Joni Woolf: Tomatoes again — this time they are international

Published 12:58 pm Saturday, July 7, 2018

Recently I’ve been receiving, unsolicited, a food magazine called Milk Street. Published in Boston, Mass., by a man named Christopher Kimball, it features recipes from all over the world. I suppose I got on someone’s list because I write about food, but this one reaches farther than my food knowledge or my culinary abilities, with a few delicious exceptions. The recipes are truly from all over the world. It had been a while since I heard the Eastern Mediterranean area referred to as the “Levant,” or read the term “the Silk Road” except in literature, but here they were, in a recipe for a bulgur pilaf. This particular recipe is from Armenia, and is much like recipes for tabbouleh that I have enjoyed. So, let’s go international, and stretch ourselves a bit.

Bulgur-Tomato Pilaf with Herbs and Pomegranate Molasses *
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
6 scallions (4 finely chopped, 2 thinly sliced, reserved separately)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup coarse bulgur (do not substitute fine or medium bulgur)
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, or more if needed *
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup chopped fresh mint
*Acceptable substitutes for Pomegranate Molasses are cranberry juice concentrate, grenadine, balsamic vinegar with ½ teaspoon sugar, in equal amounts.
In a bowl, whisk together 1½ cups water and the tomato paste. In a 10-inch skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the bell pepper, chopped scallions and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, Aleppo pepper and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the bulgur, the tomato paste mixture and 1¼ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the bulgur has absorbed the liquid, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer the bulgur to a bowl and let cool until warm, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the molasses over the bulgur, then fold until combined. Fold in the tomatoes, mint and sliced scallions. Taste and season with salt, black pepper and more molasses.

Tomato Herb Salad with Sumac
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced, and soaked in lemon juice
6 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons ground sumac, divided (can substitute ground black pepper with lemon zest)
Kosher salt
2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 4 or 6 wedges
½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh mint, torn
In small bowl, stir together the onion and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Let stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to boil. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute and drain. Finely chop the garlic, then use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mash it to a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons lemon juice, the oil, 3 teaspoons of the sumac and ¾ teaspoon salt. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Drain the onion, pat dry and add to the tomatoes, along with the parsley, dill and mint. Drizzle the garlic mixture over the salad and gently toss. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac.

And finally, a quick, easy and delicious fish dish — with tomatoes, of course.

Cod Fillets in Spicy Tomato-Garlic Broth
Season four 8-ounce skinless cod fillets all over with kosher salt and black pepper. In a large skillet over medium, heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped anchovy fillets and cook, stirring, until dissolved, 1 minute. Add 4 garlic cloves, minced, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic browns, 1 minute. Add 1 chopped yellow onion and ½ teaspoon salt, cover and cook over medium low until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add ½ cup dry white wine; simmer over medium-high until the liquid is nearly gone 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water, ½ cup Kalamata olives (pitted, halved) and 2 tablespoons capers (drained). Bring to a simmer. Nestle the fish in the pan; cover and cook over medium-low heat until the flesh flakes easily, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to 4 bowls, continue to cook the sauce over medium high until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon around the fish; sprinkle with torn fresh basil and black pepper.

Shop for tomatoes in our local farmers’ markets and support the local economy, even if you’re using international recipes.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at