Monthly Archives: October 2012

Roasted Tomatoes

Do you recognize those guys in that lineup above? You should. We’ve all seen them before…and they are guilty! Guilty of having no taste at all! Off-season tomatoes…sigh.

I may be a bit spoiled, living in New Jersey, the Garden State. Our summer vegetables, most especially our tomatoes, are unbelievably good. Summer “Jersey” tomatoes are deep red, meaty, juicy and very sweet and flavorful. So delicious, you could eat one with nothing else at all and be satisfied. Once the season has past, my heart breaks each time I have to buy a tomato from the grocery store. I used to just pass them by. They just were not worth it. Until now.

I’ve been slow roasting tomatoes in the oven. If you’ve noticed in some of my recipes, I love to use sun dried tomatoes a lot. These have the same concentrated rich flavor, but they are a bit more moist.  Once roasted, you would never, ever believe that they are the same tomatoes that went into the oven. You can do a lot with them. They are delicious in salads, sandwiches, served with cheeses, pasta, sauces, anywhere you might think to use sun dried tomatoes. And this could not be easier…I mean, it’s hardly even a recipe!

Once cut, you can even see how pale and tasteless they look!

 

Roasted Tomatoes

about 1 – 1 1/2lb. tomatoes (I’ve used plum and vine tomatoes, but any tomato will work)
about 1 – 2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Slice tomatoes into halves. Cut out the woody core. Place the tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and rub them all down with olive oil. Sprinkle with just a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
Place them in the oven on the center rack and roast at 275 degrees for 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes.
Once they are just about done to your liking, shut the oven off, but keep the tomatoes in until the oven cools down. Pull the tray out and continue cooling completely on the counter.
I store my tomatoes drizzled with a bit of extra virgin olive oil in a container in the fridge. They keep for about a week to 10 days.

Notes:

  • Don’t overdo the salt and pepper. You just want a tiny sprinkle.
  • Since I’ve got the oven running, I try to also roast heads of garlic at the same time. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, buttery, mellow and delicious!  Just cut the top off of the head of garlic, put it into a piece of foil and drizzle some olive oil over it. Close the foil up around it and roast until soft!
  • After about an hour in the oven…your house will smell amazing!
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Manti (Armenian Dumpling Soup)

Manti

Every culture seems to have their own dumpling. Armenians have manti, little boats, usually stuffed with ground lamb or beef. Out of the oven, they are golden, crunchy and savory. Then, they are thrown into a broth lightly blushed with tomato and topped with a dollop of yogurt. This soup is warming, comforting and very filling.

Making manti was a family production. My sisters and I would join our Mom in the kitchen and we’d all have a hand in creating these little boats. Our Mom usually handled the dough (don’t get scared off yet, there is a super easy shortcut that doesn’t involve you making any dough at all!). We all worked around the table together filling and pinching (and talking and laughing, loudly, I’m sure) until trays and trays of the manti made their way in and out of the oven burning the fingers of those of us too eager to test them.

Wonton Wraps…the shortcut!

Manti

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. allspice
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
4 T. tomato paste, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg. wonton wraps, cut into quarters
8 C. chicken broth
1/2 C. non fat plain Greek yogurt, for topping
1 clove garlic minced (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, allspice, 1 T. of the tomato paste and salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread out some waxed paper on a counter or table to protect the surface. Keep the wonton wraps under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. You’ll need a small bowl of water for each person helping out. I like to work in batches. I lay out about ten to fifteen squares at a time, then using a 1/4 t. measuring spoon I drop that amount of the meat mixture onto each square. Dip your fingers in the bowl of water, wet the outer edge of each square of dough and bring up the sides, pinch together while pushing down toward the table to create the little boats you see in the picture. Place each manti onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until you’ve used all of the meat mixture.
Bake the manti on the center rack in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy, golden and crunchy. My oven can be very uneven, so I check often and rotate the sheet halfway through.
While the manti are baking, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 3 T. tomato paste and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and a bit of pepper if needed.
Once the manti have baked, you can immediately throw them in to the pot of broth. I like to take the pot off of the heat and let them sit for maybe 5 minutes.
Serve in bowls topped off with a healthy dollop of the yogurt. You can mix the minced garlic into the yogurt if desired. That is the traditional way to eat it. Personally, I like it plain.

Notes:

  • The wonton wraps come in 3″ squares.  Cut them in half in both directions to get 1 1/2″ squares.
  • You can make batches of the dumplings and freeze them for later use. Just make sure to pre-freeze them on the baking tray for about a half hour in your freezer after they have cooled completely. Then put them in a zipper bag.
  • The bowl used in the photo above deserves some credit! For the past several years, my friend Pat and I attend a fundraiser called Empty Bowls http://www.emptybowls.net  Their purpose is to raise funds to end hunger. Potters donate some beautiful bowls in which guests are served soup.  The guests take their empty bowls home to remind them of the cause. Pat was kind enough to give me her bowl…I think she knew I was eyeing it up! So, if you are interested, you can go to their site to see if there is an Empty Bowls event in your area.