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Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Frugal Cook Uses Sauteed Beet Greens to Advantage

Buying beets at a farmers' market has the added advantage that not only are the beets fresh but so are the greens. I'm always amazed when I hear people ask to have the tops taken off and discarded. Beets are delicious and so are the greens. Sauteed with garlic and onions, they can be eaten as a side dish, added to pasta, put into soup, or used on sandwiches.

Sauteed Beet Greens

Yield: 1 cup
Time: 60 minutes

When you buy beets, look for a bunch with the freshest looking leaves. At home, cut off the damaged or discolored ones and discard.

Ingredients

1 bunch beet greens
1 medium yellow onion (washed, peeled, and thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Carefully wash the greens in water to remove all the grit. Cut off the stems and finely chop. In a large frying pan, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned. Add the stems and toss together with the onions. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over a medium-low flame, stirring frequently to avoid burning for about 10 minutes.

Roughly chop the beet greens and add to the frying pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil over the greens and toss well with the cooked stems and onions. Because the greens need to cook slowly to bring out their sweetness, this is a preparation best done when you have other reasons to be in the kitchen. Cook for another 30-45 minutes until the greens have wilted and caramelized. Stir frequently. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Brown 1 piece of finely chopped bacon with the onions and garlic or 1 Italian sausage finely chopped.

With the onions and garlic sauté 1/2 cup thinly sliced brown mushrooms.

Uses

Toss together with pasta and other sauteed vegetables seasoned with olive oil and grated cheese, or with sauteed Italian sausage rounds.

Add to chicken soup.

As a topping on an open faced sandwich with avocado or fresh tomatoes or cheese or crisp bacon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Very Versatile Roasted Tomato

Always on the hunt for an easy to make ingredient, I discovered roasted tomatoes a few years ago. With several left over after a dinner party, I decided a little experimentation was in order. I discovered that roasted tomatoes served up countless uses and, because they freeze well, they can be pulled out at the last minute and added to soups, stews, and sauces.

Incredibly versatile, roasted tomatoes work as a side dish as well as the basis for sauces. Cold, they can be tossed with cucumbers and onions for a salad. Peeled and chopped, they add body and flavor to stews, soups, and pastas.

Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. This week at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, tomatoes were selling for $2.50 - $3.50/pound, but the over ripe ones were priced at 60 cents/pound.

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The liquid can be used separately to flavor a simple pasta or as a final basting on a grilled meat. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'Mani, Paul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon it over the tomatoes.

The tomatoes can be served as a side dish with other vegetables, pasta, and grilled meats.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Yield: 1 quart
Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds roasted tomatoes

Method

Put the roasted tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the skins and seeds.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Yield: 2 cups sauce
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 quart roasted tomato sauce
1/4 pound brown mushrooms (washed, dried, sliced thin)
1 medium yellow onion (washed, peeled, finely chopped)
5 cloves garlic (peeled, finely chopped)
1 cup Italian parsley leaves (washed, finely chopped)
1 tablespoon oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Sauté the onions and garlic until lightly browned, add the parsley and mushrooms and continuing cooking until lightly browned. Add the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt, pepper, oregano, or tamari.


The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week or frozen for a month or more.