Hey Good Lookin' What Ya Got Cookin'?

I am a good cook and a terrible baker. Cooking is an art, baking is a science. I learned to cook mostly out of necessity. I was a latch key kid of a single working parent with a very demanding job and frequently had to make my own dinner.

These were the days before Easy Mac. There were no doubt Spaghettios and Chef Boyardee but my mother didn't stock our cupboards with these ready-made meals. The closest thing we had to an instant meal was a can of tuna fish, mayo and bread and though I love them still, a girl can only eat so many tuna sandwiches.

So I started small with things like noodles and butter and moved on to things like omelettes, pasta salad, and stir-frys. Eventually I became an adept cook who could entertain friends with roasted Cornish hen with wild rice crispy pancakes and asparagus with homemade hollendaise and homemade soups so good you'll propose marriage after just one bowl.

I also perfected the best date meal ever, you know the meal you want to look great, appeal to the carnivorous hungry man but not be so complicated that you a) look like you tried too hard b)get stressed or c)spend your whole time in the kitchen. Grilled steer filet(good cuts purchased at the local butcher, expensive but the flavor and tenderness is unsurpassable) with sauteed onions with red, green and yellow peppers, and rosemary and olive oil roasted potatoes. Remember, I don't bake, so I was dessert. This meal hooked 'em everytime.

I couldn't however, use this gastronomic trickery on my husband who was and continues to be a vegetarian. It was one of the few things that made me question if we could work as a couple. What would I do if I couldn't wow him with my steak or seal the deal with a lemon oven roasted chicken or orange-teriaki salmon?

My husband is Italian and the answer was so obvious, it almost hit me in the face. Pizza. During our courtship and marriage, I have become a master in the art of the homemade pizza. I do red pizzas and white pizzas, margherita pizzas and roasted vegetable pizzas. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and that's at least half the equation with my husband.

The vegetarian cooking has been more difficult though. Gone are the days I can quickly prep a chicken and throw it in the oven to roast, saute some green beans with a few almonds and dish it up with love. Cooking vegetarian, unless you live on a steady diet of Mac 'n Cheese or bean burritos requires a lot of prep work.

So I get really excited when I come upon a relatively easy recipe that is as well received by the non-veg friends who share our table as the hubs and kids. I'm not usually the recipe sharer because quite frankly, almost none of my friends cook but I know some of you do and I am always looking for delicious, healthy, easyish recipes that my whole family will like.

My aunt shared a recipe with me at the beginning of the summer and I have made it probably once a week since, altering it here and there but it is so good, I think I must share. It starts as a sauce and can morph to a soup. I'm a pinch of this, a little of that so bear with my approximations, the proportions for either do not require precision.

So here you go: Roasted Tomatoes 2 Ways

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes With Linguine
Oven-roasted Tomatoes with Linguine, mmmm. You say oh Formerly Fun, I just boil up some pasta and throw a little Preggo over it. No, no, no, too much salt and too much sugar and though good on the fly, jar sauce at the very least needs to be doctored up. When you have a summer glut of tomatoes, there's really no reason to go with jarred or canned.

8-12 medium-size tomatoes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 bulb garlic(broken up and cloves peeled)
sugar(I use Sugar in the Raw but regular refined white sugar is fine)

Slice tomatoes into 1/2" rounds and layer in a roasting pan of any size that has been sprayed or coated with a little olive oil. Depending on how much you are making, you may need additional pans. I make as much as I can because this goes quick in our house. Drizzle about 1-2 Tbs per pan, over the sliced tomatoes. Drizzle about 1-2 TBs of the balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Toss in a few of the peeled garlic cloves and sprinkle with salt and pepper and about 1 tsp. sugar. You can adjust seasoning later to taste.

Bake in the oven at about 250 for about three hours(check every 45 minutes or so since ovens vary). I know they are done when any liquid remaining in the pan is pretty thick and the tomatoes are getting gooey but not burned. Take them out and transfer to a bowl. I like to use kitchen shears to chop, chop, chop until the tomatoes are piecy but not pureed. Transfer sauce to large saute pan and warm on low while you cook linguine to al dente. You can adjust seasoning adding sugar, salt or pepper as needed. Add cooked linguine to sauce and turn up the heat and saute for 5 minutes or so until pasta had absorbed some of the sauce. It's great served with some shave Parmesan and a little fresh basil on top.

Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup
tomatoes etc. as prepared above
about 1 bunch of basil, like a cup of loose not packed leaves
1/2 c. grated Parmesan or similar hard Italian cheese
1/3 c. red wine(not necessary if you don't already have on hand, hubs and I never manage to finish a bottle so I store leftovers to cook with and it works nicely here but fine without)
whole milk, cream or half and half-I use whatever I have handy and you can adjust this depending on how rich a soup you're making, if the soups for company, I go a little heavier on the cream, if it's for us, I tend to go lighter so it's not so calorie dense.
1/3 c olive oil

Prepare tomatoes the same way, this time empty roasted tomatoes, garlic, drippings etc. into soup pot. It's not necessary but I deglaze the pan I roasted the tomatoes in to get all that caramelized goodness when I make the soup. I use a handblender and puree the tomatoes right in my soup pot, you can also shove all the stuff in a blender but my Kitchen-Aid Hand Immersion Blender is spiffy since I make soups and sauces so much, saves all the transferring from the blender and such, plus blenders are a bitch to clean. Anyhow, I mix fresh basil, tomatoes, cheese, red wine, olive oil and blend all of it until it's pretty smooth. Simmer over low heat, add salt, pepper or sugar to taste.

Sometimes we eat this as is with a little crusty Italian bread, other times I add small cheese ravioli or tortellini already cooked to the soup.

Buon appetito.

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Bimbo Baggins said... September 25, 2008 at 5:16 PM  

That sounds yummy.

I also learned how to cook out of necessity. Mine came later though, after I had the punk and was out on my own. I was certainly not going to feed her hot dogs and mac and cheese...

Anonymous said... September 25, 2008 at 9:52 PM  

oooh ooh...btw the drawing pic of that person in the scantily clad outfit cooking...fantastic. Combine luvin, and food...and that's about oooh...80% there to a happy marriage. Well, at least in my world. At any rate, so..when do I get to taste this tasty pizza of yours? huh? huh? So far I've only made my signature boboli pizza, or Trader Joes pizza dough pizza jam packed with any vegetable I can find. I'd be curious to see or ahem..taste..how a real home made pizza is prepared =)

A Free Man said... September 25, 2008 at 10:30 PM  

I'm a cooker too, rather than a baker. I don't even think baking is science - I understand science.

I'll also agree with you on the mystery of cooking vegetarian. Whenever we have vegs over for a dinner party I immediately begin to panic. I'll keep these recipes around for next time.

~Mountain Lover~ said... September 26, 2008 at 7:04 AM  

That sounds tasty!

I'm a vegetarian, which forced me to start cooking. The chances that I'll get to eat anything at a BBQ or potluck are slim to none unless I bring something.

Though I can't say I enjoy cooking, I do enjoy the food and it makes me look and feel better.

Rassles said... September 26, 2008 at 7:28 AM  

I literally got in this exact same conversation yesterday. The roommate was making fun of me because I can't make cookies properly. She's like, "you make these four course meals for dinner and you can't follow a recipe on a bag of chocolate chips?" No. Directions? I am incapable of following them.

And that is why I am not a veterinarian.

Kris said... September 27, 2008 at 10:28 AM  

Those recipes look yummy. I am not 100% vegetarian but eat meat only 1-2 times a week. Tomatoes, though, I could eat multiple times daily and never tire of them. :-)

formerly fun said... September 28, 2008 at 9:17 AM  

What do you cook for the punk? Yeah, I have always considered the hot dogs and Mac more like emergency food, we have a couple of frozen pizzas on hand but they are generally used when we have a babysitter.

We'll definately have you over for pizza, I cheat with the Trader Joe crust frequently out of ease. You can come over but it will be hubs dressed provacatively not me:) Boboli just may be the antichrist.

a free man-so what is baking then? alchemy? don't fret over vegetarians. I call myself a part-time veg b/c I'll eat meat when served it whereas my hubs and kids do not. Hubs is happy as long as there's a good starch-potato or pasta and a good salad. Pasta is a no fail in a veg situation. I've even made sausage and peppers and cooked and served the sausage sep for my extended family so the veg's could eat it without but the carnivores could still get their meat on.

I was kind of steered to veg diet because my hubs is and I'm too lazy to cook 2 different meals and as a single girl, I had plenty of no-meat meals. However, I gained 10 pounds when I switched because most of the protein sources are also higher in calories/carbs. When I could eat a thai steak salad or piece of fish on a bed of spinach, staying thinner was much easier.

rassles- Directions are hard for me to, it's more about my attitude than apptitude, just don't like anyone telling me what to do.:)

kris- my hubs got his teeth whitened last week and he couldn't eat colored food for at least 5 days and he sooo missed tomatoes, we eat some every night. I was also going nuts trying to figure out how to make a balance 'white' meal, ugh.

Sandi said... September 30, 2008 at 10:19 AM  

I have to try those recipes. I too am a good cook and can't (don't) bake.

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