Summer can last all year!

At least in your kitchen it can!  I have, every year for the last 20 somehow stored tomatoes for the long bleak winter.  One way is to blanch, peel, chop and freeze in freezer bags, for soup and sauce all winter long.  Another way I have tried several times, and did this year, is oven roasting them until they are almost dry, and then dousing with olive oil and stashing in the fridge or freezer.

This method preserves and intensifies the ripe flavors, and allows you to use them in several types of dishes in the future.  Honestly, I have taken them out, pulsed them or chopped them and put on crispy toast for a fast crostini snack.  The oil is delicious after they have steeped for a while, and you can even use it to make roasted tomato pesto.  I’ll add a recipe for that at the end of this post, but before we get there, we have to roast the little suckers!

My last post was the Egyptian tomato salad, and I used a gorgeous gaggle of cherry tomatoes someone had given me.  In case there weren’t enough, I bought a big basket of ripe organic tomatoes, so I could supplement if needed.  But, the little cherry tomatoes were plenty, as a matter of act we are still eating them 3 days later!  The larger tomatoes were really ripe, and I wasn’t about to put them in the fridge, so I decided to go to my roasting option.  Directions are below:

Ingredients:

  • Large ripe tomatoes (as many as you can find)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (may need more, depending upon how many tomatoes you do)
  • 1 cup (or more) of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375º Farenheit.

Slice the tomatoes in 1/4 inch slices, from stem to bottom.  Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat/silicone mat. Don’t use aluminum foil, it will react with the acid in the tomatoes and make them taste metallic.  If you don’t have parchement or Silpat, lightly oil the sheet pan so they don’t stick when roasting.

Arrange the tomato slices in rows, they can touch, but allow some room so they don’t stick together. Lightly sprinkle with some of the salt, have a light hand here, you’re going to intensify the flavors by roasting them, so too much salt will ruin them.  Allow to stand for a few minutes for the salt to dissolve, then put them in the oven.  I usually do two sheets at a time, so the wait time is perfect in between sheets.

Before:

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Roast them in the oven for an hour, but check at 50 minutes.  You’ll see that they are drier, and carmelized a little.  If not, roast for another 10 minutes.  They should look like this:

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Allow them to cool for 20 minutes.  Once they are cool, find the container of your choice, I usually just use a Ziplock bag, pile them in and cover with the olive oil.  Give them a stir or a squeeze to be sure the oil is evenly distributed.  You can keep these refrigerated for a long time, and if you freeze them, they will last for a year.  To use them, you can make a roasted tomato tapenade.

Roasted Tomato Tapenade:

  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can use the oil you stored them in, YUM!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (plus one cut in half for rubbing the bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 green olives, pitted and chopped roughly
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 baguette or crusty bread, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

In a blender or food processor, add all the ingredients except the bread and hold back 1/4 cup of the olive oil.  Pulse and process the mixture until it’s uniform in color, and there are no large chunks of anything.  The texture you’re looking for is thick enough to coat the bread, with some liquidness to it.  As you process, add more of the olive oil, you may need more to reach the proper consistency.

To serve, lightly toast the bread, and rub them with the half garlic to coat lightly.  Spoon the tapenade on the bread and enjoy!

This is an intense flavor, so you don’t need a great deal of it.  You can also top it with a little piece of cheese, mozzarella or some Parmesan, or even some feta!  I have also used this to toss with hot pasta, and Parmesan, it’s delicious.  This is a versatile recipe, you can change out the garlic for some onion and hot peppers, or change the herbs to basil or oregano, or a combination of both.

Every time you eat this over the winter, you’ll think about summer and the sun on your face!

 

Cooking for Your Vegetarian on Valentines Day!

Last year for Valentine’s, I made several recipes from the book I had been given for Christmas called “Jerusalem” by Yotom Ottollenghi.  This year, I think I have upped the game!  I am making lentil “meatballs” and fresh pasta, with a lemon pesto.  I did get the idea from a blog a I read quite a bit, but the pasta making is something I have been doing for years on my own, so the addition of it wasn’t hard.  I’ll give you all three recipes, so you can duplicate it for yourself!  I’ll blog the pasta making, and the hazelnut cheese cake I blatantly stole from Nigella and made my own, tomorrow and Monday.

The Hubby and I both love meatballs with pasta and sauce, and luckily you can get some good quality “fake” meatballs on the market.  I even found a new product called Neat, which uses ground nuts, and no soy, and you can pretty much add an egg and roll your own!  This recipe caught my eye, mainly because it incorporates lentils with some ricotta cheese to give it life and lightness.  Honestly, the mixture looks very much like a meatball, and the feel when you roll them out and bake them is almost identical.

Lentil “Meatballs”, by way of “Sprouted Kitchen”:

  • 2 c cooked lentils (that’s about 1 cup uncooked, I used French Puys, and added the fennel seed to the cooking water)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c ricotta
  • 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp each of each salt and pepper
  • 2/3 c fresh breadcrumbs, or Panko

In a food processor, or blender, process the cooked lentils until they’re pureed.  They will be dry, but that’s OK.  Add all the other ingredients and pulse until the mixture comes together.  It should look greyish and you will be able to see some of the lentil pieces.  Scrape this all out into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill well.  I made it in the morning and formed the meatballs around 5pm.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  You can lightly coat the foil with oil, or not, the oil will make them a little crustier.  Roll out the balls in tablespoon amounts, I used the mini-ice cream scoop you see below.

Lentil meatballs

Bake them for 10 – 12 minutes, then give the pan a little shake, so they brown on all sides, and return to the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes.  If you leave them in for the longer time, check frequently after the 17 minute mark.  Once brown, take the sheet out of the pan and allow to cool, then serve with the pesto below, or any sauce, or dip you like.  I also served them with pasta, and at room temperature.

Lemon Pesto

  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly cut up
  • 1/4 c pine nuts (I used walnuts, Hubby hates pine puts)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sea or Kosher salt
  • 1 c packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Put everything except the olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor or blender.  Process until everything is finely minced.  Slowly add the olive oil down the funnel when processing.  Everything will begin to cohere in a thick puree.  Scrape out of the processor into a bowl, stir in the Parmesan.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate until you need it.

Lemon pesto

And tomorrow, the pasta recipe!

Alright, so I am a procrastinator!

Ok, ok!  Don’t get on my case about it, we have had quite the last few months!  As usual, I look at the last post on this blog and think “I have been cooking so much, why don’t I ever take photos?” I do have excuses, we have both been in the ER for various reasons, I had shingles, a holiday at my parents, then a few weeks later an unexpected holiday back in New York for a family death.  Tim went to Hungary and Ukraine with his dad for a family wedding, and while he was gone, I painted the kitchen (partially, see photo below) and have embarked upon a newly found desire for a very clean house… or at least for clean floors and much less cat hair all over the place!  Lots and lots of activity, and that all tempered with more and more stuff going on at work, and the hottest summer we have had in years!  Whew!  Each day I am SO thankful for central air conditioning.  So yes, lots going on.  But I have still been cooking a great deal.  As a matter of fact, I was making a batch of pretzel bread over the Memorial Day weekend, and our stove died!  I ended up that weekend with a newly minted respect for toaster ovens, and a beautiful new stove! (Isn’t she just gorgeous?)

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Painted Kitchen (I admit it looks half done, but I am living with it for a while.)

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Since it’s summertime, I have been getting a CSA box each week.  And, no publicity intended, we have been using Door to Door Organics, they are so fantastic, you can order other things, but also opt out of the stuff you don’t like.  My issue in years past with our CSA boxes has been that we always got stuff we either didn’t like (eggplant coming out our ears) or stuff we just wouldn’t eat much (overripe fruit/kale).  So this service is one I love and value a lot!  I have perfected my version of gazpacho with our recent boxes, but this week we got the most gorgeous bunch of rainbow chard I was determined to make something with it.  I also have been searching high and low for a local source for vegetable rennet, so I can make my own mozzarella, but alas, I ended up ordering a kit today.  So what to do with the organic full fat milk and half and half that I have in the fridge?  Make ricotta cheese!  I blogged about that earlier in this blog’s life (here) and it’s still fast and foolproof, and this time I remembered to take a photo of the finished product!  So, my recipe today is a savory ricotta and Swiss chard tart.  Using some  delicious homemade ricotta (with herb de Provence) and some of the loveliest rainbow chard I have seen in a while.  I am not making my own torte crust, but using filo, for a quick and easy crust with lots of crunch.

Beautiful Chard

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Savory Ricotta and Swiss Chard Tart

½ package of filo dough (usually comes with two rolls)

½ cup of bread crumbs

4 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 large leek (or one small onion and a clove of garlic) finely chopped

1 large bunch of rainbow chard, or regular Swiss chard (stems removed, chopped and reserved, leaves finely shredded)

1 tablespoon butter (unsalted)

1 ½ cups fresh ricotta

1 large egg (or two egg whites)

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese or heavy cream (also can use creme fraiche)

1/2 cup whole milk or half and half (if you use mascarpone, use water here instead)

1 link chorizo sausage, finely diced (optional, I used a vegetarian chorizo sausage)

salt and freshly-ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350°

Butter a deep dish pie or tart pan.  Line it with alternating layers of filo, buttered, then sprinkled with the bread crumbs. Fold the sides under so it looks like a pie crust shape and set in the fridge to stay cool.

Saute the leek in the butter over medium heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Once they are starting to turn translucent, add the chopped chard stalks.  Season again.

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When the chard stems and leeks are softened, add the shredded chard to the pan, and give a stir to combine, drop the heat to low and cover.  After about 10 minutes, the chard should have wilted down to practically nothing(see photo.)  Take it off the heat, give it a good stir and uncovered, allow it to cool down completely.

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While the vegetables and cooling, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, mascarpone/cream/milk/water, chorizo and a bit more salt and pepper. Mix to combine well.  I usually taste for seasoning here, but some people are not comfortable with raw egg.  As long as you have been seasoning at each step you should be fine.

Add in the chard/leek and mix well.  At this point, you can add shredded cheese, fresh herbs to taste, it’s up to you.  Just remember this will rise pretty high in the oven, so don’t overdue the additions.

Pour the filling into the filo and bake until just set and slightly-browned on top, 20-30 minutes.

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Now, to be fair, I made a double batch, so the photo above isn’t a pie plate, it’s a casserole.

Let the tart cool briefly, then serve either warm or at room temperature.  It works better cooler, since there isn’t much egg in this, the cheese tends to be more solid when it’s cooler.

I love a good tomato salad with this, and a lovely glass of cold white wine.

As an added treat, I’ll be posting the Gazpacho recipe tomorrow, although it’s really a cold tomato soup, along with some of my favorite things in the kitchen these days.  Should be fun!