Recipes and photography by Susan Spungen
I do a lot of hosting this time of year, and often have people over at “off times” since everyone is already so busy with family get-togethers and parties. I like asking people to stop by for a cocktail in the evening before heading out to another event, or to come over for brunch or a simple lunch since I’m more likely to get a “yes” than a “no”, plus it’s an easier way to host, and still get to see friends which is the whole point, isn’t it?. These two recipes, created in partnership with Village Farms, fulfill those needs beautifully. Both recipes are fresh, easy and definitely crowd-pleasing, full of the bright flavors of delightfully sweet and juicy tomatoes. True to my “get-ahead” philosophy for hosting, both dishes can be prepared for cooking ahead of time, leaving just a last-minute finishing in the oven or on the stovetop for perfect timing that will leave you free to mingle and relax.
The first recipe is a very quick to put together Cheesy Tomato Dip made with Heavenly Villagio Marzano® tomatoes, which are plump and juicy with a cute pear shape, true to their San Marzano heritage, but in a mini size. Like its larger predecessor, this tomato is firm and meaty with a decidedly sweet flavor, and is fantastic for cooking, in addition to eating raw as a snack or sliced into salads. Here, they are tossed in a baking dish (preferably a metal one so you can start the first step on the stovetop) with mozzarella, garlic, and red pepper flakes. This part can be done ahead of time! Bake it in the oven just before you want to serve it, so your guests can sop up all the melty cheese and flavorful juices with toasted crusty bread.
This next recipe is perfect for a casual breakfast, brunch, or lunch, or honestly even dinner, at a time of year when there is so much running around and parties with foods that are heavier than we might normally eat. Sometimes breakfast for dinner is just the thing! Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a flavorful stew of tomatoes with as many variations as there are cooks. It’s one of those dishes! This one is made with Sinfully Sweet Campari® tomatoes, which are just perfect here. They add amazing flavor, and hold their shape well in the stew, which is cooked with onions and garlic, sweet red bell peppers, feta, and Kalamata olives. It’s all finished off with a shower of fresh herbs. If you want to serve more than four people, you could squeeze two more eggs into the pan, or make a double batch in two pans. If you want to prepare it ahead of time, make the stew a few hours (or even the day) before, and reheat before proceeding with the recipe and poaching the eggs. Serve with warm pita bread on the side and you have a very satisfying and special meal with a minimum of fuss.