My friends, we have gotten way too extreme over here. I’m talking two months or so of homemade wild yeast starter breads. This has consumed the spare 4 and a half minutes that I used to dedicate to photographing for this blog so I apologize. Unfortunately, I do not think this bread obsession is going to wane so I might as well just admit that this is the point that I face the facts. I am in way over my head. One almost-six-year old’s majorly fractured arm (see: full arm cast), a too-big-for-her breeches 3-year-old, a sleep regressive 6 month old, a mid-aged German Shepherd mix who is convinced that, even post-operative two back legs that he is a puppy, and 3 seven week old chickens.
So, insane bread schedules and starter “feeding” schedules? Extreme, right? Over my head, no? I do it to myself. That’s the painful part.
I have baked my own bread for almost two years now and it is fairly addictive. I will never be one to renounce carbohydrates so do not come crying to me for low carb recipes. I embrace carbs, especially slightly tangy whole grain ones. The thing is, working with yeast, especially with ones own starter is fantastically brainy. Honestly, making good bread, is really tough. Hence Chad Robertson’s fame over at Tartine here in San Francisco. It’s thoughtful. There is pace. You have to give naturally leavened bread dough breathing room and time, paying attention to its needs (more hydration? warmer temperature? overnight cool rise?). Ironically, it is this pace and timing that has permitted me to continue to bake with 3 kids and a (not-growing-anymore!!!) menagerie.
My first five bakes were a series of permutations in what I did wrong. The flavor of the bread was stunning. Tangy and complex without that obnoxious grocery outlet crumbly sourdough flavor. But the crumb? Not open! I could go on and on (and believe me, there are novels out there on the web on this topic) about my failures, which my husband teased me about because I would curse when I cut into not-perfect loaves, but my obsession paid off. As you can imagine, however, we have had a lot of bread on hand in the process.
What else have we had a lot of? Tomatoes! Every year my zeal for canning jams and sauces cannot be contained and I get to know the farmer’s market fruit guys way too well. Oh there’s that insane young woman (I like to believe that I would still be addressed as “Signorina” in Italian) with the three kids buying 30 pounds of fruit…again. After I canned my San Marzano Tomatoes from Mariquita, I decided to preserve my dry farmed Early Girls in the manner that I usually eat right away.
Slowly Oven Roasted. Right now in California, you can still find tomatoes spilling out of boxes at the market and likely at your neighbor’s house (so long as s/he does not live in San Francisco, that is). I have employed this simple and absolutely transformative technique for a couple of years now and thought I would share.
Remember the sun-dried tomato craze in the 80s? No, sorry. I am not resurrecting it. This is different and superior. You want supple, concentrated tomatoes with crispy salted edges. Not fruit leather. Aim for the kind of tomatoes that you pop into your mouth and your ecstatic mouth simply must have more. These are fantastic where tomatoes feature as usual suspects: pastas, caprese salads, pizzas, etc., but I love making these with tiny little cherry tomatoes (in which case the baking time is much closer to 2 hours) and popping them into quinoa, fresh lunch salads with arugula and herbs, and blending them into Moroccan tomato dips.
My other favorite for oven roasted Early Girl tomatoes is to combine them with toast made from superlative bread (ahem, ahem), softly scrambled eggs, creme fraiche (which one can also make at home instead of paying the hefty over-priced amount the store charges), and sea salt. And I suppose it wouldn’t kill you to add some fresh basil, arugula, tarragon, or other stunning garden herbs. This, my friends, is how to do an early lunch when you have just 15 minutes to yourself between the baby’s nap and picking up big girl at preschool. The kind of phenomenal lunch that you can savor after a morning where no doubt your neighbors are having a lovely chuckle over the nutso gal on the block who, on an unseasonably hot morning ran out of the house in shorts arguably too short for her age and frumpy beaten up tennis shoes, hollering at her poor little broken armed almost-6 year old because he let the dog out of the house before she had a chance to put a leash on him and now he is traipsing through everyone’s yard looking for a nice little kitty to chase while the 3-year-old and baby who really needs a diaper change are sitting patiently, but with notably concerned expressions at their mother’s antics, and waiting to be pushed up the hill on the walk to school and…..hurry up we are late!!!!!
Dear God, please go make yourself this sandwich and tremble with the intense deliciousness of it all.
OK, It’s time for me to go fold laundry, pull a loaf out of the oven, and perhaps even go to bed.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Olive Oil and Sea Salt.
Tomatoes (large cut in half, tiny just scatter on the parchment or maybe prick once)
Kosher or sea salt
Olive oil to taste
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I place the tomatoes cut side down and then drizzle the olive oil and salt over the tops. Cook at oven’s lowest setting. I cook them at about 180-200 F for 8-10 hours for larger Early Girl Tomatoes and 2 hours for tiny abundant cherry tomatoes. Freeze whatever you do not eat within a couple of days and you can use them all year long.
Best Egg and Tomato Sandwich
(gives 1 harried parent brief ecstasy)
Toast, from the best bread you can get your hands on
1 softly scrambled egg
3-4 oven roasted tomatoes (see above)
sea salt and herbs to taste
Toast the bread. On the lowest heat cook your egg(s) by stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. For the last minute fold the eggs once or twice and take off heat before the actually look done. They continue to cook a bit. Arrange eggs atop phenomenal toast. Add roasted tomatoes and a hefty dollop of creme fraiche. At a smattering of herbs and a sprinkle of sea salt. Indulge.