When I was a kid "Pasta Salad" was just a requisite side dish at family gatherings that was hastily bought at the grocery store and remained in it’s plastic tub beside other more appetizing offerings while slowly making it’s way to room temperature. I never really understood how macaroni noodles, eggs and mustard where always such an important part of every barbecue I went to. And while these little gatherings were being planned, there was always a mention of it, "Who is going to bring the pasta salad?" Pasta salads have so much variety and take so little time, you don’t ever have to resort to grocery store tub again.
Instead of that I offer you this. Orzo pasta and a fairly traditional Caprese salad, mixed together and served in a hallowed out tomato (feel free to bypass the individual serving size vegetable dish for larger gatherings.)
This week I started writing a regular feature for the Glendale Examiner on farmers markets and creating original recipes from what I find there. I love all of what is involved in the previous statement. Farmers markets are one of favorite places to be. Cooking and writing recipes has become a part of who I am. Writing is a skill that I have dedicated myself to learning. And I get to photograph the entire adventure. Now if only this hobby would pay the bills and I could finally quit my day job! Maybe someday, with a lot of work, I’ll be able to tittle my post: I Quit My Job + A Recipe.
The La Canada farmers market is only about a mile from my house. It sits right below the Angeles National Forest, still charred from a fire that ravaged it a few years ago. Although on the smaller side, this particular market has a diverse selection of goods including homemade cheese, imported salts and fresh caught seafood. You can read more about my adventures at the La Canada Market on my Examiner page.
I have a special place in my heart for great salt and Hepp’s does it better than most. Don’t ever underestimate the power a great salt has on your cooking. Used properly it can make your food taste 20% better. You can make the same dish as the guy next to you and your salt will make people remember yours and forget his. It has a sneaky way of hiding in your dish, it’s own flavor largely concealed, springing up and grabbing onto the flavors of the other ingredients, brightening and popping them. If a dish tastes “flat” it’s most likely due to salt not being able to do his job. Salt on the caliber that Hepp’s offers is also a fantastic gift for a foodie, just sayin’.
Somehow, after only a few minutes in his booth, I began to develops a slight crush on Country Fresh Herbs. I was so incredibly impressed by how beautiful and, well, fresh everything looked. It was like produce heaven. My favorite was the Shisido peppers, this is what I want my Trick Or Treat basket to look like next year:
After an hour of wandering among the booths, being sidetracked again and again, I selected 5 ingredients and slowly formulated a recipe.
Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Asparagus
5 Beefsteak Tomatoes
1 tbs Olive Oil, plus ¼ cup divided
¾ cup Fresh Asparagus, chopped (top half of the stalks only)
1 tbs Chopped Shisido Peppers, seeds removed
½ tsp Salt, plus 1 tsp divided
½ tsp black pepper
1/3 cup Goat Cheese
¼ Cup Israeli Cous Cous
Preheat oven to 425. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbs olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the asparagus, peppers, ½ tsp salt and pepper, cooking until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, allowing to cool a bit. Cut a thin slice off the top of every tomato, enough to expose the insides. Using a spoon, remove the flesh and seeds from the inside of each tomato, leaving the walls and bottomintact.
Add the goat cheese and Cous Cous to the asparagus pan, stir until combined. In a large bowl, add the remaining olive oil and salt, toss the tomatoes until well coated. Place the tomatoes in a baking dish, cut side up. Fill each tomato with the goat cheese and asparagus mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Although not officially part of this recipe, I sprinkled each tomato with a bit of my Hepps salt before eating. I might have an addiction in the making.