Thursday, September 29, 2011

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Ah. The Solanaceae family. The alkaloids present in this tribe can bring about good, bad, and ugly effects.

Toxic: form of green potatoes or night berries.
Stress-inducing: form of herpes outbreaks or swollen joints.
Intoxicating: form of wild tobacco.
Curative: form of  Homeopathic Belladona.

My three favorite Solanums (in no particular order) are melongena, lycopersicum, and tuberosum. Eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. I often douse them with some combination of lemon zest, garlic, pepper, heavy salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Different temperatures and cooking times produce surprisingly diverse results.

Here's what I joyously slammed out one day while Dash and Bella hung out at school. I had a lot to do. And as lovely as my children are, I didn't want them in the way.
Dash and Bella contributed when they came home from school. With chalk. With drama. With excitement. With a punch to the chest (Dash to Bella). With a wow (Dash). A yummy (Bella!). An onslaught of blechs and yucks (from both). And a hella loud and teary I-won't-eat-that-eggplant-for-dinner-no-way-that's-disgusting (Bella to me with hands firmly planted on hips). A balls-out confirmation that I'm not doing this cooking thing in a vacuum. I'm living it with two little explorers who will forever keep me on my toes. Even if I send them away for a few hours during the day, they will come back and get their fingers, and opinions, and creativity into everything. Lucky me.
No recipe links in this post. Just a smattering of thoughts about each dish. There are no right ways to cook nightshades. Play around if you can. That's all I did. Taste, touch, see, sense, hear, smell, lick, feed, slurp, share, freeze.

QUICK TOMATO SAUCE (LEMON + GARLIC): Preheat oven to 325°F. Season cored whole tomatoes with salt, pepper, and minimal olive oil. Tuck unpeeled garlic cloves into tomatoes bodies. Bake until the tomatoes are softened, blackened, and swimming in their own juices. I threw the results into a Ziploc bag along with the contents of each garlic clove (squirted out) and roasted eggplant (see below). Bella enthusiastically pounded and mushed it all together in the bag. It's in the freezer for December. 

LEMON, GARLIC, AND ANCHOVY POTATOES: I did a lime variation of this last month. This time I used lemon. Preheat oven to 350°F. Peel and slice the yukon gold potatoes (1/2" wide) and place them in a baking dish. Coat them with lots of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Toss in a few rosemary branches and a lemon (or two) cut into eighths (remove as many seeds as you can). In a small pot, boil 10 unpeeled cloves of garlic and a tin of anchovy fillets (plus their oil) for 2 minutes. The mixture will start to snap, crackle, and pop, so stand back. Pour this oily fishy deliciousness over the potatoes. Toss with a spoon until evenly coated. Cover tightly with a lid or tin foil. Cook until potatoes are tender. 45 minutes or so. You can leave them pale and tender. Or you can broil them up for a few minutes until crispy. Eat right away. Or make a tart with puff pastry + sweet red pepper puree + roasted garlic + potato slices.
ROASTED EGGPLANT: Eggplant takes time. Don't compromise and eat spongy eggplant because it's nasty and depressing. Preheat oven to 350°F. Trim off the stems and then cut the eggplants into lengthwise sticks (about 1" or so wide). Lightly coat with salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add a thinly sliced onion and a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves.  Turn the heat down if it starts to burn. Add more oil as needed. Roast until eggplant is gooey and sweet (at least an hour, maybe more). You can chop this up and add it to your quick tomato sauce (above). Or serve it over lamb chops with some crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley. It's also lovely folded into couscous.
3-HOUR TOMATOES:  Preheat oven to 225°F. Core and halve a mess of (smaller) tomatoes. Coat with salt, pepper, lemon zest, microplane-grated garlic, and olive oil. After 3 hours in the oven, these tomatoes turn into crispy candy cups filled with caramelized tomato pulp reduction. Tart and sweet at the same time.They keep for a few days in the fridge. Or a bit longer packed in olive oil. Or you can freeze them for months. Or, once again, make a tart! Puff pastry (or shortcrust pastry) + a goat cheese base (1 cup goat cheese, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, salt, pepper) + 3-hour tomatoes.
10-HOUR TOMATOES: Yes, they're oven-dried, but they look, feel, and taste just like sun-dried tomatoes. 200°F. Salt, pepper, olive oil. Check them after 8 hours. Drench them in olive oil immediately. You can season the oil with a few peeled whole garlic cloves and thyme branches. Freeze if you don't use it within about 5 days.

12 comments:

  1. Great ideas. Not only are the photos wonderful but I love the idea of making the potatoes into a tart. Perfect seasonal recipes.

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  2. Yum. And yum. And then again, yum. I even think I might like the anchovy inclusion. And I love love love the chalkboard visuals—as ever, your experimentation in words and images and motherhood never cease to amaze.

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  3. Oh my goodness the chalkboard is fabulous. And I'm all about that goat cheese tomato tart. Thank you thank you.

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  4. After some spongy revolting eggplant last night, was sworn off the stuff - but yours looks so tempting! Thanks for the eggplantspiration

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  5. Basically,from one mom of two, YOU ROCK!!!!

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  6. This post finally excited me into buying tomatoes at the local market. I think they will become soup, but I'm so thankful for the push. (And that goat cheese tart will haunt me until I buy more tomatoes and make it myself. Wow!)

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  7. Oh goodie!!! A more healthful alternative to Janssen's Temptation!!! Yippiee!!

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  8. Great! I am a farmer...so you can imagine the tomatoe avalanche! I made the quick roasted tomatoes with garlic! Yum! Then I made your tomatoe galette! Best crust I ever made due to your tip of of putting the butter in in two stages!! Thanks!!!

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  9. i just had another evening with many of these dishes present. and i still have about 40 more tomatoes to eat. i think it's my favorite time of year.

    thanks to all of you for the supportive comments.

    lisa: eggplantspiration? funny. happy to help you with that!

    liz tree: i also love the two-step butter stage. so glad you tried it and liked it. let me know if you come up with any new recipes. i need some variety around here.

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  10. Wonderful ideas!!! I love love love long-roasted tomatoes, but never tried it with the garlic cloves tucked in. But I will now!! Thanks!

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  11. Foods, especially garlic, stored covered in olive oil are known to be potentially lethal, as botulism grows in anaerobic conditions. If you make the tomatoes and garlic in olive oil, please eat them within three days or so and keep them in the fridge. The tomastoesd do not have enough acidity to make them safe.

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  12. zelda: so true about garlic. you've got to be careful (although i have to admit i've kept garlic confit in the fridge for up to a month). i've said above that you need to freeze things after a few days. the only place i omitted that was for the 10-hour oven dried tomatoes. i will add that right away. thanks for the reminder!

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