Keeping it Simple: Tomato Preserving

Tomatoes

I can’t be the only one that has a problem with getting home preserving right. My jam consistency is never correct and the time I processed salsa had me in tears. The Husband would say that it’s because I don’t follow directions when I’m cooking. While there is some validity to that theory, I would also offer that some preserving techniques are a pain in the ass and following the directions doesn’t always ensure a successful outcome.

Case in point, Tomato Basil Jam. I was ecstatic to come across a recipe that would keep me in tomato sandwiches for the entire winter. Fast-forward to my execution. The jars look pretty but the “jam” seems be rolling around like red vegetable oil inside my processed jar. Not quite what I had in mind and I followed the directions to the letter. I waited a week and the consistency is still the same even though the pectin packaging said that thickening could take time. I opened a jar to sample and it is really sweet. Definitely not what I had in mind and reaffirmation to trust my instincts (the amount of sugar in this recipe was staggering). That said, I’m still without a tomato spread to keep me in sandwiches through the winter. Does anyone have a recipe that I can try?

My preserving success seems to be come from the more simplified approaches. I acquired my dad’s vacuum food sealer this summer and have been freezing items like a crazy fool. When I grew tired of freezing whole and quartered tomatoes fresh from the vine, I tried this recipes with extremely tasty outcomes and very little effort – high priorities for me in the kitchen.

For others like me with tons of tomatoes that prefer the simplest preservation approach, I recommend slow-roasting using a cook’s best resource: The Joy of Cooking. These are really fantastic and so simple. I have been adding them to beans and rice for quick work lunches and expect them to work well in tomato sandwiches or bruschetta.

The recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomatoes is on page 312 and calls for:

  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes cut into 3/4″ slices
  • 1 tsp each of powdered sugar, salt and black pepper

Tomato slices are placed in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkled with the powdered mix and your favorite chopped herbs (basil, thyme or other), drizzled with olive oil and baked for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Cool at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. VOILA!

If you want something that is more akin to the sundried tomatoes packed in oil, try this recipe from The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper for  Oven-Candied Summer Tomatoes. Here are mine during the final rest period in the oil:

Candied Tomatoes

I still have tomatoes waiting to be preserved, so let me know if you have other great recipes that I should try!

Date Night (for One): Back to Basics

Sometimes when a girl is planning her solo Friday night, she has to go back to basics: Delivery. When I think about the most self-indulgent way to spend an evening, it includes delivery, television and knitting. Tonight is a return to those indulgences.

One would think that ordering a pizza is simple, but they are obviously not the pizza aficionados that I am. We also have four different DELICIOUS pizza places to choose from and all provide their own unique experience. I confess that I know personally that you can order from a different location every night and not tire of pizza. Now I try to curb my enthusiasm to dial for delivery by planning meals in advance, and aspire to only order pizza once a week (*cough*). With this in mind, I must weigh my choices very carefully when I have the opportunity to indulge.

I decided to consider my delivery options based on the television I planned on consuming. Would I feed my brain watching back episodes of NATURE on the DVR? Would I binge watch some “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix? Or would I dig deep into the DVDs and spend the evening watching personal favorites that would have The Husband scoffing? I opted for the third option. Two DVD classics: “GHOST” and “Dirty Dancing.” I would have an evening dedicated to Patrick Swayze and self-indulgence. That meant that there was only one delivery option appropriate for the evening: Fat Lorenzo’s. Hand-tossed with a spicy, chunky sauce and cheese bread oozing mozzarella in a classically Italian way (to this Minnesotan anyway). Comfort food for the soul. I found a bottle of wine simply labeled “Red Table Wine” and decided that Patrick would have approved. Sometimes simple is best.

And now as I sit with the pizza box balanced on my knees and Red Table Wine in hand enjoying my solo evening of self-indulgence, I look forward to crying at Patrick’s parting words of comfort: “The love inside? You take it with you….” Sometimes nothing beats a Friday night at home alone.

Fat Lorenzo's

Sacrificing the Body in Pursuit of Culinary Wonders

Last night in my latest pursuit of culinary wonder, I almost lost a finger. Well, I may be exaggerating just a bit, but not much. I nearly lost the tip of my thumb to the mandolin. While it would be more impressive to cause oneself injury from a musical instrument, I was unfortunately using the kitchen slicer known as the mandolin at the time.

The evening started harmless enough. We were having The Mom-In-Law for dinner and I was looking forward to trying a new recipe for Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread. Fast-forward to the prep period of the night where in my typical fashion, I had tried to do a few more things than I realistically had time for. First, there was some idle chitchat with The Neighbor, which technically wasn’t my fault because she desperately needed to use our fax machine. Yes, we still have one of those and who would have guessed that someone still desperately needed to use one? Then I had to get the fresh picked grapes into the vodka to infuse (more information on my grape infused vodka in a later post). Four liters of vodka and 16 cups of grapes later, I was behind schedule getting dinner together. I started wrestling with the mandolin which seemed to be sending me signals from the beginning that I should not use it.

The Husband will roll his eyes at me, but I’m a big believer in signs. If something doesn’t seem to be going right, in my mind there is a reason for it. In his world, things just aren’t going right. Since I’m the one with the injury, we’ll say that I’m right this time. First, I couldn’t figure out where the legs were to raise the mandolin off the cutting board. Then I couldn’t get the blades to adjust. I don’t even know where the protective cup is that is used to hold the item being sliced, but that would really have come in handy. I proceeded to get slicing on the purple onion and moments before The Incident, I could hear a whispering in my ear, “This is a really bad idea… you’re going to lose a finger.” No, it wasn’t The Husband. I often hear this voice of reason immediately preceding the most impressive injuries that I have sustained. These injuries have always been my own fault and most often because I haven’t been exercising the most sound judgment.

When The Incident occurred, I was working on finely slicing three cups of the most potent onions I have ever experienced. I did what most logical people in that situation would do, jammed my thumb in my mouth because then I could pretend it hadn’t happened and everyone knows that when you do this, the injury will not hurt. The Husband urgently pressed, “WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT HAPPENED?” All I could manage? “I’m going to need the Super Glue.”

Super Glue is the most used item in my first aid kit. A chef friend once glued another thumb injury of mine together and told me that it was a common practice in the kitchen so chefs could continue working. He also told me that Super Glue was originally invented for battlefield use during WWII, which I have heard many times since. This morning I was disappointed to learn from the Super Glue site that this is an urban legend.

Anyhoo, my thumb Super Glued back on, I was able to continue preparation of the Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread. It was absolutely delicious and very easy to make. I recommend either NOT using a mandolin for the slicing, or making sure that you have the proper safety attachments in place before beginning. We served the flatbread with a mixed spring green salad tossed in a vinaigrette. The Husband and The Mom-In-Law drank Odell Brewing’s IPA while I enjoyed mine with a crisp pinot grigio.

Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread

If you would like to try the recipe, http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pear_blue_cheese_flatbread.html