Monday, August 17, 2009

Midnight Roasting

151 pages later, I have emerged from my thesis-writing cocoon!  It feels great!  Except that in about a week, I’ll have to go back inside for the final revisions as prescribed by my helpful thesis committee.  But after that, I will emerge a butterfly with three beautiful letters after her name: P H D.  I’m so excited I could sing!  La la la la la PHD!

I hope you aren’t tired of this PhD business, dear reader, because it’s going to continue for the next few weeks.  After six years of labor dedicated to my craft, I think I’m entitled to bask in the pride that somehow pulled me toward it even during my darkest days of graduate school.  I’ve been (secretly) dreaming of this time for many moons, but the waking reality is even better than my secret dreams.  I just feel so accomplished, anticipating the completion of my degree.  I feel victorious.

Another thing that made me feel victorious recently was an excellent open-faced sandwich that seemed to invent itself for the sole purpose of comforting me in the final weeks of thesis writing.  I love sandwiches, especially the kind that can stand alone as a vegetarian entree.  Sandwiches of this type really need some sort of protein to work, and I like a little something more than a piece of cheese.  Or even better, a little something in addition to a piece of cheese.  I want good bread and cheese and something to tie the whole thing together into a neat little package called dinner.

Enter the humble white bean.  It’s such an easy answer: open a can, drain the beans, dump them in a bowl, and mash them with some salt and pepper.  Comfortingly bland and yet utterly fortifying, white beans are so good in sandwiches, especially as a creamy mattress for the real superstars of this open-faced sandwich: slow-roasted tomatoes, courtesy of summer and A Homemade Life.

I’ve fallen pretty hard for the slow-roasted tomato.  It’s what sun-dried tomatoes wish they could be but never quite achieve: a silky, sweet-tart pouch of tomato essence that practically melts into a puddle of summer on your tongue.  It’s startling that with a little heat and time, pedestrian Roma tomatoes can be transformed into something so sublime.  And right now, at least in my corner of the globe, Romas are cheapReally cheap—like 15 or 20 of them for 3 bucks at the farmers’ market.  Unbelievable.  I keep scooping them up, deliciously thrilled at the prospect of another week of slow-roasted tomatoes.

By day, I’ve been roasting my brain on data and figures and science prose.  But by night, I fire up the oven for the slow steady midnight roasting of my cache of tomatoes.  It takes just a few minutes to prep the tomatoes, especially if you’re lazy like me and do your prep in the pan with the tomatoes.  It’s worth the effort to roast a couple pounds of tomatoes at a time because it’s really easy to plow through four of them in one sitting.  Seriously: I top each sandwich with four tomato halves, right down the middle like giant red buttons, and polish off two sandwiches without a hiccup.  This, my friends, is home-cooking at its best.  Eat your sandwiches accompanied by a vegetable or two or maybe a chilled soup and you’ve got a snappy late-summer dinner that will leave you just enough room for dessert.

Molly’s Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander

Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Molly’s book?  I’ve been working my way through the recipes, following them in my devil-may-care, I’ll-just-change-this-and-that-because-no-one-is-here-to-stop-me way.  One of the nice things about most of Molly’s recipes, published in the book or on Orangette, is that they are really user-friendly for a tinkerer like me.  I feel that’s a strong indicator of a good, solid recipe and one of the reasons I cook so much from her recipes.

For these slow-roasted tomatoes, the basic recipe is pretty easy and loose, but I make things even easier on myself by doing away with an extra bowl and instead prepping the tomatoes on a cutting board and then inside the pan where they’ll roast for a few hours.  I also use a little more salt and coriander than Molly because I like the seasonings a little bit stronger.

Cooking spray

Roma (plum) tomatoes (make lots!)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt (I’ve used sea salt and table salt with good results here)

Ground coriander (oh, delight!)

1)  Preheat the oven for 250 degrees F.  Spray a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

2)  Prep the tomatoes: wash them, chop them in half lengthwise, and use a little V-shaped cut to snip away the stem on each half.  Line them up inside the prepped dish or sheet, cut side up.

3)  Drizzle the tomato halves lightly with olive oil.  You don’t need to coat them in oil, just use a bit on each one to give it a little flavor and richness.  Sprinkle them with salt and ground coriander to taste, just a bit on each one.

4)  Slide the tomatoes into the oven and roast for about 3 hours, at which point the tomatoes will have shrivelled into little crinkled pouches of concentrated tomato goodness.  Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature, or just cool overnight.  Store roasted tomatoes in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

Open-Faced White Bean, Cheese, and Slow-Roasted Tomato Sandwiches

Serves 2-3

My favorite bread for these sandwiches is a pre-sliced loaf of French bread made by Breadsmith, which I store in the freezer for safe-keeping while I work my way through the loaf.  The flavor seems just right for these sandwiches, a sort of cross between pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.

One more note: if I’m making this recipe to feed just me, I make two sandwiches, but you’ll have enough of the bean mixture to make sandwiches for 2-3 eaters.  Store leftover bean mixture in the fridge.

4-6 slices of bread, such as the French sandwich bread made by Breadsmith

A single garlic clove, peeled and sliced in half

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 14.5-oz. can white beans, such as Great Northern beans



A few shredded handfuls of a favorite cheese, such as Organic Valley’s Wisconsin Raw Milk Cheese Jack Style

16-24 roasted tomato halves (4 for each slice of bread), see recipe above

1)  Lightly toast the bread in your favorite toasting apparatus.  After toasting, rub it with the garlic clove and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top.

2)  While the bread is toasting, prep the beans.  Drain and rinse the canned beans, then dump them into a shallow bowl, like a large cereal bowl.  Use a fork to mash them, then season them to taste with salt and pepper.

3)  Spread a few tablespoons of the bean mixture on each slice of bread.  Top with cheese.  Place four roasted tomatoes, cut side down, on each slice of bread.  I like to make a line with them, as though the tomatoes were very large buttons on a shirt that happens to be shaped like a piece of bread.  Sprinkle each sandwich with salt and pepper to taste.

4)  Turn on your broiler.  Cook the sandwiches under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sandwiches are nicely toasted and maybe a little bit browned.  Serve immediately.


Laurie said...

Welcome to the world you PhD sporting butterfly you!

Still waiting for bulk, cheap tomatoes here. Soon though. Very, very soon. I can't wait.

How long do your roasted tomatoes keep?

Rosiecat said...

Laurie, I'm excited for you and your upcoming tomato crop! I didn't realize how much the timing of summer produce can differ across North America until we started exchanging blog notes about peaches and tomatoes.

Great question about the roasted tomatoes! I thought about mentioning something about this in my post but then I felt unsure of my answer. My roasted tomatoes easily keep in the fridge in a sealed container for 3-4 days. I'd guess they might even keep for up to a week, but I'm not certain about that. I will say, though, that I haven't had them go bad on me yet, so that's a good sign! But really, why wait to eat something so lovely?

JD said...

Our tomatoes are just coming in, well in any descent amount. Soon it will be time to make salsas and sauces and can them all. I wish I could come out for your defense, but with it being on a Tuesday, I just don't see it happening. You will kick some serious butt though, of that I am sure.

I also wanted to let you know how much I love coriander. It gets one of my Gold Stars, along with the guy who designed the Mars Rover.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, Big Sister o' mine!

I'm so proud of you! Can't wait to see you!


Delightfully Healthy said...

Sounds like the perfect thesis-writing food! And late Summer, sit-outside and relax dish, too.

Congratulations on your soon-to-be PhD! It's seriously impressive.

Rosiecat said...

Hi everyone!

JD, I hope I get a tour of your garden when I see you next month. Your basil plants a few years ago were GORGEOUS! I'm going to urge you to try slow-roasted tomatoes because they are very tasty and really easy--who doesn't love a recipe that's delicious and easier than pie? And you get to use coriander!

No worries about not coming out for my thesis seminar. I know it's an awkward time for everyone with a job, so I completely understand.

Theresa, hi! Thanks for your sweet message. I can't wait to see you! Bring on the flan!

Delightfully Healthy, I agree. If I had a patio, I'd eat these sandwiches outside every night. Thank you for the congrats--I'm still feeling pretty starry-eyed about it!

Shannon said...

how exciting, to be done with the writing! :) this sandwich sounds absolutely divine... except i don't know about the slow roasting tomatoes--my kitchen is way too hot for turning on the oven!

Rosiecat said...

Alright, Shannon, I'll accept your excuse for not slow-roasting right now, but maybe you can save this recipe for the September tomatoes?

As for the writing, yes, it was such a relief to be done with the first draft. Now I've got lots of editing to do and then I can submit my completed thesis to the graduate school. It's just crazy how fast things have happened this summer!