Here it is: the first Project Food Blog Challenge! The premise of Lazy Cook, Crazy Cook is this: I, the Crazy Cook, love to cook. The bigger the challenge, the more exotic the ingredients, the bigger the pay-off, I say! The Lazy Cook hates to cook. But she’s got RD and PhD credentials in health and nutrition up the wazoo, and she wants to eat well, so she finds lazy ways to turn simple ingredients into, well, food. Yes, we bicker and argue, and it’s torture for her to spend four hours in my kitchen doing videos, but we have fun. And sometimes she turns out something that’s actually pretty good! So with this post, I bring to you tomatoes – ones she grew, in fact. (She may lack chops in the kitchen, but man, can she grow tomatoes!)
Here’s what I made:
And here is what she made:
This is the Lazy Cook’s “Caprese Salad” – a “sandwich” of tomato, mozzarella and basil.” No salt or olive oil, naturally, because she likes it that way. Whatever. That’s why we get along — opposites attract, right?
While staring at this rich, red treasure trove of summer beauty, my mind spun with the possibilities. Knowing that Romas take better to cooking than to eating raw, I indulged in two tomato treats: oven-dried tomatoes and a Tomato Tarte Tatin. Neither are that hard or time-consuming, but both are fun to make and deeply satisfying. Ahhh.
Oven-Dried Roma Tomatoes
This is fun, because you just put sliced, raw tomatoes on a cookie sheet, blitz them with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh, chopped basil and then put them to bed in a 200 degree oven for about nine or 10 hours. Yes! You leave your oven on overnight, which freaked me out at first, but the success of the first batch got me over that quick. Oven on all night? Yes! They go in all rosy red and fresh and they come out all deep crimson, chewy and intensely flavored.
I chopped them and added them to some mini-penne pasta with olive oil, capers, cauliflower florets and a storm of Parmesan and it was… DELICIOUS! I could not stop eating it. There’s really no recipe, per se, for these, because they are so easy. Tip: halve the tomatoes lengthwise (the first time I did it, I sliced thick coins of tomato; the halves work better!)
The Tomato Tart Tatin took a bit of research. I couldn’t get my friend Susan’s son, Daniel’s, recipe, so I hit the World Wide Inter-Web-Super-Highway. I found recipes for a sweet, dessert-style one and another for one with a lot of caramelized onions. I used bits of each recipe to create a savory, tomato-y delight that I ate for days in a million ways – fresh out of the oven with an arugula-watermelon salad, heated up the next morning, topped with a poached egg, even cold out of the fridge topped with a frisee salad and a bit of balsamic and olive oil. Get out.
Tomato Tarte Tatin
1 sheet store-bought Puff Pastry
8 or 9 ripe, gorgeous Roma tomatoes
Scant 1/4 C sugar
3 Tbl butter
1 clove minced garlic
3 Tbls grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves
What You Do
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure your puff pastry is thawed (chilled, but not frozen) according to package directions.
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow “X” thru the skins, on the bottom of each tomato. Drop about four tomatoes at a time into the fiery depths, for 1 minute – no more! Fish the tomatoes out and plunge them into a refreshing bath of cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking. Slip the skins right off with your fingers.
2) Using a cast iron pan, melt the butter and sugar over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves. OPTION: if your tomatoes are very ripe and sweet, use less sugar.
3) Halve and core your tomatoes. Put them into the pan, round-side-down in a cute, concentric circle, like so:
4) Don’t stir so much as move them around gently with a wooden spoon and/or shake the pan. The goal here is to cook them, but not burn them. A bit of crispy char is a delight, but more than that, not so much. Sprinkle the minced garlic on top. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or so.
5) Meanwhile, roll out one sheet of puff pastry and trim into a circle the same diameter as the rim of your cast iron pan (usually anywhere from 9 to 11 inches). Dust with flower to keep your rolling pin from sticking.
6) When tomatoes are cooked, remove pan from heat, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Carefully drape puff pastry over the whole lot, tucking the edges into the sides of the pan, like this:
7) Pop your lovely creation into your screaming hot oven and bake for 25 minutes.
8) Now, time to flex your muscles! Find a large, flat serving plate. Get your oven mitts on. Heave that beauty out of the oven and rest it on the stove top while you summon the courage and fortitude for the next step. Ok, ready? With your mitts on, place your serving platter upside down on your cast iron pan. Concentrate. You are going to flip that cast iron pan over, with the plate, and your “work of tart” is going to wind up looking like this:Taa dah!! You did it! If you have to retrieve a piece of crust or a tomato from the pan, and piece it together, fear not. You just made a Tomato Tarte Tatin and your friends and family are going to be impressed and deeply satisfied. Sigh.
And this is but one example of how the Lazy Cook and the Crazy Cook roll. Enjoy!