I am already reminiscing about the foods of summer. The temperatures are averaging a chilly 30 degrees in New York and the wind is often howling like a banshee around our building. In fact, the wind was so hard the other night that my mom called me asking if I thought her outdoor furniture would fly off her 18th floor balcony. Seeing as how the furniture is made of a pretty sturdy metal, it was highly unlikely. Being the good daughter that I am though, I went over to help her lay the patio furniture down to ease her fear that a flying chair would maim some innocent pedestrian below. As soon as I managed to push open the balcony door, my mom started screaming and dragging me back into her apartment. Eventually, I convinced her that if the winds were strong enough to send me flying, her furniture would’ve been halfway to the city by then. I was allowed to go out but only after promising that I’d crawl on my hands and knees to lower my center of gravity. Anybody know how to say center of gravity in Chinese?

Back to my original thought…

This past summer, there were two staples sitting on the top shelf of my fridge: oven-roasted tomatoes and basil pesto. Yes, I went through bags of plum tomatoes and basil from 2 foot stalks, both bought during our Saturday morning visits to the farmer’s market. Looking back, I wish I had learned how to can and preserve so that I could have a whole pantry stocked with summer goodies to last us through the winter. As it stands, I didn’t learn how to can and now have to live vicarously through these pictures 🙂 The “recipes” below are more like the methods so the measurements are approximated. What makes these recipes great is that they are simple, flexible, and you get to taste as you go along.

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Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

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about 15 plum tomatoes
5 large garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and seed them. I usually just run my finger through the chambers and push out the guts. Arrange in a single layer on parchment paper lined baking sheet. You may need to use two. Make sure the tomatoes aren’t too close together or worse, sitting on top of each other. You’ll get more steamed tomatoes than roasted and that’s a whole other post.

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Sprinkle the minced garlic and salt evenly over the tomatoes and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Roast tomatoes in the oven for about an hour or until they start looking prune-ish, like this:

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If after an hour, they are shriveled but not caramelized around the edges, turn up the heat on the oven to 400 degrees and roast for an additional 10 minutes. Trust me, you’ll thank me after you taste one.

If you’re storing the tomatoes for future use, let them cool completely and then put them into an airtight container. If there is any residual olive oil in the pan, pour it into the container too.

Basil Pesto

2 cups of packed basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, about 1/2 of a cup to start
kosher salt
black pepper

Wash and dry basil leaves well.

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* Side story to this: I wash and dry my herbs with my salad spinner. The day I made this, I discovered a tiny green worm had been living, quite happily I’d assume, off of my basil. How did I uncover this? As I was taking the basil out of the salad basket, I saw that I had spun him to his death. RIP little green worm.

Place all of the basil into a food processor along with the garlic and pulse a few times until all combined.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Keep adding until the pesto is the consistency you like. Make sure you scrape down the sides of food bowl periodically so everything gets incorporated evenly.

Add cheese and pulse a few times to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

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Like I said, everything is to taste so feel free to adjust any of the quantities. I am a vampire – and my husband’s – worst enemy when it comes to garlic so if the 5 cloves of minced garlic for the tomatoes horrifies you, for pete’s sake use 2! Though I really can’t see why you would want to do that. If 1/2 of a cup of cheese in the pesto isn’t enough, add more! Now that’s something I can understand.

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Gratuitous cheese shot 🙂

Both items should last a while in your fridge but I’m not sure exactly how long. I used the tomatoes within 2 weeks and the pesto within a month.

Here are some suggestions on usage…

  • Spread two slices of crusty bread with the pesto and layer the tomatoes and slices of fresh mozzarella for a yummy sandwich.
  • Add a handful of the chopped tomatoes to some tomato sauce to add some depth to the flavor.
  • Mix the pesto with hot pasta, sauteed shrimp, and a bit of the pasta water for a simple dinner.
  • Use the leftover roasted tomato olive oil in a vinaigrette.
  • The possibilities are endless! Please share some of your ideas with me so I can start making a list in anticipation for next summer 🙂

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