Archives for 2006

Pantry Essential: Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomato Story

Once upon a time, I took some baby tomatoes by the name of Campari home from my local mega-warehouse store. The tomatoes were small, but the container they sat in was not. I’d say they weighed somewhere in the 5-pound range.

Now, there are happy families out there who would’ve been pleased to slice those little babies into their giant family reunion buffet salad, perch them atop their backyard burgers, or throw them in the blender for a Sunday afternoon Bloody Mary bash.

But what I did is, I let them sit prettily in a basket on my countertop. I admired them for days and days, until they began to go all soft and stinky. And there might have been some minuscule, fluffy white mold spores forming on their smooth surface, like tiny snowflakes on Scarlett Johansson’s big red lips.

But, then I had a burst of inspiration – By gum, I would roast those ripe-going-on-compost tomatoes! I would save them from a raw and graphic ending in the InSinkErator and allow them to achieve their final glory: a warm, slow demise in my 275 degree oven!

And so dear readers, that is what I did. First I showered them briefly with salt and pepper, and lubed them with some olive oil. Two hours later, my kitchen smelled like my Italian grandma’s would on a Sunday afternoon, and there is something about that aroma that makes my mouth water.

Having a container of these tomatoes in your fridge can transform your life as you know it.

Pile some in a food processor with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and fresh basil and process until chunky. It’s a sweet little salsa-like condiment to stir into scrambled eggs or dollop on plain pasta.

“What can I eat for lunch?” you ask. How about sticking some of these tomatoes in a fresh mozzarella sandwich with a slice of prosciutto and some fresh basil leaves? Heat the sandwich on a griddle or your panini maker, and you have a sandwich that would make a Roman truck driver very jealous.

And what about dinner? Tonight I made them into a sauce for some fresh pasta (cavatelli, from Whole Foods) with my very favorite green vegetable, broccoli rabe.

So there’s the happy ending to today’s story, because nothing makes me happier than a big bowl of pasta.

Lime in the Coconut and the Crab

There’s something very beautiful about watching your own flesh, blood and breathing progeny asleep. Asleep on the sofa while a Disney DVD plays a canned lullaby at 6-freaking-o’clock on a Saturday night. Thank you Jesus!

This never, ever happens on any of our chairs, sofas, loveseats or carpeted floor areas. We always offer a silent prayer that the kids will approach us at cocktail hour with the announcement that having awoken at the ass-crack of dawn, they will very kindly put themselves to bed. Without our assistance. And happily.

Oh, come on. What kind of parent do you think I am?

J fell asleep tonight in this very fashion, however, an hour after screaming that he HATES crab cakes and will not be eating them for dinner.

A, on the other hand, was surprised at how much crab cake she’d consumed (all of it), after agreeing to at least try one bite. They were yummy – Coconut Milk Crab Cakes with Lime Zest, taken from Tom Douglas’s book I Love Crabcakes.

I added an indulgent garnish of creme fraiche mixed with lime juice and sriracha, but I still think the cakes needed an extra shot of something; maybe more salt or a touch of spice. But now that I’ve discovered that Costco sells Phillips lump crabmeat, I might be cooking my way through this cute little book. Especially when my 5 year old tyrant is fast asleep.

Crabby Patties ready for the frying pan

Coconut Milk Crab Cakes with Lime Zest

1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 pound crabmeat, drained
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups panko
2 egg whites
Peanut or canola oil for frying
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 teaspoon sriracha (Asian hot sauce)
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Combine coconut milk and lime zest in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the milk is reduced to 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Add the crab, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper and 1 cup panko, stirring to combine.
Whip the egg whites (by hand if you’re so inclined, or with an electric mixer), until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the crab mixture.
Add the remaining 2 cups panko to a shallow container. Form the crab mixture into approximately 8 patties – I made a few mini kid-friendly ones- and dredge in the panko. You can cover these and chill up to 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to fry, heat 2 large nonstick pans over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat pans about 1/8-inch deep. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the cakes. Fry until deep golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a paper-towel lined platter.
Mix together the creme fraiche, sriracha and lime juice and serve with the crab cakes.

About Karen

I’m a full time mom and foodie, for lack of a better word, living in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

Before I had kids, I wanted to own a restaurant and cook like Alice Waters – straight out of the garden, preferably one in Provence or Italy (so far that plan is still in the Dream Phase).

I talked myself into my first restaurant job working with chef Melissa Kelly, whom I consider my cooking mentor. Her restaurant Primo, in Rockland, Maine serves rustic, Mediterranean-influenced food, my kind of soul food, with many of the ingredients grown or harvested very nearby.

Over the years, I’ve worked as a wine consultant and cheesemonger, catered dinner parties, entered cooking contests , and these days I also teach cooking classes.

As of November, 2007 I am in business! I’ve launched DinnerStyle, my personal chef service. I’d love to come and cook for you in the St. Louis area.

My FamilyStyle Food blog is about sharing what I love – cooking, eating and entertaining – with a fresh, seasonal sensibility and simple recipes.

I hope you visit often and find something that makes you hungry or inspires you to gather around the table – there’s nothing better.

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