Friday, July 30, 2010

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Sometimes I write posts that never get published. They just sit there forgotten and lonely, branded by the orange letters that scrawl out "draft". What is normally a benign word, signifying something saved for further review, seems more like a death sentence. Sometimes these forgotten words make just a sentence or two but sometimes they are whole posts long and detailed. They are stories and recipes I had every intention of releasing into the blogosphere but just got lost in the mix of things. Maybe it's because I hadn't yet typed the recipe or maybe I didn't upload the pictures right away. Sometimes I'm unhappy with the pictures and wait till I make the recipe again or maybe I just lost interest, as I do with so many things and moved on to a new post, a new recipe. Many times I don't revisit these abandoned posts - I'll reread them just a couple days later and they seem like old news. Eventually I say my goodbyes and set them free with a click of the delete button. But every now and then, just once in a while, I'll revisit them. It could be that the recipe is just too good not to share or the experience returns for a second round and suddenly my words no longer taste like stale bread as they roll off my tongue. I think in this case it's a combination of the two.
On my 9 hour flight between New York and Budapest I read a book by Molly Wizenberg called "A Homemade Life". The whole thing. I dog-eared page after page to remind myself of the recipes I wanted to make when I returned home 3 weeks later and sure enough the first one I made was for slow roasted tomatoes. They are deliciously simple and so versatile you'll want to make a big batch. Mix them into pasta,  eat them with fresh mozzarella, toss them in a salad, add them to you sandwich or take Molly's recommendation; turn them into pesto. Whatever you do, just promise me you'll give them a chance okay?
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
The coriander is optional and could be left out altogether or replaced with dried basil, oregano, caraway seeds or cumin. Makes 40 Halves

20 Roma Tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
Cover two baking sheets with tin foil and set aside
Toss the halved tomatoes with olive oil, coriander
Line them up on the baking trays and sprinkle with a few hefty pinches of kosher salt
Grind a generous amount of fresh black pepper over the top
Place the trays in the oven and roast for 4-6 hours.
The tomatoes when the edges are shriveled but the centers are still moist and they are about half of their original size
Refrigerate in and airtight container for up to a week.

Monday, July 26, 2010

When it's too hot to eat.

Dear Blog,

I realize you are feeling neglected and I'm sorry. It's just too hot to cook. In fact, it's just too hot to do anything. We even lost power for around 5 hours yesterday as a result of some downed power lines. 

I love big storms and power outages are kind of fun. I like watching the dark clouds roll in, the wind pick up and the leaves whip around. Usually, I sit on the front porch with my dogs and watch as the rain slides off the roof in wall of water and hits the ground. Each drop landing with a heavy plunk and a wet splatter in our direction.

This time, though, the wind was too intense and it was essentially raining sideways against the house. Instead we sat in front of the open front door and watched through the storm door (which in hindsight may not have been the smartest idea with such strong winds, so don't go standing in front of glass doors in wicked storms saying I told you to). There was really no thunder or lightening to speak of which is odd for such high heat and humidity but the dogs were grateful. Yea, I know, I have such wonderfully brave dogs. One crack of thunder turns them into sniveling, shaking masses of fur that will hide in or behind anything - especially any space too small for them to squeeze into in a normal situation.

The heaviest wind and rain only last about thirty minutes but the rain continued for another hour or two. When it finally stopped it was still humid as ever and our power was still out. In the past, some widespread outages have last a few days.  No power means no air conditioning and with no air conditioning, the possibility of cooking, and therefore adding heat to the house, was out. I could tell you that I'm completely innovative and made some great meal without using the stove or even opening the refrigerator (I didn't want to let the cold air out) but that would be a lie. Nope, I didn't lift a finger. Instead I up and went to Long Beach for dinner and walked on the boardwalk where I didn't take a single picture of the beautiful sunset or salty waves crashing on the beach. Why? because I brought my camera - without a memory card in it. Sigh.

If you are wondering why I have no pictures from the storm either it's because, in all my excitement, I straight up forgot to take any. Oh well.

So I don't have any pictures for you and I don't have a recipe related to this story (by the way the power did come back on last night around 8:30 but many houses on the north shore - even down the street - are still without), but I do have a seriously easy cucumber recipe for you. One that I made last week but could have made last night if I had been so inclined to do anything. It requires no cooking and only a few minutes to throw together. It may not be a balanced meal, but when it's too hot to eat anyway, a bowl of cold spicy cucumbers is as good as it gets.

Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
Smashing and tearing the cucumbers creates a more jagged surface than clean knife cuts would. This helps the marinade cling better. Finely grated ginger or minced garlic would also be a nice addition to this as would black sesame seeds. Serves 2 as a side or 1 as a light (unbalanced) summer meal.

5 Persian cucumbers
1/2 teaspoons natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (white vinegar works fine too)
1 teaspoon organic toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil

Cut ends off cucumbers and smash them with the flat side of a large chef's knife.
Break the cucumbers into pieces by hand and throw out and loose clumps of seeds.
Place cucumbers in a large bowl with sugar and salt and toss to combine.
At this point you can refrigerate the cucumbers for an hour or so and let flavors combine, I was too impatient and only waited about 10 minutes which was just fine.
After you let them sit, the cucumbers will have released juices. Drain most of this before proceeding.
Add the vinegar and oils and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt if desired.
Enjoy now or refrigerate up to 2 days.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beyond any muffin.

I never liked scones.
They are almost always too dry or too doughy, usually too dense and inevitably resemble crumbly lead balls. Appearance is no help either - generally the more appealing they look the worse they taste. If I bothered to eat them more frequently I may occasionally stumble across one worth eating but, since the odds are never in my favor, I usually don't chance it.

In spite of this, my dad brought home freshly baked blueberry scones from Fairway a few weeks ago. He piled them in a basket along side the croissants and a few oversized muffins and plopped them on the counter with a grin. We usually agree that Fairway's baked goods are not very good; but these came out of the oven just before he scooped them up and maybe it was my imagination, but they were almost still warm when I broke into one.

They had a crisp sugared exterior and instead of the typical smooth triangular cut, they had rustic craggy shape. They looked better than any scone I've ever seen which, if going by my past scone experiences, means they should have tasted awful. Yet against all better judgment I took a bite and unleashed a new found love for scones.

I'm almost sorry I did. 

The perfectly crystalized crust yielded to a tender crumb and the blueberries whispered their praise for summer with each plump berry. The contrast of crust to to crumb elevated it way beyond any muffin and I happily ate one, completely plain, while thinking of all the scone recipes I've skimmed and never really given a fair chance. Now I remembered one in particular that caught my eye. 
I settled on this recipe over all the rest because it uses buttermilk instead of cream which adds a nice tanginess and rounds out the flavor. It also cuts down on the fat but that's really only a drop in the bucket since there is still a full cup of butter per twelve scones. I also like that it recipe doesn't require rolling out the dough. This means less mess to clean up plus the less you handle the dough the less likely the final result will be tough. 

If we're being honest, I also just really like pictures. I'm far more likely to make a recipe if the picture looks good and, as I've said before, The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook is one of the most beautiful around. 
Blueberry Scones
I replaced some of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour with no trouble, next time I will probably cut out all of the white flour and replace some of it with rye flour or regular whole wheat flour. If you don't have buttermilk you can replace it with the usual milk/vinegar combination. Just place 1 cup of milk in a cup with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Let stand 5 minutes and use the required amount. The dough will seem a little dry at first and it ended up being much easier to forgo the wooden spoon and just mix gently with my hands. Try not to handle the dough too much to avoid tough scones. These are best eaten the same day.
Adapted from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook/Makes 12 Large Scones

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
extra turbinado sugar to sprinkle on the tops

About 2 hours before making the scones, scatter the berries on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer.

Put cubed butter, flours, 1 cup turbinado sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl, put the bowl in the freezer and leave it there for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I ran out so I just sprayed mine pan really well with olive oil to keep them from sticking).

Using a pastry cutter, or in my case a potato masher - which i don't recommend, work the chilled ingredients together in the bowl until the butter cubes are the size of peas. Make a well in the center. combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a separate bowl, and pour the mixture into the well. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy mass. Add the frozen berries and gently mix them in trying not to crush them.

To shape the scones, place a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter on one corner of the prepared baking sheet. Take a handful of the dough and press it into the cutter patting it down so that the top of the scone is flat. Pull the cutter off the sheet leaving the scone behind. Repeat the process across the sheet, keeping enough space between scones for them to double in size, until you've use all of the dough. I fit 6 per sheet and made 12 scones total.

Sprinkle the tops of the scones with turbinado sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they're golden brown along the sides but still tender inside. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

All pictures (excluding the last two) courtesy of Katherine Hamilton.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Over the weekend in Rhinebeck.

Some people visit museums when they travel - I visit farmer's markets.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Old Fashioned Pink Lemonade

Old Fashioned Pink Lemonade
Do as I did and add a shot of homemade limoncello or enjoy it straight. A shot of vodka would also give it a kick.

3 cups fresh lemon juice (about 16 lemons)*
12 cups of water
3 cups natural cane sugar
12oz. raspberries

Combine the sugar and 3 cups of water in saucepan and bring to a boil.
Simmer for a few minutes until sugar dissolves.
Add raspberries and simmer 1 minute more. 
Turn off heat and and let raspberries seep for 30 minutes or so.
Strain the syrup discarding the raspberries (or saving them if you like... they would be delicious with yogurt).Mix the lemon juice, remaining 9 cups of water and raspberry syrup in a pitcher and chill for at least 1 hour.
Serve over ice on a hot summer day.

*I used a power juicer extract my juice so if you are juicing by hand you may need more lemons to achieve 3 cups.

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