Tomato Dreams

Tomato Dreams
Miss summer? Take your tastebuds back.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Turn-the-Clock-Back Roasted Tomatoes

Ho hum. The grey days of November are here. Summer's warm caress, milky nibs of sweet corn and  bawdy scarlet tomatoes have slipped away for another year. And, sniff, sniff, this biting cold Marathon Sunday will be cloaked in darkness faster than you can say "finish line," as we bid daylight savings time adieu.

I'm cheering myself up tonight with these super-cinchy roasted tomatoes from Ina Garten. No, they can't compare to their perky and juicy summer forbears. But I gotta tell you--they get those Proustian daydreams going.

A bracing whallop of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar and chopped garlic, followed by a stint in a 450 degree oven, acts like culinary CPR on even the most haggard plum tomatoes. They emerge looking glamorous and rich as an Italian countess. That dignified tomato-y taste comes back and the cottony pulp of off-season fruit becomes supple, worldly, and, well, sexy. These are, if you please, sultry tomato cougars to summer's blushing and buxom babes.

Sometimes I serve these as an extra side, topped with chopped basil or whatever herb I have around. Sometimes, I'll shower them with freshly grated Parm or chunks of gamey feta. On really lazy nights, I'll nestle these ruby red beauties next to a bed of scrambled eggs and call it dinner. They're also an excellent topper for crostini and can work magic on any sandwich.

So I've presented my argument. Curious? Run out now and grab 12 plum tomatoes from the nearest supermarket. No need to be picky. Follow this recipe and I promise, summer dreams will be yours to savor tonight. And all winter long.

12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
4 Tbsps. good olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar (use a little more if you run out before you sprinkle all of the tomatoes)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsps. sugar (you can use a little less if you must, but don't omit)
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. (Don't skip this step unless you want to scrub the pan all night.) Arrange tomatoes on pan, cut side up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper over the tomatoes. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to caramelize. DONT dry them out. They should be sort of flat and collapsed, but not wrinkly or tough like sun-dried tomatoes.

Serve warm or at room temp.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Uber Simple and Supremely Tasty Black Bean and Corn Salad

Too busy with back-to-school BS to cook anything interesting? This simple, healthy black bean and corn salad will change your game.

My girlfriend Bianca passed this recipe on to me when we first moved into Montclair. My son Ben soon adopted it as his hands-down favorite salad. I'm tempted to send him a vat of it, now that he's settling into his freshman year of college (and complaining about the food). But I'm not so sure how it will travel.

You, however, can whip it up in a flash. And once it's done, you’ll want to slurp this stuff right out of the bowl. Serve it as a side one night, sneak some for a snack the next day, and spoon it over grilled fish or pan-seared chicken breast for dinner that night. Try to cut the bell pepper, onion and tomato into pieces about the same size as the black beans. Of course, that’s not a must, but it refines the dish.

Ben and Bianca's Black Bean and Corn Salad

2  12-ounce cans black beans (no need to use dried)

One 12-ounce can (or a bit more) yellow corn (nice if you can use fresh sweet
corn cut off the cob, but not a deal breaker. I use canned all of the time.
I like yellow corn for this salad. Looks brighter; white sort of washes out.)

1 large green bell pepper
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced very fine (adjust amount depending upon taste and hotness of the chile)
1 small onion
1 large tomato (or more if you’d like)
¼ cup chopped cilantro (or to taste)
Juice of two limes (or to taste)
¼ extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A few dashes of Tabasco (to taste)

1.     Rinse and drain beans and corn.
2.     Combine in bowl with bell pepper, jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, and onion.

3.     Add lime juice and olive oil. Taste, adjust dressing acidity. Add salt and pepper to taste. Before going crazy with the jalapeno, let the salad sit for a while—the hotness take a bit of time to come out fully. Now you’re ready to add those dashes of Tabasco. Enjoy. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kick-Butt Cauli Mashed Potatoes

I SWEAR to you that this is not turning into a low carb, gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, SCD blog. I also swear that I won't post another cauliflower recipe for a while. It's just that I have become a bit obsessed with this amazingly versatile veggie of late. And I can't help myself from sharing this crazy good "I can't believe it's not potatoes" cauliflower mashed potato recipe.

In case you're late to the game, my cooking has taken an interesting turn in the last year, due to the fact that a member of our family was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. He's following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is grain-free and has proven to be near miraculous for his health.  And since I'm his cook, I've discovered some incredibly inventive and healthful recipes that have kept him and the whole family happy over the past several months.

Last blog, I wrote about cauli rice. This time around, I'm talking potatoes. Just like cauli rice, caulipotatoes fill that "carb" spot on the plate that can often feel sad and lonely on a grain-free diet. Like cauli rice, cauli potatoes soak up gravies and pan drippings admirably. Like cauli rice, cauli potatoes are low carb. Here's the main difference: While  no one will think cauli rice actually IS rice, cauli mashed potatoes can really truly be mistaken for the real deal. They're super creamy. Rich and delicious. And with the help of a little sauce or gravy, you really could miss any hint of the fact that there's a cruciferous vegetable in the mix. My husband and I actually prefer these to real mashed potatoes. They taste cleaner and just a tad more elegant. My Crohny adores them, too. And these "potatoes" can do what other potatoes do: Just the other night, I sautéed up some ground beef with onions and garlic, threw in some peas and tossed the mix into a casserole dish. I slathered the cauli potatoes on top, baked the dish up for about 25 minutes and I had shepherd's pie. Miraculous.

Without further ado, I give you the recipe for magic. It's from Danielle Walker's dynamite cookbook, Against All Grain. Dare to try these and let me know what you think.

5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed into florets
1/4 almond milk, warmed (I use a scant 1/4 cup of full fat plain yogurt at room temp)
3 tablespoons melted butter (or ghee--I use butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Dash cracked black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
2. Place garlic cloves in a small, heatproof dish and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put the cauliflower in a saucepan with a 1/2-inch of water. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Drain the water completely and place the cauliflower in a food processor.
4. Squeeze the papery garlic skins to release the cloves. Add the garlic to the food processor, along with the almond milk (or yogurt), melted butter (or ghee), salt, and pepper. Process until smooth and fluffy. (I let the machine run for a good long while--may 3 to 5 minutes-- so the potatoes are absolutely smooth. You don't want any cauliflower texture in there if you're planning on fooling fellow diners.)

Eat well!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy New Year - The 2013 Free Cookbook Is Out!

Your free cookbook, busting with healthy cooking ideas, grain-free and gluten-free recipes, easy chicken dishes, best cookie recipes ever, family cooking strategies, and my usual banter is ready to jump through the ether into your computer. Want your free PDF? Shoot me an email:

P.S. My New Year's Resolution is to obsess over keywords. How am I doing?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No-Carb Rice? Yes. Well sort of.

Low Carb. Low Calorie. Starch free. Utterly yummy…..RICE. Well, not rice. It's cauli-rice, to be exact. And you're going to love this clever imposter...especially after the holidays, when you're atoning for all of your high-cal, high carb sins.

Yes, it's been a long time since my last post and a long journey it has been in the Rosen/Freundlich household. Just after I wrote about that great marinated London Broil back in May, one of us was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. 

As part of our adjustment to this new fact of family life, we've had to change our diet and our kitchen radically. We're now living on what is called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Similar to Paleo, it does away with all grains and starches, refined sugars, processed foods and more. I'm not exaggerating when I say that SCD makes gluten-free look like a lifestyle of wanton abandon. I've literally had to relearn how to cook, finding alternatives and substitutions for the pastas, whole grains, yummy desserts, lovely sauces, and convenient cheats that were cornerstones of our family eating experience. 

It hasn't been an easy change but the effect it's had on our Crohn's has been darned near miraculous. And funnily, while it has helped our Crohny put on pounds, the rest of us have shed a good bit of weight. No mystery, really, since our traditional dinner trio of protein, veggies, and a starchy side has become protein, veggie, and another veggie. And my cake dome no longer houses the irresistible treats it once did.

While I certainly wouldn't suggest that anyone adopt such a limited diet unless they need to (SCD is meant for those with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's and other inflammatory and digestive disorders), I have discovered some amazingly delicious and healthy dishes that just about anyone will dig. Especially those of you who are trying to cut down on carbs. Case in point: This elegantly simple cauli-rice recipe, which is a staple for SCDers and Paleo people, alike. I serve it alongside roasted meats, as a fluffy bed for curries, and nuzzled up under stir-fries. Give this ingenius recipe a shot--it may not take rice off your shopping list but it will sure give it a run for the money, honey.

Basic Cauli-Rice (from Danielle Walker's amazing Against All Grain cookbook)

1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup water

Go unearth the grating attachment for your food processor and put it in place. With the machine running, feed the cauliflower florets into the feeding tube and grate them into "rice" grains. Alternatively, you can grate the cauliflower with a cheese grater. (I haven't tried the latter method, but it sounds like a pain to me.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the riced cauliflower and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Add the water, then cover and steam for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked (but not mushy) and the water has been absorbed.

Voila! CauliRice!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ready, Set....Steak.

Steak, steak, steak, steak, steak, steak, steak. (I'm humming this to the Monty Python "men men men" song, in case you're wondering.) And I'm itching to share this little old recipe with you.

I discovered it this past winter, after picking up a London broil at Fairway under duress. I say "under duress" because, you see, I've never liked London broil. It's got no bone. It's got no discernible marbling. It reminds me of an old leather shoe. But the stuff was on sale for 4.99/lb and my friendly Fairway butcher swore to me that a big old slab would win raves as long as "ya marinate the hell outta the thing."

Not one to pass up a bargain or a challenge (especially from a man wielding a cleaver), I promptly ordered up a slab of said meat and headed home to find the marinade from hell. Who knew I'd hit pay dirt on my very first go. It's from Epicurious and it is divine for these reasons:

1) Most ingredients come straight from the pantry and you can always have them at the ready.

2) The resulting steak is so delicious and flavorful, I'm convinced that this marinade could indeed make an old leather shoe taste good. I started making a 2 1/2 pound steak for this family. I'm now embarrassed to say I've upped it to 3 1/4 pounds for the four of us, and nothing is ever left over.

3) It requires an overnight soak but that overnight soak makes it the ABSOLUTE PERFECT THING to make ahead when you are ditching the family for dinner the next night so you can go out carousing or if you'll be working late. I made this at least once a week over the winter while I was taking my EMT course in Elizabeth. It took exactly 5 minutes to set up and it was a savior. All you or the nearest Neanderthal need do about half an hour before dinner the next night is throw it under the broiler or onto the grill, boil up the leftover marinade and get those mandibles going. I discovered a recipe for Greek lemon potatoes that also marinates in a bag overnight and served it as a side. I might post about that next. If you can't wait, however, you can email me.'s the secret sauce. I throw it together in my food processor but you can just as easily whisk it up in a bowl:

4 large cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsps. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes
2/3 cups olive oil

2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pound slab of London Broil

In a bowl or food processor, whisk/blend together marinade ingredients until combined well.

Lightly score the London broil on both sides (see picture if you don't know what that is or how to do it.) Put steak in a large resealable bag and pour marinade over it. Seal bag, pressing out excess air, and set in a shallow dish. Marinate meat, chilled, turning bag once or twice, overnight.

Take meat out of bag. Pour marinade into a small pan and boil well. (The recipe tells you to toss the leftover marinade. I cook it up and serve it on the side, figuring I'm killing off all those bad germs with the heat. If anyone out there knows otherwise and wants to let me know if I'm putting everyone at risk, do tell.) Grill or broil meat, 9 to 10 minutes on each side, or until it registers 135 F to 140 F. on a meat thermometer for medium rare. (or to taste) CUT MEAT VERY THINLY on the diagonal across the grain. Devour.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Baking for Passover? Make These Amazingly Easy, Utterly Yummy Coconut Macaroons

So I was at this bris yesterday (woo hoo!) and a family friend bee-lined across the apartment right before the ceremony, grabbed me by the arm and fretted..."Help! I have to make something for a seder I'm attending and I don't cook. What the heck should I make?" By the color of her face, you'd think she was the one on the chopping block. Luckily, I had an easy answer: Danny's Macaroons.

Now, just in case you are one of those people who confuses meringues and macaroons...or are among those people who hate both of these desserts because you’ve eaten crappy store-bought versions of them at Passover seders...let’s set things straight.

Meringues are essentially whipped egg white and sugar, sometimes with coconut and other stuff, and they can be really gooey and crunchy and amazing (you can find my recipe on this site).  Macaroons are coconut and egg white, but they are more dense and coconut provides almost all of the heft. Very often they are made with almond paste, almond flour, or almond essence—which ain't my thing. Good almond-free macaroons—on the other hand-- are one of my favorite foods on earth. I love love love them, especially with a thin smear of good chocolate across their base.

I tried a bunch of recipes on my search for the perfect rendition of this cookie. I did it the hard way—creating my own egg white and sugar base. And I did it the sleazy easy way, with sweetened, condensed milk. The verdict: Easy aced it. This recipe, from some guy named Danny Cohen, has become such a cult favorite that this guy actually calls himself Danny Macaroon and now makes a mint selling his cookies by mail order. Save your pocket change and make them yourself. They really are stupid easy and ridiculously delicious.

One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
One 14-ounce can sweetened-condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
4-8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted in a double boiler or in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (if you are just smearing the bottom, you need less. If you plan to drizzle--which is no necessity--melt more.)

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. (I tend to beat these whites a little more than I do for most recipes. The stiffness helps keep the cookies from spreading too much. Just don't go crazy. You don't want them to be dry.) Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.

2.     Scoop tablespoon-size mounds (I make mine a little bigger, using a smallish cookie/ice cream scoop) onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 20-22 minutes, until just golden; shift sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. WATCH THESE CAREFULLY AND START CHECKING BOTTOMS OF THE COOKIES AT ABOUT 18 MINUTES. THEY ARE HIGH IN SUGAR AND THUS BURN IN A BLINK! Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely.

3.   Use an icing spatula or any kind of flat blade to smear the bottoms of the macaroons with the melted chocolate, sort of pulling off the extra and letting it fall back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. You can just smack the macaroons chocolate-side down on the parchment….they will peel right off later. If you plan to drizzle, the neatest way to do it is with a pastry bag. But I know that's probably too much for most people, especially declared non-cooks like that family friend of ours. You can just take a spoon and drizzle the stuff onto the tops or skip the drizzle all together. There's plenty of chocolate on the bottom of the cookie to keep you happy. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes (or longer is fine) until the macaroons are set. Return to room temp before serving. Macaroons can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks.