Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Smitten Kitchen has been sweet reading for me since I found it about a year ago. Deb's writing is great and her photos are just lovely. As you might know, we grew tomatoes last summer and sometimes ran out of ideas for how to use them...Deb helped us out.

Here's her recipe for Slow Roasted Tomatoes. Check out her post here.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

Either use them right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever. And for snacking.

Here are our specimens from last August:

Good on sammiches:

The natural sweetness of the tomato is astounding. They're like candy.

Well, as you may know, tomato season is far behind us at this point. I stop buying tomatoes completely in the winter minus the occasional carton of cherry tomatoes. I mean, those pale pink mealy things you find at this time of year are offensive! It's not that I think we should have tomatoes year round, but I miss them terribly. Tomatoes and watermelon: the only two reasons I endure the Tennessee summer. I'm rambling here, but this past week I was really craving some candied tomatoes, so I took a carton of cherry maters and slow roasted them with some garlic. They've been very tasty in the quesadillas we've been subsisting on since I started student teaching.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pork & Apples

When we made Anna Laura's Meatloaf over Christmas break, Mark was struck with inspiration for a curried pork loaf. Saturday night that pork loaf became a reality. We based it loosely on Alton's recipe which can be found here. Here's our rendition:

Curried Ground Pork with Apples

1.5 lbs of ground pork
4.5 oz. bag of garlic and cheese croutons
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 finely minced onions
6 whole cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup of crushed pineapples, well drained
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 bottle of pre-made apple curry chutney

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a food processor bowl, combine croutons and spices. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. Combine the onion, garlic, and red pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. Combine the vegetable mixture and ground pork with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the kosher salt. Add the egg and use your freshly washed hands to toss together, but avoid squeezing the meat.

Shape into a loaf and put in cast iron skillet or on lined baking sheet. Cook until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

I coated the pork with the chutney and some minced onion before I baked it, but I definitely wouldn't do that if we made this again. As I suspected, it burned off into nothingness.

We surrounded the pork "loaf" (I certainly hate that word!) with two seeded and chopped granny smith apples that were coated in the chutney.

We had leftover collard greens as a side along with some garlic cheddar biscuits I threw together at the last minute. I've been craving Red Lobster biscuits for a bit now and I can't bring myself to go there, so I thought I'd do my own rendition. We had some Bisquick from a snow day breakfast we had last year, so I put it to good use:
Stupidly Simple Cheddar Garlic Biscuits
2 c. Bisquick mix (mine was heart-healthy, mind you)
2/3 c. milk
small block of white cheddar grated
few spoonfuls of garlic out of the big jar

Mix well with wooden spoon, drop onto baking sheet, brush with butter or butter substitute and cook at 425 for 8-10 minutes.

I added a ton of garlic and it had a lovely crystallized texture.

We ate this meal as we watched the first season of This American Life. We had just finished our meal when a story about pig farming came on. Yep, I'm not eating the leftovers, but Mark doesn't seem to mind.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weeknight Curry, etc.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Mark and I resolved to each cook through a cookbook this year. I didn't choose the most ambitious of books, but it's full of helpful techniques that will enable me to bring more improv into our kitchen.

Sweet Yams in Ginger-Stick Curry from How To Eat Supper

4 quarts salted water
2 large Garnet or Jewel yams (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-rounds.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
One 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into paper-thin matchsticks (Rachel Ray told me a long time a big hunk of ginger, bring it home, peel it, cut it into chunks, and put it in a ziplock in the freezer. Otherwise, it dries out and doesn't last very long. It even slices better in its semi-frozen state)
4 large garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
1 jalepeño, sliced very thin
2 whole scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 large shallots, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper
1/2 light-packed cup fresh basil leaves, course chopped (I was craving Thai basil, searched high and low for it, but even the huge World Market beside our house was out...regular basil was okay)
Juice of 1 lime
(I added a package of fresh snow peas to this mix)

1. Bring water to boil.
2. Once water is bubbling fiercely, drop in the yams and cook them at a hard bubble for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander and turn into a serving dish. Set the pot back on the stove.
3. Generously film the pot with oil. Set it over medium-high heat and add the snow peas, ginger, garlic, jalepeño, scallions, shallots, and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper (I used the mandoline for all the veg). Saute for two minutes, stirring often. Then cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the ginger has softened.

Do take note, Lynne says:
Cutting the ginger into paper-thin matchsticks may seem fussy, but there is method to what seems to be madness. That shape changes how you taste the ginger in this dish. Crushed or chopped ginger would taste different - an interesting thing to remember when you see very specific instructions like these in Chinese recipes. There's always a reason.
4. Stir in the basil and cook, uncovered, for no more than 30 seconds. Spoon curry over yams, and squeeze lime juice over the finished dish.

We served this atop Mark's project, Veganomicon's Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens

I started with the simplest recipe I could find, not because I wanted it to be simple, but because I wanted to make greens. I love greens! The book I chose was Veganomicon, from which we had made a few recipes already that all turned out well (please see Acorn Squash Empanadas with Chilantro "Sour Cream" and Chick Pea cutlets from previous posts).

The recipe is simple - 1 pound of greens, garlic and ginger, stir-fried, with some asian sauces. I used mirin and shoyu (in place of soy sauce. These are some of the great things we picked up during Wendy's readings of macrobiotic literature), and sesame oil. I thought it was going pretty well, but I decided to use the two pounds of collard greens we already had and doulbed the recipe. When the recipe had run its course it turns out the greens kind of sucked, not because of the recipe, but because collard greens are naturally bitter and much better at stewing in a pot with some form of pork belly for 2 hours.

So what could possibly dominate these failed greens into tasty submission?

Wendy interceded with a heavy hand, adding about a tablespoon of lemon juice and many many many squirts of Tabasco's smokey chipotle flavor - greens saved!

Wendy here...the greens didn't really suck, they were just blander than we're used to. I'm convinced that I've burned off most of my taste buds, so that's why I have to cover everything in sauces!

On another night this week, we made this quick, simple soup from Everyday Food

Soba Soup with Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms (stems removed), caps thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used a carton of veg broth, but use what you have)
  • 1/2 package (4.4 ounces) soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, torn
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (again, we don't keep soy sauce, so I did a mix of mirin and shoyu)
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 minutes.
  2. Add broth and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Add soba; reduce to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve topped with scallion greens.
It was a light, super quick, lovely meal. I, of course, added chili paste to my bowl. I can't help myself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

And We're Back

I hope the holidays were good to you kids. Mark and I enjoyed our first year together as a married couple. Though we've been together for 4 years, this was the first time we actually spent the entire break together. It's nice to have a second family. They're lovely and diverse and a whole other brand of crazy...

That's grandma Miller with the electric knife

Well, really, it's just his mom that's crazy, but she's a good kind of crazy. She thinks I can do no wrong. One night we were really late for dinner and she was yelling at everyone, telling them how they were ingrates and she looked at me and said, "Not you, honey." I have no idea why I was exempt and Jacob, Rachel's boyfriend, was not, but I won't argue with it.

We got lots of great new toys and actually got to cook for everyone. We made a lovely lasagna for Dad & Bev.

I don't have any pictures of the finished product, but I can tell you it was real good. I made a simple marinara the night before by sauteing some onions, garlic, and red bell pepper. When those were caramelized, I mixed half of the mixture into a pound of ricotta, grated a bit of fresh nutmeg in and pureed it in the food processor. I added two 28 oz. cans of San Marzano's to te marinara and let it simmer for 30 minutes. At home I would have added a parm rind from the freezer, but alas. After the sauce had simmered, I pureed it in the food processor and added 1 lb. of cooked lean sirloin. The next day, I layered the chesse mixture with the sauce and noodles adding some piles of fresh baby spinach.

We made a similar lasagna when we got home for Shane and Sarah sans meat, but I decided to sautee the spinach in some white wine and olive oil prior to adding it. Next time I will definitely use frozen spinach as that whole bag wilted down to nothing.

We made meatloaf for Deej (Mark's mom) & Jer using my favorite recipe from Amanda Yarbro-Dill (annotations are hers):

Miss Anna Laura's Meat Loaf
(I must add that my mom, Patsy, has marked this recipe with a g. for good. Not v.g. for very good, mind you)
1.5 lbs ground chuck (or round)
1/4 c. bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. onions, chopped
1.5 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 tsp sage
*Mix all ingredients together and shape into loaf (Lord, those directions are short and to the point, huh?)

1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. onion, chopped
*Spread on loaf and bake @ 350 degrees for approx. 1 hour or until done.

It was so good we made it again when we got home. We ate it with some ridiculously good greens I had made and frozen. We used a bunch of kale, a bunch of turnip greens, and some spinach and turnips from our co-op.

Another recipe we made twice was this cobbler by David Lebovitz. We rang in the New Year with it, actually. I'm not much of a fan of sweets, but blackberry cobbler is my favorite.

Our New Year's celebration was very laid back. We ate Indian food with Shane and Sarah, bought a huge television with our Christmas money, and made a little time capsule based on a tradition I used to keep. When I was in middle school, Peg and I would always write down our resolutions and I'd keep them sealed in an envelope until the next year. Well this year we wrote our resolutions as well as a few other thoughts and put them along with a few other artifacts from the night in an Aqua Globes box, which was an artifact all in itself. While Shane and Mark were talking TVs, I was desperately searching for a watering can with none to be found. The whole gardening section had been taken over by marked down Christmas stuff. I had to settle for Aqua Globes. They're working out quite well for my two rosemary trees.

As for our resolutions, Mark and I took Sally Swift's idea and decided to pledge to cook our way through cookbooks. Mark picked Veganomicon and I decided on How to Eat Supper. Our goal is to make one recipe a week for the whole year. Tomorrow we're going to have a curried yam dish with some jazzed up bok choy.

Oh yeah, Mark got a deep fryer. So far he's made sweet potato chips:

sorry for the terrible picture

& recreated the ravioli sticks from Mafiozia's

Shane approves: