Tomato Recipes

One of my favorite things to do for friends is pampering them with food. It's always been my way of saying "Hey dude, I really love you, thanks for always being so great." Plus it's a great opportunity for me to play around with new recipes and challenge myself to create something memorable. I cooked this particular (tomato themed) dinner for my dear friend Eric, who travels a lot and what does a traveler want the most upon returning home? A home-cooked meal.

No problemo homie.

We started off with a nice Summery (virgin) cocktail but please feel free to add a splash of Hendrick's Gin as my husband chose to do so -- it tastes reminiscent to a dreamsicle except without the creaminess and ends with a nice hint of fennel.

 Yellow Tomato Gazpacho was next on the list -- it took me awhile to get use to the concept of "cold soups" but this one is fabulous. I used mostly yellow teardrops for my soup and the sweetness was phenomenal! It's a great recipe to make ahead and it can also be served as an amuse bouche at parties.

Next came a simple salad topped with toasted pecans, goat cheese, and heirloom tomatoes drizzled with some Italian olive oil a dear friend brought back for me and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Feel free to squeeze a little lemon for an extra acid kick. Simple, healthy, delicious -- I know, I'm a baus.

You can also serve the salad in a bowl if plates aren't your thing. Or maybe because you ran out of plates. You get the idea.

This was probably my favorite, well after the main course that is. I took some sourdough, toasted it and melted it with some smoked gruyere and topped it with spicy tomato jam (I added a habanero in mine to give it a super kick), avocado slices and arugula.


The smokiness of the gruyere really paired nicely with the sweet and spicy jam -- the jam is also a great dipping sauce for meatballs or even better on top of some cheese and crackers.

Aaaah main course: Maryland Crabcake with Israeli Couscous in a Spicy Tomato Broth. It's amazing how generous you can be with the size of your crabcakes when you make them at home, I even had an extra dish of crab meat left over which I used for an omelet the next morning.

I made the broth from tomato juice, dashi and some thai chiles, which is the same liquid I cooked my couscous in. The Maryland crab cake recipe I used can be found here. As a Chef once told me "It's all about that Old Bay Seasoning." Amen to that Chef! I loved the light breading for this style of crab cake, it really gave the perfect texture I was looking for.


Unfortunately, there was no tomato themed dessert. Instead I just made some chocolate chip cookies and scooped some vanilla bean ice cream on top. All tummies were satisfied :).

As you can see, I kept all these recipes pretty simple. It's nice to not be stuck in the kitchen the whole time and be able to sit down and enjoy the meal with friends so make things easy on yourself: prep ahead of time, pick recipes with simple execution and have fun with it!


Share the love today and make your loved ones something home cooked -- not only does it replenish the belly but it renews the soul. Now get off that katoosh and get in that kitchen!


Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts

I’ve eyed Food52 for awhile now – drooling over their recipes, fawning over their contests, so this week I figured what the hell, I’m going to go for it!


So this week the contest was Your Best Walnuts & Sage recipe. “Holidays behind us, we’re ready to return to the pure, clean flavors of winter. We want recipes highlighting the earthiness and muted hues of walnuts and sage – bonus points for thinking beyond pestos.”


Okay. I think I can do that!



Keeping pure, clean flavors of winter in mind, I opted to make one of my favorite healthy desserts – a yogurt panna cotta.  I used brown sugar for a bolder flavor to round out the strong perfumes of sage and used soy and 2% greek yogurt as my base.

To add an element of surprise I made Spiced Candied Walnuts for a nice crunch and playful bite at the end, how else are we supposed to keep warm during these cold winter months?



So there you have it – Enjoy this Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts. This playful wintry dessert will leave you wishing for more.  Feel free to add honey comb and garnish with a fresh sage leaf for an extra touch of elegance.


You can make these a day ahead of time and they can stay stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. To assemble the dish as I have, make sure you layer the candied walnuts under the panna cotta as it serves as a nice crust to the dessert!


Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 30 mins
Serves: 3-4
A yogurt and soy based panna cotta with scented with sage and topped with spicy candied walnuts
  • Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup 2% Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Sage
  • Honeycomb, for garnish
  • 3-4 small fresh Sage leaves, for garnish
  • Spiced Candied Walnuts:
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • teaspoon cayenne
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.
  2. Whisk in the yogurt until evenly mixed. Add fresh sage leaves. Steep for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer a stronger sage flavor, feel free to increase to 1/2 cup of sage. Strain mixture into a 1 quart measuring cup or large bowl. Divide the panna cotta mixture into 4 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  3. To serve, sprinkle each ramekin with candied walnuts and garnish with honey comb and fresh sage if preferred.
  4. --------------------------------------
  5. In an oven or toaster oven preheat to 350°F. Lay walnuts evenly on baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 5 minutes or until just toasted. Walnuts have high oil content so be careful to not overcook. Remove from oven and cool in a bowl.
  6. In a medium saucepan, pour sugar and cook over medium heat until it begins to melt. Once sugar is a light amber, pour in the nuts and add the cayenne . Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all walnut pieces are evenly covered.
  7. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat if you have one. Use a fork to separate any pieces that are touching and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt. Set aside and cool. Chop into small pieces and place in a small bowl.


Rum N’ Raspberry Custard Cupcakes

17 days in Europe. 45 miles hiked with 60 lb backpacks. 1 (bad bad) case of food poisoning. 7 pounds lost, each. Endless laughter with friends on first week.  Beautiful sunsets and snuggles with my love for the rest.  Exploring small towns, big cities, and eating all the pasta and pizza to our hearts' desire -- may we always take these wonderful adventures together.

It's good to be home.  We came back to our sweet Layla, a flourishing blooming garden and of course the warmth and comfort of family and friends.  Even better, Xiaolu from 6 Bittersweets agreed to prepare a guest post for my birthday today.  Imagine the happiness I felt when I found this in my inbox this morning :)  I met Xiaolu through the lovely world of food blogging and we instantly connected.  With her inspiring photography, elegant recipes, and most importantly her genuine personality we clicked immediately. Thank you Xiaolu for making my birthday special this year, it was one of the best surprises I've ever gotten.  Turning 26 will be extra sweet this year, Feast your eyes on these bad boys!


When Joy emailed me some time ago to introduce herself and ask me to prepare aguest post for her birthday, I was beyond honored to accept her invitation. First, because she's an incredibly talented food photographer who's made her passion into a living -- now that's something to admire! Second, because I had just discovered and fallen in love with her blog! Joy posts the type of food that I crave...recipes as fresh and healthy for you as they are delicious and pleasing to the eye. Now months later, I'm proud to know Joy as a genuine sweetheart and dear friend. Thank you all for having me here today, and please join me in celebrating our birthday girl and gorgeous new bride with something sweet =D! Although Joy was generous in giving me free reign over her birthday treat, I begged her for a few hints for finding the keys to her tastebuds. What she revealed was this: she adores pastry cream (could "eat it for days") and you'd rarely find her turning down a good rum-soaked cake. With these promising leads, I set out to tailor-fit a special cupcake to suit her tastes. Luckily it appeared Joy and I share not only a Chinese heritage, American upbringing, and passion for food, but also similar taste in sweets. But despite my love of both pastry cream and rum cake, I could tell something was missing. Something fresh, light, and juicy. Something like a berry? Once raspberry was identified as the missing piece, the rest of the recipe came together quickly: my favorite egg-less vanilla cupcake with an egg yolk added back in for richness (yes, I'm crazy like that ;p), a sweet n' buttery rum glaze, pastry cream with mashed raspberries for a refreshing lift, and topping it all off...my favorite subtly sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. Considering the two big occasions being celebrated, I couldn't leave these cupcakes Plane Jane no matter how delicious they were inside! Joy let slip that she loved the color yellow, and I found it perfect that someone as vibrant and fun as her would be drawn to a color much the same. I couldn't resist baking these sweets in yellow wrappers and topping them with festive homemade flag and pompom toppers (tutorial to come on my blog). The only thing missing was the birthday girl herself! Dearest Joy, congratulations on the wonderful life you have already built and best of luck on all the exciting adventures that you and Mr. Joylicious are sure to embark on in the many years to come! Rum N’ Raspberry Custard Cupcakes [Printable Recipe] Adapted from VCTOTW, Always Order Dessert, and Gourmet Makes 12 cupcakes XIAOLU'S NOTES: I bought the printable images for these flag cupcake toppers from the Etsy store ReadyGo for $6 and added the text electronically in Photoshop. Then I simply printed them out on white card stock, cut out the shapes, and attached them to lollipop sticks using tape. The price for the printables is not bad at all considering you get up to 4 colors, but I'm sure it wouldn't be that hard to draw your own designs in Photoshop or a similar program either. For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup MINUS 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark rum
  • For the rum syrup
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dark rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease tops of a 12-cup standard muffin pan, then line with baking liners. Whisk the milk and vinegar together in a measuring cup and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to curdle. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the milk mixture, oil, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, almond extract, and rum, and mix together thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until no large lumps remain [small ones are okay]. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake cupcakes for 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the rum syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, water, and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the butter completely melts and the sugar dissolves. Let reduce slightly, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum (it may bubble). Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut a cone out of the top of each cooled cupcake and set it to the side. Using a spoon or pastry brush, coat the sides and bottom of the opening with rum syrup, about 2 teaspoons per cupcake. Fill each opening with about 2 teaspoons of pastry cream, place the cut-out cone back on the cupcake, and press down slightly to secure. Finally spread or pipe cream cheese frosting onto each cupcake! Raspberry Pastry Cream Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 3/4 cup milk [not skim]
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh raspberries, coarsely mashed

Heat milk in a small saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not boiling. While milk heats, whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of hot milk to yolk mixture in a stream, whisking, then add remaining milk, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and comes to a boil, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately force custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in butter and vanilla. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold and thickened, at least 3 hours. Stir in mashed raspberries just before use.

Pipeable Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3/4 to 1 cup (1 1/2 to 2 sticks) trans fat-free margarine or butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 to 3 cups (6.5 to 13.25 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. (1 block) vegan or full-fat dairy cream cheese, cold and cut into large chunks

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly blended and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, a chunk at a time, beating after each addition (just enough to work it in until it’s smooth). Taste the frosting, adding and beating in more sugar as needed. Be careful to avoid overbeating or the cream cheese may start to break down and become gloppy. If not using immediately, chill until needed, then beat again until smooth just before using.

Sake Champagne Mojito

Our European honeymoon has been a great success -- Wells and I have bounced around Europe: Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Munich, Basel, Gimmelwald, Milan and Florence.  We're finally winding down towards the end of our trip and finishing it off with the Amalfi Coast and Rome.  Just because I'm half-way around the world, you didn't think I'd be able to stay away too long did you?  Good thing I have beautifully talented friends to cover for me while I'm gone.

Today I'd like to introduce a new friend, Linda Wagner.  Linda is an experienced and skilled Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach who utilizes a holistic methodology to invigorate the mind, body, and spirit.  It is her passion to assist others in achieving their true, unlimited potential.  I was initially drawn to Linda by her peaceful and happy spirit and her blog is filled with great information and mantras to live by to lead a healthy, blissful and fulfilling life.  So without further ado, I introduce to you the lovely Linda with her Sake Champagne Mojito.





That’s right, I said Sake Champagne Mojito and you’re gonna love it!! This is an absolutely smooth and delicious cocktail adapted from Pure Food & Wine in NYC.  It is THE PERFECT summer cocktail and a guaranteed hit when entertaining!  You may want to make this gorgeous cocktail for your mama this Sunday, what a lovely Mother’s Day treat!!



You know me, I always modify my recipes to make them as healthy as possible so this recipe is sugar free. I’ve also provided an alcohol free version for the kiddos and anyone looking for a fun cocktail without the hooch!

You’ll need:

  • 1 bottle Sake
  • 1 bottle Extra Dry Champagne
  • 1 large bunch mint leaves
  • juice of 3-4 limes
  • 6-10 droppers full of Liquid Stevia (more or less to taste)

First, tear the mint leaves off the stem. In a large pitcher, use the back of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint leaves, stevia, and lime juice. Then add the entire bottle of Sake and entire bottle of Champagne. Stir the mixture and serve over lots of ice in rocks glasses or mason jars.

If you’re not drinking, go for an alcohol free version by simply substituting sparkling mineral water for the sake and champagne.  It’s absolutely delicious and will make you feel like a million bucks every time you take a sip!

Even if you don’t give a hoot about health, you and your friends will still enjoy this delicious drink. This is my “go to” cocktail for parties. It’s a summer classic with an exotic and healthy twist!

I say this all the time but so many people tell me they don’t like Stevia. I didn’t like Stevia either but that’s because I wasn’t using the right kind!! If you’re looking for a great tasting Stevia that actually tastes like sugar and not like aspartame, NuNaturals is a MUST!! I always order my mine through iherb.com they have NuNaturals stevia in liquid, powder, packets and an assortment of flavors along with a wide variety of other health & beauty products and supplements. Feel free to use my discount code WAG472 to get $5 off your first order :)

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Flavors from Afar & FM 1410

If you've been keeping up with my artizone posts, the site will launch next month!  Which means, you have only about two more weeks until you'll be able to have the best artisan products in the city delivered to your front door.  This week I am featuring Flavors from Afar and FM 1410 -- two well known names in Dallas.

At Flavors from Afar, the adventuresome duo Nancy and Gary  carries the best  artisan products imported from Italy.  You are able to taste a little part of Italy through the culinary gems that Flavors from Afar has to offer -- like the fragrant olive oils of Tuscany or the bold and fruity balsamic vinegars from Modena. Flavors From Afar offers products that makes entertaining elegant and simple -- as the Italians would say: Buon Appetito!!

The top chefs of Dallas know Tom well for his fresh herbs and produce.  With a beautiful garden tucked away in the middle of downtown, the treasures from Tom's garden will redefine anyone's definition of "fresh". At FM 1410 it truly is a farm to table experience -- full of flavor, life and most importantly, love.

With the combination of these artisan powers I created these wonderful mini pizzettes -- Bacon & Caramelized Onion with Arugula, Basil and Almond Pesto with Red Pepper and Thyme Lobster Mushroom drizzled with Balsamic.  These pizzettes would make a great appetizer or a wonderful afternoon snack.  Not to mention they are also quite healthy (except for the bacon..O_o) and dairy-free!

Ingredients for Mini Pizzettes: (serves 8-10)

  • 12 ounces pizza dough (You can find my pizza dough recipe here or buy storebought dough)

Preheat the oven to 475 F.  Roll out the pizza dough into a 1/4-inch-thick round.  Using a 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out 30 dough circles.  Arrange the circles on 2 large heavy baking sheets (make sure you put semolina on the bottom of the pan to keep the dough from sticking).

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups Basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup high quality Olive Oil (I used Ariston from Flavors from Afar)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Process the garlic, basil and almonds in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are thoroughly chopped, scrapping down the sides as neccessary.  While running the processor, slowly pour in the 1/2 cup olive oil until it reaches the right consistency, you can add more olive oil as needed.  Set aside.


Thyme Lobster Mushroom

  • 8 oz Lobster Mushroom, thinly sliced (you can find these at FM 1410)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 oz Madeira or a sweet cooking wine
  • 2 oz fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 oz high quality Balsamic vinegar (you can find these at Flavors from Afar)
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large saucepan on medium high heat and melt the butter til it's bubbling.  Add in the garlic, shallot and sliced mushrooms and sautee until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the wine and thyme and cook until liquid is soaked up, taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Carmelized Onion & Bacon

  • 6 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large pan on medium high heat add the bacon and cook for 1 minute.  Add the sliced onions and reduce heat to medium.  Caramelize the onions with the bacon, about 8 minutes.   Add the honey and apple cider vinegar and cook until liquid is reduced, add salt pepper to taste.  Set aside

To assemble pizzas

Using the three toppings you've made, place them on the pizza dough rounds (about 1 tsp for each).  Bake until the pizzettes are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Drizzle the pizzettes with olive oil.  For the Bacon Onion and Arugula, simply add some fresh arugula on top and serve.  For the Thyme Lobster Mushroom, drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top and serve.  For the Basil Almond Pesto, add the sliced red pepper and fresh basil leaves for garnish and serve.