MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
I have made these tomatoes for more than a decade now, but it wasn't until my sister's homegrown Maine wedding, where I made hundreds of them for the appetizer table, that I realized how perfect a technique this is for putting up local tomatoes in the peak season. The low heat of the oven turns the tomatoes almost jammy, concentrating the flavor beautifully, which makes them perfect as a topping for bruschetta, pasta, or pizza. They also can be served on an antipasti platter with mixed olives, cheese, pickles, and/or smoked fish. I call them 12-hour tomatoes, but the amount of time it takes depends greatly on the size and juiciness of the tomatoes. So for the least fuss, don't mix varieties or sizes in one batch, but feel free to multiply this recipe as you wish. Left in the oven long enough, the tomatoes will start to become a little chewy around the edges, which make a nice counterpoint to the moisture inside. Try other spices instead of the cumin: regular paprika, smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton), and cinnamon also work well with the tomatoes, or you can stick with just salt and pepper for the purest tomato flavor.
- 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 8 large (3- to 4-inch) tomatoes, stemmed (but not cored) and cut in half vertically
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing
Preheat the oven to 200° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Place a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are fragrant but not browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking; let cool completely, and then grind.
Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Season the cut side with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with oil. Sprinkle evenly with the ground cumin.
Bake for 10 to 14 hours (the time will vary, depending on the size and variety of tomato), until the tomatoes have collapsed and shriveled to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick; they should still be moist inside but can be slightly crisp and browned at the edges.
Cool completely. To store, pack the tomatoes in an airtight container, cover them with olive oil, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer storage, use a thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is under 38°, then pack them tightly into sterilized jars, cover them with olive oil, and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Or pack them into freezer-safe plastic bags, remove as much air as possible from the bags, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost an entire bag at a time; once defrosted, cover tomatoes with olive oil and store in the fridge.
Smoked Trout, Green Apple,
and Gouda Sandwich
Some of my favorite sandwiches need very little prep work, just the right combination of top-notch ingredients. This is one of them. Dark bread, smoky fish, tart apple, and complex Gouda make magic together. All you have to do is slice, spread, cut, eat, and smile.
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 slices pumpernickel bread
- 2 ounces smoked trout, flaked with a fork
- 1 ounce aged Gouda cheese, cut into thin slices or crumbled
- 1/2 small to medium Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- A few leaves baby arugula or baby spinach
- Freshly ground black pepper
To assemble the sandwich, spread the mayonnaise on one side of both pieces of bread. Mound the trout on one of the bread slices, then top with the Gouda, the apple, and the arugula. Season with pepper. Top with the other slice of bread, cut in half, and eat.
Duck Breast Tacos
with Plum Salsa
MAKES 3 or 4 TACOS
You know you've got a taco problem when you make a duck breast recipe from a destined-to-be-classic Chinese cookbook and think, "Wouldn't these be good in tortillas?" Yes, that's what happened to me when I tried Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's simple baked duck breasts from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking. I served them for a Chinese dinner that night, but pretty soon I was playing around with a riff on five-spice powder, combining Asian and Mexican ingredients and rubbing them into the breasts before using Lo's baking technique. A sweet, sour, and spicy plum salsa was just the thing to cut through and complement the deep flavors of the rich duck.
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
- 1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho or other chile
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
- 3 or 4 corn tortillas
- 1/2 jalapeno chile, stemmed and seeded (seeds reserved)
- 1 barely ripe black or red plum, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 small shallot lobe, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 3 large fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Using a spice grinder (such as a coffee grinder reserved for spices), grind the star anise, dried oregano, and Szechuan peppercorns to a fine powder. Dump into a small bowl and stir in the ground ancho, salt, and cinnamon.
Pat dry the duck breasts with a paper towel. Use a sharp knife to cut through just the skin and fat, without piercing the meat, in 1-inch intervals, then repeat the cuts at a 90° angle to make a crosshatch pattern all across the skin. Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the duck breasts. Pack in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags, squeezing as much air out as possible, and refrigerate for several hours or as long as 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
In a small roasting pan lined with aluminum foil, roast the duck breasts skin side up for 10 minutes. Increase the heat to 550°F and turn the breasts skin side down. Roast until much of the fat has rendered and the skin is browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate, pour off the extra duck fat from the pan and reserve for another use. Let the duck breasts rest for at least 10 minutes. (If desired, wrap one of the duck breasts in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 1 week for a later meal.)
Warm the tortillas and wrap them in aluminum foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, make the salsa. Finely chop the jalapeno. In a small mixing bowl, combine the jalape§o with the plum, shallot, cilantro, mint, lime juice, oil, and a generous sprinkling of salt. Taste, add more salt if necessary; if you want more heat, add some of the reserved jalapeno seeds.
Lay the tortillas out on a plate. Cut the duck breast crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, place a couple of slices on each tortilla, top each with the plum salsa, and eat.
Note: I call for two duck breasts here, because it's difficult to make much less of this spice rub, but you can save one of the breasts for another day and another use (such as sliced cold on a salad).
with Cardamom Brulee
MAKES SIX 1/2-CUP SERVINGS
There's really nothing quite like tapioca pudding to take me back to childhood, when I would eat those plastic cups of the store-bought variety. Of course, homemade is so much better, and it's really not difficult to make. It just requires a little patience and some stirring. I like to make a few cups at a time, eat one (or, okay, two or three). Then, before things get really out of control, I portion the rest into 1/2-cup ramekins and store them in the freezer. To take it over the top, I sprinkle just a touch of one of my favorite aromatic spices, cardamom, on top, along with some sugar, and torch the top to get that crackly bruleed effect.
- 3 cups milk, preferably low-fat
- 1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 2 egg yolks, whisked to combine
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pour 1 cup of the milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the tapioca and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
Pour the remaining 2 cups of milk into a mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, sprinkle the espresso powder over, let it sit for a minute or two, and then stir to dissolve.
Whisk the espresso-milk mixture into the tapioca mixture, along with the egg yolks, salt, and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Over medium heat, slowly bring the mixture just barely to a boil, stirring constantly; it will take 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat until the mixture is barely simmering, and continue cooking the tapioca, stirring occasionally, until the beads swell up and become almost translucent and the custard thickens, another 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let it cool. Spoon the pudding into 6 individual 1/2-cup ramekins and wrap each in plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. It will keep it the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
When you are ready to eat, unwrap one of the ramekins of pudding (thaw it first if frozen), and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of the remaining sugar and a pinch of cardamom. Use a small culinary blowtorch to caramelize the sugar on top, keeping the torch moving so you deeply brown but don't blacken the sugar, then eat.