Thursday, July 19, 2007

Desert Island Cookbook

Lycopersicon Galeni = Pomidoro... Digital ID: 1125092. New York Public Library

Nicole Brown
Librarian, The American University in Cairo.
Cairo, Egypt

Cookbook: Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten & Mark Bittman

Why: The novice cook, the advanced chef, and everyone in-between will find something to love in this book. As the cover boasts, each recipe is taken to "four levels of sophistication." For example, the Mesclun Salad section progress like this: Mesclun and herb salad, Mesclun salad with grilled lemon chicken, Salade Nicoise, Mesclun with scallops Maltaise, Mesclun salad with porcini, artichokes, and foie gras. The recipe arrangement inspires invention and creativity. I use it all year long and consult it frequently for methods, techniques, and ideas.

Favorite Recipe: I love the desserts: the clafouti tart and the chocolate tart in a chocolate crust are outstanding. But, since it's summer, here are two recipes in honor of the tomato.

Tomato-melon gazpacho
One 3-pound cantaloupe; 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 4 tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks; 1 1/2 cups water, or 1 cup water and 1/2 cup ice cubes; 10 leaves basil; Salt and freshly ground black pepper; Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste 1. Halve and seed the melon. Remove the flesh from the rind; cut into chunks. Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in each of two 10 or 12 inch skillets and turn the heat under both to high (you can do this sequentially if you prefer). Add the melon to one and the tomatoes to the other and cook, stirring, until they become juicy, no longer than 2 minutes. 2. Put the melon, tomato, water (and ice cubes), and basil in a blender, along with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and puree until smooth.Chill. 3. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

Tomato confit
12 plum or 6 large tomatoes ripe but not too soft; 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed; 6 sprigs thyme; 1 teaspoon coarse salt 1. Preheat the oven to 275F. Cut out the hard core of each of the tomatoes and make an X in the smooth flower end. Plunge into boiling water for about 15 seconds, or until the skins loosen, then plunge into ice water; drain. Peel; cut plum tomatoes in half, regular tomatoes into quarters, then remove all the seeds and pulp. 2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil. Place the tomatoes cut side down on the pan. Scatter the garlic and thyme around and sprinkle with salt. 3. Bake for 2 hours or more, turning the tomatoes every 30 minutes or so to make sure that they are not browning (if they are, lower the heat) and turning the baking sheet so the tomatoes cook evenly. The tomatoes are done when they are very soft and shriveled. They will keep, refrigerated, for a few days.