Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

It makes me sad to bump that beautiful flower and tomato arrangement from the top spot my my blog. But time moves on and so must I...

I've had some pretty wonderful tomato things lately. I did roasted cherry tomatoes with an assortment of red Stupice, orange Sungold and deep maroon/purple Black Cherries. It was wonderful — easy as can be to just roast unattended for 2 hours or more in a warm oven — and it was delicous! I had it over pasta, topped a burger with it and spread it on cheese on a wholemeal and parmesan cracker. I had a fresh tomato soup made with red Donas and Carmellos. I got the recipe from Joanne Weir's cookbook you say tomato. She recommends serving it with Crispy Polenta Sticks (I'll include the recipe at the end of this entry). That was terrific too and I cubed and toasted some of the leftover polenta to stuff one of my Eight-Ball squash using some tomato, aromatic veggies and feta. Only (maddening) thing is, for some reason those photos either disappeared from the camera when I was trying to free some memory or never got stored because the memory was already too full. Grrrrrrrrr!!!

So what pic did get stored? The Tomato Upsidedown Cake that I had to make just 'cause I came across the recipe and wanted to say I'd made a tomato upsidedown cake. =o Here it is:

Not quite so pretty as I had hoped when I arranged the pretty yellow tomato slices in the bottom of the pan. And tomato didn't really do a thing for the cake. It was a full-flavored spice cake made with molasses from an old-fashioned recipe. Very gingerbread-like and maybe intended to overwhelm the flavor of the tomatoes. Because I didn't have any fresh ginger in the house I substituted crystallized ginger in the topping and because I didn't have enough tomato to cover the top generously I filled in with chopped pecan. These two things turned out to be the best features of the cake. The tomato flavor just didn't belong. It sorta stood aside from the body of the cake and neither blended with it nor accentuated it. But now I can say I've made a Tomato Upsidedown Cake and I've got this entry to prove it!

I will cook my way through a bit more of this cookbook over the course of the summer. There are lots of promising recipes in it. For now, here's the one that I really enjoyed and want to remember:

Crispy Polenta Sticks

• coarse salt
• 1/2 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
• freshly ground black pepper
• about 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 cups canola oil

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat to medium and slowly add the polenta. whisking constantly. Continue to whisk the mixture for 10 minutes. Change to a wooden spoon and continue to simmer, stirring periodically, until the spoon stands in the polenta, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary, and butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the hot polenta in a buttered 9x1-inch loaf pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and let cool in the refrigerator until firm. (The polenta can be made up to 5 days in advance.)

About 30 minutes before you're ready to serve the soup, cut the polenta into sticks 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long; this will make 18 to 24 sticks. Remove from the pan and toss the polenta sticks carefully in flour to dust them lightly.

Heat the canola oil in a deep heavy saucepan to 375 degrees F. Drop the polenta sticks into hot fat, a few at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. (If you need to reheat the polenta sticks, place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and heat in a 400 degree F oven until hot, 10 minutes.)


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