Sunday, September 29, 2013

Purple Popcorn=Pure Joy

The kernels from this lovely corn were a gift to me 5 years ago, by a wonderful student at the Yale School of Forestry. He came to meet me at my house, shortly after the birth of my second child, and brought this beautiful heirloom Japonica corn seed as a gift. Needless to say, between having two children, working, and having a small yard with only 6 hours of sun (not nearly enough for corn)...five years went by and this seed sat dormant in my kitchen drawer not seeing the light of day. This year, I finally thought to pull it out and plant it at my kid's school garden; a lovely garden with southern exposure and not a drop of shade all day long. Miraculously the two little rows of five-year-old corn seed sprouted stalks and grew to about 6 feet tall. We harvested a few ears of corn, pealed back the husks and discovered purple, and garnet colored kernels, hard to the touch, and realize we had no idea what to do with this corn. I couldn't imagine that it was only ornamental, after all, it was given to me by a food lover. I figured it could be ground for corn meal, but since I don't have a grain mill, and didn't much feel like doing it by hand, I went for popping first. And, to the great pleasure of my popcorn loving family, it worked. Purple popcorn=pure joy.

To pop your own corn: pick the kernels off the cob, put 1/2 cup to 1 cup of them in a heavy bottomed pot with a few tablespoons of oil, cover and shake over high heat until the corn starts popping. Shake vigorously so the corn doesn't burn. If it sounds like there is not enough room for the corn to pop (muffled sound) pour some of the popped corn into a bowl, and continue popping the rest in the pot. When the popping stops, the corn is done. Wipe out the pot with a towel, toss in a few tablespoons of butter, the heat of the pan will melt it. Drizzle over popcorn, toss, sprinkle with salt, toss some more and you are done! For a fun variation, try a little Sambar curry powder and a pinch of sugar or honey. 

Inspired? Please share!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roasted Tomato Sauce

September brings the start of school, lots of Jewish Holidays and not enough time to deal with all the tomatoes in my backyard. My quick and easy solution is this roasted tomato sauce. It can be done in a frying pan or a big roasting pan, depending on how many tomatoes you have. If you have a few extra minutes you can take the time to sauté the onion and garlic first, if not, just chop it up, toss it with an assortment of tomatoes (whole or cut), some olive oil, salt, pepper and some fresh basil, or other herbs like marjoram, oregano or thyme, and pack the whole thing into the oven at about 425 degrees. If you are in a real rush to get dinner on the table, do a quick sauté of all the ingredients on the stove top and then stick it under the broiler. Stir occasionally so the tomatoes don't burn, and in a few minutes, you have sauce. Enjoy it as is, tossed over pasta, in rice, greens, meat or beans or puree it a bit for a more traditional tomato sauce. If you happen to have an over grown zucchini lurking in the backyard too, split it open, remove the seeds, and dice it up for sauce.  
Frying pan version: I sautéd the ingredients before sticking them under the broiler.

Roasting pan version: I split the larger tomatoes, tossed all the raw ingredients with olive oil, salt and pepper and put the whole pan in a 425 degree oven. Siting occasionally until the tomatoes were very soft with lightly browned edges, about 45 minutes. 

The sauce is great with the roasted whole tomatoes as is (in the photo at the top), or give it a quick puree in a blender or with a stick blender, and enjoy.

If you want to grow tomatoes next year, all you need is a sunny spot, a big bucket, some good dirt and a little $3 plant (try a sun gold orange cherry tomato, it's especially prolific).  If you are fortunate enough to have lots of tomatoes to work with, what do you do with them?