I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Pasta with fresh basil and tomatoes confit

This is hardly a recipe, but it's one of my favorite uses for my tomato confit. In the same way that I love a fresh tomato pasta, as the heat of the spaghetti cooks the tomatoes, with maybe just a little garlic and olive oil, the tomato confit makes for a slightly more robust version. In this dish, the intensity of the tomatoes is balanced out by a good handful of fresh basil. Especially in winter, when tomatoes need to be coaxed to release any sort of flavor, this dish still brings back memories of summer.

So there you have it, a simple dish that can't be improved by any addition of any ingredients. I think that's about all that needs to be said. Eat up.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Tomato confit

Most of the time I think tomatoes are one of nature's most perfect foods. Rarely can anything beat a fresh, ripe tomato (sprinkled with a little salt and pepper). Straight from a garden, with that dusty flavor of sunshine, I could eat them like apples. I think it's a shame to do anything to them. However, there are times when cooking is a necessity, or a luxury. Perhaps when tomato season begins to wane, or maybe at the height of it with a bumper crop, it's time to turn the heat up.

Aside from being an amazingly delicious thing to do to a tomato, this is one of those recipes that you can turn into anything. A foundation recipe, if you will, on which to build a food empire. Confit actually refers to a technique of preserving food, either in salt, sugar, oil, or vinegar (so far as I can tell), but most often "confit" conjures up the taste of tender and rich meat slowly cooked in its own fat (or that of a more generous species).

These tomatoes confit are cooked in a bit of olive oil, not enough to drown them, but just enough so that the oil and tomato juices create a nectar-like emulsion as the liquid concentrates in the oven. A few cloves of garlic thrown into the pan never hurt either.

What to do with all this goodness? Toast some rustic bread and top with the tomatoes; stir in some plump cannellini beans; spoon some onto a delicate white fish. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Tomato confit

Tomatoes (cherry tomatoes or quartered Roma tomatoes)
A few cloves of garlic
Olive oil to coat (about 1/4 C. for an 8" pan)
Sprigs of rosemary or thyme if on hand

Toss tomatoes in olive oil in pan. Add in garlic and herbs if using. Bake at 300 for an hour or so, until tomatoes are collapsed and tender.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Mark Bittman's Mexican chocolate tofu pudding

Anyone sensing a theme? I seem to be stuck on Mexican food, though this is not a bad thing. Who doesn't like cumin, cilantro, chili pepper, cinnamon? (And is all Mexican food alliterative?) However, after my mole recipe and pico de gallo salad, I thought I should do something for dessert.

I like cooking with tofu. It has a great texture, ranging from silky soft to firm and crumbly. Better yet, it will absorb whatever flavors it snuggles up with like the way I wished I could absorb calculus by sleeping with my textbook under my pillow. I have often used soft tofu to add body and protein to blended soups and firm tofu as the main act in my stir fries. However, I had not, until now, considered the soy product as a potential dessert.

Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times about tofu included this recipe for Mexican Chocolate tofu pudding. I pretty much like anything he creates, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The recipe was easy and produced a great result. The pudding has the deep undertones of cinnamon supporting the high and hot notes of the chili. If you like the flavors of Mexican chocolate, this dish has it in spades. If you like your chocolate a bit less adulterated, it is also a treat without the spices. An extra table spoon or two of cocoa mixed in with the liquid would make it seriously decadent. At the same time, there's something wonderfully guilt-free about eating tofu. Go on.

Mark Bittman's Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

3/4 C. sugar
1 pound silken tofu
8 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
Chocolate shavings (optional).

In a small pot, combine sugar with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Put all ingredients except for chocolate shavings in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with fruit or chocolate shavings.

Serves 4 to 6 (depending on size of ramekin and appetite)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Pico de gallo and quinoa salad

Hello again. I'm back after another hiatus. September was a busy month: three countries, four time zones, a birthday, a wedding, several amazing dinners out, and (oh yes) crunch time at work. But I'm back now and raring to go with a few new recipes.

First up, a sort of non-recipe that turned out to be inspired (in my humble opinion). I had made fajitas with the required accompaniments, i.e. pico de gallo and guacamole, courtesy of my brother's recipe. Surprisingly, I actually had some left over. The guacamole was easy -- I practically ate it with a spoon -- but the pico de gallo was a little more challenging. Luckily, the fridge provides unexpected inspiration through juxtaposition: another container held some quinoa from an earlier meal, and I had an ear of corn -- the last of the summer -- which came in my vegetable box. After throwing in some pinto beans, also from the meal, this combination made for a tasty lunch. Quick and easy for when life gets to be a bit too hectic.

Pico de gallo and quinoa salad

1/2 C. pico de gallo
1/3 C. cooked quinoa
1/2 C. pinto beans
1/3 C. corn
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together, adjusting lime, salt and pepper to taste.
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