Friday, March 31, 2006

Tomato Platform gets Roasted

Sometimes, living in California especially, things like tomatoes just don’t have any flavor. It doesn’t matter how ripe they look, how firm or soft they are, what kind of tomatoes they are, they just have no taste.


I’ve read recently about so called – that have wonderful flavor, and are available from Florida in winter – but the food police apparently have banned this from California. My first act as president in 2008 – right after abolishing daylight savings time forever – would be to make tomatoes that actually taste good available everywhere – year round. Ugly tomatoes for everyone! People – I can feel your tomato pain! Do I have your vote???

Well, I have 2 years to develop the message – maybe tweak it a bit.

I have lived in other places where this tasteless tomato dilemma was hardly ever a problem. But here – almost always.

My answer is to roast. At low temperatures, for a long time, until what little tomato flavor there might possibly be has concentrated itself to the point that it can actually impart a sensation to the tongue.

And that sensation, despite the pitiful beginning, can really be sensational.

Coupled with some olive oil, and thyme, the roasting produces a fantastic flavor that can be used in a lot of recipes.

It’s not quite a sun-dried tomato flavor, but pretty close.

To ‘take it up a notch’, I usually roast a head of garlic alongside. Roasting garlic turns it into a creamy paste of truly sensual delight. I can spread this directly onto toast and be happy for a long time.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily encourage others to spend a lot of time in my immediate vicinity – but the answer to this is just to invite someone to share this with you. As long as you both stink in this heavenly manner, both will be happy.

And just to round out the roasted evening, something else that really improves from good to great when roasted is parsnips. The carroty flavor gains real depth after an hour in the oven, and this translates to a wonderfully satisfying soup. A touch of cumin and cayenne – just because I like them. This is one of our favorite soups.

All three things, tomatoes, garlic and parsnips could be roasted at the same time – reducing both the effort and the total time required to make these two dishes by turning the over to 350ºF – but you have to be very careful not to burn the tomatoes.


Roasted Parsnip Soup with Fontana Toasts

Ingredients:
6-8 parsnips, peeled
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken broth
4 slices French bread
Butter
Fontana cheese, grated
Parsley, chopped, for garnish


Toss peeled parsnips in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400ºF for 40 tpo 45 minutes, or until tender and caramelized. Remove to cool.

Heat olive oil on a soup pot. Sautee onion, celery and carrot until slightly softened. Add parsnips, and sauté until heated through. Add cumin, cayenne pepper, and chicken broth. Bring just to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes until all vegetables are very tender. Remove from heat.

Puree soup in a food processor until very smooth. Add a little water as necessary to thin to desired constancy. Season with salt and pepper.

Toast buttered French bread slices on both sides under broiler until lightly browned. Place 2-3 tbsp grated cheese on each toast, and melt cheese under broiler.

Ladle soup into 4 soup bowls. Float a piece of Fontana toast in the middle, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve. Enjoy!


Thyme Roasted Tomato and Garlic Risotto with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:
10-12 roma tomatoes
1 head garlic, unpeeled
olive oil
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, minced
3 cups short grain rice (Arborio, for example)
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar or other mild vinegar, or ¼ to ½ cup white wine
8 cups chicken broth
8 oz goat cheese, cut into pieces
parsley, for garnish
Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated, for garnish

Heat oven to 300ºF.

Cut top of garlic head off just enough to reveal the garlic inside the cloves, but keeping the garlic head intact in its skin. Wrap the head in a piece of aluminum foil, leaving the top open. Pour 2-3 tbsp olive oil into the garlic head, trying to get as much of the oil onto the head as possible. Wrap the foil tightly around the garlic to seal. Place the wrapped garlic on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 90 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool, squeeze the individual cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins onto a plate, and reserve.

Cut tomatoes in half. Toss tomato halves in a bowl with olive oil, the fresh thyme leaves stripped off the sprigs, and some salt. Place the tomatoes skin side up on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Roast for about 30 minutes – or until skins are well loosened. Quickly (and carefully) remove skins and discard, leaving tomato halves on baking sheet. Put tomatoes back in oven and continue to bake for an additional 60 to 80 minutes, until they are well shriveled, but not burned. Remove from oven and let cool.

Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a pot.

Heat olive oil in another large heavy pot. Add chopped onions and sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add rice to pot. Turn up heat, and roast rice, stirring, until heated through and slightly translucent. Lower heat to medium, and add rice wine vinegar or white wine, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add about 1 cup of chicken broth, stirring. As broth is absorbed, continue to add broth ½ to 1 cup at a time, stirring. When about 2/3 of the broth has been added, stir in the tomatoes and the garlic. Continue to add broth until the rice is almost al dente. Stir in the goat cheese, stirring well. Continue to add broth, ½ cup at a time, until the risotto is al dente, and has a creamy, smooth texture.

Serve risotto in bowls with a sprinkle of parsley, and some grated Pecorino-Romano cheese. Serve. Enjoy!

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kalyn said...

You have my vote just on the abolishing daylight savings time part of the platform alone!

7:28 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Thanks, Kayln! I hate it too - twice every year!

10:27 AM  

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