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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.

Peach-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

31 Aug

I am sitting here on the final day of August in Seattle, rain drenching my windowsills and sending the tiny golden tomatoes on my porch into chilly convulsions.  Is it summer still? All is confused.

I should be basking in the sun in my front yard, eating ripe peaches and sipping Lillet on ice to cool down.  Instead, I have on a sweatshirt, wool socks and am sipping hot tea with lemon and honey for warmth.  Summer is so short here in Seattle, we count on every day of sunshine possible from mid-June to September.  Having just one sunny day taken from us feels like treachery of the worst sort… a winter storm in August?  Unreasonable.  I am counting down the days until I leave for Paris, but I know that they, too, are having an unfairly rainy summer.

What to do in times like this? Eat berries and stone fruit, of course.  Nothing says summer like raspberries and peaches, especially when topped with freshly whipped cream or homemade vanilla ice cream.  I have a wonderful recipe for upside-down pear cake that adapts well to any fruit, and it seemed like a perfect way to use the fresh fruit from my farm share.  Summer marches on, and ’tis best to enjoy every little bit that we can.

Peach-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3 medium peaches
1 pint fresh raspberries
3 tbs butter
3/4 light brown sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup blanched almonds (any nut will work here, just omit the extract) finely ground
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat the 3 tbs butter with the brown sugar in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until the sugar is melted and smooth, then remove the pan from the heat.  Peel the peaches and cut them into slices about 1-inch thick.  Overlap the slices in the sugared pan, going around the outside and fan into the center.  Nestle raspberries between slices and/or sprinkle them over the peaches.

For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the vanilla and extract (if using).  Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth.  Stir in the nuts, followed by the remaining dry ingredients.  Spoon the batter over the fruit and smooth it out with an offset spatula.

Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is golden and springy when pressed with a fingertip, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then set a cake plate on top of the pan, grasp both the plate and the pan tightly, and turn it over.  Carefully ease the pan off the cake.  If any fruits have stuck to the pan, simply pry them off and return them to the cake.

Serve with freshly whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Tomato and Cheese Galette

29 Jun

Food, for me, is almost always about people.  My friend Emma came for dinner last night, and I love to cook for her.  She is vegetarian and also appreciates good food, and it is always a fun challenge to make something new and interesting for her.

Though it is the beginning of the farmer’s markets season here in Seattle and fresh produce abounds, I was stumped about what to cook for Emma.  I picked up the first tomatoes of the season from the market and knew I would give them a starring role in this production, but what to do with them?  Flipping through my cookbooks, I remembered that my favorite baking cookbook, The Baker’s Dozen, has a few savory recipes in there that I have been wanting to try.

I came across the tomato and cheese galette, with onions and fresh herbs and it sounded like the perfect early summer meal.  A galette is a free-form, rustic tart that is great filled with pretty much anything, and they are very popular in France.  The dough for this recipe is a basic tart dough (Pâte Brisée), which is very simple to make by hand (or in the food processor!).

The filling layers red onions, two cheeses, fresh herbs and tomatoes, all of which bake up into bubbling goodness in the oven.  Because the dough is richer than a pizza dough I recommend serving this alongside green salad with a tangy, acidic vinaigrette.  This dish is so crazy good, in fact, that after our first bite Emma and I were actually giggling with elation.

When food is this good, the whole world slows down.  I am just fortunate that I have such a lovely, dedicated friend to share it with, and I look forward to many more giggle-worthy meals in our future.  Salut mon amie!

Tomato and Cheese Galette
From The Baker’s Dozen

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs freshly grated Parmesan (I used Pecorino Romano)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, weighing at least 6 oz, or 2 smaller tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano in any combination. I used thyme, rosemary and marjoram)

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven.  If you have one, place a baking stone on the rack and preheat to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough (recipe below) to a very thin (no more than 1/16 inch) 14-inch circle.  Transfer the dough to a large pizza pan or baking sheet and freeze while preparing the filling.

Mix 1/2 cup of the cheeses together.  Slice the onion and tomato into very thin rounds.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese mixture over the pastry, leaving 1-1/2 -inch-wide border.  Scatter the onion over the cheese, 1 tbs of fresh herbs over the onions, then top with the tomato slices.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese mixture over the top, and drizzle with a teaspoon or two of the olive oil (I used a little truffle oil here).  Bring the uncovered border up over the filling, pleating it as needed.  Lightly brush the exposed border of pastry with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 2 tbs of Parmesan.

Remove hot pizza stone from over.  Gently move to pizza stone or baking sheet and bake until pastry is golden on top and bottom (lift up the bottom of the tart with spatula to check), and the onions are tender, about 35-40 minutes.  If the tart begins to brown too much before the vegetables are tender, lay a square of aluminum foil loosely over it until it’s done.  Sprinkle with remaining herbs and serve warm.

Pâte Brisée
From The Baker’s Dozen

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbs unsalted butter (3/4 stick), chilled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup cold water, or as needed

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and cut in half the butter with pastry cutter, or simply add to your food processor, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Cut in the rest of the butter until it is in pea-sized bits.

Sprinkle the water in evenly, adding just enough so that the mixture is completely moistened and holds together when pressed between your fingers.  Gather up the dough and press itno a 1-2-inch-thick disk.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use (I like to refrigerate overnight, if possible).

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