Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Oven Slow Roasted Tomatoes



Two weekends, 40 pounds, eight baking sheets, one major f**k-up, and, finally, success!


Even as I read and read, and read some more, about slow roasting tomatoes, there are so many different versions out there (right?), so many disparate oven temperatures, ways to cut, sprinkle, or not, drizzle, or not, remove seeds, or not, roasting times: 8-10 hours, 5 hours, 3 hours, overnight, that I finally threw up my hands and went with what I knew in my brain and heart. 
And even with that I had a few bumps before getting it right.

The first bump was just silly: I went to a potluck party while my first batch of tomatoes was merrily roasting away, and roasting away (albeit at 260-degrees), and roasting away (while I forgot about them) to burnt crisps. That went into the compost and the oven fan had to be left on overnight to rid the house of the burned tomato smell.

The second (and, actually, third) bump resulted in so-so variations: in a 250-degree oven for nine hours to a 260-degree oven for seven hours, with the tomatoes swimming in to drizzled on olive oil* that both versions took forever to lose enough water to package. They are packed, and in the freezer, but they are definitely second rate.


A week went by while waiting for the Saturday farmers market to come around again so I could buy another lug (20 pounds) of tomatoes, and with this batch I finally reached roasted tomato nirvana (well, my roasted tomato nirvana) and this is the version that I share with you now.



Organic slicing tomatoes from Neukom Family Farms in Willow Creek.
You will notice that I have not used heirloom tomatoes for roasting.  Heirlooms, to my palate, must be savored fresh: in salads, out of hand, in a BLT; never in the oven nor in a sauce.
Organic slicing tomatoes from Green Fire Farm in Trinity County.
These beauties - just above - are what I roasted yesterday (see top photo). They were cooled, frozen in their trays, then packed into zip-top freezer bags, labeled and, finally, put back in the freezer.


Scoop out the stem ends with a melon baller
I found that the easiest way to get rid of deep-set stems is to make a small slit near the stem with a sharp knife, then insert a melon baller and scoop around the stem. Easy peasy.

Use a sharp knife to cut the tomatoes in half crosswise. My Wusthof boning knife was the perfect tool.


Lay tomatoes skin side down on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Had I written down the steps I used last weekend they would have read: sprinkle with herbs, sea salt, then drizzle with olive oil.  But I didn't like the texture of any of the tomatoes that had olive oil so this time I decided to omit it to see if I would get a firmer, drier tomato. That, for me, turned out to be a good decision. I am much happier with the results (see up close photo below for today's batch).

As you will see below, this is more of a step-by-step instruction than a recipe. I used dried Mediterranean herbs because that's what I had on hand but if you have rosemary and thyme growing in your garden that have not succumbed to the California drought, they would be even better. Note that I did not add garlic to the mix. In my humble opinion, garlic can (and will) be added to any of the dishes I make with these tomatoes in the months to come and do not need to be added in the roasting process.

Christine's Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Ingredients:
1 20-pound lug of ripe, red, organic slicing tomatoes
Penzey's Tuscan Sunset herb blend, about 1 tablespoon per tray
Coarse sea salt, between 1-2 teaspoons per tray
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 285-degrees Fahrenheit (140.5 celsius/Mark 1).
Remove the stems from the tomatoes (see caption above).
Slice tomatoes in half crosswise then place on parchment-lined baking trays (mine are 18" x 13").  It's OK to crowd the tomatoes as they shrink in the oven.
Pinching between thumb and forefinger, sprinkle tomatoes with the dried herbs - about 1 heaping tablespoon per tray.
Again, pinching between thumb and forefinger, sprinkle tomatoes with the coarse sea salt. I used about 4 pinches for one tray.
Place the trays in the oven and slow roast for approximately four and one-half hours (4 1/2), alternating trays on the racks mid-way.
Remove trays from oven and allow tomatoes to cool entirely.
When cooled, place the trays of tomatoes in the freezer and allow to freeze for several hours or until each tomato can be picked up and not be sticky.
Pack the frozen tomatoes in single layers in zip-top freezer bags, carefully expelling as much air from the bag as possible.
Label each bag with the date and then bag again in another zip-top freezer bag, again expelling the air.
Put bags in the freezer and be prepared to relish their summery taste in soups, stews and braises over the winter months.

Cook's Notes:
It's not like I've never slow roasted tomatoes before, I have, back in 2009.  *It was the olive oil.  I couldn't get past using olive oil. And much as I love olive oil paired with tomatoes, roasting them together just didn't do it for me. The steps I've taken above result in intensely flavored, non-oily tomatoes that I know I will enjoy over the coming winter.





Copyright 2005-2014, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Ginger Liqueur and Crystallized Ginger



Peaches ripen later on the north coast than in hotter-in-summer parts of the US, which makes July the start of the season for our truly local ones.  The peaches pictured below hail from Neukom Family Farm and may be found these days at local farmers markets; they're sweet, dribble-down-your-chin juicy, and they make a terrific ice cream.


Keeping an ice cream recipe simple is really not my style, and here, not being able to leave well-enough alone, I've added a French ginger liqueur and chopped crystallized ginger to mix things up a bit, making for a more, dare I say it, sophisticated dessert.  The liqueur also helps to keep the frozen ice cream from turning into a brick, making for easier scooping. That said, please feel free to leave out both of those extra ingredients if you prefer; their absence will not affect the finished product.




Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Ginger Liqueur and Crystallized Ginger

Ingredients:
4 ripe yellow peaches, medium-large, pitted, skins left on
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur (optional)
pinch salt
2/3 cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1 cup 2% milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Preparation:
Chop the peaches into chunks and put into a food processor along with the lemon juice, ginger liqueur (if using), 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Purée until all the peaches have liquefied and no chunks remain. Set aside.
Whisk (or use a hand mixer) the egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar until the yolks are pale and thickened.
Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, until small bubbles form around the edge of the pot. Do not let the milk boil.
Whisk about one-third of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, then whisk it all back into the hot milk pan on the stove. Heat on medium, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Drawing your finger down the coated spoon should leave a track in the custard. Keep the heat on the conservative side of medium and take good care to not let the custard curdle.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard (through a strainer, or not) into a glass bowl or 8-cup glass measure.
Allow the custard to cool for about 15 minutes then stir in the heavy cream.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold; overnight is best for thorough chilling.
Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the chopped ginger when the ice cream is semi-frozen.
Pack into container that has a tight-fitting lid and place in the freezer for an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

Cook's Notes:

My preference is to make fruit ice creams with their skins on.  I feel that the skins add to the texture and color of the finished product.  Please put your custard through a fine mesh strainer if you don't wish the tiny bits of skin to be present in your ice cream.



Copyright 2005-2014, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Gluten Free Pasta: Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce



This recipe is a variation on one that I hadn't thought about in years.  It appeared in the Sunset Recipe Annual 1988 Edition: Every Sunset Magazine Recipe and Food Article From 1987.

Now the other day, when I bought a pound of medium (21-30 per pound) shrimp, I had no idea I would make this dish. I was musing on lighter, spring-is-approaching food and thought I'd make a quick shrimp and vegetable stir fry.  It wasn't until I passed a display of this gluten free pasta that the kernel of a recipe took hold as I vaguely began remembering making a cream and vermouth-based pasta sauce so very many years ago.

Having recently spent several weeks sorting through my considerable library of cookbooks, donating some to our local library, taking some to a used bookstore, and shelving most in my new(er) office bookshelves, it was easy to look back through a few older cookbooks until I found the recipe: Pasta with Shrimp in Tomato Cream.  Having some but not all of the specified ingredients, I did my own riff and pretty much changed a Mediterranean-ish recipe into one with a Creole bent using my recently purchased Lucile's Creole Seasoning.  And how perfect is that for Mardi Gras month?
Here's the recipe.


Creole Seasoned Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce Over Gluten Free Pasta

Recipe loosely adapted from Sunset Recipe Annual 1988 Edition

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons or less olive oil or (and this is really good) oil from the jar of sun dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into bite-size pieces
Lucile's Creole Seasoning to taste
1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch wide slices
1-2 tablespoons crushed Penzeys Bonnes Herbes (it's what I had on hand; you could use thyme and rosemary if you wish)
5-10 grinds green peppercorns
1 14-ounce can good diced tomatoes
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
2/3 cup very dry vermouth
1 cup whipping cream (see cook's notes)
1 8-ounce box gluten free rotelle pasta, or your favorite pasta

Prep:
Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Hold at medium heat after boiling until adding the cream to the sauce (see below).

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet large enough to hold the shrimp and sauce.  When the oil is hot, add the cut shrimp, sprinkling with the Creole seasoning, and saute until pink all over. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.

In the same skillet in which you cooked the shrimp, add the diced tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, chicken stock, vermouth, dried herbs, and ground green peppercorns. Stir to loosen the bits that may be stuck to the pan and bring to a boil.  Boil until the sauce is reduced by one-half. Season to taste with the Creole seasoning (remember, the shrimp has already been seasoned with this) and add the cream, stirring to blend.  Boil again until reduced by one-half, or pasta sauce-thick.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked shrimp.

Begin cooking the pasta in the boiling water around the time you add the cream to the sauce. The gluten free pasta listed here will be al dente in about 6 minutes.  Immediately drain the pasta in a colander or fine-meshed sieve and then add to the thickened sauce, off heat.  Stir gently until all the pasta is coated with sauce.

Serve immediately with a green salad and crusty bread of your choice for mopping up the sauce.

Cook's Notes:
Creme Fraiche may be substituted for the heavy cream.
Try to purchase organic food items whenever possible; they just taste better.












Copyright 2005-2014, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: Breakfast for Dinner

Shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce) from Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth

Show of hands, please: How many of you cooks out there, while perusing fridge and pantry for dinner inspiration, come across more breakfast ingredients than dinner ingredients and ask yourselves, surely what's good for breakfast should be just as good for dinner?  I'll bet there are many of you.

Well, bloggers Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth, of Love and Olive Oil, have taken that idea multiple steps further and have written a delightful cookbook that is all about having Breakfast for Dinner, which was released  just yesterday and is now on bookshelves waiting for you to pick up and take home to your kitchen.



When I received my review copy in the mail several days ago, the first thing that impressed me was how well put together this cookbook is, with beautiful photography that accompanies each recipe and easy-to-read recipes that each fit on a single page.

The book is neatly sectioned into categories beginning with Getting Started, which shows you what Lindsay and Taylor keep in their fridge and pantry as basics, to, well... getting started.  From there, it's right into the recipes:  Mains, Sides and Starters, Drinks, and Desserts, with several how to sections on making a few of the recipe ingredients (for example, the simple sweet crepes that are used in a bananas Foster crepe cake!) ahead of time.

From Steak and Eggs Benedict to Mint Chocolate Chip Pancakes, and an impressive bacon-infused Bourbon cocktail somewhere in the middle, I found this book to be delightfully whimsical while offering impressive recipes made with accessible ingredients.

Last night I served the Shakshuka, photos above, to my family and received eye-popping raves. A well-stocked kitchen will have most or all the ingredients already on hand:  eggs, good-quality canned diced tomatoes, a few herbs and spices, some zesty fresh peppers and a bit of feta cheese. Simple, easy, and delicious.

This weekend I'll be making the Cornmeal Pancakes with Beer-Braised Short Ribs and an Earl Grey Panna Cotta for dessert.  And if that sounds good to you, I suggest you buy this book. Now.





Copyright 2005-2013, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dona Nobis Pacem: Blogblast for Peace


Bloggers from over 152 countries are flying their peace globes today, November 4, 2012.

See them all here.  Join in.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.




Copyright 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Old Wedgewood Ain't What She Used to Be; The New Thermador Cooktop Is All That and More!


Although the installation is not quite finished, my sister Cynthia asked for photos of my new cooktop so I am obliging her wishes.  As you may notice, the cabinetry around the oven is not finished, but will be soon.


This 5-burner cooktop by Thermador has a btu range of 400 to 18,000. It totally rocks. And I am totally smitten.

See the brown scorch on the wall behind the cooktop?  That was made over the years by my beloved old Wedgewood stove, which went from zero to 500-degrees in 60 seconds flat, and which, even with its idiosyncrasies, I had a hard time parting with.

But time it was; either the house would burn down or we would get a new stove.  We opted for the stove.

A brushed stainless steel plate will cover the wall behind the cooktop, making it all pretty and professional looking.

And yes, I am cooking but haven't been up and running, or at home, long enough to post a recipe.

This will be remedied.



Copyright 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pause to Remember September 11, 2001


Join Mimi Lenox and thousands of others on this day to pause and remember.








Copyright 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved