Saturday, October 30, 2010

Winter Greens Soup

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday, so here's today's Vegan Mofo post! It's extra-hearty to make up for yesterday's absence... ;)

Sorry about the picture. I'd already started eating by the time that I remembered that I was supposed to take a picture. Oops. That wasn't even the first bowl (which is why the colour isn't so bright any more)... I'm such a disgrace of a food blogger! Not that that phases me in any way, heh. Anyway, this soup is a really simple and really delicious way to use up leftover veg, or just get some more green vegetables into your life. Because I know you all need more green vegetables. Even those of you who are as addicted to them as I am. Not that it came easily for me: I had to coax myself onto greens, starting with garlic-fried choy sum, then working my way onto the slightly stronger bok choy, and then baby spinach leaves, still wilted with copious amounts of garlic. Broccoli was one of those vegetables I only used to like stir-fried and still crisp-tender, and it took some persuasion for me to accept it in other forms. Yet, thanks to a few over-zealous bushes of Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Cabbage) in my garden a few years ago, I'm onto the hard stuff. Kangkong, the whole Kale family, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Growing multi-coloured Silverbeet (Swiss Chard) probably didn't hurt, either. Give me my greens.

Of course, a common thread that links all of these green vegetables together is garlic. Whether they're sweet or bitter, tender or tough, greens love garlic. Good olive oil, a generous amount of chopped garlic, and some well-washed greens equals an amazing side dish. Sometimes I eat it over rice, or mixed into small pasta shapes, as a main course. And sometimes I make green things into soup. This soup is an easy way to use up leftover green vegetables, as well as those tough broccoli stems that you're too lazy to properly peel in order to get to the tender inner core. The garlic, which is ever-important here, has two roles to play: first, as a base for the veg, which get a quick sautee to bring out the flavour. Secondly, when I have time, I use the outer layers of my fresh garlic, parsley and basil stems, and the leftover celery twigs (not the thick stalks, but just the spindly parts at the top) to make a quick stock to add to the soup. I hate wasting vegetables, so stock is a good friend of mine. A small mashing potato makes the soup creamy without stealing the flavour. Rounded out with a handful of sweet frozen peas, this soup is warming and delicious.

Winter Greens Soup

1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups chopped green veg (broccoli - especially the stems, kale, spinach, or even broccolini or asparagus, if you're feeling fancy!)
1/2 cup cubed potato (about 1 small potato)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 2cm piece ginger, chopped
1 thai birdseye chilli, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley and basil (I used a mix)
3 cups stock
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper + chilli flakes

Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the garlic, ginger and chilli, frying until fragrant. Add the celery, stirring to mix well, and cook for a minute longer. Add the greens (stems take longer than leaves, so take that into account if you like) and potato and sautee another minute.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the stock. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the frozen peas, and allow to thaw - this should only take a minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and blend thoroughly until the soup is completely smooth, adding water to thin if desired. Add chilli flakes to taste, and to decorate.

Winter Greens Stock
1 generous handful of outer peelings of fresh garlic, or 2 cloves, sliced
1 cup celery twigs, roughly chopped, plus celery heart, chopped (optional)*
1 thai birdseye chilli, sliced in half lengthways
1 large stem fresh thyme
stems of parsley and basil
4 cups water

Put everything in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat, about 20-15 minutes, and strain well.

* I know you can see a celery leaf in the stock photo. Sure, one leaf is fine. I was cutting up a whole head of celery, so I added the thin inner stems to my stock as well - just those that were too thin and insubstantial to make it into my fridge-supply of celery. I wouldn't recommend letting more than one or two leaves make it into your pot, however, because they can be incredibly bitter, especially the older (outer) leaves.While I'm confessing, I'll also add that I love cucumber peeled when I add it to salads, because the skins of cukes here seems really tough... so if I have some peel, I throw them into the soup at the blending stage. Why not? It doesn't affect the flavour, and it means that they don't go to waste. Plus it makes the colour even greener. I know, I'm crazy.

Garlic Kale

Today is the second day of the Vegan Month Of Food! I've been at Uni all morning, so here's one I prepared earlier...

Ok, if you share the same aesthetic sense as me, then chances are that you're going to conceed that the above plate isn't attractive. Especially not in the glowing yellow of my kitchen lightbulb, because it's pitch black until about 8am here. And you're completely right, it's not pretty. But it was so damn good that I ate a whole plate of garlic kale for breakfast, instead of using it in my not-so-Irish Colcannon. I used to get infuriated at all the blogs I read for waxing lyrical about the wonders of kale. It's not a wondrous vegetable. But actually, it is pretty damn tasty. So I forgive them for raving about a vegetable that I had no access to, because hey, look what's finally in season! Curly Kale.

Above is how a bunch of kale looks normally. It'll never form a head in the way that cabbage will, but it does conveniently arrange its leaves on the stem so that you can easily pull them off and remove the centre rib. It has tough, fibrous stems and beautful curly leaves, which tend to be quite tough and require longer cooking than most greens. The above bunch went into a ribollita, which I don't have photos of (this was before Vegan Mofo started, so I wasn't photographing everything religiously) but I'm definitely going to make it again soon so that I can share the recipe. It was pretty memorable.

This is how most kale I see at the markets tends to be packaged. See that? It's pre-shredded. It's pretty finely shredded too, which doesn't make for a pretty ribbolita - I like to have ribbons of kale in my soup. However, it's incredibly useful for all of the other dishes that I like to make with kale, so there's no complaints here. I quite enjoy having other people do the hard work for me, even if the hard work is probably just them throwing heads of kale into a wood chipper. ;)

That lovely purple garlic is the best friend of kale. Not only because it's so fresh that the skins haven't dried out, but also because they go together like (vegan) bangers and mash. Sure, they're fine separately, but put them together and you're onto something special. I like to use this mix as the base of other dishes - it can be added to soups, like Winter Greens or Ribollita, or kept refrigerated and used as a side dish. I recommend it as a nice contrast to creamy vegetables like pumpkin and potatoes.

It's also a good way to fight a cold. When you consider that green vegetables are so high in vitamins, and antioxidants, and all those other 'superfoods' that womens' trashy magazines like to rave on about, then you'd probably be easily convinced that they're good for you. However, to hell with all of that: when you just consider that they taste good, and that they're easy to make, then you've got reason enough.

Garlic Kale
1 bag (about 500g?) shredded kale, washed and well-drained
3 giant cloves fresh garlic (or 6 cloves of the conventional kind)
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic, stirring constantly so that it turns transparent but not brown. Add the kale, stirring to get the garlic evenly distributed.
Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, until kale is bright green, but doesn't retain too much bite. Sample a little every minute until the texture is to your liking.
Season generously with salt and pepper, or if you like a little umami hit, sprinkle with a tiny bit of vegetable stock.

Fruit Salad!

Today is the first day of the Vegan Month Of Food! Prepare yourself for as many posts as I can manage, in the space of a month... it's going to be hectic, so I'm starting out slowly.

This is the kind of food I eat a lot of. Yep, I know, you're probably about to close the window and chastise me with your internet buddies for being so boring as to talk about fruit salad. But I think that fruit salad is one of those foods that gets ignored for being mediocre because it's generally prepared in a mediocre fashion. You know the salad I'm talking about: apple, orange and banana, mushed about and slightly browning, with a texture reminiscent of baby food. Ugh. No thankyou, I'm not a fan of those sorts of fruit salad. Texture is important, so I peel any fruits with tougher skin, like apple and pear. Tough and membranous sections get removed from citrus fruit, and I quite enjoy mixing frozen berries into my salads, for a little icy crunch.

Above are a couple of Elstar apples (with crisp and acidic white flesh), Conference Pears (which are a cross between my favourite Comice and another variety), which have tough skins but buttery and juicy flesh, a mango (not local, but on sale for 50c!), a handful of small valencia oranges, and a green-skinned grapefruit. The grapefruit is sweetener than ordinary yellow varieties, with less of that powdery-astringent aftertaste. The flesh is easily separated from the segments, much like a Pomelo. Everything was peeled, diced, segmented, and mixed with a handful of frozen berries. Then it was topped with a generous handful of quick-cooking oats, to soak up the juices, and a tiny drizzle of agave syrup, to brighten the sour flavours. The berries turned everything pink (I secretly love when they do that!) and it was an absolute delight to devour. Now, if you don't think that's delicious, then get off of my blog. ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vegan Month Of Food

As if I haven't been run off my feet enough lately, I'm going to do my best to keep up with this:

Because I'm all about eating more vegetables, as I'm sure you've worked out by now. So really, a month's worth of vegan food is pretty easy for me to cook. For me to remember to photograph it when I'm hungry? Well, that could take some work.

I realise that having time to post every day is pretty impossible, especially because I've given myself absolutely no time to plan anything or prepare posts in advance. So I'll try for the minimum 20, and keep my fingers crossed that nothing else gets in my way. I'll write about more food soon, I promise.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Zucchini and Pumpkin Noodles

I know, I have an addiction to vegetable noodles. But honestly, after looking at the photo above, how someone could not have an addiction is beyond me. They're so beautiful! Colourful enough to win an art prize and so full of flavour that I wonder why a certain someone I know eats pre-packaged pasta and sauce (yes, the sauce comes as a dry powder sachet). Plus they're faster to cook than normal pasta, and you can use the extra couple of minutes to shred the vegetables with a vegetable peeler.

I used hokkaido squash and zucchini for this batch. Hokkaido, owing to the hollow centre, thin flesh and rounded shape, is much easier to make into noodles than a a stocker squash like butternut. Plus hokkaido can be left unpeeled, which adds a touch of red to the already vibrant colour. Carrots are also a good choice. I like my noodles to have a little 'bite' to them - I don't want squishy noodles, but if you've got an aversion to barely-tender vegetables, then stick to just zucchini. Pumpkin is liable to simply disintegrate if you overcook it. My method of cooking here is to cover the noodles with boiling water and leave it for a few minutes, testing it every minute for texture. There's no need to boil these noodles in a saucepan.

When I was shredding the zucchini, I eventually came to the very inner 'core' of the vegetable, at which point it's impossible to shred any more. At this point, I simply finely chop the rest of the zucchini flesh and mix it into whatever sauce I'm making. The residual heat from the sauce cooks the zucchini. If you're shredding noodles before you make your sauce, then of course you can cut them to whichever size you prefer, and incorporate into the sauce as per normal. This recipe would be easily adaptable to make it suitable for raw foodists, but I chose to serve mine with a piping-hot, spicy and filling TVP mince (textured vegetable protein) and kidney bean chilli.

Zucchini and Pumpkin Noodles

2 zucchini
1/4 hokkaido squash

Finely shred the vegetables, using a vegetable peeler, to make long but thin strands. Rotate the vegetable as you work, so that you're always on the edge of the vegetable - the thinnest strands are made this way. If you have a mandolin, go for your life.
Mix the vegetables together, and sit in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to soak for a few minutes, depending on the desired texture. Test often (every minute) and drain the noodles as soon as they're soft enough to wrap around a fork.
Serve immediately, with the sauce of your choice. I chose a thick chilli non-carne, and they love tomato-based sauces, but a bechamel or white sauce also works nicely.

Super-quick White Sauce:
3 Tbsp margarine/butter
3 Tbsp white flour
1 & 1/2 to 2 & 1/2 cups Soymilk/milk

Melt the margarine in a frying pan (for maximum evaporation!) and mix the flour into the mix, allowing the paste to cook for a few minutes to remove that raw-floury taste and texture. Lower the heat.
Very slowly add a cup of the soymilk (or milk, I know you don't all love soymilk like I do!) whilst constantly stirring, so that it becomes incorporated completely without creating lumps. Using a whisk is a good idea to remove lumps.
As the sauce thickens, add more soymilk to thin it. Adjust the heat as necessary - I have an electric hotplate, so I turn the heat up to medium and simply remove the pan from the heat when it's thickening too quickly - that way I can add more liquid before it becomes a thick paste.
How much liquid you need depends on how thick you want your sauce to be. At a certain point the roux (flour mix) will reach saturation point at the sauce will stop thickening. Once this happens, simply add liquid to reach your desired texture, and serve immediately.
To use this over pasta, I recommend a few tablespoons of finely chopped, fresh parsley and a generous grind of each salt and pepper.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup.

I'd like to say that this is one of those pumpkin soups like the one my mother makes, where onions are sauteed, pumpkin is cubed and cooked until fragrant, and carrots and the stray potato add extra depth of flavour to the soup. But, you know me. So, this is a cold-weather favourite, made from leftover roasted pumpkin. Therefore, the flavour is already sweet and the texture is incredibly creamy, so you don't need to bother messing about with onions and carrots. No adultery here, just butternutty goodness. I love having leftover roasted pumpkin. Whether it's mixed into couscous, salads and tagines, or mashed for the sake of scones and breakfast muffins, or simply snacked on out of the container (not that I'd do that, of course) it's a versatile ingredient to keep in the fridge. So when I cut up pumpkin to roast, I do it in industrial quantities.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

1 large butternut squash, cut into large chunks, seeds removed
1 onion, halved (completely optional!)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Dry roast the pumpkin (and onion, if you must) in a 250 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until soft and a little browned.
Using a soup spoon, scoop the flesh directly from the skins and into your blender or food processor. Eat the skins. (Leaving the skins out isn't strictly necessary, but it makes for a smoother soup.)
Add all other ingredients and blend until velvety-smooth. If you like a thinner texture, add a little water. Adjust for salt if neccessary, and top with a generous grind of pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

Stir-fry Veg with Mung Bean Noodles

Hello, easiest dinner ever. It's nice to be looking at you again, especially seeing as how I've neglected this blog lately. I'll see if I can make a few posts today, in order to wade through the backlog of photos in my "eats" folder - it's a poor habit to be in, I know. I've just been a little run off my feet lately, but it should settle down soon. In the meantime, I'm procrastinating by salivating over photos of things that I've cooked lately. Small wonder everyone thinks I'm strange! ;)

So, this was among the many "easy" meals I've cooked lately. Easy in that it's even easier than usual, and it made short work of a) my hunger, and b) the leftover dregs of vegetables that were inhabiting my fridge. I think that a dish like this tends to be pretty invincible - the only way you can do it any harm is if you walk off and forget about it, in which case your vegetables would be overcooked, or worse, burnt. Thankfully, it smells good enough to keep you in the kitchen, and the vegetables only take a few minutes to cook.

This is so shamefully easy that I don't know why I'm going to bother to type out my rough-estimate of a recipe. I'm not a measurer; I just throw things in according to what looks, feels, and smells right. Everyone has their own taste, and everyone uses different ingredients (seeing as I'm pretty doubtful that you, too, shop at the Dom Markt), so just adjust the soy and chilli to taste. I decided to use mung bean noodles because I couldn't be bothered waiting for rice to cook. Ok, other reasons include the great chewy texture and the light, sweet flavour that soaks up the soy and siracha. Rice thread noodles would work just as well.

Stir-fried Vegetables with Bean Thread Noodles
100g mung bean vermicelli-style noodles*
1 tbsp finely chopped / crushed garlic
1/2 small head broccoli
1 large zucchini
250g button mushrooms
250g brussels sprouts
3 tbsp siracha
3 tbsp soy sauce
Slice the vegetables into small, evenly-sized pieces.
In a bowl, soak the bean thread noodles in boiling water. They usually only take a couple of minutes, so cook your vegetables while you wait. The noodles are ready when they're completely transparent, with no trace of the original white colour.
Heat a little oil (I used about a tablespoon) in your wok and sautee the garlic for a few seconds. Add the vegetables, stirring constantly, and cook on a high heat for a few minutes, or until the greens are bright.
Add the noodles to the vegtables, mixing in to incorporate. Using chopsticks to cook is much better than a wooden spoon, when you're dealing with noodles.
Add the soy sauce and siracha, mixing thoroughly so that the vegtables and noodles are completely coated. Cook for a moment longer, until any residual soy has evaporated, and eat immediately.
* Shameless guesswork on my part with the mung bean noodles. I didn't have a full packet, is all that I can tell you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tofu Scramble.

Sorry about the above photo. I wasn't going to post this, but I like to use this blog to remember what I've been eating, so I figured I may as well... even though the only photo I have of the tofu scram is the one I took when I'd already eaten a huge portion. Oh well, no one reads this anyway, so I can pretend that I'm a studious blogger who always takes photos of food and doesn't eat it all before getting around to thinking, "Oh, that was delicious - I should write about it!"... ;)

Some people like their eggs scrambled. Me, I'm not one for eggs, so I prefer to make breakfasty-mush out of tofu. The recipe is pretty versatile - as long as you tear up some tofu and fry it with a few other ingredients, it can take the title. I prefer sauteed onions, fried mushrooms, and lots of parsley as my favoured ingredients in the scramble itself. It's flavoured with soy sauce, sometimes stock powder (if I choose sweet soy) and usually a touch of tumeric, just for colour. Dried herbs and lots of pepper add another layer of flavour. I'd like to have a recipe to share, but this is a throw-it-in dish. It's best served on toast, especially with breakfasty sides: baked beans, wilted spinach, fried mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. However, if you're not eating it for breakfast, it's also good with rice. You'll want to make it extra salty if that's the case, and folding some tomato, peas or spinach through the hot scramble will add to the vegetable component and make it dinner-worthy.

To make the batch above, I fried half of the world's largest onion (and it was still an incredible amount), a teaspoon of crushed garlic,a small knob of chopped ginger and the chopped stems of my parsley. Waste not, want not - parsley stems are still flavour, they just need a little longer to cook. I added a 300g block of tofu, which I crumbled into the pan, and then the flavourings I felt like: soy, siracha, and a pinch of dried thyme. Before I ate it, I mixed in the chopped fresh parsley, and ate it over toast. Delicious. Oh, and I'm serious about that onion; the photo below is only half of it, and that's a pretty large frying pan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soybean and Pumpkin.

It's been a while between posts, firstly because I was travelling and then because Blogger decided to eat a restaurant review post that I was working on. It had a lot of photos, so needless to say, I had a vendetta against Blogger recently, and decided that I couldn't be bothered re-writing it. I suppose I'll get around to it one day... albeit with less photos, just in case. So, what have I been eating lately? Well, after getting back on Sunday, and going back to uni the next day, I've been living off of a lot of pantry staples. And freezer staples, in this case. Because I know that all of you keep frozen soyabeans on hand, stocked up from when the Asian grocery has them... ;)

Frozen soyabeans are fantastic. Edamame aside, (there's a phrase I never thought I'd say! I could live on edamame), these beans don't suffer at all for their time in a freezer. They have a firm texture, a light and almost nutty flavour, and they go nicely with some other household staples - rice, pumpkin (yes, these sit in my pantry for months), garlic, ginger, pickled cabbage (you mean you don't keep a small tin of pickled asian cabbage in your pantry?!) and thai birdseye chillies, which are another favourite that get kept in the freezer.

Mmm, steamy goodness. Can you tell that I was impatient to eat? I certainly couldn't be bothered taking a proper photo. Can I ever? Hm, debatable! Anyway, this dish is a variation on the beloved BBC - Broadbean Bean Curd, served at a couple of great Chinese restaurants in Adelaide. I recommend the one from Wah Hing - they have great service (especially if you have Susannah, who owns the place - she's a dynamo!) and large portions for a very moderate price. East Taste make the same dish, but you'll pay for the tiniest portion, and the service is lacking. I won't go back there since the occasion when my dining partner and I left, still quite hungry, after ordering entrees, three main courses, and rice. We were brutally ripped off - we should have been carrying home leftovers, and instead we were too depressed to bother going to eat at another restaurant. So, restaurant-bashing aside, the original dish has thin strips of marinated tofu - impossible to find here. It also doesn't have pumpkin, but there's something about the sweetness, contrasting the chilli and pickle, that I like here - it also binds the dish together just a little, which makes it easier to eat. ;) I added mushrooms, simply because I had some in the fridge, but they added a nice textural contrast to replace the missing tofu.

Too hungry to even tidy up the plate.

BBP - Broad bean Pumpkin ;)
500g bag frozen soybeans (not edamame - buy the ones with the pods removed!)
200g (?) can of asian-style pickled cabbage/wombok, drained, rinsed and chopped*
250g mushrooms, sliced OR 1 packet marinated tofu, thinly sliced*
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped / crushed
5cm piece ginger, finely chopped
5 brutally hot chillies, finely sliced (ok, they don't need to be brutal, but it makes it better!)
1 & 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, cut into cm cubes.*
3-4 Tbsp soy sauce
siracha, to taste
Start by sauteeing ginger, chilli and garlic in a little oil, until fragrant. If you're not choking from the chilli fumes, add more chilli.
Add the mushrooms (if using) to the mix, stirring well, and allow to sautee for a minute, until it no longer looks raw.
Add the soybeans, breaking up any frozen chunks. You don't want cold soybeans in your dinner! You'll know when they're nearly cooked because the skins start to wrinkle.
When the skins are looking a little wrinkly, add the cooked pumpkin, soy sauce (add more if you like extra-salty) and chinese pickle. Stir to combine - you want to continue cooking this on a high heat to allow the moisture from the soy to evaporate, and you want to just heat up the pumpkin and pickle.
When it's thoroughly warm, serve over rice, and drizzle with siracha - if you dare.
* Quite different to European-style pickled cabbage. You'll need to obtain this, and most likely the soyabeans, from an Asian Supermarket.
* The marinated tofu should be the square pieces that get used as burgers, etc. They're also available in Asian supermarkets - I recommend the 'spicy' flavour. They come in a small packet with three square sheets of tofu.
* I cheated and used hokkaido, which doesn't need to be peeled. Plus the colour is pretty! Mine was leftover from making another dish, but if yours isn't cooked, just add it when you add the mushrooms.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm on holiday!

Just in case anyone noticed, I'm on hiatus this week. 4 nights in Hamburg (be still my beating heart!) and 2 in Bremen. I'll be back in Paderborn soon, which means that as soon as I've settled into the new German course module, I'll be bored enough to ramble about food again. Hope all is well with everyone else. xo Megan.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beans and Zucchini.

How beautiful are those yellow beans? They're thicker than the green beans that I buy from my favourite stall (I can't say my favourite lady, because I haven't seen her there in a week) but just as crisp. They also receive a commendation for extreme freshness, because they've lasted well in my fridge for a couple of days, and are as crunchy today as they were on Wednesday morning when I bought them. I know, that's only two and a half days, but supermarket-bought beans rarely stand up to that sort of storage without going a bit limp. I probably should have used some green beans, in retrospect, because these would have been fine to eat over the weekend, but oh well. These were prettier.

All I did to cook them was sautee them in a little olive oil with some equally crisp zucchinis, plus the requisite touch of salt and pepper. I can't believe that as recently as 6 months ago, I was completely unimpressed with zucchini. I think the problem is that I'd never eaten one raw - I had the idea in my head that I only liked them meltingly soft. Sure, they're nice when they're like that, but they're even better when they're super-fresh and cooked until they're barely tender. I cut mine into batons the same size as the beans, and snacked on more than a few pieces of each while I was cooking the accompanying rice and lentils. I realise that brown rice and lentils together probably sounds a bit bland to most people, but I have a definite love of congee (rice porridge) and I love red lentils (they're infinitely superior to brown, and even to puy lentils) because they just melt down when you cook them. So I added red lentils to my rice in the last 20 minutes of cooking, and took it off the heat when they threatened to stick to the bottom. Delicious, creamy, and definitely tomorrow's breakfast. I'd like to think the leftover vegetables can make it that far, but honestly, I've already got my eye on those for a midnight snack... ;)

Roasted Tomatoes.

This is the easiest recipe yet, but ohhh it's among the most delicious. This is the dish that converted how I feel about tomatoes in salad. I think that making it with my home-grown tomatoes was also a revolutionary thing, because it was probably among the first times that I ate a tomato that actually tasted the way that a tomato should. If I'm eating tomatoes that aren't completely ripe (as in, juicy and squishy ripe, not as in kinda-red-and-firm ripe) then they'll be cooked, thankyouverymuch. However, sometimes I still feel inclined to cook those ripe tomatoes, if only because I'm suddenly aware that I have far too many tomatoes on my windowsill. This week it was only ten or so tomatoes, and thankfully they were quite small. They didn't quite make it into pasta sauce, because that spaghetti squash was so disappointing. When I was growing tomatoes in my Leader Street garden, I'd have thirty or forty on the windowsill, which generally instilled me with a sense of panic.

However, in this recipe, the tomatoes shrink considerably, because they're slowly baked so that they lose their moisture without losing their shape. I think this was probably one of the original benefits to this recipe; it meant that I could fit so many tomatoes in my fridge, thanks to the wonders of tupperware. I'd pour the liquids from the roasting dish into the container, too, and use it as a salad dressing. Then there was the day that I combined these tomatoes in a salad with nothing more than home-grown cucumber and toasted, crusty sourdough bread, and covered it in the tomato juice. I ate that salad at least twice a day for several weeks, it was that good. And it got rid of lots of tomatoes. I think that was probably also when I became addicted to olive oil. It was a really good summer.

Use good olive oil with this one, if only because you don't want to waste the amazing juices from the roasted tomatoes by saturating them in a mediocre oil. Red wine vinegar is my vinegar of choice here - it's not as overpowering or sweet as balsamic can be. Lighter vinegar lets the tomatoes shine through. Even if you're just going to eat these tomatoes as-is, make sure you've got some bread on hand so that you can mop up the juices. You won't regret it, I promise.

Roasted Tomatoes
10 small tomatoes*
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Slice the tomatoes in half and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Drizzle with vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Bake in a 160 degree C oven, for about half an hour, or until lightly browned. Turn off the oven, but leave the tomatoes in there to cool. This allows them to cook a little more, but really slowly, which intensifies the flavours. When the tomatoes are cool (or barely warm), use them in a salad, or just snack on them straight from the dish.

*If you have large tomatoes, just cut them into quarters or chunks. They might need to roast for a little longer. I've used all manner of tomatoes (Cherry tomatoes, heirloom varieties, Black Russian and Green Zebra...) and they all taste fantastic. Just make sure they're vine-ripened: if they don't have any flavour to begin with, then they're not going to develop any in the oven.


The past day or two, I've been ruling the leftovers. Usually mine are gone by the day after they're made (if not on the day!) and they don't last in the fridge for too long. Me being me, I got overxcited at the markets on Wednesday and bought ridiculous amounts of food. So I've been doing my best to eat it all... perhaps a little too enthusiastically, but hey, everyone has something that they get ridiculously excited about. I just have many things, and they don't tend to excite quite so many other people. This week, I definitely moved a step closer to becoming a crazy cat lady. But I'm a crazy cat lady who heats vege burgers in the oven, in an inspired step that makes them look like they're made of meat, which freaks out a housemate. Win.

I also enacted a massacre scene, by peeling and grating a cucumber, to make a salad using an idea that I stole from the mother of a Czech friend. I ate this salad when I was at their house, and it was great - perfect for the warm weather because it was so refreshing. I only wish I could say I needed something refreshing here, but the weather has been miserable. We're really into Autumn now, when the high for the day is only ten degrees Celsius.
To make the grated cucumber salad, just grate a peeled cucumber (I used a telegraph cucumber, but feel free to use other varieties - I think a few lebanese cucumbers would be amazing, because they're extra-crisp) and mix it with the dressing. The dressing, for the record, is just a little sugar (maybe a teaspoon?) mixed into a few tablespoons of white vinegar. I used white wine vinegar this time, and it was great. This salad releases a lot of liquid, so keep it in a separate bowl, or wring it out severely before you put it onto a plate with other foods. It'll stay good in the fridge, but won't be so crunchy as when it's fresh.

You've seen this salad before, when I made it into more of a tabbouli-like mixture. Lately I've just been chopping two bunches of parsley, adding some finely chopped ripe tomatoes (if they're not vine-ripened, they're probably not worth bothering with, sorry!) and more salt than I'd care to admit to. No oil, no vinegar, no dressing. Add pepper to taste. Let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours before you eat it - the salt draws the moisture from the tomatoes and that creates the 'dressing' of sorts. I'm not usually into raw tomatoes - I'll eat them, but I don't tend to use them much in salads. Here, however, I'm more than willing to make an exception.

Above is yesterday's lunch. Leftover lettuce, a couple of vege burgers, grated cucumber salad and the parsley-tomato salad. It was really good. I actually ate a third burger, too, but shhhh you didn't hear me admit to that.

And this is today's lunch. Leftover roasted tomatoes (I'll post about those separately), cucumber salad, parsley-tomato salad, and leftover olives. I also ate a few chilli-olives, but I think I might use those in a puttanesca-style dish tonight, so I won't spoil you with photos of those. They're good, though. I expected them to be spicier, and ate the first one with extreme caution, but barely noticed the chilli. I think it's just for show... either that or it's designed for German tastes, and it's secretly made of mostly capsicum. It's possible. ;)
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