Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cooking Chronicles: Tomato Time

Reacquainting with friends is best when it involves food.
Kristen and I :)
Watermelon is my summer sustenance and in my opinion, the perfect snack anytime of day.  We made breakfast sandwiches with spinach, a fried egg, swiss cheese melted over tomatoes, and a smear of siracha sauce and salsa.  It's so nice to eat on the porch.

 And let's be honest: tomatoes only taste good this time of year.  In that spirit, I'm trying to consume them in as many ways as possible!  I adapted roasted stuff-tomatoes recipe from Heidi Swason's cookbook, Super Natural Everyday, which I purchased at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco (but can also be found on Amazon). 
1. Take the larger tomatoes (assume one tomato per guest, they're hearty) and hollow them out, trying not to puncture the sides and separating the inner chunks into a smaller dish.  
2. Mix the tomato innards (ha!) with a 1/2 cup of black beans and 1/2 of a diced onion.
3. Her recipe calls for couscous, but I had just gone out and bought wheat berries.  I knew that would work as a crunchier but equally substantial substitute so I mixed it with the filling.  I forgot to stir in some yogurt that would have thickened the filling and bound it together, but it's not dire to the recipe.
4. The recipe also calls for harissa: a Middle Eastern chili paste.  Again, modifying what I found online, I made my own by mixing Sambal chili sauce with olive oil, caraway seeds, coriander, garlic, smoked paprika, sea salt, and a lots of cracked pepper.  This was folded into the filling.
5.  Fill the tomatoes with the stuffing, drizzling with more olive oil particularly so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan, then cook in the oven on 400 degrees (F) for 20-30 minutes.  The toppings should be a spicy crisp.

So the best part about this is that tomatoes can be stuffed with anything-- this is just the version that worked most conveniently for me!  My mom loves tomatoes filled with bread crumbs, seafood, and cheese.

 Rochester was still waking at 7 AM on Saturday.
 The Rochester Public Market, however, quickly came to life with shoppers hustling for about.  I loved going with my friend Megan, because up until recently her family was among the weekend produce vendors.  She recognized many farmers and knew who sold their own produce, as opposed to re-selling produce that was purchased in bulk.  She does the pro-circuit, too: sweeping the entire market then going back through to the stands with the best offers.  Though not as cheap as China, it's still wonderful to purchase a week's worth of New York state produce for $20.
 The market is also surrounded by coffee houses selling aromatic roasts and hearty breakfast burritos.   When I came home, it just made sense to cook up some ratatouille. 
The chosen ones (minus the onion)!
 Ratatouille is so seasonal, delicious, and simple that it makes me wonder why more people haven't tried it.  Or maybe you have in some version, and didn't realize your vegetable saute had a French counterpart!  Some recipes call for oven-roasted, but based off of experience it can all be created most efficiently in a single pan.  Here's what to do:

1. Set your stove onto medium heat and preheat the skillet (preferably cast or enamel iron) or stewing pan.
2. Starting with the onion, slice the vegetables; eggplant and zucchini into 1/4" inch thick, bell peppers into spears, tomatoes into hearty chunks.  Lightly salt all the vegetables.
3. Swirl a tablespoon (or two) of butter around the skillet and toss in the onions.  Let those cook about 10 minutes, or until they begin caramelizing.  If you have fresh garlic, toss that in as well.
4. Add the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers doused with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Turn up the heat a bit and cook for 5 minutes, when the eggplant and zucchini begin to soften.
5. Toss in the tomato chunks, pushing the other vegetables around and on top so the tomatoes make contact with the pan.  They should start steaming and add more liquid to the skillet.
6. As the tomatoes break down, add in liberal amounts of cracked pepper and herbs: oregano, basil, thyme.  Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the vegetables stew together for 15-20 minutes.  That's it!
I eating ratatouille over a potatoes, rice, or some sort of grain, then topped off with Parmesan or fresh mozzarella cheese.  Here I had it over potatoes with steamed green beans and Dijon mustard, soy-chili tofu (experimenting with marinades-- anyone know good combinations?), and toasted seven grain bread.  I still enjoying using chopsticks to eat.

 I try to follow my dinner indulgences with walks down the road, like to the town beach.  Nice as it looks, Honeoye Lake is currently un-swimmable (as advised by the state health department).
 And make no doubt, I'm still playing ultimate frisbee!  Heading up to Rochester this weekend for a hat tournament, which will be my first time playing with adults and league players outside of China.

Listening: "Beethoven's Secrets" by The Piano Guys
p.s. If the photo-quality strikes you as pretty nice, we have my new iPhone 5 to thank for that!  The 8-megapixel camera would have been real nice in China...

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