Friday, August 28, 2009
Recipes from my August tomato harvest
This August we have been well-fed from the garden, especially from my beloved tomato plants. Tomatoes have two interesting colloquial names: love apple, which comes to us from the French pomme d'amour. This is a phonetic derivation of Italian's pomo dei Mori (apples of the Moors), as 16th century Europe was supplied with tomatoes from North Africa.
My favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes are sliced raw on my morning toast, diced into salads or simmered all afternoon into a ruby-colored chutney. Last week Justin made one of his amazing curries with naan. He makes the dough and forms each piece of bread by hand, grills it on the stovetop and finishes it off in the oven. It is so freaking good. The tomato plants were really producing and the neighbors had given us some of their tomatoes too. I couldn't bear the thought of any of them spoiling. To round out our Indian inspired feast I made a hot chutney with some of our giant heirloom tomatoes.
Spicy Heirloom Tomato Chutney
1 c coarsely chopped sweet onion (go for Walla Walla's)
2 1/2 c fresh, chopped heirloom tomatoes
14.5 ounce can of diced unsalted tomatoes (omit if you have more fresh tomatoes)
1 tbs olive or coconut oil (for a sweeter chutney)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried, ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin seed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/4 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp crushed red pepper (cut to 1 tsp for a medium-spicy chutney)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 tbs agave nectar
Heat the oil over medium heat and stir in the onions. Sautee until they are well coated in the oil and begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic cloves and all spices (except salt and agave). Stir well so the onions are coated with the spice paste and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the spices begin to stick to the pan add a few tablespoons of water.
Add the fresh tomatoes, stir well, add canned tomatoes and increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Once it is at a healthy boil reduce heat to low. Leave the chutney to gently simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in the agave nectar toward the end. The chutney is done when it's reduced by about half. If you happen to have enough fresh tomatoes to omit the canned (about 5-6 cups fresh) it may take a little longer to reduce. Keep a close eye on it especially if you are using an electric stove. I've noticed how much the heat settings on electric stoves vary. The 1950's relic I'm cooking on now will scorch rice and sauces even on the "warm" setting if you leave them alone for too long.
Monday morning there was a massive ripening of cherry tomatoes. Enough to do something really interesting with. That day the Oregonian ran a recipe for a Southern Tomato Pie and inspired this fresh, light vegan tart. The absence of heavy dairy-based ingredients really allowed the flavor of the tomatoes to shine. Inspired by our tiny bumper crop I made up this recipe for an Heirloom Tomato Tart and served it with our runty, misshapen corn harvest and the 5th wave of snap peas, served raw with a homemade balsamic-tahini dressing.
*A raw foods variation on this entire recipe is to make the tart filling as directed below (you may want to reduce amount of garlic) allow it to marinate for a few hours and serve as is. It also makes a good bruscetta topping, raw or grilled.
20 phyllo dough sheets
1/3 c melted Earth Balance
The phyllo dough will need to thaw at room temp (takes about 2 hours) before you begin working with it.
For Filling or Raw Salad:
3-4 c sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes (I supplemented the cherry tomatoes with another variety, chopped)
4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c raw pine nuts
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Spike
2-3 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place all filling ingredients into a bowl and stir well to thoroughly coat all tomatoes with the seasonings and disperse garlic and pine nuts. Melt the Earth Balance. Carefully unroll the phyllo dough.
A few words about phyllo dough: The directions on my package said to immediately cover it with plastic and then a damp towel and always keep it covered while working with it. This sounded a bit hysterical to me and I'm not down with using plastic on my food nor do I generally try to make "pretty" dishes. So I threw caution to the wind and left my phyllo dough vulnerable to the air. So it's up to you, follow the directions or don't. My tart was a little soft on the bottom and had a rough, peasanty edge to it. When cut with a sharp knife it held together pretty well. My vision was for a round tart, a savory-sweet moon of flaky dough and a warm, slightly saucy center. So I defied the logic of using a rectangular dish to match the shap of the papery thin phyllo sheets and made my round tart.
Once you've selected your baking dish, layer sheets of phyllo dough with a brushing of the melted Earth balance until you've built a layer of 7-10 sheets for the bottom of the tart. Because I used a round pan I carefully ripped off the squared excess and formed a somewhat jagged perimeter, flush with the rim of the dish.
Once you've built up the bottom of the tart, pour the filling into the dish and repeat the phyllo/Earth Balance layering to form the top. I really like the super-flaky effect from ripping the edges of the dough sheets. Next put it in the oven for 30 minutes and allow to set for another 25-35 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.