Roasty toasty

roasted tomatoesYou know that phenomenon of seeing something for the first time and then suddenly seeing it everywhere? This year, that happened to me with one particular recipe. It first popped up around July and since then, I’ve read variations in food magazines, books, an online newsletter, and an email listserv. I began to wonder how it was possible that I’d never encountered it before this summer. Although the recipe has variations, the method is usually simple and always brilliant.

And what is it? It’s the recipe for roasted tomatoes.

Needless to say, I eventually had to try it. Usually billed as a way to save that special fruit for a time when the word “heirloom” again conjures silver broaches rather than buckets of buxom multi-colored produce, this recipe also produces a very tasty addition to just about any dish. Roasting tomatoes does dramatically reduce their volume and allows you to freeze them for months, but it also concentrates their tart, sweet, salty goodness and often adds a smoky flavor to boot. And like I said, it’s quite simple.

Here’s the basic idea:

Cut your tomatoes into uniform halves or quarters, keeping in mind that smaller pieces will roast faster. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper (or just olive oil) and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 2 ½-3 hours or until most of the moisture is gone. Pack into freezer bags and freeze in a single, flat layer. The end!

You can use these tasty chunks of summer in pesto, pasta sauce, tapenade, soup… you name it.

So if you still have outrageous amounts of tomatoes, now you know what to do with them. Or you can save this in the back of your culinary consciousness until the beefsteaks, valley girls, and early boys floweth over once again next year. Either way, odds are you’ll see this recipe again.

PS. The image is from http://www.vanesscipes.com. Yum!

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Parve for the course

It’s always nice to have a parve* vegetarian recipe in your toolbox. That way, no matter what else is on the menu, the kosher-minded omnivores at a meal can sample your creation. I have one for vegetarian shepherd’s pie that I used for a Rosh Hashana dinner and passed along to a friend for the same purpose. It also happens to be vegan if you don’t use butter, and is gluten-, wheat-, nut-, and dairy-free.

If you’re not concerned about upsetting a dietary balance, go ahead and use butter instead of the olive or canola oil for the filling and/or ‘tater crust.

Oh, and you may notice something different about this recipe. It’s a PDF! Yes, I am finally using my Acrobat Professional to convert my recipe files to that more convenient and secure form. One recipe down and 495,000 to go…

Ok – now you may click for the Shepherd’s Pie recipe.

*Parve is a term for a food that contains neither dairy nor meat ingredients as defined by Jewish kosher law. Parve foods can be eaten with any other foods, whether meat or dairy.

Buy Nothing Day

I tried not to buy anything yesterday. When I first heard about Buy Nothing Day campaigns to get consumers to abstain from the frenzy of day-after-Thanksgiving shopping, it sounded like no big deal. I mean, many Jews do it every Saturday. But it’s tougher than you think to avoid picking up a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, buying a newspaper, or paying for some form of transportation.

Most of what I buy is food, so I’m going to talk about it here.

As you probably know, preparing all of your meals for the day is time-consuming, as is making your own coffee. For me, the problem is stubbornness. I am the queen of Made From Scratch. My freezer knows not the frozen entrée nor the veggie burger. The great irony is that I often give up on making my own labor-intensive food and buy a hot meal or salad bar salad that costs twice as much as the convenience foods would. At any rate, I did take the time to make breakfast and lunch.

Sparing you the rest of the details, let’s skip to about 6:30 p.m. I headed to my CSA veggie pickup with a hunger that made me dream of delicious snacks available at the nearby Dupont Whole Foods. I made it through, though, and left with another familiar irony–starving as I carried a veritable cornucopia of food. There were plenty of nutritious and tasty vegetables in there, but all required slicing, dicing, and/or cooking.

When I got home, I quickly made some dinner, rendering the not-immediately-edible goodies quite edible indeed, if I do say so myself.

As I ate triumphantly and voraciously, I congratulated myself on a day of no purchasing. Well, that is if the movie I was treated to makes it by the judges…

* * *

Here’s one dish I made, using the cukes that are coming out of my CSA at an impressive rate:

Seven O’Clock Cucumber Salad

3-6 servings

2 medium cucumbers, peeled if not organic, seeds scooped out, and diced
½ medium onion, minced
1 Tbs. umeboshi plum vinegar, or 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar plus salt to taste
1 tsp. dried mint or 1 Tbs. fresh mint (if you don’t have mint that you swiped from a nearby apartment building’s backyard on hand like I did, you can try Thai or Italian basil).
2 tsp. black sesame seeds (optional)

Toss all ingredients together. Chill for a few hours and toss again, or begin devouring right then and there.