Tag Archives: TGIW

TGIW: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

by Libby Sternberg

This must be how they get in.

This must be how they get in.

The tomato army has arrived. They’re stealthy. We find them hiding under foliage, glinting red in the shadows, just waiting. Waiting to march, to attack, to take over….at least the kitchen.

Although we only have a few tomato plants, they produce baskets full of fruit. Which reminds me of that old adage…Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to use it in a fruit salad. (Or maybe wisdom is knowing how to use fruit and tomatoes together.) But I digress….

So, I’ve been looking for things to cook/make with tomatoes. I love tomato, mozzarella salad, and am fond of a version using grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls in a basil-heavy vinaigrette with thinly sliced red onions. Speaking of thinly sliced, we are fond of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, but MLTs not so much. (Actually, I’ve never tried one.):

Having so many tomatoes finally inspired me to do something I’ve never ever ever ever done before. In my entire life. That is….peel a tomato! To make tomato sauce from scratch. Peeling a tomato, it turns out, is pretty easy. You need to shock them, and they lose their skins faster than Joe Nichols’s girlfriend sheds her clothes after throwing back some¬† Patron.

I asked my daughter-in-law, who is of Sicilian heritage, for a good recipe, and she was kind enough to pass along her father’s. But I wimped out on following his directions for my first time, because it sounded as if you needed to have the right touch and taste to get it right. I’ll try his for my next batch:

For 6 people, use 6 ripe tomatoes, 1 can peeled tomato, half bunch of basil, half bunch of parsley, 5 garlic cloves,  3 oz of parmigiano cheese, 3 oz olive oil, salt and pepper. Dip the tomatoes in hot water for few minute, then peel and chop in very small pieces, chop the can tomatoes and use the juice, too; chop the rest of the ingredients and mix everything; taste if you need more salt and olive oil. Add oregano.

I ended up at Smitten Kitchen. They have pictures! So I was able to see what the tomatoes are supposed to look like, etc. Here’s the link to their recipe.

The sauce before it was blended.

The sauce before it was blended.

At the end, I blended all my sauce ingredients in a food processor after cooking. And I have to say, we really enjoyed the result. The sauce actually tasted like….tomatoes! Not like salt, not like sugar, not like something with a metallic overtone. Next time, I’ll follow my daughter-in-law’s father’s instructions because I think mine could have used more garlic and basil. And there will be a next time. The basket is already full with another army of tomatoes.

In case you’re wondering where the title of this post comes from, it’s the title of an epic film that, oddly enough, never won any Oscars. I’m particularly fond of its catchy theme song.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Please buy her books so she can buy more tomato plants next year.

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TGIW: My sort-of-Indian-chicken-recipe

by Libby Sternberg

First, a quick explanation: TGIW stands for Thank God it’s Wednesday. But you probably figured that out already. TGIW posts are meant to brighten your midweek….

The curry powder stands alone.

The curry powder stands alone.

My husband and I love to go to a little local Indian restaurant called Taj Mahal. It’s a one-room establishment in a strip shopping center, next to a mattress store and near a furniture shop. But once you’re inside, the atmosphere is…fun. A big plastic peacock statue, lit inside, guards the bar. Other pictures and tchotchkes evoking India fill the room. The staff is attentive and cheerful; I always feel as if they’re happy to see us and are eager to show off their cuisine. On holidays, they make dining special. New Year’s Eve brought out hats and beads for each customer, Valentine’s Day a chocolate dessert, other times live music provided by a fellow at an electronic keyboard. On Mondays, they offer a fixed price buffet–a great way to sample their food.

Anyway, I sometimes try to recreate a dish I had there, and I came close with the following. I didn’t write down the precise measurements as I cooked, so beware; use your own judgment.


For two people (with enough for leftovers)

  • about a cup or more of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • about a cup of broccoli florets
  • Olive oil
  • One chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup onion diced or sliced
  • 1/4 cup red pepper diced or sliced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about a cup of chicken broth or stock
  • about a cup of tomato or spaghetti sauce (I used Prego)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the following spices: ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cardamom, turmeric, paprika
  • (and, if you feel the need to smooth out the flavors, yes, you can use a little curry powder)
  • 1/2 cup cream

Heat the oven to 375. Spread cauliflower and broccoli on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast the vegetables until the edges are slightly brown, but be careful not to burn. They should be a little crunchy. (Roasting the vegetables is important because it imparts a different flavor than just tossing them in the saute pan.)

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, brown the chicken, onions, peppers, garlic in a little olive oil.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock/broth.

Add the spices.

Add tomato sauce and let simmer until chicken is done and tender.

Add the roasted vegetables.

Turn the heat down and when it’s no longer piping hot, add the cream, stirring until silky smooth.

Goes well over rice, Israeli couscous, quinoia (is that how you spell that?)

Next time I make it, I’ll try to note the precise measurements.

tajmahalpeacockBack to our Taj Mahal experience…I noted how they provide live music on special occasions. I love that they want to elevate the dining experience in this way, but sometimes I feel like telling the owners they should get a better musician. Oh, it’s not that the fellow they use can’t play. It’s just that what he plays is hardly better than piped-in music. And he seems to take a lot of breaks!

If you’re ever in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, craving Indian food, stop by this establishment.

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