notes from maggie's farm
With the help of our stellar homemade queso blanco we find the perfect kitchen equation:
Three common ingredients + a little seasoning = two delicious seasonal Meatless Monday dishes.A little culinary mathmagic that a certain farmer couldn't keep his hands off of, and neither could I. With no more than a golden crusty baguette, and a side of baby lima beans in vinaigrette, we made two meals of our bounty.
We plant anywhere from 25-50 tomato plants mid-spring, and again in later summer. The lion's share of the first season are heirlooms, usually as many as our supply, and pocketbooks, will allow. The second season will be primarily San Marzano paste tomatoes, for canning. We'll have tomatoes to eat from May to October. And we are in heaven from May to October.
But my, how we miss them from November to May.
Dr Weil's Garden: Tuscan Kale
Growing Tomatoes Organically: Texas Gardener
Home Vegetable Gardening: AgriLife Extension
We miss them so much, that my husband always encourages me to plant a few 'Early Girls', a hybrid that produces early and often. And when that first tomato comes, I'm always happy he did. Here, we use the first of the harvest, with young lacinato kale, my favorite variety of the easy to grow vegetable, while it's still doing well in the garden, tender and green, lacking the stronger bitterness that long, hot days produce in greens. The two are the perfect characters for showcasing our homemade queso blanco, seasoned with dill, black pepper, and lemon zest, always on time, always knowing their lines. You can throw together your own cheese, as we did last week, with friends, and use your favorite herbs and spices to custom stamp with your own individuality. Alternatively, you can use store-bought ricotta, or queso fresco, if available, and season with your choice of herbs, if you're in a pinch for time.
Gather one tomato per person (or perhaps 2, if this is your main dish--they are delicious and you'll hunger for more, promise), one bunch of young kale (our bunch had about twelve large leaves, and, when chopped, yielded about 3 cups), about 4 oz of queso blanco (about 1/4 of the batch our gallon of milk yielded on this, and this day of cheese making), one lemon, two cloves of garlic, olive oil, and seasoning salt to taste.
For breadcrumb topping, 1T butter, 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup day-old whole grain breadcrumbs, 2T grated Parmesan cheese, 2T chopped pecans, 1t dried herbes de provence (or your favorite dried herb or herb mixture). I often double this, store in the fridge, and use it to top any and everything.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare breadcrumb topping: In a small saucepan or skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add panko crumbs and day-old bread crumbs (simply day-old bread, allowed to dry out overnight, and processed or ground into crumbs) stir to coat, and toast, until golden browned. Remove from heat, allow to cool, then add remaining ingredients. Toss to mix well.
Prepare tomatoes by slicing off tops, and scooping pulp out (reserving for kale dish), lightly salting interiors with seasoning salt, and setting aside for 5 minutes or so, as the tomato releases more juice. Meanwhile, slice well-washed and dried young kale, by stacking leaves atop each other, and slicing, crosswise, stems and all, in thin strips. Reserve half (to stuff tomatoes). Toss remainder with chopped tomato pulp, 2 cloves minced garlic, about 1 tsp seasoning salt (or to taste), and the zest of one lemon (reserving the lemon for juicing in second stage of recipe). Drizzle with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Place all in the bottom of a small casserole dish, creating a nest for the coming tomatoes.
Season reserved kale lightly with seasoning salt. Toss to evenly disperse seasoning and stuff tomatoes firmly. (Kale will shrink in the tomato quite a bit during cooking, so don't be shy.) Form a 'patty' of queso blanco a little larger than the top of the tomato, creating a 'lid'. Nestle tomatoes atop kale in casserole. Roast 20 minutes, then top with about a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, pressing down gently, slightly into cheese. Return to oven and roast additional 5-10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Remove tomatoes from bed of kale and set aside. Let cool a bit before diving in, as the steamy interior can be surprisingly hot.
For Lemony-Garlic Roasted Kale with Tomato and Queso Blanco.....
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and crumble about 1/4 cup herbed queso blanco over bed of kale. Toss. Return to oven for ten minutes, then top casserole with toasted bread crumb topping, baking ten minutes more, or until crumb topping is golden brown.
We had the stuffed tomatoes for dinner, served with a simple bowlful of baby lima beans, which had been parboiled, and tossed with minced celery and a balsamic vinaigrette, and we lunched that day on the kale, standing right there at the counter because we couldn't be bothered with stopping long enough to sit down at the table (it was that good) accompanied by nothing more than a crusty baguette with which to sop the lemony-garlic olive oil broth. If you need a little more protein, a poached egg would top the kale off nicely. Both meals were noteworthy, in that they were healthy, quick, simple to prepare, and downright delicious. We never missed the meat, or the mess, for that matter.
Later this week:
Seed Saving Tips and Garden Organization on Tip for Tuesday
Vintage Seed Packets for Crafting on (Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Spring Pea Crostini with Herbed Ricotta, served with a Strawberry Basil Champagne Cocktail for Thirsty Thursday, and
Three Bean Brown Rice Stuffing with Ricotta in Acorn Squash, and a fun cheesy giveaway(!)
and later in the day, Homemade Chile con Queso, from the Cow to the Bowl, on Freestyle Friday.
And plainly speaking, a few words for Saturday Simplicity round out the week. On Sunday, we rest. Well, from writing, that is.
Have a great week!