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Basic Recipes, Condiments, and Pickles
When editors of Washington D.C.’s Brightest Young Things blog emailed and asked if they could catalog and photograph everything in my fridge and freezer for a series they were working on, I had one immediate question: “How much time do you have?”
The answer was, “As much time as we need,” which was good, because it took more than two hours, and that was working as quickly as we could. My entry must’ve had at least twice the items of any of the other foodniks featured in the series. Friends who posted the link on Facebook said things like, “I have fridge-envy,” and they weren’t talking about the appliance.
As a single cook, why do I have so much food? Well, before you accuse me of hoarding, let me get on my soap box: I’m a zealot about the fact that if you’re fully stocked, making something quick at the end of a long workday is that much easier. I think it might even be more important for single folks than for others, because it allows us to make bigger batches of things when we have the time, but then just use a little of it to help punch up a single-serving meal that doesn’t result in a mountain of leftovers.
I certainly have more than my fair share of store-bought condiments, but I also like to make my own. I know just what’s in them (no unpronounceable ingredients here), I can make them to suit my own sometimes-quirky palate, and I positively savor the satisfaction--or should I say self-satisfaction?--when I use them.
Makes about 3 cups
I have made these tomatoes for more than a decade now, but it wasn’t until my sister’s homegrown Maine wedding, where I made hundreds of them for the appetizer table, that I realized how perfect a technique this is for “putting up” local tomatoes in the peak season. The low heat of the oven turns the tomatoes almost jammy, concentrating the flavor beautifully, which makes them perfect as a topping for bruschetta, pasta, or pizza (see Smoky Pizza Margherita, page 106). They also can be served on an antipasti platter with mixed olives, cheese, pickles, and/or smoked fish. I call them 12-hour tomatoes, but the amount of time it takes depends greatly on the size and juiciness of the tomatoes. So for the least fuss, don’t mix varieties or sizes in one batch, but feel free to multiply this recipe as you wish. Left in the oven long enough, the tomatoes will start to become a little chewy around the edges, which make a nice counterpoint to the moisture inside. Try other spices instead of the cumin: regular paprika, smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton), and cinnamon also work well with the tomatoes, or you can stick with just salt and pepper for the purest tomato flavor.
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
8 large (3- to 4-inch) tomatoes, stemmed (but not cored) and cut in half vertically
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Place a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are fragrant but not browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking; let cool completely, and then grind.
Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Season the cut side with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with oil. Sprinkle evenly with the ground cumin.
Bake for 10 to 14 hours (the time will vary, depending on the size and variety of tomato), until the tomatoes have collapsed and shriveled to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick; they should still be moist inside but can be slightly crisp and browned at the edges.
Cool completely. To store, pack the tomatoes in an airtight container, cover them with olive oil, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer storage, use a thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is under 38°F, then pack them tightly into sterilized jars, cover them with olive oil, and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Or pack them into freezer-safe plastic bags, remove as much air as possible from the bags, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost an entire bag at a time; once defrosted, cover tomatoes with olive oil and store in the fridge.
One of the most vexing consequences of cooking for one is that sometimes, no matter how hard your trusty recipe writer tries, he can’t avoid leftover ingredients. That means you may come away from the recipe with, say, half an avocado or three-quarters of a can of diced tomatoes. It’s not a problem with something like dried beans, which store easily, but it can be for something perishable.
I make up for leftovers in most cases by calling for those ingredients in other recipes. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you find other ways to use up those leftover ingredients.
Storing and Using Extra Ingredients
If you can’t grow them yourself, try to buy them from a farmers’ market, because they’ll last longer than store-bought. Store basil, mint, and parsley by treating them like cut flowers: Strip off the bottom leaves, cut the stems at a diagonal, and place in a glass of fresh water on your countertop, changing the water and cutting the stems every day or two. Store more delicate herbs, such as cilantro, oregano, thyme, and dill, by wrapping in a damp paper towel, enclosing in a perforated plastic bag, and refrigerating for up to a week.
Use fresh basil in Pulled Pork Sandwich with Green Mango Slaw (page 121), Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (page 135), Smoky Pizza Margherita (page 106), Baked Egg in Fall Vegetables (page 33), and Farfalle with Cantaloupe and Prosciutto (page 141).
Use fresh mint in Pulled Pork Sandwich with Green Mango Slaw (page 121); Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans (page 143); Duck Breast Tacos with Plum Salsa (page 99); Mushroom and Green Garlic Frittata (page 32), and Yogurt Parfait with Rhubarb-Ginger Sauce and Strawberries (page 160).
Use fresh parsley in Parsley Garlic Dressing (page 8), Roast Chicken Leg with Gremolata and Sunchokes (page 72), and Spicy Glazed Mini Meatloaf (page 65).
Use fresh cilantro in Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork (page 66), Pulled Pork Sandwich with Green Mango Slaw (page 121), Duck Breast Tacos with Plum Salsa (page 99), Curried Shrimp on a Sweet Potato (page 46), Mahi Mahi with Kiwi-Avocado Salsa and Coconut Rice (page 79), Cilantro Vinaigrette (page 9), Benedict Rancheros (page 29), Pastoral Tacos (page 91), Cochinita Pibil Tacos with Habanero Salsa (page 95), Shrimp Tacos with Grapefruit–Black Bean Salsa (page 102), Shrimp and Potato Chip Tortilla (page 35), Salsa Verde (page 14), Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw (page 101), Thai Fried Rice with Runny Egg (page 132), and Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops and Green Salsa (page 54).
Use fresh thyme in Herbed Lemon Confit (page 4), Sweet Potato Soup Base (page 41), and Fall Vegetable Soup with White Beans (page 58).
Half a lime
Store it by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerating for 4 to 5 days. Or juice it and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, transfer the cubes to freezer-safe heavy-duty plastic bags, and store in the freezer.
Use in Gingered Chicken Sandwich with Avocado and Mango (page 122); Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops and Green Salsa (page 54); Thai Fried Rice with Runny Egg (page 132); Roasted Chile Relleno with Avocado-Chipotle Sauce (page 48); Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos (page 89); Duck Breast Tacos with Plum Salsa (page 99); and Pulled Pork Sandwich with Green Mango Slaw (page 121).
One-quarter to half an avocado
Store by rubbing the exposed flesh with a little olive oil, then wrapping tightly in plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly against the flesh of the avocado, and refrigerating for 3 to 4 days. Cut off any browned spots before using.
Use it in Gingered Chicken Sandwich with Avocado and Mango (page 122); Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops and Green Salsa (page 54); Roasted Chile Relleno with Avocado-Chipotle Sauce (page 48); Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos (page 89); Mahi Mahi with Kiwi-Avocado Salsa and Coconut Rice (page 79), and Avocado, Smoked Oyster, and Pistachio Bruschetta (page 127).
Half a jalapeño chile
Store by drying it thoroughly, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and refrigerating for 3 to 4 days.
Use it in Duck Breast Tacos with Plum Salsa (page 99), Pastoral Tacos (page 91), Mahi Mahi with Kiwi-Avocado Salsa and Coconut Rice (page 79), and Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops and Green Salsa (page 54).
Celery stalks (from a bunch)
Store by wrapping the remaining bunch in aluminum foil and refrigerating for up to 2 weeks. If you need to recrisp celery, cut off one end and stick it in a glass of ice water for a half hour.
Use it in Sweet Potato Soup Base (page 41), Faux-lognese with Pappardelle (page 140), Spicy Black Bean Soup Base (page 52), or Home-Cooked Beans (page 47).
Part of a fennel bulb
Store by wrapping in a damp paper towel, putting it in a perforated plastic bag, and refrigerating for up to 1 week. It isn’t recommended that you freeze fresh fennel.
Use it in Fideos with Sardines and Bread Crumbs (page 149); Smoked Trout, Potato, and Fennel Pizza (page 113); or Red Pepper Chutney (page 17).
Part of a can of black beans, white beans, or chickpeas
Store by draining, rinsing, and transferring to an airtight plastic or glass container. Drizzle with a little olive oil and refrigerate for up to 1 week. To freeze, skip the olive oil step, but cover with water and freeze for several months.
Use the black beans in Benedict Rancheros (page 29), Shrimp Tacos with Grapefruit–Black Bean Salsa (page 102), Peasant’s Bowl (page 50), Ex-Texas Salad (page 51), or Roasted Chile Relleno with Avocado-Chipotle Sauce (page 48).
Use the white beans in Fall Vegetable Soup with White Beans (page 58). Use the chickpeas in Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans (page 143); Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos (page 89); Sweet Potato Soup with Chorizo, Chickpeas, and Kale (page 43); and Tuna, Chickpea, and Arugula Sandwich (page 126).
Part of a can of crushed or diced tomatoes
Transfer the tomatoes with their juices to an airtight plastic or glass container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for several months.
Use the crushed tomatoes in Benedict Rancheros (page 29), Fideos with Sardines and Bread Crumbs (page 149), Faux-lognese with Pappardelle (page 140); Mushroom and Speck Pizza (page 109), Thai Fried Rice with Runny Egg (page 132), or Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos (page 89).
Use the diced tomatoes in Smoky Pizza Margherita (page 108) or Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans (page 143).
Part of a can of coconut milk
Store by transferring it to an airtight plastic or glass container. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze in ice cube trays and then transfer to freezer-safe heavy-duty plastic bags and freeze for several months. (It will separate when it thaws, but can be whisked to recombine.)
Use it in Spicy Coconut Sorbet (page 159), Coconut French Toast with Bananas Foster (page 162), and Curried Shrimp on a Sweet Potato (page 46).
Part of a can of chipotle in adobo
Store by transferring it to an airtight plastic or glass container. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for several months.
Use it in Roasted Chile Relleno with Avocado-Chipotle Sauce (page 48) or Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw (page 101).
Part of a bottle of wine.
Store by removing as much air as possible from the bottle (use a vacuum device, if possible) and refrigerate for several days, or freeze in ice cube trays, transfer to heavy-duty freezer-safe plastic bags, and freeze for several months.
Use white wine in Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (page 135) or Faux-lognese with Pappardelle (page 140), and use white or red wine in Mulled Wine Syrup (page 6).
I love a good corn muffin, and nobody makes one better than Loic Feillet of Panorama Baking in Alexandria, Virginia. The muffin is so good, in fact--moist and studded with chewy little bits of corn--that as soon as I tasted it, I knew I’d incorporate it into an egg dish. The muffin reminded me of an artisanal English muffin, and I just happened to be working on a Mexican variation of eggs Benedict. How perfect! The corn muffin would replace the traditional corn tortilla in huevos rancheros, and I’d poach instead of fry the eggs. Immediately, I had a dish worthy of the muffin, but best of all, even a lesser muffin tastes great when capped off with these ingredients.
1 jalapeño chile
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot lobe, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in their juices
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup cooked black beans, preferably homemade (page 47), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup black bean cooking liquid (or water if canned), plus more as needed
1 corn muffin or square of cornbread
Remove the stem from the jalapeño and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out and reserve the seeds, then finely chop the flesh.
Pour the oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the shallot, garlic, poblano, jalapeño flesh, and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and let the mixture gently simmer until it has thickened to a saucelike consistency, 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, poach the eggs following the method described on page 30, keeping them warm by transferring them once they’re poached properly to a bowl of 120˚F water.
Taste the sauce and add more water, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. If it’s not spicy enough, add some of the reserved jalapeño seeds until you reach the desired level of heat. Refrigerate or freeze half of the sauce for another use. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, cover, and remove from the heat.
Pour the beans and their cooking liquid into another small, preferably nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Use a potato masher or a large fork to mash the beans, and let them cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a little liquid if necessary to keep them spreadable, and remove from the heat.
Cut off the domed top of the corn muffin, then cut the muffin in half horizontally. Toast the muffin halves under the broiler or in a toaster oven until golden brown on the cut side.
Transfer the muffins to a plate, cut side up. Spread half the beans on top of each muffin; top with a poached egg and the ranchero sauce. Crumble the reserved muffin top over the sauce, and eat.
Note: This recipe makes twice as much sauce as you need. Before adding the cilantro, refrigerate half of it in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for several months, and use the extra sauce for more Benedict Rancheros another time, on quesadillas or nachos, or whisked with oil and vinegar for a salad dressing.