Monday, June 24, 2013

Early Summer Tomato Jam

We’ve been exceedingly blessed with weather in the Bay Area this year. A mild winter transitioned gracefully into an early spring with sunny days arriving mid-April with seemingly no end in sight. We can’t help but relish these sun-drenched days by spending the entire afternoon outside, soaking up the Vitamin D, sipping on cold white wine and doing very little else. I chalk it up to our Southern California roots but when the sun is out, so are we. As a result of this wonderful stroke of good weather, we’ve managed to get little else done lately…one of those ‘good problems’ to be sure.
That said though, I quietly delighted waking up to a drizzly overcast Sunday yesterday. DH was away for the weekend so I cycled down to the DMV Farmer’s Market, spent a ridiculous sum on waaaaay too much produce and spent the entire day cooking in the kitchen.

On the day’s agenda:
-fresh whipped butter with chopped radish
-fresh ricotta with lemon
and last but certainly not least…
-early summer tomato jam

The original intent for the tomato jam was to enter it in Pizzaiolo’s Jam/Pie Contest for this Sunday’s fundraiser but it’s come to my attention that the fundraiser was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. Bummer.

This was my first attempt at tomato jam. I wanted to make a more savory jam, ideally with less sugar. Full disclosure, I’ve been attempting to avoid all refined sugar as of late. But sure enough, tomato jam calls for a good amount of sugar to bring the fruit together, arguably more than other summer fruits with higher natural sugar content such as berries or stone fruit. C’est la vie. On with the recipe…
Chop tomatoes and a white onion. Add sugar (some recipes call for as much as a 1lb::1cup ratio but I lessened the sugar ratio to 5lb::3cups). Add spices (cumin, coriander, caraway & cayenne were my choice). Add lemon juice or vinegar. I chose sherry vinegar but balsamic might have been nice with more Mediterranean spices. 
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Keep mixture at a boil for a minute or so, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally. 
Cooking time from this point on will depend entirely on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Mine were rather juicy so the cooking time was close to 4 hours. Once the mixture reached jam-like consistency, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Then transfer mixture into canning jars and turn upside down to cool. For long-term storage, stabilize cans in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Maybe its from not eating sugar for a full week or maybe it’s just that I expected it to be more savory but the jam tasted too sweet for my taste. DH loved it, especially on toasts with the fresh ricotta. Paired with a Bloomsdale spinach salad with fresh onions, pickled radish, pecans & gremolata, the tomato jam made a nice addition to an easy dinner.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Giant Green Pie & Kitchen Navigations

Navigating the perimeters of a domestic space can be tricky at times. Sharing a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchen with another person requires a fair bit of negotiation & compromise. No doubt.
For our entire relationship, DH and I have enjoyed cooking together with near bliss most days. That said though, there are times cooking together feels more like a cold war than a creative hot spot.
This was the case when we attempted to cook from a recent NYTimes recipe for Torta Pasquina, or giant green pie.

Most often the disconnect is a matter of taste. DH has a taste for adornment while I lean toward more plain, austere flavors & textures. He'd be happiest with a dish made of a million ingredients and I'd be most content with less than five. Also, to be fair, I am a wee bit bossy in the kitchen. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with this but alas, it's true. "You see this kitchen as Emily's kitchen and everything in it as belonging to you", DH accused on this cooking occasion. I confessed, reluctantly, "Well, yes, I suppose that is true.". But I wondered then (and continue to wonder quietly now), what is really so wrong with that?
Anyhow, onto the recipe...
We chose to make this pie because it met the three requirements that matter most lately:
-inexpensive ingredients
DH made the dough while I cooked the greens & onions. 
After mixing the ricotta into the green mixture, spread it over the bottom layer of dough.
Crack eggs onto the greens mixture...
...and cover the pie with two layers of paper thin dough.
Lastly, fold over the pie edges to envelop mixture (certainly could have been more artful than we achieved), coat with an egg wash and slice steam vents in the top. Cook at 375* for 40-50 minutes, depending on the oven.
Serve warm to a loving, grateful sister-in-law!
The one edit I would make to this recipe is to use store bought pie crust or phyllo dough instead of making it ourselves. This would have made an already easy recipe that much easier and arguably better tasting.

Here's to working out those learning curves and speed bumps in the pursuit of domestic bliss!