Archive | March, 2011

Slow-roasted Tomatoes

17 Mar

I don’t eat “fresh” tomatoes in winter. I just don’t. I much prefer to hold out for the very first heirlooms from these guys, as a signal that summer is in full swing and all is right with the world. Winter tomatoes are merely holograms of their summer selves, and hardly worth the time or effort. But this week my CSA included them in my delivery, and I had to make the best of it.

I have been playing around with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at home, to my husband’s delight. I have used rosemary bread and potato bread and pain au levain; muenster cheese, chevre, roquefort and gruyere. I love to vary the ingredients, and have found that both of us prefer a vegetarian version, with grilled onions, avocado, and any kind of cheese or bread.

 

When the tomatoes arrived, I decided they would best be put to use slow-roasted to increase the flavor that I knew would be lacking this time of year. And it turned out to be a great idea, especially added to a grilled cheese sandwich! I also roasted some balsamic onions for a tart punch, and paired it all with a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain. I am pretty sure that if there is a Heaven, everyone there is eating this sandwich.

Slow-roasted Tomatoes
From Daniel Bouloud’s Tomato Confit recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled, split, germ removed and finely sliced
10 basil leaves, torn
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves, broken
20 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and pour about 2 tablespoons olive oil evenly over the pan. Sprinkle the oil with salt and pepper. Strew a little of the garlic, basil, thyme, and bay leaves over the oil.

Cut each tomato lengthwise in half and carefully, with your fingers or a tiny spoon, remove the seeds. Lay the tomato halves cut side down in the pan, wiggling the tomatoes around if necessary so that each tomato has a floss of oil on its cut side. Using a pastry brush, give the tops of the tomatoes a light coat of olive oil.

Season the tops of the tomatoes with salt and pepper and a little sugar, and scatter over the rest of the garlic, basil, thyme, and bay leaves. Slide the pan into the oven and bake the tomatoes for 2 1/2 hours, or until they are very tender but still able to hold their shape; turn the tomatoes over at half-time and open the oven for just a second every 30 minutes or so to get rid of the moisture that will build up in the oven.

Cool the tomatoes to room temperature on their pan. When the tomatoes are cool, transfer them to a jar, stacking them neatly. Pour whatever oil remains in the pan over the tomatoes and then, if you plan to keep the tomatoes longer than 1 or 2 days, pour in enough olive oil to cover and refrigerate.

Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk

9 Mar

I just returned from a weekend in northern California, where I visited my friend Jen (the same lovely woman who accompanied me to Paris, in October).  We had quite the time wine tasting, shopping, and just hanging out and catching up, and I am hopeful that we can plan another European adventure in the near future.  The weather there was fine and warm, and now that I am back in Seattle I just can’t seem to heat up in this chill.  The only solution I can think of is good, warming comfort food like dal.

My favorite dal recipe comes from Deborah Madison. Her Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone is probably my most used cookbook, and I recently lent it to a friend who has decided to become vegetarian. There are so many recipes, which are simple and lovely, and is a great entreé into the world of meat-free eating.  Madison has two different recipes for dal, and I love them both. The recipe below is adapted from hers, but I have added a few more spices that I love with lentils.  This dish is warming and hearty and super easy to make, and is healthy too.

Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk
Adapted From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 cup red lentils
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter (I use organic virgin coconut oil instead)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tbs garam masala
1 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
Salt
2 shallots, sliced
1 dried red chile, broken into pieces, or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
cilantro for garnish

Wash the lentils in several changes of water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onion, ginger, garlic, spices and chile in 2 tablespoons of the ghee for 1 minute. Add the lentils and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining ghee in a small skillet over high heat. Add the shallots, red chile, bay, and mustard. Fry until the mustard seeds begin to turn grayish, about 1 minute. Stir this into the lentils and serve.

It’s delicious served with basmati rice. Makes about 2 cups.

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