel salad.

Great steak at Cleaver East in Dublin He also presented one of the best cuts of beef we’ve enjoyed in a long time — a 7-ounce filet mignon of local beef that had been hung to dry-age for 21 days. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare (as ordered), topped with broiled cherry tomatoes, and accompanied by a cluster of maché. You couldn’t ask for a simpler dish, but it was fit for an Irish king. In keeping with the bistro tradition, he also served a bowl of perfect deep-fried potatoes (“chips” in Ireland, as they are in England).

This being Ireland, after all, you’ll be hearing more about potatoes in future posts.


01 2015

French chefs, Spanish ham & summer fruits

ile de re
During a recent visit to Île de Ré and Île d’Aix, the unspoiled islands off the west coast of France not far from Cognac, I also enjoyed a taste of Spain. In early September, swimmers and bicyclists were making the most of the warm, summer weather and chefs were looking for ways to highlight the last of the ripe tomatoes and melons. Several turned to Spain’s jamón serrano, an air-dried mountain ham, to add salt and umami to balance the sweetness of the luscious, ripe fruit.

jamon dishAt Le Grenier à Sel ( in the town Ars en Ré on Île de Ré, a perfect starter consisted of a tartare of tomato mixed with the chopped ham. The next day, I encountered a slightly different version at Chez Joséphine ( on the lovely, but much smaller Île d’ Aix, where Napoleon spent his last days in France. For a starter, the chefs paired a tartare of melon with crisp lettuce and even crisper jamón serrano for a lovely contrast of taste and texture. The dishes are simple and relaxed, yet they capture the elegance of the French table that even vacationers expect.

They also offer some good ideas about what we can do at home with the last bounty of summer.


09 2014

Green tomatoes inspire tequila cocktail

Acqua Fresco at RialtoTwo years ago we passed along Gerry Jobe’s recipe for the Killer Tomato Cocktail, and this harvest season we discovered another way to drink tomatoes, courtesy of the Bar at Rialto, Jody Adams’ terrific restaurant in the Charles Hotel in our hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The smooth and elegant tequila drink with lots of layers of flavor — created by Rialto beverage director Young Won — seemed especially timely since it uses green tomatoes. By the looks of our garden, we’ll still be gathering them right up until frost. Like many craft cocktails, you have to make many of the components well in advance, so plan accordingly.


To make the acqua fresco:
4 green tomatoes, chopped to 2-inch pieces
large bunch of Thai basil leaves and stalk, torn into pieces
scant teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Puree until well blended. Strain though a conical sieve (chinois) lined with coffee filter. Allow three hours for liquid to strain out. Chill strained liquid.

To make the ginger syrup:
Combine 3 parts freshly pressed ginger juice with 1 part sugar and shake into solution.

To make the mint oil:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
large bunch of mint

Blanch the mint and squeeze out excess water. Warm the olive oil in a stainless steel saucepan. Add the blanched mint and cook for a few minutes over low to medium heat. Set aside and let cool. Strain the oil through a very fine mesh.

To assemble the cocktail:

2 ounces green tomato and Thai basil acqua fresco
1 ounce 123 Reposado tequila
1/4 ounce ginger syrup
Glassware: coupe glass
Garnish: three drops of mint oil or an edible flower

Add first three ingredients to a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Dress with three drops of mint oil or an edible flower.


08 2014

Tomatoes meet their match in bacon & basil

BPL Courtyard RoomFaced yet again with an abundance of tomatoes, we didn’t have to travel far for inspiration. The inventive cooks of the Catered Affair prepare the food for the Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, including a lovely afternoon tea. Last year when we visited during harvest season, the chefs served a dainty version of a BLT. They placed a mixture of chopped bacon and chopped tomato between two small slices of bread with the crusts cut off. It was a lovely variation on a classic. This year we decided to use some of those prolific garden tomatoes to scale up the sandwich for a hearty lunch. We used English muffins and spread them with homemade basil mayonnaise, since basil is growing far more profusely than lettuce in the August heat. Each was topped with a big scoop of the tomato-bacon mixture for a delicious — if slightly messy — sandwich.

Finished sandwich


Makes 3 English muffin sandwiches

6 strips of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
3-4 garden tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced small
3 English muffins, split and toasted
basil mayonnaise (see below)

1. Combine crumbled bacon and diced tomatoes and mix well.
2. Spread toasted English muffins with basil mayonnaise.
3. Divide bacon-tomato mixture in thirds and put between muffin halves.


Makes 1 cup

1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil leaves and flowers

1. In a quart bowl, place egg yolk, garlic, sea salt, sugar, and vinegar. Whisk thoroughly until well blended. Drizzle olive oil into mixture, continuing to whisk vigorously until oil is completely incorporated and mixture thickens.

2. Place basil in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Add mayonnaise and continue to process until basil is thoroughly incorporated. Basil mayonnaise will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


08 2014

Last taste of summer in Tuscany

burrata tomato I just returned from touring vineyards in the Morellino di Scansano DOCG district in southwest Tuscany, and once in a while I had to stop to eat. One of the most memorable meals was at Trattoria Verdiana (Ponticello di Montemerano on the road between Scansano and Montemerano, tel: [011-34] 0564-602-576). It’s open nightly except Wednesday, and uses the produce from a 10,000 square meter garden as the basis for the menu. There, as here in New England, the growing season is coming to a close. So I was surprised and delighted when the amuse-bouche pictured above appeared in front of me. It’s a grape tomato (upside down) cut in half, filled with a dab of creamy burrata and a tiny basil leaf. The whole composition was then drizzled in a great local olive oil. It summed up summer in a bite.


10 2013

Remembering Italy #4 — pasta with prosciutto & tomato

San Daniele pasta with tomato and prosciutto The last time I was in San Daniele del Friuli, I was traveling with the restaurateurs of Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani (GRI) on one of their annual pilgrimages to Italy to research products, find new sources, and generally take inspiration from the regional products. Since we were a fairly large group, we booked a meal at Prosciutterie DOK dall’ Ava (via Gemona 47, tel. 0432-940-280,, open daily 10-10), one of the town’s full-service restaurants with a prosciutto-oriented menu.

DallavaIt’s a funny place, since it’s outside the main village and near one of the prosciutto factories. It looks like a tourist trap, to be honest, and bus groups stop here. But the service and the food are both terrific and the prices, while not cheap, are pretty reasonable for top-quality prosciutto. We shared lovely plates of sliced prosciutto, prosciutto and melon, and prosciutto and asparagus, and we each ordered a small individual plate. Mine was as simple as it gets – fresh pappardelle tossed with prosciutto and hastily sautéed tomatoes.

Normally I reserve this dish for the summer months when I have a surplus of sweet, fresh tomatoes. I dip them in boiling water and slip off the skins, then chop them coarsely, and sauté in a little olive oil with shredded prosciutto. Tomatoes this time of year are nowhere near as good, so I’ve taken to using the Pomi brand of boxed diced tomatoes instead. A 750 ml box drained and three slices of prosciutto works out just right for two people. (Save the juice for making minestrone.) To make a really easy dish at home, I like to use Colavita brand dried pasta. The rigatoni 31 cooks up nice and plump to support the tomato and flecks of ham.


12 2012

Cherry tomatoes and the Killer Tomato cocktail

The last tomatoes hanging in the garden are assorted cherry types–some Sweet 100s, some Sungolds, and mostly some mongrel crosses that volunteered last spring. During our August visit to the Okanagan Valley, we had many good inspirations for using tomatoes (see the last three posts). But only mixologist Gerry Jobe at RauDZ Restaurant in Kelowna turned turned tomatoes into a terrific mixed drink.

RauDZ (a great locavore restaurant that’s a collaboration between Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao) focuses on local-grown food whenever possible, which means that Kelowna tomato guru Milan Djordjevich of Stoney Paradise Farm brings in boxes and boxes of Sungold tomatoes. When chef Butters challenged Jobe to make an Okanagan Bloody Mary, he created the Killer Tomato.

It’s fairly simple. Here are the ingredients:

4 muddled Sungold cherry tomatoes
0.25 ounce balsamic vinegar
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Cointreau
3 ounces of lemonade

Jobe muddles the Sungold tomatoes, adds a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, an ounce of local Spirit Bear vodka, an ounce of Cointreau, and three ounces of lemonade. He shakes over ice and double strains into a coupe rimmed with crushed Szechuan peppercorns and gray salt.

It’s a real wake-up for the appetite.


09 2012