Brunch Made Simple

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Brunch is supposed to be a relaxed, chill vibe. A time to hang with friends and family. The whole idea is rooted in the premise of sleeping in, then eating lazily in the late morning.  That is true if you are going out to eat, or to someone else's home.  But if you are hosting, it's a bit harder to sleep in. Plus it can feel a bit overwhelming, knowing there are mountains of ideas on what to serve.  I am guilty of wanting to offer up more options than are possible to consume.  (Or to make, for that matter.) The essence of brunch is that beautiful crossover of food from breakfast items to lunch or even a few heartier items. There in lies the rub.  All those choices create a mind numbing battle of what to serve when the possibilities seem endless.

That was my dilemma a while back when we hosted a brunch for our dear friends Carl and Malcolm. I had all sorts of ideas, but I was determined to keep it as simple as possible.  In the end, I felt like I accomplished that, so much so that I recreated the same menu for a Sunday brunch with our other dear friends, Nicki and Jeff. 

A little forewarning, in order to keep this post manageable, each recipe below is a hot link, bolded and highlighted in blue. Just click to be whisked away to see how to make it.

Let us begin:

There were two slight changes to the menu for Nicki and Jeff versus the original. I didn't serve the polenta cake, but did add an amuse-bouche of Ibérico ham, Marcona Almonds, olives.  It was a nice way to greet our friends and settle in a bit as we caught up on our life tales and the many moons that had passed.

Now, you've heard me say many a time that it is essential to serve warm items, room temp and chilled items. This holds especially true for brunch.  Certainly, if I were serving brunch in the winter I might lean on a few more warm plates, but this combo seems just right for the rest of the seasons. Plus, as we head into summer we are in prime time for more entertaining in general, especially outdoors.  Brunch is ideal for backyard entertaining.

 

 

After the nibbles that amused our mouths and whetted our appetites, we started off with a chilled dish, then moved on to all the other plates. Let the party begin with a refreshing and clean burst of citrus.

Citrus Salad Martini

A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

Next up was a continuation of fruit, transitioning to savory with this lightly tossed salad.

GRAPED UP BOSTON SALAD

Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion. It's bright and light.

Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion. It's bright and light.

Something warm with...

TOMATO & GOAT CHEESE PIE

Warm and savory. The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Warm and savory. The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Something room temp and hearty...

Salmon Salad Platter, Deconstructed

Polenta Cake

Polenta cake cut into slices.

Polenta cake cut into slices.

Ingredients

2 c polenta (cook according to package)
1.5 T butter
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/3 c goat cheese
salt, pepper

Instructions

Once the polenta is cooked, remove from the burner and stir in the butter, goat cheese and chives, salt and pepper until combined.  Lightly oil a cast iron pan and pour in the polenta. Bake at 350 degrees until a crust forms. Turn onto a board or plate and cut into wedges.  Best served warm but room temp is good too.

What I love best about this meal is that so much can be done in advance. The big plus is that any of these can be served at room temp, therefore, less stress about timing and getting the plates to the table.  

Then for dessert, I kept with the same theme of simple.  Prepped ahead of time and waiting on the kitchen table, I brought out a small platter of fresh cheeses (Manchego & Ibores),  grapes, strawberries and Sweet Olive Oil Crackers. Certainly, you can go sweet at this stage of the meal, but this felt right, and I believe our guests thought so too.

So, although YOU might not be sleeping in as late as everyone else, but taking the homemade brunch route doesn't have to stress you out.  Create the perfect crossover meal.  

 
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Sunday Brunch - Part Homemade/Part Not

A bounty of yum.

A bounty of yum.

Hosting a brunch can be easy, or a lot of work.  It can be made up of all the usual suspects, or a mash up of the expected and the unexpected.  I am never one to shy away from hard work, but I am also a huge fan of working smarter not harder.  So the idea of creating a sumptuous brunch spread that would serve up that mix with as much ease as possible was what I was aiming for.

One of the keys to achieving success; a good mash up of homemade items with banging good store bought items.  This greatly cuts down on the amount work.  Another huge help is asking guests to bring an item or two.  I'm sure your guests, as do ours, always ask, "what can I bring?" This is the perfect time to say "Bagels, or lox".  Or both!

Such was the case when we hosted a Sunday family brunch.  Our guests provided the bagels, lox and cream cheese. While we prepared the remaining dishes. 

For me, the perfect brunch is a like a moveable feast.  As with any party that isn't a sit down meal, there should be a decent variety of items ranging in temperatures and protein choices. A to and fro of movement.  Nibbling here, picking there. Foods that can last for several hours of conversation without too much fuss.

Here is what we offered up, and what was consumed with zeal.

When you buy quality products, the best plan is to let them shine with maybe just a few embellishments. That was the case with all of the "some assembly required" items. The Spanish sardines were enhanced with cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

You've seen me use boquerones before. This brunch crowd loves them so, of course, I would serve them.  These fresh anchovies dressed with chopped garlic and parsley and good olive oil always get gobbled up.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

Cheese/Charcuterie platters are another easy to assemble ahead offering that everyone loves.  And a perfect brunch item.  So go ahead and create one chock full of your favorite combinations.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

The lentils were partially homemade, in that I used delicious precooked lentils that I get from Despaña but enhanced them by sautéing onions, carrots and celery then adding the lentils to warm through.  That simple.

This group of guests hadn't had my Eggplant Gemolata dish yet, so why not make it again. I did alter the feta topping, keeping it simple and not using the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and lemon zest but adding oven roasted tomatoes to finish the dish.  It was a huge hit with no left overs. This is one of those dishes that you can prep, then cook right before serving.  The flavors are powerful and beautifully melded. It has never let me down, no matter the event or the guest.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

A little something for the meat lovers. Pork belly, lovingly prepared by JuanCarlos, cut in bite sized chunks and simply served on a wooden board.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

The usual brunch suspects, bagels, lox, cream cheese are always welcome and always the perfect Sunday comfort food.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Make your life easy with the table setting.  Throw a graphic cloth down the middle as a landing strip for all the dishes. Then a simple stack of all the right plates, bowls and utensils in an easy to grab fashion keeps the laid back feeling going.

Finish with a little something sweet, Apple Tart.  And that's how part homemade/part not is done.

Create the vibe you want by selecting food that fits that mood.  A spread that spreads love.  One that invites conversation and fills their bellies and their souls.  What a great way to mark a Sunday, or any brunch day.

 
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A Backyard Party How To

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Over here at the Perri-Casas household, we like to entertain.  We love hosting and sharing food, wine, music/dancing, and just a plain ole good time with family and friends.  When the parties are small; but a handful of folks, the preparation is easy, breezy.  But when the guest list gets bigger, so does everything else.  Including the ideas for hosting a successful event.  Top of list; effortless decor and easy, crowd-friendly dishes.  Hearty, simple to prepare, allergy-friendly, and most of all, delicious. Foods that hit all the right notes.  

Just this past weekend we hosted a pig roast. On our guest list were a handful of vegetarians and vegans. 
Yeah, you read that right.  We invited vegans to a pig roast.  According to my husband, that's completely kosher because the pig only ate vegetables thus making it vegetarian/vegan!  Oh, my Taurus husband can justify anything!

We structured the party to be about mingling, not about a formal sit down meal.  One main reason for this is that our patio, though large, really cannot comfortably seat more than 24.  Plus this style of entertaining helps with flow of both food and people, as guests go to the buffet table to partake of various treats then bump into different guests to chat with.  

My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

Organization is essential with a party this size.  So I ALWAYS make a list.  I am famous for making lists both in my professional life and home life.  Make fun all you want but this is key to staying organized and not accidentally missing things.  Just ask JuanCarlos who forgot some items in the basement fridge.  (He said I left one item off my list: Remind JC to make his own list.)

The day before I also place out all the platters I want to use with notes of which dish will go where.  This helps for two reasons.  First; one less thing to think or worry about the day of. Two, if a guest wants to help serving up dishes, this identification system tells them what they should use. Takes all the guess work out of the equation.

As far as what to serve, my game plan was to make sure we had a wide variety of food options for everyone.  30 guests were expected.  The best way to keep it manageable was to make some dishes from scratch and mix it up with some prepared items. Here was my thinking.  Note the ones with (*) are the ones I just had to put on a plate!

Appetizers
Cheese Platters with Jams, Grapes, Cucumbers, Radishes *
Breads/Gluten free crackers *
Assortment of Tapenade & Olives *
Roasted Chick Peas * (these were store bought but here is the link to my version which I prefer)
Pickled Mushrooms * 
Marinated Artichoke Hearts *
Crostini platter with Fresh Ricotta, roasted garlic mash, Roasted Tomatoes, Mushroom 'Bolognese'

All these can be plated well ahead of time and placed out as guests arrive.  These are perfect starter offerings to let them mingle and jingle amongst themselves with a drink.

Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

Ready made items ready to go.

Ready made items ready to go.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

 
JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

Since a whole roasted pig takes hours upon hours upon hours to make, there needs to be food in between the appetizers and the main course.  This is what I call the intermezzo eating portion of the festivities.  I know, you are thinking; more food before the meal, that is hog wild nuts.  But believe it or not, people come to our home ready to eat.  So we make sure they are well fed.  Plus it's cool because we like to experiment on them!

Intermezzo
Grilled meats served with bread & chimichurri sauce
Grilled sausage
Grilled Corn on the Cob

Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

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Main
Potatoes with Basil/Garlic oil
3 Bean Salad
Tomato Salad
Roasted Salmon Platter
Puerco Asado

Once the roasted pig was ready, the main portion of the meal was served.  All the above items were easy to get onto the table since I prepped them earlier.  The tomatoes were sliced and assembled on a platter in the morning and refrigerated. So was the bean salad.  I boiled the potatoes the day before, cooled them down on a sheet tray and in the fridge they went.  Right before serving, I popped them in the oven just to warm them enough to absorb the basil/garlic dressing I made the day before.  The salmon was roasted earlier in the day then served at room temperature.  And that is how you get a bunch of big platters out without being taken out on a stretcher yourself.

3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Desserts
Gluten free chocolate cake with coconut cream/fruit
Black bottom cupcakes (Mom made these, YEAH for me)
Apple Tart
Fresh Fruit Platter * 
Goat cheese & blue cheese & honey & figs * 
Turron *

In my opinion, desserts should be just like the meal, offering a mix of items to your guests.  That is why I like offering baked sweets along with a cheese plate and fresh fruit. 

Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert. A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert. A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

 
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But wait, the details aren't done yet. Food is the key component, but let's not forget the 2D's.  Drinks and Decor. 

Drink wise; we mostly focus on having wine but usually have a few other drink options such as Vermut, Scotch, Gin and Vodka.  We always have plenty of sparkling water, too.

Decor; an informal outdoor gathering requires nothing more than cohesion.  So let me briefly run down how I handled the tables and flowers. Can you say wing it!  (Was that brief enough?)

Normally I have a visual theme planned out but this time it was indeed a last minute pull together. Evidence that you can create something from nothing on the fly.  I didn't have time to get flowers from my favorite place Dahlia NYC so I took my scissors and went hunting in my backyard and a nearby park.  I cut hydrangeas from our big tree and some other flowers to help fill out the vases for big bursts of florals.  

I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

Also, while I was raking the yard I notice there was an abundance of pine cones and thought I could use those somehow.  

Hunter gatherer.

Hunter gatherer.

Using the flowers I cut from the park plus the extra leaves from the hydrangeas, I laid them across the stone wall then nestled the pine cones on top to create a fall festive row of flora.

Tablecloths. I didn't even bother to iron.  It was an informal outdoor gathering, so I was ok with that.  I went with a blue and cream theme because I knew I had a variety of coverings that could work in tandem.  When you have several tables, do not fret over everything being matchy matchy.   Coordination is the name of the game.  Just make it all look visually cohesive. I used different patterns all within the same color scheme layering cobalt blue placemats to tie the tables together.

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There was plenty of food, good wine, dancing music and joyful guests.  The perfect party mix.  I think a good time was had by all.  I hope some of these tips can help you throw your next gathering with ease and less stress so you, too, can enjoy along with your guests.

My sister, Alyssa

My sister, Alyssa

Grill masters tossing success

Grill masters tossing success

Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

My sister in law Dori

My sister in law Dori

My always helpful, cheerful parents.

My always helpful, cheerful parents.

JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

CHEERS to all!

The Art of a Charcuterie & Cheese Platter

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As the holidays come barreling down the highway, ideas for what to serve are top of mind. With all the hustle and bustle, a good way to fill the table, fill your guests and keep sane during the season is to offer up a beautiful, bountiful charcuterie platter as part of your appetizer/cocktail hour.  There are many ways to stack up all your meats, cheeses and other nibbles, but a tried and true method is have a wide selection,  keep like items together and spread the color around for visual impact.  

Sure, there are plenty of other rules like; offer 3 different types of cheese (cow, goat, sheep). Or one should be hard, another soft, one should be mild, one should be strong, blah blah blah.  Joking aside, these are some decent guidelines. But your own instinct and good judgement are the very best rules to follow.

I say, buy and serve what you love and what you think your guests will enjoy. Sometimes I serve four cheeses. Sometimes three or five.  There are no hard and fast rules but I will share some of the tips that my heart follows, and thus do my platters.  

  • I like to offer up a 'palate party'. Put forth different items that will excite all the sensory notes on your tongue. Cheese and meat for the savory elements, fruits both fresh and dried for sweetness, nuts or chick peas for crunch, olives for a salty bite. You get the idea.

  • Use bowls for smaller items. They contain them plus create height giving the platter a bit more interest.

  • Add fresh items like vegetables or greens

  • Include small spoons or forks so guests can easily pick up food

  • Arrange each item in groupings, either neatly and orderly or nicely bunched together

  • Be colorful. Spread the hues around so that similar colors aren't next to one another.

  • Fill your charcuterie platters chock full of goodies. Depending on what you have available and how you want your guests to feast should determine what goes on your platter. Pull out what you have and see if it's the right mix.

  • If it may seem overwhelming, then place all your items on the board to help provide a visual sense.

Using fruit of the season is a wonderful complement to cheese. If your cheese, meat and fruit choices feel like they are all in the same color scheme, tuck some herbs or greens on the edges for some visual anchoring.

Using fruit of the season is a wonderful complement to cheese. If your cheese, meat and fruit choices feel like they are all in the same color scheme, tuck some herbs or greens on the edges for some visual anchoring.

Let's build a platter.  

Here is 2 types of dry cured sausage, 3 types of cheese, Marcona almonds, olives, dried apricots, gluten free crackers and short bread sticks.

Here is 2 types of dry cured sausage, 3 types of cheese, Marcona almonds, olives, dried apricots, gluten free crackers and short bread sticks.

Filling the bowls.
For some small items like nuts, you can snuggle them up to another offerings. However, I find that items with liquid, like olives, are best contained.  Once I have one small bowl, then I usually like to add another for balance. Also, a suggestion is to stay within a color scheme when choosing vessels.  I have presented my platters with and without bowls.  It's just how the mood hits me.  Design at will.

Create Height:
For more visual interest, place a big hunk of cheese then arrange the cut pieces around it.  This creates structure and height but also shows your guests the cheese in its original state.

Make it Easy to Eat:
When presenting cheese and meats, I prefer cutting each one so they are readily available for guests.  They can just pick up a few pieces and go.  I have noticed that trying to cut with all the other items on a platter can be difficult. For cheese, I look for the natural and most logical way to cut a particular cheese.  Each one has its own best way to present it.  Some are better in big chunks while others work beautifully in elongated triangles. Much like people, we come in a myriad of shapes and sizes but all mingle together.

Presentation:
Keep cutting and placing and building up your board.  Place items around and see how they feel in the space. They can always be shifted around.  You can't make a mistake.

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Build it up:
Keep at it until you get it just the way you want. Generally, I just go with the flow.  Insert here, augment there to create a platter that looks appealing and complements my other appetizer offerings.  My suggestion is play around until you get a sense of how the meats and cheeses and fruits and other snack-ables like cozying up together.  

If you are wondering what these tiny round nuggets in the center bowl are, why those are my  Spicy Chick Peas  that make a perfect addition to a platter or alone for cocktails.

If you are wondering what these tiny round nuggets in the center bowl are, why those are my Spicy Chick Peas that make a perfect addition to a platter or alone for cocktails.

When it comes to dry cured meats like Prosciutto or Serrano ham, you can rock and roll 'em up. 

 

Serrano ham

Serrano ham

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Other times, they are best when gathered to make little bunches.

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Other dry cured meats can be folded or curled like trumpets for a tidy look.  I think it's the uniformity that makes it appealing and appetizing.  

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Now that you have the basics, here are a few other tips plus other platters I have created in the past to get a sense or arrangement.

I am an equal opportunity employer when it comes to my serving ware.  So I like to put into play a variety of shapes and sizes when I build my platters. Incorporating the shape of those boards/platters helps to paint the picture of the final layout.  If you have curves (like I do...) embrace them, work with them and arrange your items
in a circular fashion.  

Also, introduce veggies when you can. Since crackers can be heavy, I adore including cucumbers. (I use either English or Persian, as they have less seeds.) They work just like bread or a cracker as a delivery vehicle, and are a great alternative for gluten free and carb free folks.  Plus they burst onto the scene with a green that just makes me smile.

When you do use crackers and want to keep it all contained, include them nestled in so that guests can grab whatever their heart desires all from one place. 

Abundancia: Figs, triple cream goat cheese, Moroccan oil cured olives, Serrano ham, Fuet, cheeses, grapes, nuts, onion jam (recipe coming soon) Mary's Gone Gluten Free crackers.

Abundancia: Figs, triple cream goat cheese, Moroccan oil cured olives, Serrano ham, Fuet, cheeses, grapes, nuts, onion jam (recipe coming soon) Mary's Gone Gluten Free crackers.

The introduction of dips, such as hummus, right in the midst of it all augments your offerings with a creamy factor. I'm a big fan of tucking greens in and around. Arugula provides a lovely, spicy bite that dances well with all these flavors.  The greens not only brighten the platter but provide a crispness that both lightens and refreshes the palate.

Notice how I didn't use a bowl for the nuts here but instead just piled them amongst their friends.

Notice how I didn't use a bowl for the nuts here but instead just piled them amongst their friends.

Sometimes you can make a big impact by mixing nice and neat items that anchor the others that are just mounded up abundantly in the middle.

No matter how you decide to arrange your charcuterie platter, have fun with it. With every grab of a piece of this and a slice of that your guests will be delighted with your bountiful offering.

Tomatoes Galore: Tomato Fennel Spread & More

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What do you do when you buy 25 lbs of tomatoes? 

Make a spread... that is, after making a ton of other tomato goodies. But first, I bet you are wondering why I bought so many tomatoes.  Well, it's the end of the season and our farmer's market had an offer I just couldn't refuse.  So after making containers upon containers of Roasted Tomatoes...
 

AND Tomato Sauce, to freeze for the fall months...

AND Oven Dried Tomatoes...

These were easy.  P lace on parchment paper & s prinkle oregano on tomatoes. Roast at 200 degrees for HOURS.  These took 7 hours, then I let them dry out more in the warm, but turned off oven overnight.  

These were easy.  Place on parchment paper & sprinkle oregano on tomatoes. Roast at 200 degrees for HOURS.  These took 7 hours, then I let them dry out more in the warm, but turned off oven overnight.  

Just like sun dried tomatoes, pack these in olive oil and use at will.

Just like sun dried tomatoes, pack these in olive oil and use at will.

I looked at my cutting board and saw tons of tomato tops.  

I know, you are thinking, just toss those away, don't I have enough tomato product already?  But it seemed like so many to just throw out. (I must have been channeling my grandmothers who never wasted anything.)  I then realized I had a fennel stalk that needed to be used before it was abused by age and I got the idea for a tomato jam.  I figured it would be like making regular ole fruit jam, but thought I would quickly google tomato jam to see if I was on the right track.  It seems no matter how you slice it when making tomato jam, besides the usual need for sugar, you also need an acid. I took what I had and cooked up the following.  I'm calling mine a spread because it's more spread-like than jam, which I think is pretty darn good.

 

Ingredients

3 c Tomato tops (core cut out)
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly (no stalks or fronds)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 T honey
3 T sugar
2/3 c white wine vinegar
salt, pepper, oil

 
Onions & fennel sweating up a storm, getting caramelized together.

Onions & fennel sweating up a storm, getting caramelized together.

Tomatoes cooked down with vinegar, sugar & honey.

Tomatoes cooked down with vinegar, sugar & honey.

Buzz it up, but leave it a bit chunky.

Buzz it up, but leave it a bit chunky.

INSTRUCTIONS

Sweat the onions and fennel in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Once translucent, add the honey and sugar and let melt down.  Add vinegar and tomatoes and simmer over low heat for an hour to hour and half until all the vegetables breakdown.  Use an emulsion blender to puree it all up.  I took out some of the liquid, as I could see it would have been too much and made it soupy instead of a chunky spread.  Store in an airtight jar. Here are some used ways to use this "leftover tomato top" spread.

  • Add it as a condiment to a cheese platter
  • Top grilled fish
  • Slather it on a baked potato
  • Jazz up a plain salad
  • Spread it on a sandwich and grill it up, like I did below.  Enjoy 'spreading' the love.
The "spread": Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, baguette and of course, tomato fennel spread

The "spread": Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, baguette and of course, tomato fennel spread

Slather it one side, olive oil on the other and start adding the rest of the goodies.

Slather it one side, olive oil on the other and start adding the rest of the goodies.

I grilled the sandwich in a cast iron pan to get the bread crispy and the cheese melted.  Served it with some   Spicy Crunch Slaw   and rice/beans.

I grilled the sandwich in a cast iron pan to get the bread crispy and the cheese melted.  Served it with some Spicy Crunch Slaw and rice/beans.

My sister, Jilly & niece, Gabrielle: Happy Customers !!

My sister, Jilly & niece, Gabrielle: Happy Customers !!