Tangled Branches: Satiated
riveting tales of how we sustain ourselves
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Serendipitous Reading: Tomatoes
Looking over the bookshelf this morning for fresh inspiration for cooking tomatoes, I picked up instead Cornbread Nation 1, where I opened (at random, I swear) to the piece titled "Summer Feeding Frenzy". This is excerpted out of order, but it sums up my feelings better:
There is an unwritten rule of summer: You cannot throw away fresh tomatoes - any fresh vegetable, really - nor can you allow them to go to waste.
Tom invited my husband and me for dinner recently, warning that everything he served would have tomatoes in it because the tomato plants in his backyard were bursting. "I've had tomato sandwiches every day for lunch," he said gleefully. Red orbs perched on the windowsill and by the sink. A bowl of a dozen or so round things wrapped in newspaper sat nearby. "Storm knocked down the Celebrity," he said, referring to one of the varieties. "So I picked these up." He used some in a fried green tomato sandwich, which he described in lip-smacking detail.
For today's lunch, we're going to take a break from BLTs and have Potatoes and Onions with Tomatoes, more-or-less based on a recipe in Curried Favors by Maya Kaimal (page 8 in the pdf file of excerpts from the publisher). With leftover fish from last night's Fish Tacos.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
BLT of the Day
Bacon: Niman Ranch
Bread: Costco store-baked Whole Grain and Mini-Baguette (more like a mini-boule). Ran out of whole-grain bread and had to make up the deficit with the baguette.
Lettuce: Store-bought Romaine hearts
Mayonnaise: Hellman's mixed with Boetje's Mustard and Hall's Honey
Results: Persimmon tomatoes make perfect sandwich slices, Niman Ranch is my current favorite bacon, and the mayo-mustard-honey makes a great BLT sauce. Good sandwich!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Pasta with Uncooked Tomato Sauce
Long ago, I used to make pasta tossed with diced fresh tomatoes, minced garlic, chopped fresh basil and diced fresh mozzarella, but eventually forgot all about it. But twice in the last week I read about a similar dish, so decided to revisit the concept. Basically you cut up good fresh ripe tomatoes, toss them with some seasonings and let them sit while you cook the pasta. Combine tomatoes and pasta. Eat.
I used 2 large tomatoes (Piriform and Persimmon) and several smaller ones (Striped Roman and Black Prince). I cut them into chunks by slicing 1/2 inch thick and then cutting along a solid wall (so the pieces don't fall apart readily). Striped Roman, and to some extent Piriform, are basically all solid, so they can be diced. Chopped finely 1 small yellow onion and a small part of a leftover red onion (I would have used more if I had them). Minced 2 ripe red Czechoslovakian Black hot peppers and 1 large clove of garlic (really large, I would have used 2 if they were smaller) and 1 large sprig of curly parsley. Basil would be an obvious choice for seasoning here, but we're getting just a bit tired of tomatoes and basil - seems impossible, I know. The bronze fennel is going to seed in the garden. I gathered one of the semi-ripe (just starting to turn brown) seed heads and snapped off the seeds from just one section of florets (about 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of seeds). Mixed everything into a large bowl and added salt and olive oil to taste. It needs a heavy hand with the salt - I could have used more.
Now cook whatever pasta you have on hand. I can never remember the names of pasta shapes, but I used some thin linguini type stuff. After cooking and draining the pasta, I tossed it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, but on reflection I wished I had spooned in a bit of the juice from the tomato mixture instead. We just served ourselves, buffet-style. A portion of pasta with the tomato mixture ladled on top. On the side we had crusty bread spread thickly with goat cheese. Fast, fresh and delicious.
BLT of the Day
Yesterday's lunch BLT.
Bread: Whole Grain store-baked from Costco, sliced very diagonally to get large enough slices to fit the tomato
Tomato: Mortgage Lifter
Mayonnaise: Trader Joe's Organic Mayonnaise mixed with minced Serrano peppers and garlic, and a splash of lime juice
Lettuce: None, substituted Thai basil leaves
The verdict: Tasty, but the chile/garlic/lime mayonnaise pushed the flavor too far away from the classic BLT. I do think that mayo mixture would make an admirable tuna salad though.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tomatoes in Spicy Yogurt Sauce
This is an Indianish recipe from the August issue of Sunset magazine. 'Thai Pink' tomatoes are absolutely perfect here, but I bet they suggested larger tomatoes because they didn't want to frighten away those who may not want to peel a zillion tomatoes. OK, not a zillion - just 18 or so.
We liked this dish a lot, but I didn't make it as written. I think they have too many cumin seeds, too much garlic, and too much butter. My changes are as follows: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 2 tsp. brown mustard seeds, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp. butter, and a generous 1/2 tsp. Japanese sea salt. And I didn't seed the chile peppers. And of course, I substituted 'Thai Pink' tomatoes instead of 'Early Girl'.
Also, unless you have very fresh yogurt, it will probably curdle on you. I'd suggest stabilizing the yogurt with cornstarch first - a trick I learned from Claudia Roden's A Book of Middle Eastern Food. For 1 cup of yogurt, mix about 1/2 tsp cornstarch with a little cold water to make a thin paste. Beat the yogurt in a saucepan, and add the cornstarch paste and a pinch of salt. Stirring constantly, bring the yogurt to a boil over medium-low heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened and smooth. Now, I must confess that I didn't actually do this. I made the recipe 3 times; the first time it cooked beautifully with no curdling, the second time it curdled horribly, and the third time it was somewhere in between. The next time I make it, I'm not taking chances.
I initially served this with lamb burgers (seasoned with garlic/ginger/chile paste and curry powder). Both the spouse and I thought the combination tasted something like the Turkish Yogurtlu Kebab, as an Indian cook might make it.
The second and third times I served it as part of an Indian vegetarian meal. We liked it either way.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
BHT Bread Salad
No, not the preservative BHT, but Bacon, Herb and Tomato. I needed to use up some leftover odds and ends of various breads that were languishing in the fridge - Afghan bread, baguette, and Tuscan bread (it was too late for the multi-grain boule). The garden is still producing tomatoes, but at a more comfortable pace, and the herbs are spilling over the edges of the paths.
Fry 4 slices of bacon in a large skillet.
Cut leftover bread into largish bite-sized pieces - say, 1" cubes. Slice 2 cloves of garlic thickly.
Remove the bacon to a plate, and spoon off most of the bacon fat. Pour olive oil into the skillet to replace the bacon fat. Think about this for a while. Saute the garlic and bread cubes until the bread is toasty and crunchy, but the centers of the cubes are still soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the contents of the skillet into a large bowl (a much larger bowl than you think you'll need).
Dice as many ripe tomatoes as will give you a salad that's mostly bread, but with plenty of tomatoes.
Chop coarsely a mixture of herbs. I used basil, cinnamon basil, red basil, lemon basil, parsley, sweet marjoram and 'Zaatar', but very small amounts of the last two.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, and crumbled bacon to the bread cubes in the bowl. Toss everything together, taste and add salt, pepper, and/or olive oil, as needed. Eat immediately! Before it gets soggy.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I never really liked gazpacho in its original form. Tomato puree thickened with bread is a waste of bread and tomatoes, if you ask me. But the gazpacho at L'Auberge Chez Francois is a very different thing, and I always order it when it's on the menu. (We don't go there very often - it's been our Occasion Restaurant for many years.) Their gazpacho is more like a slightly chunky version of V-8 juice. The recipe is in The Chez Francois Cookbook, but I've adjusted it to suit our tastes. For us, this amount serves 2 with leftovers.
3 cups fresh tomato puree, from peeled and seeded tomatoes
How you get the fresh tomato puree is up to you, but I just bought a food mill, and I think that's the way to go. I cut up some very ripe Striped Roman tomatoes and put the pieces in the food mill, mashing them slightly so the food mill could do the rest. A few turns of the handle, and you have perfect fresh tomato puree.
Mash 1 clove of garlic with salt in a mortar and pestle. Or you could just put it in the food processor in the next step, but the mortar and pestle will give a smooth paste.
Chop the next ingredients very finely in a food processor:
1 carrot, peeled
1 small pickling-type cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 stalk of celery
1/2 of a medium sized yellow onion
1/2 of a green bell pepper
1 fresh red New Mexico-style chile pepper, seeded
1 tiny red Czechoslovakian Black Pepper
I realize that if you're not growing your own, the last two peppers are going to be difficult to obtain. I think you could substitute a very small amount of any fresh hot chile pepper, to your taste, or leave them out entirely.
Add the tomato puree and the mashed garlic to the food processor and pulse a couple of times, just to blend everything. Remove the mixture to a bowl, and stir in by hand: salt to taste (I use something less than a teaspoon; the original recipe called for a tablespoon), 1 teaspoon or less red wine vinegar, several tablespoons of olive oil, and a small amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Taste and add more salt if needed. I had to add a tiny bit of sugar to this because the tomatoes were tart and the teaspoon of vinegar pushed it too far.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Potato and Tomato Tart
This recipe is my conglomeration, but the original inspiration was published in the NY Times, August 20, 2003 in an article by Amanda Hesser. I wasn't keen on the seasonings suggested, so I changed it. It's not difficult, but takes about 3 hours overall. Also, you need to have the oven on a fairly high temperature for several hours, so I usually make this only when the weather is cool enough that I'm not running the air conditioner - I hate to cool and heat the house at the same time.
The basic idea is a base of roasted potato slices topped with roasted tomatoes, flavored with garlic and herbs. I like to make it so there's enough olive oil left in the pan to sop it up with good crusty bread. The original recipe was meant to be a side dish, I think, but for us it's a main dish and serves 2.
First, roast the tomatoes. Amounts are not critical here and ideally the tomatoes should be a thick and meaty variety. For the last batch I used mostly Striped Roman, with smaller amounts of Kellogg's Breakfast and Cherokee Purple. You might as well make a big batch and if there are any leftovers, they'd be great tossed with some pasta. This part is very similar to a recipe in Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tomatoes into large pieces, say an inch and a half or 2 inches. Find a roasting pan large enough to hold the tomatoes in a very snug single layer (or even doubled up a bit, but not much). Coat the roasting pan with olive oil and place the cut tomatoes in the pan. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top (say 1/4 cup to several large tomatoes), and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (remembering that these will shrink in cooking). Place the pan in the oven for 45 minutes. Roughly cut up some garlic cloves, and distribute them over the tomatoes, pushing them down in between the tomato pieces so they don't brown too much. Return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes or so. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and the skins starting to blacken. Remove them from the oven and let them cool while you cook the potatoes.
Peel and slice thinly about a pound of potatoes. Coat a round 9 or 10 inch diameter pan with olive oil (a skillet with an ovenproof handle works well here). Beginning at the center, layer half the potato slices in an overlapping spiral. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make another layer the same as the first. I like to drizzle more olive oil on at this point but the original recipe didn't call for it. Place the pan in the oven (still at 400 degrees) for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are starting get a little browned.
Remove the pan from the oven and spoon some of the roasted tomatoes, garlic and the liquid left in the pan over the center of the potatoes, leaving the edges of the pan tomato-free (think pizza crust). Return the pan to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chopped basil and parsley. Let it cool a bit, cut into wedges and serve.
This is a good Saturday night supper with the addition of crusty bread and some good Chianti.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Fried Green Tomatoes
I've had lots of fried green tomatoes with a heavy coating of breading on them, but I don't do it that way.
Step 1: Find a nice green tomato. It should be fairly firm, but getting towards ripening. If it's too soft, it will fall apart when prepared this way.
Step 2: Slice the tomato somewhat thinly, 1/4 inch or less. You want it to cook through before the coating burns.
Step 3: Dredge the sliced tomatoes in seasoned cornmeal. I mixed cornmeal, ground red New Mexico chile (semi-hot), and salt. A bit of dried thyme is nice too. There should be enough moisture in the tomato slices to make the cornmeal stick. You don't want it too thick, so brush off any excess.
Step 4: Heat olive oil (or other good-quality oil) in a frying pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the tomato slices. Cook on each side until golden brown.
Step 5: Eat as a side dish, or make a fried green tomato BLT.
Last weekend we used a Cherokee Purple for this and the flavor was excellent. The previous weekend, we used a Black Russian and it was insipid. I'm not sure if we just had a more ripe tomato the second time, or if the difference was due to the variety.