Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tomato Jam

Really, if there's something I like at a restaurant, it can be difficult to get past it. At Rooster, my "thing" is a plate of potatoes and scrambled eggs with goat cheese, spinach, red onion, and tomato jam.
I love the tomato jam, it's unexpected and amazing- and I can say I loved it enough to have put it on my list of things to try to make.

Well, at this point it may not exactly be a perfect match, but I'm working on it.
Then again, it's not bad as is.

No, tomato season's not really in full swing yet, but as long as I could get something started I would have a jumping off point for later in the summer.
It'll be something a little different to help put a dent in the windfall of tomatoes.
And if you take care to preserve jars of jam properly, you could have a stash for the rest of the year.

It doesn't matter what type of tomatoes you use, whatever might be available would work. However, a meatier tomato, such as a Roma, has less liquid and will yield more jam since there's less evaporation that must take place.

From start to finish, tomato jam really doesn't take all that much time. And once it's all prepared it can be used for a variety of things.

Perhaps the flavor combinations sound a little odd, but they work nicely.
It's a higher end condiment than ketchup, it's fresh, and works with many things.
Steaks or hamburgers, chicken, eggs... even as part of a cheese plate.

The plan for tonight? Green salad, grilled vegetables, grilled chicken and tomato jam.

Tomato Jam
makes about 1 pint

1 kg (2.2 lb) tomatoes, roughly chopped (skin, seeds and all)
1 c (205 g) sugar
3 T (45 ml) balsamic vinegar
2 t (6 g) cumin
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches
1 T (18g) fresh minced or finely grated ginger
zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
2 T (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 t (10 g) kosher salt

1-2 spent vanilla bean pods (for a little extra depth)
a pinch or two of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes near the end of cooking time (for a little extra kick if desired)

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer 1- 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, then more constantly as the jam thickens. Taste for seasonings near the end of cooking (when the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency) and adjust as necessary.
Let the mixture cool, remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pods (if using) then spoon into jars. Cover and refrigerate. 
Unprocessed tomato jam will last at least a week refrigerated. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rote Grütze

Rote grütze is a thick red berry sauce or pudding, and a great way to take advantage of fresh summer fruit. 
The finished product is a wonderfully brazen shade of red. 

The recipe here is based on something I ate in Germany once upon a time.

In Munich, there's a fantastic gourmet food shop called Dallmayr
Coffee, tea, fruit, jams and honeys, chocolate, delicatessen, breads...
The displays, the color, the variety, the scents, the organization- quite something to see, and I think Dallmayr can be a destination in and of itself.
The closest thing I can think of as it's counterpart here is Dean & DeLuca (to give some sort of an idea- but that's not exactly right).

My version of rote grütze may be a bit different, not as thick as what may be expected, but it's based on what I had that day of exploration in central Munich: a cold and creamy vanilla bean rice pudding with a sweet and tart red berry sauce on top.
It was perfect.
I liked it so much that I wrote down the ingredients so I could try to replicate it at home.

One slight challenge for me was that while currants are more widely available in Europe, and used seemingly quite often, they're not as easily scouted out here in the US.

Currants are tart and beautifully shiny little berries, offering a punch of acidity to the mix with some of the sweeter and more familiar berries.
They can be found every now and then on their stems and boxed like clusters of bright red or black pearls, but they're not the most predictable bit of produce.  Though they might be in season, I can't say I'd be able to rely on them being present when I want some. So, I used red currant jelly instead. It's beneficial in two ways: as a flavor addition, and as a bit of a thickener because of the pectin it includes.

The dessert is neither ordinary nor cloyingly sweet. Instead, it has a slightly robust hit with the boost it gets from tart currants and bit of tannin from the red wine.

Ideas for serving:
on vanilla bean rice pudding
on ice cream
with pound cake and whipped cream
between layers of a cake
with custard
... or you could serve it as a dessert soup with a dollop of whipped cream

Rote Grütze
makes a generous 4 c/ 1 qt (1 L)

10 oz (285 g) raspberries
8 oz  (225 g) black cherries
8 oz (225 g) strawberries
6 oz (170 g) blackberries
1/2 c (125 ml) red wine
1/3 c (70 g) sugar
2 T (30 ml)  water
2 t (6 g) tapioca starch
1/2 c (165 g) red currant jelly
fresh lemon juice (to taste)

Rinse the raspberries and blackberries gently in a colander and drain. 
Rinse the cherries, pit and quarter. Rinse the strawberries, hull, and cut into pieces about the same size as the other fruits. 
Combine berries with sugar and red wine in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low-medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix the water and tapioca starch together in a small bowl to form a slurry. Stir the slurry into the cooked berries and return the pot to the heat, stirring constantly 2-3 minutes while the tapioca starch thickens the sauce. You will be able to see the cloudiness disappear and should notice the sauce thicken slightly.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove about half of the sauce and berries to a blender or food processor. Give the mixture a few short pulses to break down the berries. Add the red currant jelly and pulse again to incorporate.
Pour the mixture back into the pan with the unprocessed berries and stir to make sure the jelly melts and spreads throughout the mix.
Stir in lemon juice to taste (I would start with 2 t/10 ml).
Let the finished rote grütze cool (it will continue to thicken as it cools), then cover and refrigerate.
Serve as desired.

This amount would serve a crowd as a dessert topping, it can be stored in the refrigerator for use all week, or even canned or frozen and saved for later.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Sometimes for breakfast I want something savory and substantial. If I'm out for breakfast and happen to see chilaquiles on a menu, that's what I want- no question about it.

Another savory morning option, shakshuka is probably easier to make at home than chilaquiles (although both are equally fun to say). 
Essentially eggs poached in a tomato sauce, this North African dish can be one of those any time of day meals.

Eggs are like that: they're versatile. The fact that they almost always fit the bill is probably the best thing about them.

Eggs can be the perfect addition to so many one-bowl meals: sauteed vegetables, rice, quinoa, beans...
And a beautifully poached egg can make a silky sauce for whatever it's perched atop.

Shakshuka is one of those things that I've wanted to make for a while, it sounded so good, but I never got around to it until now- I'm glad I did. It's hearty with a little kick (it would be perfect when tomato season winds down and the weather cools off).
I'm sure I'll make it again, and I'll probably try some different variations along the way.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes in Plenty and Jerusalem
Serves 4-6

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
kosher salt
3/4 t (2 g) cumin
1 T (22 g) tomato paste
1 t (5 ml) hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
3 lage cloves of garlic, minced
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped into large pieces
2 red bell peppers, large dice
1 1/2 t (7 g) brown (or muscovado) sugar
freshly ground black pepper
4-6 large eggs

chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, plain yogurt, feta cheese, extra chili sauce, lemon zest

Heat olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced onion and 1/2 t (5 g) kosher salt. Reduce heat slightly and saute 10-15 minutes until the onions are softened and slightly caramelized. Stir in the cumin, tomato paste, and chili sauce and saute together with the onion a couple minutes until the onions are coated with the mixture and the tomato paste thickens and darkens slightly. Add the garlic and stir the mixture about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant. 

Add the tomato and peppers along with the brown sugar and another 1/2 t (5 g) kosher salt. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes until it starts to resemble a thick and chunky pasta sauce (add a little water to thin the sauce while cooking if desired). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Make 4-6 wells in the simmering sauce and crack an egg into each space. Cover the pan and continue gently simmering the shakshuka about 5 minutes, or until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still soft. 

Garnish to taste and serve with toast or good bread.