Seared Grape Tomatoes with Balsamic (Vegan)

This is a bastardization of a delicious tomato sauce our friend Anthony makes. I once asked him how he made it and he said nonchalantly, “Oh, you know, sear the tomatoes and add some vinegar. Balsamic, sherry, red wine, whatever.” I, however, have never succeeded at achieving either his exact sauce or his nonchalance. But I think my version isn’t too bad. Makes a great topping for Savory French Toast, or pasta, or bruschetta, or just chomped plain. Also it’s really easy and takes just a few minutes.

Seared Grape Tomatoes with Balsamic

  • 4 oz grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes – whatever)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic to taste (about 2 – 3 tbsp, or a few light shakes of the bottle)
  • Chopped basil or parsley as garnish, if desired

Heat a medium skillet on medium-high. When it is hot, toss in the tomatoes, stirring constantly. Cook until they begin to darken and soften, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add a few splashes of balsamic and continue to stir a bit longer until the liquid is reduced. Stir in a dash of salt and pepper. Serve immediately and garnish if desired.

90 Second Tomato Quesadilla (Vegetarian)

vine tomatoes, mmmmmmHi. This a not a shining moment for me, but because you are my very favorite blog readers, I am going to share it with you. As some of you may know, J is gone on tour for the month of May. As some of you may also know, although I am tremendously proud of him and happy that he is such a talented musician he gets to do cool things like tour Europe with Matmos, I am kind of a mess without him. My state of disrepair is not his fault, mind you – it’s mine, just so we’re clear. And he feels really bad about me being sad, so I try not to be too much of a drama queen. But alas, that goes so much against my nature. What can I say, I’m expressive.

Those of you who have seen it before will recognize the telltale signs of my month-long discombobulation. The syndrome is characterized by a number of things I am somewhat embarrassed of, but for which I shan’t apologize, because, well, it ain’t easy being green. The first and most obvious is my instantaneous insomnia (markedly worse than usual). The second is my profound lack of motivation to do anything productive (eg, go jogging, go to the post office, dust, read a book, etc). The third, and most relevant to you, my beloved blog audience, is that I have absolutely no desire to cook anything at all. For starters, J is my taster and second opinion – I feel blind without him. Then there’s the fact that it can be very difficult to cook for only one person – how do you not have way too many leftovers? Then there’s also the fact that one of my big motivators in cooking is the thought, “I want to make something delicious for J because he’s so rad!” So anyway. All of that. Which is why I haven’t developed anything new lately. Except for the 90 Second Tomato Quesadilla, of course.

Which brings me to the not-shining moment I referenced before. Since J’s been gone, I have been eating lots of junk food, including lots of cheese, and even seafood (vegans, please don’t be angry with me!). But some good has come of it. Allow me to introduce the 90 Second Tomato Quesadilla, which has been my dinner staple for more evenings than I’d like to admit. And yes, you really can make it in 90 seconds or less. It’s not hard at all. In fact, it’s so easy, it’s probably kind of silly for me to try to float it by as a “recipe.” Also, I’m sure most, if not all of you, know how to make a quesadilla. But do you know how to make it in 90 seconds or less? Um … anyway, I’m just hoping someone can benefit from my tribulations.

90 Second Tomato Quesadilla

(Makes one-is-the-loneliest-number quesadilla. I recommend doubling the ingredients and making at least two per person. Not just for metaphorical reasons, but because you’ll probably want more than one if you’re using the small tortillas, as recommended.* And naturally, if you’re serving more than one person, multiply accordingly.)

  • 1 half small vine-ripened or heirloom tomato, sliced and the slices halved (Do you have to use vine-ripened or heirloom? Well, it’s up to you, obviously, but I think they are more flavorful than other tomatoes.)
  • 1/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (Did you know it was spelled with only one “r”? Or that its inventor is disputed? Color me surprised, I always thought it was named for a different Monterrey.)
  • 1 small tortilla (~5 or 6 inch diameter) – I like Whole Foods Red Chile tortillas
  • 1/4 sliced avocado, sprig or two of chopped cilantro and salsa to taste, if desired

If you do this all in an incredibly efficient fashion, I promise you it won’t take longer than 90 seconds; in fact, it will probably only take about a minute. However, if you’re slicing avocado or chopping cilantro, I would anticipate that could potentially add up to a minute or so. And if you’re serving multiple people, then the 90 second thing kind of breaks down. Truly, this is a quesadilla designed for solitude.

Shred about 1/4 c. of Monterey Jack cheese with a grater. Place the tortilla on a microwave safe plate and sprinkle the cheese in a circle in the middle, leaving about 1/2 inch border between the cheese and the edge of the tortilla. Pop it in the microwave for 35 seconds.

Meanwhile, rinse your tomato and cut a few slices. Halve them, and they’re ready to place in your quesadilla. This would also be the time to slice your avo or chop your cilantro (if you hadn’t done so in advance).

When the tortilla with cheese is done in the microwave, place the pieces of tomato in the middle. This is also when you would place the avo and cilantro, if desired.

Fold up like a mini-burrito, and serve immediately. (Don’t dally; they’re not very good cold.)

*If you’re using larger tortillas, adjust the ingredients accordingly.

Mushroom Spinach Arrabiata (Vegan)

This is a very fast and easy pasta of the variety that I usually make if I haven’t been to the store for a while and/or I’m feeling lazy. That is because I pretty much always have all of the ingredients on hand,* and also because it’s really fast and easy to make. Oh wait, I already said that. Did I mention it’s fast and easy? But how about quick and simple? Anyway. As an aside, if I were dispensing unsolicited advice on general kitchen-keeping, I’d say try to usually have these ingredients on hand. With these basics, there are many different dishes which can easily be thrown together on a moment’s notice.

Mushroom Spinach Arrabiata

  • 1/2 lb mushrooms (I like button or baby bella, but any kind will do)
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 6 c. uncooked spinach
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped, with sauce
  • Oregano (or you could just use a generic Italian seasoning blend – Trader Joe’s has a pretty good version)
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste (I use a lot)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 package of pasta (follow cooking directions)

Saute mushrooms on medium heat for a couple minutes, then covered for a few minutes more until they juice. Remove cover and continue to cook until liquid is reabsorbed. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is softened.** Add tomatoes and spinach and cook until spinach is fully wilted and tomatoes are mushy. Add stewed tomatoes and seasonings to taste. Continue to cook until the sauce is thick and pasta is done.

Serve immediately with pasta. Makes  approximately 4 servings.

*You can omit any of the fresh vegetables if you don’t have them.

**J prefers this sauce to be pureed with the onions and fresh tomatoes for a smoother sauce. If that is your preference too, then simply start by sauteing the onions & garlic before the mushrooms, add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, then blend in a food processor until smooth. Saute the mushrooms separately per my directions above, add the spinach and saute until it wilts, then add the pureed sauce to the mixture and cook until it’s hot.