Spaghetti alla Vodka

My grandmother was famous for her alla vodka but not exactly like this. For one thing–she was a traditionalist and used penne. She also didn’t make her own tomato-infused vodka because she was a widow raising kids, with limited amount of time on her hands.  Not all sorts like I do (she says with her tongue firmly in cheek). Our garden produced so many late harvest tomatoes that I found myself using them in a variety of ways; sundried, oven-roasted, confit, and soaked in vodka.

Tomato Infused Vodka

This is really simple.  Peel tomatoes and cram into a jar, use a skewer to secure tomatoes if they start to float to the top.  Fill the jar with vodka and store in the refrigerator for at least 5 days.  I make several jars because I like to use the tomatoes and the vodka for my sauce. Leftover vodka is really great for a bloody mary.

Alla Vodka

1 lb spaghetti or pasta of choice
olive oil
1/2 of small onion–finely diced
2 garlic cloves–finely diced
6-8 basil leaves–chiffonade
1 large tin peeled whole tomatoes or combination of vodka soaked tomatoes and tinned tomatoes to equal about 4 cups whole
1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato soaked vodka (or another vodka you have on hand)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan plus more for serving
Cook pasta in salted water,  according to package instructions.  Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over low heat, careful not to brown, but allow to get translucent. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.  When the onions and garlic are ready, add the tomatoes and vodka and let simmer for about  10-15 minutes.  Add the basil, red pepper flakes, and heavy cream. Allow to heat through then stir in parmesan, and toss in the drained pasta.  If the sauce seems too thick,  use a bit of the pasta water.  Shave a bit of parmesan on top of each individual serving, along with additional crushed red pepper, if you like spicy.


I have loads of these gorgeous, albeit small, tomatoes. My sink is a bath of hot soapy water, as I prepare jars for canning. My counter tops look as if a produce van exploded just outside the kitchen window. When it is all said and done, I will have plenty of jars for winter, as well as gifting. Question is…what shall I make? Tomato jam, sauce, chutney? So many possibilities. What I do know for sure is that I will be making a big jug of tomato infused vodka for the day after, the night before.

Tomato Pomegranate Salad

I put this salad together, for a fall brunch,using what i had on hand. Starting with the beautiful yellow tomato; adding ingredients for contrast in flavor, color and texture, creates a delicious and beautiful salad.

Tomato Pomegranate Salad
heirloom (or other flavorful tomato)
fresh chevre or fresh ricotta
pomegranate seeds
toasted and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
chopped chives
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Arrange the tomato wedges–cut into one bite pieces, on platter. Drop chevre or ricotta evenly over the tomatoes. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds, chives and pistachio nuts. The idea is that each bite will have a bit of each element, but not an overwhelming amount of each. So be mindful of the proportion. Add a bit of sea salt and black pepper to taste and lightly drizzle a “finishing” olive oil on top. Serve room temperature. If you prepare in advance, allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Tomato Chutney

Basically, I am obsessed with this stuff. It is a recipeI I swiped from my visit to Ca’ di Gosta, in the hills of Umbria. It was served one afternoon and after catching me licking the jar clean, Jenny shared the recipe with me. Great on a turkey sandwich or a perfect condiment to roast pork. Make it. make. it. now.

Tomato Chutney
makes approx 6 pints
3 lbs cherry tomatoes-cut in half
1 head garlic-peeled and finely chopped
1 heaping tsp crushed red pepper
about 2″ root ginger–peeled and finely chopped
10 oz cider vinegar
1 1/2-2 lbs dark brown sugar
generous pinch of kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a large pot. Stir and allow to sit for 30-60 minutes. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allow it to get to a dark, jammy like consistency. This should take the better part of an hour. When you think the chutney may be ready, taste for flavor. You can adjust the sweet/sour/spicy at this point by adding more sugar, vinegar or red pepper. Test for doneness by placing a small bit of the chutney on a cold plate. If the chutney allows you to run a finger through it leaving a clean break, it is ready. You do not want it to get hard like a candy. Place in glass jars and store in the refrigerator or if you are familiar with proper canning procedures, process for 15 minutes (at sea level) in sterilized jars.

“Sun Dried” Tomatoes

Our first tomatoes to ripen this season were our Romas. Unfortunately, they ripened while we were away from home. By the time I picked them they had shriveled on the vine. Handfuls upon handfuls of tomatoes baking in the sun. Going from sun-kissed
to heat stroke in my absence. Solar energy had zapped my tomatoes. Once picked, I sliced each tomato in half, placed them cut side up on a sheet pan and sprinkled with sea salt. I popped them in a 175-200 degree oven to dry. About 2 hours later, or maybe 3 i lost count. They should be checked on every 30 minutes after the 1st hour. They should be dry, but not dried out. After cooling, I stuffed the deep red chewy goodness into a fancy jar and smothered them with good olive oil.

Roasted Swordfish on Garlic Crouton

One of the great things about my life is that it has been well lived. I have gathered great friends along the way. Friends from all walks of life and all parts of the world. Friends who know I don’t answer the phone before 9 am. On a Saturday morning recently, I was up early reading my email. One came through from an old friend currently living in Memphis. It asked, “you awake? I have a question for you and I don’t want to wake you”. It was sent at 7:45am. I loved her for her courtesy. I called her 2 minutes later. In return,sshe shared with me an amazing recipe of roasted fish on garlic croutons. She found it on epicurious. I have changed the recipe a bit, but really only slightly. It is so perfect. Just like the lovely who shared it with me.

Roasted Swordfish on Garlic Crouton
olive oil
2 bunches fresh spinach
tomato sauce
1/2 cup onions–finely diced
3 anchovy fillets
large can whole tomatoes
3 garlic cloves–coarsely chopped
about 10 basil leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs capers-drained
4 swordfish filets or steaks about 7 oz each
olive oil
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
salt and pepper
garlic crouton
4-1/2″ thick slices country bread
1 clove of garlic-cut in half
preheat the oven to 450F

For Spinach
In a skillet, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Quickly saute the spinach until it is wilted but still has its color. Remove the spinach from the pan and set aside. quickly rewarm just before serving.

For tomato sauce
Heat a large skillet and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook until they begin to sweat. Add the anchovies and cook until the anchovies have disintegrated into the oil and onions begin to get golden brown. Toss in the garlic and give it a few stirs. Add the tomatoes, crushing each one to bits, by hand, as you add it. Give it a good stir and leave to simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Just before removing from heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, basil leaves and capers. Taste for salt and pepper. Keep warm
For Fish
Put a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place the fish on top. season with salt and pepper and chili flakes. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top. place in the oven and cook until the fish becomes opaque, about 8-10 minutes.

For Garlic Crouton
Place your bread slices on a sheet pan in the oven to toast. Slice the garlic clove into 2 pieces. Once the bread is toasted, lightly rub each slice with the garlic.

To Assemble
While everything is still warm, place a garlic crouton on each plate or on serving platter. Top with spinach. Next place a piece of fish on top of the spinach. Generously bathe in the tomato sauce. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the top to serve.


All too often I fill my canvas tote with fresh from farm produce. I bring it home, lovingly display it, and then succumb to the reality that father time ages it faster than we eat it. I find myself racing time. Such an event happened today with a good ol’ fashioned crisper raid.


olive oil
1 medium onion-thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic–chopped
1/4 cup red wine
1 red bell pepper-julienne
1 medium eggplant–cut into cubes
2 zucchini–cut into rounds
3 cups diced tomatoes–fresh or canned
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes
about 1/2 tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
1 generous Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Heat a small stock pot over low flame. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until they soften. Add in the eggplant and red pepper and give them a good toss. Cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the red wine and cook for about a minute more. Finally, add in the zucchini, diced tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt. Give a good stir, cover and cook for about 25-30 minutes. Periodically give a good stir to the pot. Once the vegetables are soft, but not falling apart, remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and fresh parsley. Taste for salt and add if necessary. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.