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Every summer, I get a handful of questions about how I’m preserving the glut of local tomatoes that end up on my counter, so here’s the process I use. I love oven roasting as opposed to the more traditional water bath peeling for two reasons: no boiling pots of water steaming up my kitchen, & roasting concentrates the juices a little, unlike the watery results from the traditional method. I do about 25 pounds of tomatoes in a session, & while it takes a few hours in total, there’s not much fussy attention that needs to be paid, so I can do other stuff while the tomatoes are roasting & cooling.

I get my tomatoes in bulk from our local produce vendor; I wait until we are well into the season, then put in a request for a case of seconds, usually coming in at about a dollar a pound. These vary in quality from barely scuffed to on the verge of liquefying, depending on the year & the recent weather. Judicious trimming & oven roasting makes the most of sub-par fruit, another reason I love it so much.

We snagged a small chest freezer a few years ago, so that’s how I store my finished tomatoes, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t pack these in mason jars & can them in a water bath in the traditional manner. (Ball has a good basic methodology, but TL;DR: hot pack, add extra acid, get all the air bubbles out, water process for freaking EVER.)

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Oven Processed Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400F, & have ready one or two rimmed baking sheets.

Fresh tomatoes, any size or variety (I find traditional, high acid reds work best – low acid yellows & black/purple varieties lose some of their charm when cooked)

Halve or quarter your tomatoes, depending on the size, cutting out any woody stem bits & funky spots, & arrange them cut side up on the baking sheet (no oil or parchment needed). Roast for 20-40 minutes, until the juices are flowing & the tomatoes are softened. You’re not looking for browning or complete collapse, just an overall slumping & relaxing.

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Transfer your tomatoes to a large heatproof bowl/pot, big enough to hold the full amount of tomatoes you’re processing. Continue cutting & roasting tomatoes (no need to wash the sheet pans between batches).

As each batch you’ve transferred to the bowl cools enough to handle, use your fingers to slip off the skins – they’ll pull off nicely in one big piece if you’ve cooked your tomatoes long enough. Under ripe tomatoes might need a bit longer in the oven to peel nicely. By the time you’ve peeled one sheet pan of tomatoes, the next will probably be ready to come out of the oven. It’s a nice, low-key rhythm of cutting, roasting, cooling, peeling, & cutting some more.

When all your tomatoes are peeled, you can:

  • Pack them into containers or freezer bags as they are, for big chunky tomatoes
  • Crush them by hand for rustic crushed tomatoes
  • Puree them with an immersion blender for finely crushed tomato sauce
  • Or run them through a food mill/Squeez-O Strainer for a super fine puree with no seeds

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My goal every summer is to process enough tomatoes that I don’t have to buy any canned for the entire year; sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, but it’s a nice challenge. I’m doing fifty pounds this year, so we’ll see how that holds up.

Happy roasting!

 

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So this recipe from Bon Appetit has been making the viral rounds, & with a surfeit of local berries in the fridge, I gave it a whirl the other week. It was… fine. But. Anything advertising itself as “snacking cake” should, in my universe, be something you can slap together when the kids are distracted by a Youtube video, ideally in a single bowl, without any precious steps like zesting lemons or thinly slicing strawberries. Also, the combined flavors of the olive oil & cornmeal really drowned out the strawberries, which is why we’re here in the first place, right? So, I fixed it. Well, fixed it to MY tastes, anyway. It makes an exceptional breakfast cake, but is sweet enough to pass as dessert, too.

I used a 9×9 pan, because I wanted a nice thick, plush cake, but you can use a 9×13 for a thinner result. Just watch the baking time, as it will be shorter than the recipe as written.

I’m including my master recipe for crumble topping, which makes far more than you’ll need for this cake. One of my best baking secrets is to always have a gallon ziploc bag of crumble made & waiting in the freezer. You can throw it on top of sliced fruit for a last minute dessert, or on top of muffins/coffee cake for an easy level-up. 

Improved Berry Snacking Cake

Makes one 9×9 cake

Preheat oven to 325F. Oil & line with parchment a 9×9-inch square baking pan.

Crumble (makes plenty of extra, can be halved if desired):

2 2/3 c sugar

2 c all purpose flour

1 c rolled oats

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg OR allspice

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

6 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Add melted butter & mix with a fork until blended but still pebbly, with some larger chunks left.

Cake:

1 3/4 c all purpose flour

1/4 fine cornmeal OR almond/nut flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 c sugar

1/2 t salt

Combine in a large bowl & whisk thoroughly to combine, ensuring there are no clumps of baking powder or soda.

1/2 c melted butter OR vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 c sour cream OR plain yoghurt

3 T lemon juice

1 t vanilla OR almond extract

Combine in a smaller bowl & whisk until eggs are fully broken up. Add to dry ingredients & blend lightly with a fork. Switch to a rubber spatula & mix just until no dry pockets remain, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Scrape batter into prepared pan & spread level.

Top evenly with about 1 c of fresh or frozen & thawed berries/cut fruit: whole red/black raspberries, blueberries, quartered strawberries, diced peaches/plums/apples, whatever you have on hand/in season. (I used overripe red raspberries for this one.) Press the fruit gently into the batter a bit.

Scatter fruit with approximately 1 c of crumble mixture, to mostly cover, but still allowing some fruit to peek through. (Store the remaining crumble in a freezer bag for future projects.)

Bake approximately 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The edges will brown nicely & pull away from the pan a bit. Let cool to room temperature before serving, if you can stand it.

 

Intellectually, I adore radishes of all makes & models… but I have a stark inability to actually eat them once I buy or grow them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, they just end up wilting away in the crisper drawer until I get fed up & toss them on the compost pile. So, I’ve taken to pickling them instead, which means they can live in the fridge behind the curry paste & miso until I get a craving for them. 

Fair warning: pickled radishes smell like farts. They’re high in sulfur compounds, which happily intensify during pickling. Suck it up. These are worth the funk, I promise.

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Garlicky Pickled Radishes

Makes about a pint

2 bunches/appx 1 pound fresh radishes, washed & cut into bite-sized pieces  (I like French breakfast best, but you can use the standard round red ones, too, or daikon)

Several sprigs of fresh herbs (I used oregano & thyme)

1 1/2 c water

1 1/2 c vinegar (I used white vinegar, but rice/champagne works, too)

1/3 c sugar

1 T salt

4 cloves fresh garlic, cut into quarters

1 T whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Pack radishes & herbs into a quart-sized mason jar. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive saucepan & simmer a minute or so to dissolve the salt & sugar. Pour the hot brine into the jar, filling to about half an inch from the top (you’ll likely have extra brine, which can be discarded, but make sure all the garlic & spices make it in the jar). Let cool at room temperature with the lid off for about half an hour, then put the lid on tightly & refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Should keep in the cold part of the fridge for several weeks. Serve with a nice cheese/meat board, chopped into salads, or just eaten straight out of the jar in all their farty glory.

I always feel guilty about not using broccoli stems, but in the middle of weeknight dinner prep, I don’t have the patience for dealing with them, & they inevitably end up on the compost pile. A week or two ago, I impulsively started saving them in a plastic container in the fridge, with a nebulous idea of making some kind of crunchy salad with them. When the container was full, I had to put up or shut up, so I went digging in the far recesses of the fridge & came up with this magical slaw. It tastes a lot like seaweed salad, but brighter & more crunchy & less likely to get wedged in your teeth for days.

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Crunchy Asian Compost Slaw

Makes 4-6 servings

6-8 broccoli stems

2-3 carrots

2-3 scallions

1/2 c kimchi (I used Kimchee Pride brand, nothing fancy – this brand is not vegetarian & uses anchovies, but there are vegan brands available)

2 t rice vinegar

Peel the broccoli stems to remove any tough & woody bits, & scrape or wash your carrots. Using a mandoline, box grater, or sharp knife, shred the broccoli & carrots into fine julienne strips or as close as you have the patience for. Slice the scallions into 1/2 inch strips, & chop your kimchi into similarly sized strips. Combine everything in a non reactive (glass/ceramic) bowl with the rice vinegar, cover tightly, & let chill overnight or for several hours.

Furikake (a Japanese rice seasoning made with sesame seeds & seaweed flakes)

Toasted sesame oil

To serve, top with a hearty shower of furikake & a fine drizzle of sesame oil. Have as a light lunch on its own, or pair with seared tofu/tuna & steamed rice.

I was dorking around on Youtube last week while I ate lunch & stumbled across the absolutely delightful Food Wishes, a cooking channel hosted by April-sunshine-voiced Chef John Mitzewich. It’s like listening to Bob Ross, but with food instead of paint. One of his recipes was for the Syrian roasted pepper spread known as muhammara, & tonight I threw together my own version to have with our dinner of leek bourek, salad, & warm flatbread. 

Traditionally, muhammara uses several ingredients that may be tough to find unless you’re in a metropolitan area or have a sizable Syrian/Lebanese/Middle Eastern population, so I’ve made sure to include easier-to-source options.

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Muhammara

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 T olive oil

2/3 c bread crumbs/panko (you can totally use gluten-free)

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil, then add the breadcrumbs & stir to fully incorporate the oil. Toast the breadcrumbs for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until evenly golden brown.

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2 t salt

While your breadcrumbs are toasting, grind the garlic & salt in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the breadcrumbs to the processor bowl as soon as they’re toasted.

1 c walnuts, halves or pieces

Add walnuts to your still-warm saute pan & toast over medium heat, stirring often for about 5-7 minutes, until your walnuts are lightly browned & glossy from the oil starting to emerge. Add the walnuts to the processor bowl as soon as they’re done.

2-3 large jarred roasted red peppers, drained

2-3 T lemon juice

1-2 t balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

1/2 – 1 t red pepper flakes (Aleppo, if you can find it)

1-2 t za’atar (or use a blend of cumin, sesame seeds, & thyme)

1 t smoked or regular paprika

Add the remaining ingredients to the processor bowl, pulse to get everything moving, then puree for several minutes. Scrape down the bowl several times to make sure everything is combined evenly, & taste for salt, lemon, & seasonings. Traditional muhammara is pretty spicy, but you can adjust the heat to your liking.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, with warmed flatbread or pita for dipping. It would also make a spectacular sandwich filling with spicy greens & feta cheese spread, & I bet it would be amazing with grilled chicken in a warm pita…

 

I miss a WHOLE LOT about living in Chicago, but one of the top three things is having easy access to a broad array of markets & stores catering to all kinds of nationalities besides white bread American. You can keep your Trader Joe’s & your Whole Paycheck – give me a decent Korean/Polish/Caribbean supermarket & I will cook you under the table on half the money. I’d been making trips to Maryland to get my squishy tea bun fix, but last year, a new Asian market opened across the river in Lancaster. We are now less than half an hour away from house made tofu, fifteen varieties of soy sauce, & every other ingredient I’ve been missing. To be fair, this level of shopping really doesn’t fall under the #eatlocal banner when just about everything is shipped in from overseas, so I don’t rely on it, but it is a delicious & economical indulgence that I am taking full advantage of.

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Chinese Chive & Faux Pork Dumplings

Yields about 3 dozen

36+ frozen dumpling skins/wonton skins/gyoza wrappers, defrosted

1/2 c cold water

2 t corn starch

Keep your dumpling skins wrapped, but put them out to bring to room temperature. Mix cold water & corn starch until fully combined & set aside. Have ready a sheet pan, a few damp paper towels, & a small, clean paintbrush.

Appx 1/2 pound Chinese chives

Rinse chives & chop into 1/2 inch lengths, discarding the thick root ends. Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil, add 1 t salt & the chives & stir. Cook 1 minute, just to blanch the greens, & strain, rinsing the chives under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out as much moisture as you can to prevent a soggy filling.

1/2 c dried TVP

1/2 c boiling water (use the chive water if you’re organized enough to save some)

1 T hoisin sauce

2 T soy sauce

1 t sugar

2 t toasted sesame oil

A few dashes of rice vinegar

A squirt of sriracha

Combine TVP, boiling water, & seasonings in a heat proof bowl, stir to combine, & cover with a plate to keep the steam in while the TVP rehydrates. After 6-8 minutes, stir & add the chives. Taste for seasoning – you want a nice tasty filling, so add a bit of salt & more sriracha if it tastes a little flat.

1 t corn starch, more as needed

Add 1 t corn starch to your filling & combine. If your filling is really juicy, add a second teaspoon to help thicken things up.

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To fill & shape dumplings (right handers):

Stir up your corn starch water with your brush, & put it to your right on your work surface. Unwrap your dumpling skins, cover them lightly with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out as you work, & put them to your left. Place your bowl of filling in front of you, & your clean sheet pan in easy reach.

Cup a dumpling skin in your left hand & paint a little corn starch water around the edge to help your dumpling seal. Put about 2 t filling in the center of your dumpling skin – the amount will vary depending on the size of your wrapper. Fold your wrapper over into a half moon shape & press to seal, easing out any trapped air. Fold & firmly pinch the edges into 4-5 pleats, & place your happy little dumpling on the sheet tray under another damp paper towel. Repeat until you run out of either filling or dumpling skins!

Here’s a quick IG video that SB took while I was making dumplings last night that should help you visualize the process.

At this point, you can cook your dumplings right away, wrap & chill them for a few hours until you’re ready, or freeze them for later – slide the whole pan in the freezer until your dumplings are frozen solid, then transfer them to a ziploc bag or freezer-safe container.

To cook your dumplings, you can boil them in a wide saute pan until tender, steam them over boiling water, or do potstickers, which is my favorite:

Heat 3 T oil in a wide saute pan over medium high heat until the oil shimmers, then carefully place 10-12 dumplings into the pan. Fry undisturbed until the bottoms are golden brown, then carefully add about 1/4 c cold water to the pan & quickly cover with a lid. Let the dumplings cook undisturbed until the water has steamed off. Flip the dumplings & let them brown slightly on the other side before transferring to a plate.

Eat dumplings hot with friends & some good dumpling sauce! (Eat the sauce, not your friends. Unless your friends are into that, I don’t know.)

olives

I started making baked olives a few years ago, and they’ve grown to be a hotly anticipated part of our holiday feasting. Plush & aromatic & salty & luxurious, they are a quick, easy contribution to pot lucks & parties that make you look like Someone With Their Shit Together.

First, buy a mess of your favorite olives: jarred or from the grocery store olive bar, whichever you like. For the batch pictured, I used all jarred olives, available on the shelf at our local supermarket: jumbo Spanish, kalamatas, unpitted oil cured, & super mild & buttery castelvetranos.

Preheat your oven to 350F, drain your olives, & dump them into an oven safe baking dish. Toss them with a big slosh of good olive oil, a smaller slosh of balsamic vinegar, lots of pepper, and your favorite aromatics. (I use a ton of fresh sliced garlic, orange or lemon zest, fennel seeds, rosemary, & a pinch of red pepper flakes.) Spread your olives out evenly in the dish, & slide it (uncovered) in the oven. Stir them once in a while as they bake, & pull them once all the olives look nice and relaxed & the garlic has softened, maybe 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your dish.

You can also totally cheat and do them in the microwave – cook in 2-minute intervals, stirring regularly, until soft and yummy.

Let your olives cool a little before serving, or cool completely, cover & refrigerate until needed – they’ll keep about a month before the garlic starts to go mushy. Reheat in a low oven, or just let them come to room temperature before serving.

Serve with fancy cheeses & salamis & crusty bread – use the bread to sop up the olivey juices left in the dish, because life is too short to waste that kind of deliciousness. Pack up the leftovers for work the next day & revel in your grown-up Lunchable.

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