You Say Tomato I Say Tomahto

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

I get a real kick out of cooking for people.  It gives me such joy to prepare a beautiful meal or a special treat for the people in my life and watch their faces light up if they like what I’ve made.  And I really appreciate honest comments about what I’ve made – I want to know if it needs work.  I also love cooking for my husband, who is an awesome cook in his own right. He’s an interesting fellow, to say the least. He’s older than me, and he’s kind of an old hippie (and trust me, I mean that in the most loving way).  He’s certainly taught me a lot about reusing stuff (possibly we have gone too far in that particular direction).

Here he is in the ’60s on a bike he built. Do you see what I mean about hippie? I love it.  Wish I had known him then!

Jim, I think, would eat dog food if I used enough onions and garlic.  But on the same token, he can be really picky. He gave his Mom a load of grief one morning while we were all up at the cabin  – she had made the mistake *gasp* of using margarine to cook hashbrowns.  Jim’s discerning taste buds realized the deception immediately (actually, he saw the margarine box on the counter). Now, his mama was small, but she was feisty.  I loved her to death and still miss her terribly. But, back to the story.  So Pat (his mom), tells Jim she’ll make a new batch just for him with BUTTER and the rest of us will torture ourselves with the horrible margarine hashbrowns.  He watches while she puts a big dollop of butter in the pan and starts cooking the hashbrowns, then he heads outside to do something or other with the boat while he waits for his breakfast to get done. The second he’s out the door, Pat dumped in a big dollop of margarine along with the butter (and then looked at me and cackled).  He never had a clue (that is until now!). 

And for goodness sakes you DO NOT want to be at a restaurant with this guy when he starts quizzing the waitress about whether or not they have “real” butter. “Do you serve real butter here?”.  “Yes, we do.”. “Not that stuff that’s whipped, but real butter”. “Well, our butter is whipped but it is real butter” (this said with a sort of question mark at the end because now he’s confusing her). “No, I want the butter that comes in pats – real butter”.  “Let me check and see if we have any”(at this point she’s nervously edging away from the table as subtly as possible), then, “Do you serve real maple syrup?”. You get the picture.

One day I made Swedish meatballs and I’d doctored up the recipe a bit because I was trying to recreate a recipe from a restaurant we used to go to when I was a kid. Jim gets home, and starts eating them (and the man can eat – he’s rail thin and tall and I have truly never seen anyone who can pack it away like him – I would love to have his metabolism). He literally ate about 40 of them (they were pretty small, but still) and raved about how good they were.  About a month later I told him I would either make homemade chicken pot pie or meatballs, and he said, “Not the meatballs, I didn’t care for those that much”.  I had to explain to him that it’s okay to tell me if he doesn’t like something, preferably WHILE HE’S EATING IT, not weeks later. At least it was good for a laugh!

I love almost any recipe that includes tomatoes (fresh, cooked, sun-dried, roasted, it simply doesn’t matter).  Sometimes I make a deconstructed BLT – using croutons, mayonnaise (with a little lemon for a pop of flavor), crumbled bacon, lettuce, and of course, tomatoes!  Lovely tomatoes!

A while ago I found a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website (www.williamssoma.com) and just slightly modified it.  It has a similar feel  to my deconstructed BLT salad, but I’m sure it’s miles healthier. Well, maybe not because it can involve fried chicken.  Also, I almost always add nice crispy crumbled bacon to this recipe because it’s so yummy!  I made this one the other day and I was out of bacon (can you imagine!) but it still tasted fab.

Start with this stuff – you can certainly make your own croutons, but I really like this Texas Toast brand. The basil is missing, but Jim (again) went to the store for me.  He is so good about that and I am such a dork. Also, I didn’t take a picture of the oil, but you’re going to want to fill a large pan with about 2″ of oil and heat it to about 350°.

You’ll also need chicken and bread crumbs.  Does anyone else get a little yuckked out with chicken?  I don’t know, I love to eat it but it’s icky to handle.  To quote Owen Meany, “It gives me the shivers”.  But once it’s cooked – yes ma’am.

Cut the tomatoes into bite size or slightly larger pieces.  Do you know we’ve already had a tomato from the garden? That’s a reason to be grateful for hot summer nights! (* I know there are other reasons but this is G rated blog, kids). Add some rough chopped basil to the tomatoes.  Mix up the dressing and pour about 1/2 of it on the tomatoes and mix well.

Cut the chicken up into uniform cubes, about 3/4″, and roll them in the bread crumbs. Cook them in the hot oil until golden brown – I did about 1/3 at a time so they would cook evenly. I didn’t take a picture because I’m not tall enough to hold the camera high enough over the pan, and I didn’t want to get oil on it.  And there is no way I’m going to balance on a chair over a pot of boiling oil.  I’m just sayin’.

The original recipe mixes everything together, but I like it separate like this.  Pour additional dressing on it before eating it.

Here it is all mixed up!  Like me!

 Tomatoes and Bread with Chicken Bites*

*If you’re in a big hurry, you can use cut up fried chicken from the deli counter

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups croutons, homemade or ready made
  • 6 large tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces or slightly larger
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 slices crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Pour 2 inches of vegetable or peanut oil into a deep frying or saute pan. Preheat to 350°.
  2. Mix together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and sugar.  Shake or stir well.
  3. Pour half the salad dressing over the tomato basil mixture to marinate.
  4. Add bacon if using.
  5. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces, about 3/4″ cubes, and roll in the bread crumbs. If you like, you can season the chicken first with a bit of salt or seasoning salt. 
  6. Fry the chicken in 3 batches in the heated oil until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  7. Either mix the chicken, croutons and tomatoes together in one bowl or serve as a deconstructed salad with a pile of each on the plate.  Drizzle additional dressing on the croutons and chicken.


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