Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Day 115: Smashed-up Day, Plus Tomatoes

Workouts. . .
20 min. walk with the dog — brisk! It’s coooooold out there.

Today I got up for work at Starbucks at 4 a.m. (had to shower, so a little earlier than usual), for a shift that went until noon. From there, I ran home to change & let the dog out, then drove to Louisville (30 min) for a 1-5 p.m. gig. It took me 45 minutes to drive home, so my entire day has taken 13 hours, and I’m totally sleepy. I was supposed to work out today, obviously, but I have zero energy and my eyelids are drooping already (it’s not even 8 p.m.).

I was lucky enough to have George starving and ready to start dinner while I was driving home. He sautéed himself some chicken sausage and boiled the pasta for us. When I got home, I added lemon juice & zest, pepper flakes, parmesan and olive oil to separate bowls, then mixed my half of the pasta with sautéed onions and chickpeas. I thought mine was really good, though the sausage also smelled nice, dammit. But my chickpeas turned out fabulous. I love those little guys!

Last weekend, while George and I browsed around Barnes & Noble waiting for our Macaroni Grill reservation, I found a book for my mother-in-law. I had George buy it for her for Mother’s Day since she absolutely adores tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It’s called “Tomatoes & Mozzarella: 100 Ways to Enjoy This Tantalizing Twosome All Year Long,” by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora. Here are a couple of recipes from it that I don’t want to lose when we actually give the book away.

Savory Roasted Tomato Crumble
3 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, cored & quartered
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 5” sprigs fresh thyme
3 6” sprigs fresh rosemary
sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

For the crumb topping:
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. pine nuts
1 c. shredded fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Oil a roasting pan.
Place the tomatoes in the pan and scatter the garlic, thyme and rosemary over them. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Cover and bake for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven, discard the herb sprigs, and set aside to cool. Raise the oven temperature to 375º.
To make the crumb topping, place the flour, butter, and bread crumbs in a food processor and pulse until the butter has been reduced to pea-size bits. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
Oil a 9” springform pan. Remove the tomatoes from the roasting pan with a slotted spoon and place them in the springform pan. Cover with the crumb topping, pressing the topping down gently with your fingers. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and turn the oven setting to broil. Top with the shredded mozzarella and broil for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is lightly speckled. Cool slightly and serve hot. Serves 4-6.

Tomato Stacks with Mozzarella and Romesco Sauce

4 medium-sized yellow or orange tomatoes, with stems attached
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
2 T basil-flavored olive oil
sea salt to taste

For the romesco sauce:
1”-thick piece hearty country baguette, brushed with olive oil and toasted
2 T olive oil
1 or 2 ancho chiles, soaked for 1/2 hour in hot water, drained and seeded
1/2 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. toasted almonds
1/4 c. toasted hazelnuts
1 large ripe tomato, cored and grated (yes, grated)
1 T minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp red wine vinegar
sea salt to taste

Make the romesco sauce. In a medium skillet, sauté the bread over medium heat in 1 T of the olive oil until lightly golden. Add remaining 1 T of oil to the skillet and sauté the ancho and Serrano chiles for 3 minutes. Cool slightly, and place the chiles int eh bowl of a food processor with the garlic. Process until smooth. Add the almonds, hazelnuts, tomato, parsley, vinegar and sautéed bread and process just to mix. Season to taste with salt.

Slice each tomato widthwise into 4 pieces. For each tomato, spread 1 tablespoon Romesco sauce on the bottom slice and cover with the second tomato slice. Top with a piece of cheese and cover with the third tomato slice. Spread the top of the third slice with another tablespoon of romesco sauce and top with the last tomato slice (which is the top of the tomato, with its stem). Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over each tomato and sprinkle the tomatoes with salt. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Parmesan Cannoli Filled with Golden Romas and Bocconcini

1 c. diced golden roma heirloom tomates (about 5 oz)
1/2 c. diced fresh mozzarella cheese
1 T minced fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Mix together all ingredients except the parmesan cheese, in a large bowl.
Heat a small lightly oiled nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread 1/3 c. of the parmesan cheese in an even layer on the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the cheese melts together and forms a solid cake, about 2 minutes. The bottom will be light golden brown. Remove it from the skillet and quickly form the cheese into a cylinder around a cannoli tube, a small wooden dowel, or a thin rolling pin. Repeat with the remaining parmesan cheese, oiling or psraying the skillet again as necessary. As the cannoli shells cool, gently remove them from the forms. Fill each shell with 2 generous tablespoons of the tomato-mozzarella mixture. Serve immediately. Makes 12 cannoli.

Roman-Style Gnocchi

3 c. whole milk
1 c. yellow cornmeal
2 large eggs, beaten
5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella
2 c. marinara

generously oil a 13x9” baking pan. Heat milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is just beginning to simmer. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in the eggs, 3 T of the butter, the salt, the pepper and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Spoon into the prepared pan and let mixture cool completely, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cornmeal mixture into 2” squares and place in an ungreased baking pan. Dot the surface with remaining 2 T of butter and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve topped with warmed marinara sauce, or with a bowl of it alongside, in Mama May’s style.

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