Archives for posts with tag: Labor Day

I came home from Vermont on Labor Day with a weighty bag of small plum-like tomatoes from my stepmother’s garden. I was housesitting for her and my father and part of my laborious duties included picking the ripe fruits from their vines. While the Sun Golds burst with the flavors of sun and summer, these more Roma-like tomatoes seemed better suited to gazpacho or a sauce.

The bag sat on my counter in Brooklyn for most of last week until it occurred to me to roast them, concentrating their flavors for a sweeter, more flavorful punch. I like raw tomatoes, I do. They’re one of August and September’s exquisite pleasures: slicing the juicy fruit, whether beefsteak or heirloom, seeds spilling over the edge of the cutting board. Layered with good buffalo mozzarella and basil, or just biting into one like a peach. But I find, after a while, I want my tomatoes cooked. I want the tastes condensed, the flavors warm. Maybe it’s just summer turning into fall.

So I decided I needed more tomatoes. I swung by my local farmer’s market Saturday after the tornado/tornahdo left Brooklyn and the sun came out blazing. A stand had a $1/lb bin of bruised tomatoes that needed a home – I was more than happy to adopt these forsaken ones. I lugged six pounds home for six bucks.

Once home I sliced all the tomatoes and arranged on a baking sheet, drizzling olive oil and salt on top. I roasted them in a 225 degree oven for one hour, a little more, turning once, until they were shriveled and syrupy. These are great to eat just like this – tossed with pasta, or on toast, in a salad, or mixed with rice. But I thought marinated in olive oil with the basil and garlic I brought home from Vermont would be even better. So quite unintentionally I found myself stuffing the roasted tomatoes into glass Ball jars and sealing their lids in baths of boiling water.

A friend came by and said, “you’re canning!” And so I was. Sort of. But I think of it more like cheating – preserving the rich flavors of summer without spending days on a factory line in my kitchen. It took all of a couple of hours to fill four Ball jars this weekend. I know that won’t get me through the winter, let alone fall. September? Maybe.

Roasted, marinated tomatoes, for fall

Tomatoes, any variety, the cheaper/uglier the better
Olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Chili peppers, optional
Basil, optional

1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges (unless very small in which case halve them). Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake at 225 F for at least one hour, and up to one and a half hours.

2. Cool completely before transferring to a Ball or Mason jar with a sealing lid. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic to each jar, also adding basil and small dried peppers if you’d like. I add a dash more of Maldon salt. Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are coated and marinating in the oil.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn down the heat to a vigorous simmer and add your jars with the lids on tight. Let sit in the simmering water for at least five minutes, or until the jars are sealed and the lid doesn’t pop when you push on the center.

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Staying in town Labor Day weekend has many benefits. Not sitting in traffic, attending the U.S. open, and time for all those food projects, are among the main attractions. I love Vermont and upstate and swimming and grilling and hammocks, but once in a while a staycation can be just as restful and restorative.

Yesterday I met my friend Laura, in town from D.C., for brunch. I like going out to eat with Laura, a vegan for at least the past two years, because it gives me the opportunity to venture out from the typical eggs-benedict brunch and try something a little more interesting, mindful. A bit of internet research, and a recommendation from my friend Jill, suggested Sun in Bloom, a small, sunny restaurant and cafe on Bergen Street in North Park Slope, near Flatbush Avenue.

I think a lot of us have been scared off from restaurants that bill themselves as vegan, or gluten-free, or raw, let alone all three. Sun in Bloom is not one of those freaky deaky joints that serve lots of tvp or fake meat or unsalted greens. The only cliché about this place was Bob Marley on the sound system, which I didn’t mind at all. The space was bright, simple, and inviting.

They have a rotating daily lasse or smoothie and yesterday it was a Blueberries & Cream Immunity Booster, made of coconut kefir and fresh blueberries. Also on the menu: an energizing & alkalizing raw greens oup of cucumber, romaine, parsley, avocado and lemon. I’ll have to go back to try that.

Laura ordered the quiche with roasted tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, kale, roasted garlic, and pepper flakes, with a side of parsnip hash, for $10. I had the “huevos rancheros” burrito with butternut squash hash; the burrito was filled with a spicy tofu scramble, greens, brown rice, and black beans, wrapped in an Ezekiel sprouted tortilla, for $10.50. Next time I’d also love to try the tempeh reuben and bloom burger.

Earlier in the weekend I went to see the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, by the German Gereon Wetzel, about the famous Spanish restaurant, which closed its doors last month to much press and fanfare. The film is a meditation on an idea. The creation of a dish from seed to flower, the deconstruction of a sweet potato, from root vegetable to juice to gnocchi. The art of the film was not so much in the technical savvy of the filmmaker, but in the way it shows artists at work, regardless of the profession. Yes these happen to be very skilled chefs in southern Spain, but they could’ve been painters or sculptors, architects or musicians. They begin with an idea for a dish, they mess up, there are trials and errors, but after six months of lab-testing in Barcelona in the winter, the chefs of el Bulli would come up with a hundred ideas for new dishes to present in the restaurant in springtime.

The film does a good job of not treating the restaurant, or its star chef, Ferran Adrià, as too precious. The chefs make fun of themselves, and have fun, amidst all the seriousness and pressure. At one point, one of the chefs is meant to be serving an invented cocktail of oil and water, to be poured at the table; he discovers to his horror, mid-pour, he has brought a bottle of sparkling water instead of still water. You really feel for the guy as he’s recreating the tale back in the safety of the kitchen.

As an aside, this is one of the things I love about New York: Film Forum. Where else can you see a film about avant-garde cooking, Serge Gainsbourg, and a film-noir of post-war Tokyo all in the same night? If I had money and a will I would leave them something. (I recommend House of Bamboo by the way.)

Finally, tennis. The U.S. Open started last weekend in Flushing, Queens and this was my first year to attend. I started playing tennis last summer and have gotten hooked on the game. This weekend I got to play on Saturday on Long Island, while visiting my grandmother, then watched a number of matches over the weekend, and attended two matches at Arthur Ashe stadium (the largest tennis venue in the world) Sunday night: the number-four men’s player in the world, Andy Murray from Scotland, who beat Feliciano Lopez; and the number-two women’s player, Vera Zvonareva, who beat the German Sabine Lisicki. Not much to say about the food I’m afraid, except as one friend put, why isn’t there a Shake Shack?

Posts to follow soon on some food projects from this past weekend that I couldn’t fit in here. Look out. And go Rafa!

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