While one might imagine that I’ve been hufflepuffing my way through these dazzling autumn months, I haven’t. My mantra revitalized me long enough to become temporarily obsessed with the porcine power of Kevin Gillespie’s bacon jam, which tamed the otherwise inaccessible escargot and momentarily stunned a seemingly unflappable Daniel Boulud on Top Chef 6, episode 4. “Bacon Jam” became my new fixation, a word tonic uttered repeatedly in strange wonder. Like its predecessor it became a symbol, a question to be lived and in a series of screwed up turns, changed into hyped up shitake jam posing as pig. Good- perhaps even excellent without the expectations heaped on, but in the wake of such anticipation, instead… a red faced sham.
Figuring it wasn’t a favorable sign starting an entry feeling sheepish; I scrapped last month’s post. Flummoxed, a bittersweet chocolate-meyer lemon tart also went “the way of the pig” and turned into something odd and a little rubbery. That tart was grand in meaning, representing the lyrical play of light and dark of the harvest season and of relationships too. It seems my food has become steeped in mental meanderings in an attempt to distract myself from the grim realities of the fast approaching end of the year. Lamenting over squash, confused over good-food-gone-bad, I missed the peak of the leaf season when flaming fluorescents light the valley in colors almost unreal.
But V_ to the rescue again, has magically coaxed tomatoes late- in an otherwise barren season with Houdini like prowess. As many plants much earlier across the eastern states have succumbed to blight, these paeans to summer have survived just barely, raising their status to something a little unearthly. Determined to no longer pine for the months passed by and revel in what surely must be the most handsome dignified time of the year, I offer a tomato dish that takes the sunny carefree orbs of summer and with a wave of a wand, transforms them into a sophisticated concentrated concoction. The tomato has grown up. Swirled in red wine, introduced to the briny seduction of capers and olives, the vinegary sear of pepperoncini, and dressed in a feathery cape of aged parmesan, herbs and crusty crumbs- this dish is happy marriage between summer produce and fall winter technique. It is lusty food with bold flavors leaping with the confidence to assert not dominate. The red filling has the darkened jammy patina of age, not the mere blush of youth. This tomato crumble is completely beholden to the season, conveying quiet knowledge of the passage of time. In possession of this, everything is just a little grander, richer for the existence. What a relief to know that I can still have my metaphors and- eat them too!
Spicy Tomato Crumble adapted from Savory Baking by Mary Cech: Not only is this basically a dump and stir sort of recipe, but it begs to be played around with. I can equally envision anchovy fillets to cracked eggs to chunks of goat cheese baked in. Just the thing to get one’s mind finally off of bacon jam.
1/3 C dry bread crumbs (I used 1/2 panko and 1/2 oyster cracker crumbs- I think leftover crusty bread would be perfect to make adhoc chunky bits)
1/4 C rolled oats toasted
1 Tblsp all-purpose flour
1/4 C finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano/marjoram
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tblsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 Tblsp. finely diced pepperoncini
2 tsp. clover honey
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 C dry red wine
6 fresh large tomatoes roughly chopped and seeded or one 28 oz. can whole tomatoes with juice, roughly chopped
1/2 C kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Directions: Combine all ingredients for the crumble topping in a food processor and pulse a few times to break down the oats a bit and bring the mixture to a crumble. Put aside. In a large shallow pan bring all the tomato filling ingredients to a simmer for about 25 minutes, reducing the liquid down. (I found there was still so much liquid I reserved about half a cup to reduce further at a later time- tomato jus, delicious!) Pour mixture into a casserole pan and crumble the topping on top. I think a little drizzle of olive oil would be highly appropriate. Pop into a preheated 350 degree oven until the top looks brown and the filling is bubbly. I believe the author has the crumble cooking for 15 minutes, but we cooked ours for at least 35 minutes… but then again our recipe was doubled. Enjoy hot or cold. Nice with a piece of fish, atop pasta...heaven I tell you.