Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I've been making tomatoes every which way this summer and fall. I've used tomatoes in fresh sauces, cooked sauces, sliced with basil and olive oil, mixed into recipes and put into many a sandwich. Then when I can't keep up with it all, I oven roast firm plum and cherry tomatoes. They aren't as dry as sun dried tomatoes, but are very similar. Roasted with garlic, fresh thyme, olive oil and sea salt they last for a week in the refrigerator. A pinch of sugar caramelizes them slightly for a subtle sweetness. They can then be used in many of the same ways as fresh tomatoes, but give an extra punch of condensed flavor. Last week when I visited La Tête dans les Olives, the Parisian olive oil store, I was served dried tomatoes with slices of Pecorino cheese. Drizzled with a little olive oil and a grating of pepper, this combination becomes an easy and tasty appetizer. This time I used my Freres Rabito olive oil from La Tête dans les Olives. My latest passion du jour is flavored olive oils, and think basil flavored olive gives the tomatoes an extra dimension of flavor. Whole Foods and specialty food stores carry a range of flavors. I seem to have every flavor of olive oil from Oliviers & Co. and experiment with different ones to dress up these tomatoes. Simple pleasures.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

4 cups plum or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp sugar (to promote caramelizing)
sea salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss halved tomatoes in a bowl with olive oil, thyme, garlic and sugar. Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet.

3. Roast 30 minutes at 325 degrees and then raise the temperature to 375 degrees and roast 10 more minutes. They should caramelize without charring, so adjust time accordingly. To finish, turn off oven and leave in for 10 minutes. Take out of oven, salt to taste and cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.They may be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

A Visit to La Tête Dans Les Olives, Paris

It seemed like a treasure hunt finding the olive oil store, La Tête dans Olive, or Olives on the Head. With map in hand and friends in tow, we got off at the Belleville metro stop in search of the side street, rue Ste. Marthe. My friends, Nancy and Lenny had been there last fall and spoke of this tiny store selling artisanal Italian olive oil. Owned by Cedric Casanova, it is the largest wholesaler of extra virgin olive oil in Paris. Each oil comes from a family farm in a small section in Sicily and is sold either by the bottle or from metal vats straight into your own container. If we hadn't known of this unassuming shop, chances are it would have remained undiscovered. Upon opening the old wooden door and stepping down into this minuscule space, we knew we were in for a special treat. Pablo, who runs the shop, warmly greeted us and invited us to a tasting of some of the oils. He gave us each a spoon and drew some of the greenish gold elixir from a vat labeled with a family's name. Just as wines vary depending on the soil, climate conditions and variety of fruit, each oil has it's own flavor and dimension. Tasting them side by side accentuated the differences between them. One was more young and fruity, another milder yet complex. Some had a peppery finish that Pablo explained as having to do more with the molecular makeup versus the variety of the olive. As we let the olive flavors settle on our palates, he set up a slab of Pecorino cheese with native dried tomatoes and olives in brine. It was a wonderful cocktail hour choice that would go well with wine. While we were in the shop, someone stopped in with a vessel to fill from the vat. The olive oil is less expensive that way. Just bring in your own container. This man used his water bottle....a practical but curious choice, I'd say. Not having brought my own container this time, I bought a bottle of Freres Rabito that was sitting on the shelves. Next time I'll bring my empty bottle back. And, with a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, I think I know what I'll be putting it on.

We laid our spoons to rest and left.
On the way to dinner, I couldn't stop thinking about all of the stories of the different Sicilian family farms. On the La Tête Dans Olives site, the story of each oil is told. Now I can see why Cedric Casanova has "olives on the head"!
Les Tete dans Olives, in French here.

Les Tete dans Olives, translated in Engish here.

2 rue Sainte Marthe 750 10 Paris
metro : Colonel fabien, belleville ou Goncourt . Metro: Colonel Fabien, Goncourt or Belleville.
bus 75, 46 arret : hopital saint louis bus 75, 46 stop: Saint Louis Hospital
du mardi au vendredi de 14hà19h Tuesday to Friday 14hà19h
le samedi de 11h à 18h Saturday from 11h to 18h

tel +33(0)951313334 tel +33 (0) 951 313 334
Fax +33(0)956313334 Fax +33 (0) 956 313 334

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zac's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes late at night I am gently awakened from sleep by a sweetness in the air. I know I must be dreaming, because it smells like butter and sugar and all things nice! I roll over, go back to sleep and in the morning find batches of freshly baked cookies on the kitchen counter. Sometimes they are chocolate, sometimes oatmeal and often they are peanut butter. I do believe in Magic, but know they are the late night creations of my son, Zac. When he was young he used to "make dessert" for us. He grabbed a bowl and pulled out all of his favorite things from the cupboard and mixed them together. Almost always there was uncooked oatmeal and peanut butter involved. Mmmmm....we politely took bites as he dished it into individual bowls and then we enthusiastically said it was delicious. And it was, since the main ingredient was love. You just needed a lot of water to get it down and a big hug afterward! He has been helping make cookies since he was a baby. Thank goodness through the years he has refined his technique and makes the best cookies. Sometimes he meticulously follows a recipe to a T, but lately he has been referring back to his youthful Mad Scientist days. He still uses his favorite ingredients and works them into very tasty cookies! When I asked for his recipe, he had it all ready to go and emailed it to me. There is a grownup dash of cayenne pepper in these flavorful Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies that would even have elephants standing on their hands in joy!Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup chunky peanut butter

2 eggs

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 cup oats

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

sugar for sprinkling

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º F

2. In a large bowl, mix sugars and peanut butter until blended. Add eggs and cayenne pepper and mix until light and fluffy.

3. Add oats, cinnamon and vanilla extract and mix well.

4. Drop dough in balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

5. Place in oven for 12 minutes, or until done and lightly browned.

Thanks Zac!

And thanks to the Graphics Fairy for the elephant graphic.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

Never Forget
In remembrance of my friends, colleagues and fellow Americans who were lost that day.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Linguine with Tomatoes, Basil...and Balance

In yoga practice when you lean to the left and then to the right, you always come back to center and pause for physical and mental balance. Maintaining the same balance in life isn't always that easy. Sometimes we just need to stop and let life find it's own center....to temper adventure with contemplation....friends and family with solitude....work with stillness....black with white. I did just that with my break, and now I'm back! The power of nature helps. We are reminded that the center between black and white is not gray, but a shade of blush pink from a flower or the blue green of an impending wave of the ocean. I'm lucky that the beach is just 2 minutes away and Mother Nature's bounty is in my own backyard. I can pick my tomatoes and basil in the stillness of the morning and mix with ingredients that don't need any further attention than to mingle with one another. And what partners better with tomatoes and basil than pasta? Add extra virgin olive oil, garlic and cheese to this super easy sauce and it just doesn't get any better. The heat of the freshly cooked pasta melts the cheese and melds the flavors with just a simple stirring. This pasta dish is beach food, as my friend Nancy calls it. You can be at the beach all day and come home welcomed by the savory aromas, boil the pasta, toss with the awaiting mixture and now you have dinner....a perfectly balanced dinner in all ways.

Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
(Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes*
1 pound Brie cheese, rind removed, and torn into irregular pieces
1 cup cleaned fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of cayenne
1 1/2 pounds linguine
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
*I used the equivalent of a combination of red plum, Park's Whopper, Black Prince and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Combine the tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the peppers in a large serving bowl. Prepare at least 2 hours before serving and set aside, covered, at room temperature.Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining salt. Add the linguine and boil until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain pasta and immediately toss with the tomato mixture. Serve at once, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Top with the freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4-6.

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