Friday, October 23

The Last Tomato

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.

Crumble topping:
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

Tomato filling:
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.


nansita said...

GRRRR>>>>> Yummy! It's casserole season, but a tomato crumble, oh, that is the thing. Anchovy right over!


Callipygia said...

Nanners- with you we may put anchovies...eggs..cheese and maybe some chutney too! miss our tuna days-

Lucy said...

Oh, yes, that's what I call heaven on a stick. 'Til my toms are fruiting, I could probably use good tinned ones?

Bacon jam...having recently eaten a salad in NY dressed with perfectly delicious piggy lardoons, I'm on the bacon wagon, too...

Callipygia said...

Lucy, the original recipe in fact uses tinned toms. I am making it again to see what the difference in fresh vs canned is.

I think a bacon wagon is a very good idea!

Chelsea said...

Hmmm - bacon on the brain - that's a hard one to get over. There just isn't another flavor that comes close.

For some reason the combination of tomatoes and oatmeal haunts me. I'm not sure that I've ever tried oats in a savory dish, though this this one sounds like a good place to start. (and indeed, an excellent introduction to the colder temps!)

Callipygia said...

Chelsea- actually I once tried these slow roasted crunchy shitake mushrooms...they tasted remarkably like bacon. I'll have to have another go 'round with my veggie bacon jam! And the tomato and oats works, this time around I pulsed the oats, works better this way.

Anh said...

What a post. I am very curious about bacon jam, although I won’t be able to eat any. I am actually thinking of some tomato relish with smoky aroma. It will be good, too!

The tomato bake is a real gem. I can already imagine the flavours.! I may try it this week with some anchovies fillet (gotta do some shopping. My bare fridge after the holiday makes me cry).

Bill Medifast said...

I've never heard of a tomato crumble before and sounds quite tasty. Great idea. Going to have to try this out with the few tomatoes I have left from this years harvest.

Thanks a lot,

Bill M.

Callipygia said...

Anh- The brilliant thing with this is that most of the ingredients are already in the cupboard. Potent flavors that will clear away those tears!

Bill, I know I thought the idea is brilliant. We had a glut of tomatoes at the end of the season...but it actually worked really well with canned too! shhh-don't tell.

Gattina Cheung said...

heavenly indeed! mean to leave my comment as I have already swinged by quite a few times, but my pc not quite cooperative kept acting funny. anyway, there's a round of tomatos (the type that you drew in the middle) just coming to the market. everytime I saw them just remind of this post of yours. Delicious... both your words and the recipe. got to try!

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