HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baked Penne with Sausage, Mozzarella and Tomatoes from the Galley of Gillian Duffy



         There are certain recipes I obsess over.  I have folder marked “Re-Visit” and in it there must be at least five recipes for baked pasta dishes.  They all are fundamentally the same.  The pasta is cooked and then a sauce is mixed into it, cheese is added to it and tops it and the whole thing goes into a hot oven for 15 or 10 minutes. In my imagination, it emerges with cheese bubbling up from under a crisp brown Parmesan crust.  The incredibly rich cream sauce coats the pasta which is laden with the flavor of sausage or meatballs, pork or beef.  That’s how I imagine it until reality takes over: Dried pasta sticks up out of a bare covering of cheese. Inside the sauce is non-existent and were it not for the meat, it would hardly be worth eating. This has been going on for years. 
         Then finally, in the most unimaginable place I found Baked Pasta Nirvana.  In this recipe, luscious ripe tomatoes in big chunks are mixed with slices of sweet Italian sausage.  The pasta, tomatoes and sausage come together in a creamy béchamel sauce.  And an entire layer of Mozzarella, hidden bang in the middle of the dish, pulls on your fork like mozzarella in a pizza commercial.  I did use the very last of the fresh tomatoes when I made this dish.  But I discovered that canned plum tomatoes, drained of their liquid and cut into large chunks are an admirable replacement and put this dish within reach year ‘round.  And where did this amazing dish come from?  Why, Departures magazine!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The surprising story of Fried Green Tomatoes and Martha Stewart's recipe for Not Fried Green Tomatoes



            I love a little side of history when I am serving up a dish with roots as deep as Fried Green Tomatoes.  With the exception of grits and hominy, what's more southern than this all-over crunchy firm tomato that’s been battered into a deep-fried delicacy?  Even though deep-frying makes almost everything taste better, this dish stands out.  The tartness of the tomato and the sweet cornmeal of the crust are a perfect combination--especially for tomato lovers like me. 
         Of course, they’re southern to the core, aren't they?  There was that whole movie “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café”.  Set in Alabama, this feel good film from 1991 was among the first ‘chick flicks’ and a huge hit.  I wanted to read up on the origin of the dish itself.   There on the website of the Smithsonian Institution, of all places, a woman named Lisa Bramen described her first encounters with Fried Green Tomatoes.  She too remembered the movie. In the late 1990s, she tasted her first Fried Green Tomato in New Orleans. So impressed was she that, on a southern road trip, she asked for them everywhere she went. Strangely, only once, in Memphis TN, did she encounter a pale imitation of what she had tasted in New Orleans.