Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anything and chocolate

I'm your standard everyday overachiever. I am one of those people who overschedule, overbook, overkill everything. And as I'm trying to do what good ole Semenza taught me to do in Graduate Study for the 21st Century and work work work harder, longer, and faster than even your professors work, just to prove your chutzpah, I find that I have no time for, well, anything not in some way directly related to schoolwork, including my 20 hour per week internship at the local NPR/PBS station.

The blog has taken a hit and for that I apologize. I still have my index cards. One, in particular, a nice eggplant meatball recipe, I've had Art make again and again for me to take in tupperware and leave in the faculty frig for supper before night class after teaching and doing NPR research all day. It's coming soon and believe me, you're going to love it. In the mean time, Mondays I get home in enough time to eat with my boys. Today, Art made a fun concoction that started out as stir fry before he realized we were out of the usual stir fry veggie standbys.

Instead, he added a bit too much dark chocolate baking cocoa into the rice, adding black beans, a can of tomatoes, a can of mixed veggies, and a can of diced tomatoes (dented and clearanced at Kroger). It was a rather strange color but utterly delicious. I have no photos. I have no recipe. Just my man, a pan, a larder full of canned goods, and a starved, overworked vegetarian in need of both vegetables and protein.

And chocolate, as everyone knows, goes with anything. Magic. Do I have the best guy on the planet or what, ladies? Black beans and chocolate... love if ever I saw it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Baked stuffed tomatoes and other adventures

A few weeks back, my cousin Kristin came in for a visit. This is how behind I am on blogging. My son was at his dad's for the weekend, so Art and I went online and found a nice fancy restaurant to take her to while she was in town, show her the best that Cleveland has to offer. Originally, I was thinking something in Little Italy. Then, Art found Pier W. It's a seafood place on the West side of town that boasts of a floor-to-ceiling, wall-length window with a view of downtown.

We didn't tell Kristin where we were taking her. Just went, and all of us were blown away. The food was excellent with a wide selection, including an entire vegetarian menu. I had the vegetarian plate, a sample of three popular options of their vegetarian fare. I did not take pictures, as I did not have my camera on me. But if I had, I doubt I'd have stopped eating long enough to snap a photo. Art got the Walleye Tempura, and Kristin ordered some sort of lobster pasta.

The reason I mention this before discussing my tomato-stuffing recipe: Kristin left her leftovers behind when she packed up her cat back in her car and headed for home, and I ate her leftovers on the side, next to these lovely tomatoes. I will say that I'd never had lobster before. I may never have it again, but the pasta was delicious, very rich and very tasty in small portions.

As for the bill, I prefer not to thing about it. Art paid and we're counting it as an early anniversary dinner and celebration over newly gained employment on Art's part, all rolled into one hefty check. Should you go to Pier W, be ready to shell out some cash, but know that the food is superb, the waitstaff is companionable and not at all snobbish, and the atmosphere is one-of-a-kind. Looking out that large window at the twinkling lights of downtown Cleveland was the only time I've ever seen Cleveland look pretty. And that's something.

The following tomato recipe, however, can be made at home with little cost to you, though you will not be able to plate it with Pier W lobster pasta.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes
(for one- adjusted from Moosewood Simple Suppers)
What you need:
1 large tomato
salt and pepper
1/4 c. grated cheese
1/6 tsp. (eyeball it) dried Italian herbs (oregano, dill, thyme, etc.)

1. Cut the tomato in half and scoop out seeds. This was the part where I got a tad worried. You see, the ripe tomatoes I had on hand from the garden were purple cherokee, which is a rather meaty tomato, not a lot of seeds or seed cavities in which to put the cheese. In an effort to aide this process, I cut a small X in the center of each tomato half.
2. Oil baking dish large enough to hold the tomato halves side by side. (Or just use a tin-foiled cookie sheet). Place halves cut-side up on the tin foil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Admire their dark coloration of red, how it grows lighter in color as it moves its way to the center of the fruit.
3. Put half of the cheese on top of each tomato half. Sprinkle with herbs. Try to get the cheese to fall into the X at the center and the tiny seed pockets at the edges of the extra meaty tomato.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until filling is hot and cheese is melted, 5-10 minutes more.

In the end, the baked tomatoes turned out better because they were a meatier tomato. There was more there to bake and thus, to eat. I would recommend you try for the meatiest tomato you can find when undertaking this particular recipe. The results are pleasantly surprising.The tomato itself becomes a bit sweeter from the baking, and the herbs give it that extra kick. Eaten alone, it's a filling, solitary meal. Eaten with Pier W lobster pasta, it's a party.

This one is a definite keeper, though I haven't as yet been able to remake the recipe. The sudden temperature cool-off, followed by a spike in hot weather again has done a number on the tomato plants. They have plenty of fruit on them, but all still green. Perhaps the sudden cool-off again today with help some of those green ones turn red.

Still, for a while there, I was swimming in ripe tomatoes from the purple cherokee plant and the beefsteak plant (Mr. Stripey is still holding out on me.) I started coming up with quick little recipes all my own to use tomatoes up before they spoiled. One such recipe, I remembered to photograph:

Back in the good ole days (two months ago), when IHop sent us weekly buy-1-meal, get-one-free coupons, Art and I often lunched at the International House of Pancakes, east Cleveland branch. Of course, being at the International House of Pancakes, my natural recurring order is none other than... tomato and spinach fake egg omelet. I do so love my pancakes, but I try not to order them from restaurants, as restaurants bring a four-stack of plate-sized pancakes, and I, of course, can't stop myself from stuffed all four down my gullet. Thus, I get omelet.

But IHop has stopped with the freebie coupons for some reason, so we no longer go there. But I can use garden ingredients to make my own, fairly attractive version:

Tomato and Kale Fake-Egg Omelet
What you need
about 1/2 c. fake egg, more or less, depending on the size of omelet you want. 1/2 c equals 2 eggs, roughly.
1 med. beefsteak tomato
about a handful of pre -chopped, -blanched, and -frozen kale
cooking spray

1. Spray small skillet with cooking spray. Measure out 1/2 c. fake egg and add it to the skillet. Set on Med-low heat. When sides stiffen and top begins to set, flip and cook another few minutes. Plate omelet.
2. Spray same skillet. Dice tomato and add it to the skillet, along with the kale. Cook until heated. Transfer to middle of plated omelet.
3. Fold omelet over (with an optional bit of cheese, if desired) and enjoy.

What I learned: Kale tastes even better with a tomato omelet than spinach does.