For me an important part of growing up has been about becoming clearer about what gives me happiness. And I am not talking about retail therapy or watching TV shows back-to-back kind of bliss (though all those are eminently fun). This joy is not based on material acquisitions either – and I don’t dismiss the sheer excitement of owning an egg separator or a humongous flat screen television (how else will you enjoy those marathon TV sessions!). Nor is this about realizing the true value of friends, family and friends-turned-family and family-turned friends (we all know they make life what it is, and you need someone to watch all that TV with.) This, gentle reader, is about those ‘activities’ which not only are great fun but also make you glad that you were put on earth. This long monologue is to prime you for two of my favorite such things – (imagine drumroll!) cooking healthy and travelling to eat.
This post is really truly inspired from that fact that SG – the husband- is in Italy for work. And I am home alone, moping and working horrendously long hours at the day job. But this cloud is thickly silvered – some me time is good for crystallizing thoughts and ideas and lo and behold, googling about cooking holidays in Italy. The descriptions have left me in a tizzy and I have been day-dreaming about visiting local markets in the Italian sunshine to buy fresh produce and learning how to whip up risotto and tiramisu. I have imagined it right down to the exact taste of the roasted tomatoes on the wood fired oven baked pizzas. Bank balance and vacation time permitting, this summer, I am determined to turn this dream into reality. The husband can have his Ferraris, I’ll happily settle for a cheese making course.
Keeping with the above, I bring to you one of my favorites –bruschetta with fresh and sun dried tomatoes. Since I can safely say I strive to be a femivore (remember my other thing is healthy cooking, but sans the chicken coop!), I don’t buy sun dried tomatoes. Instead I oven roast cherry/plum tomatoes with fantastic results.
So first the oven roasted tomatoes: Wash and cut a bunch of plum tomatoes into half. Douse with olive oil, and throw in some sea salt and any herbs you have handy. I use dried rosemary and thyme. Lay them cut side down on-to a glass dish (all the cookie sheets I own are aluminum which are a no-no with tomatoes.) Slow roast in a preheated oven at 165 c till done. David L recommends two hours but I find they get done earlier – all wrinkly and wonderful. The longer you leave them in, the more concentrated the flavours.
They stay safe in a glass jar in the fridge for a little less than a week. While they are heaven on a bruschetta, they work equally well scattered over simple toast for a quick meal on the go.
And now for the double tomato bruschetta: Combine some chopped tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, some fresh basil (now is not chiffonade the best word ever!), and salt and fresh pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. I am not fussed about quantities, and taste as I go along – but if you are, check the recipe. Toast some baguette slices, and top with tomato mixture and grate some cheese (I have used mozzarella, processed, even cheddar – the mozzarella grilled the best) and grill in a preheated oven for a couple of minutes till the cheese melts. Voila, dig in.
So listen up folks! If you want to travel together to Italy on a cooking vacation – got to be vegetarian or vegetarian friendly – will welcome you with open arms and tremendous enthusiasm. Recommendations and advice are also very welcome. Am all agog and all ears!