Tomatoes Roasted with Rosemary and Lemon

This is one of my favorite summer recipes. Best made when tomatoes are abundant and in season. It smells totally amazing in the oven. I made my first batch of the season last night.

Tomatoes Roasted with Rosemary and Lemon
Source: Cooking Light, June 2004

Their comments: Proof that simple foods are often best, this colorful multipurpose combination of tomatoes, herbs, and lemon smells almost as good as it tastes. To serve over pasta, cook 12 ounces dried pasta; drain and return pasta to pan. Stir in 3 cups of the roasted tomatoes; cook over low heat until liquid thickens. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss well to combine. Place tomato mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove mixture from oven.

Preheat broiler.

Broil tomatoes for 10 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove from oven; stir gently to combine.

Note: Place chilled tomatoes in heavy-duty zip-top plastic bags; freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 53(34% from fat); FAT 2g (sat 0.3g,mono 1.1g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 1.7g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 15mg; SODIUM 134mg; FIBER 2.2g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9g

The Rush

I rode my bike into work this morning and feel a million times better than my lazy, slothful mode of yesterday. I was reminded anew why I ride. Or run, hike, walk, trail run, snowboard, etc. Yeah, there are other benefits to exercise, but that rush is what pulls be back.

I arrived at work this morning after a brisk 32 minute ride. I was sweaty and my heart rate was pumping. But man, did I feel good. After a quick shower, all was well in my world. I was refreshed, energized and upbeat. Not a bad way to start the day.

Lazy Danika

I’ve been lazy. Physically and otherwise. I ran once last week and biked twice. My run, only the 2nd in the month of May, was pretty damn hard. That’s what I get for being a slacker. My corresponding lack of blog posts is also due to laziness. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much. Hopefully I’ll be back to more regular posting soon. And running too, for that matter,

The Evergreen State

Considering the fact that I’ve been a Washington resident for 6 years now, I’ve seen surprisingly little of the state. In particular, I‘ve rarely ventured east and crossed a lot of new territory this weekend. It was a beautiful drive from Seattle. I love the scenery as you drive up over the pass and move into a new climate zone. The Eastern part of the state is higher in elevation and much drier. The road along the Columbia Gorge was especially dramatic and shortly thereafter we arrived in the abundant agricultural valleys of Yakima and Walla Walla.

Walla Walla is a pretty standard, quaint American town. It’s got a great Main Street, cool Art Deco buildings (1, 2), and a budding food scene. I can’t say I’d want to live there, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. The wine valley is growing exponentially with several new vineyards opening each year. We tasted at a number of them and my favorites were, in no particular order:

Basel Cellars
Va Piano
L’Ecole No 41

Walla Walla is about 275 miles from Seattle. In other words, it was quite a trek for a weekend. On our return journey, we breathed a sigh of relief at the first glimpse of snow-covered mountains and evergreens that make the landscape we call home. Washington is an incredibly diverse state and it is a joy to explore it’s many treasures. Stay tuned for further dispatches from our adventures.

Island Time

What’s that, you say? I know my Washington State geography is a bit muddled, but is Walla Walla an island? That doesn’t seem possible….isn’t it several hundred miles inland?

OK, you’re right. Walla Walla is not an island. It does, however, observe “island time” aka everything happens v e r y s l o w l y. Boy, did this weekend ever test my patience. I was rather astounded by the pace of the service in most restaurants. G and I joked about ordering our next meal several hours in advance to avoid turning into the starved, crazy demons. One local commented that, “Like all things in Walla Walla, good things come in time.”

It wasn’t all that bad. It was slightly better than Spain. But any time I have to wait 15 minutes for the check after I request it, or find out the restaurant is out of something well after I’ve ordered it it’s not such a pretty sight. I tried to be understanding- I really did. But I’ll take my city ways and snappy service any day of the week.

The Moral of the Story

G and I have been planning to go to Walla Walla, WA for the annual balloon stampede for months. A week or so ago, he announced his intention to drive the Miata there, assuming we could fit our camping stuff in the trunk. In the ensuing conversations, we discussed space constraints, what essentials to bring, and the viability of taking the spare wheel out to provide more room.

At the end of the day, we didn’t have that much trouble with space. We safely managed our tent, Thermarests, sleeping bags, pillows and a couple changes of clothes each. A bit spare, but perfectly doable for 2 days. We didn’t even take the spare wheel out!

So we left Friday afternoon just after lunchtime. Taking the scenic route, we drove along the Columbia River Gorge on a 2-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. At a certain point, G noticed the car was acting ‘squirrely’ and within minutes we had a complete blowout with one of our tires. Without boring you to tears, it led to a roadside tire change with our gear strewn across the side of the highway and a very slow ride into the nearest town on a soft tire that looked like it belonged on a wheelbarrow. We had to buy 2 new tires and arrived a good two hours behind schedule.

Update from g: Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2

When we finally rolled into Walla Walla after 8 pm, we were starving and a bit harried. We quickly decided on Grapefields, a wine bar cum restaurant, for dinner. We had extremely bad service and a very, um, strange meal. I ended up with a rockfish en papillote with black-eyed peas, fresh herbs and coconut milk. It was one of the weirdest flavor combos ever and I have to say- it really didn’t work. It was a long, strange end to a long, strange day.

The moral of the story: do not ever remove the spare wheel from your car.

Record Numbers!

According to the Cascade Bicycle Club, this year’s Bike-to-Work Month is setting all kinds of records. We’ve got 5200 riders registered for the challenge with over 600 teams and 300 solo riders. All those bikers managed to crash their website last week to log miles.

To date, that means-

Total miles ridden: 137,812
Total days commuted: 9,770
Number of calories burned: ~ 4.6 million (or 18,374 Clif Bars)
Gallons of gas saved: 6,500+ , (over $20,000 worth)
and we reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 10,000 pounds.

Keep it up, cyclists!

Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

I cannot rave about this dessert enough. I HIGHLY recommend it. It might be one of the better desserts I’ve ever made (except for some legendary pies in the days of old) and certainly the easiest. Seriously. Make this dessert now. Your guests will swoon. And so will you.

Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar
Source: Epicurious, originally published in Bon Appetit (a Mario Batali recipe)

Panna cotta
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups whipping cream
1 1/4 cups plain goat’s-milk or whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

2 1-pint baskets strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For panna cotta:
Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until softened, about 15 minutes. Whisk 1 cup cream, yogurt, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Heat remaining 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and cream comes to simmer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Mix hot cream-gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture in bowl. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins, using about 1/2 cup for each. Refrigerate desserts uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

For strawberries:
Toss strawberries, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in large bowl to combine. Let stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Spoon strawberries over panna cotta and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Spanish cooking

Tonight we’re having a smallish dinner party at our house. It’s been a while since we’ve entertained, so we’re doing a fair bit of cleaning and tidying in addition to cooking. The theme for the evening is Spanish food, except for the dessert (panna cotta. Hey, Italian is close enough!).

Here’s the menu:
Garlic Mushrooms
Tomatoes Teruel (marinated tomato salad)
Golden Beets a la Harvest Vine
Asparagus Salad with Piquillo Peppers and Capers
Seafood Paella
Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to successfully cook Spanish food, you need plenty of the following ingredients on hand:
fresh parsley
olive oil
kosher salt/sea salt

Literally. Every recipe I’m making has at least 4 of these ingredients in it.

You might also need:
black pepper

Throw in some Rioja and you have all the components of a perfect evening.