Monday, July 9, 2012

Tomayto, tomahto recipe exchange

As I am a newbie to the blogosphere, I thought I would get involved with the community by contributing to the Tomato love recipe exchange, organized by Gimmie Some Oven and Bake Your Day, and supported by KitchenAid. Can't say no, right? Even better, the recipe exchange is spreading awareness by supporting the International Justice Mission's Recipe for Change, which is working towards eradicating labor slavery within the United States, especially on tomato farms. Through my volunteer work at Oxfam, an organization for fair trade, I am already a vehement supporter of human rights and the fairness of labor and trade practices all over the world. So, let's join all of the efforts of international fair trade, labor fairness on US soil, and absolutely delicious food and we'll see what we can muster up as a contribution.

As a side note: if you are interested in these issues, go and educate yourself about them, involve yourself, and volunteer if you can sacrifice the time. There are so many ways to stop and reverse the injustices we hear about and often see everyday all over the world. Just beginning to learn about them and start the conversation with others is a step closer to widespread awareness and real change. Your contribution is greater than you know.

Today's recipe will be a double-whammy! We will be preparing two Spanish recipes, which I think are choice for using that scrumptious summer fruit, the tomato. First is a recipe from Catalonia, the region of Spain where I live now, called Pan amb Tomaquet (Catalán for: Bread with Tomato). Second is a recipe from all over Spain called Patatas Bravas (Potatoes Brava, and oh yes, they deserve a BIG brava for their immense flavor). Both of these can be served as appetizers, which is how I am going to submit them. However, Pan amb tomaquet is generally served as breakfast, much as we would toast. Patatas bravas is also a typical tapa...the Spanish answer to appetizers, and can be devoured throughout the day.

Pan amb Tomaquet//Pan con Tomate (Bread with Tomato)
Two delicious red-as-you-can-get-them tomatoes, washed and cut in half at their equator
High quality olive oil (Spanish is my recommendation)
Sea Salt
One whole baguette, halved lengthwise and crosswise
Garlic (optional*)

First, take the pieces of baguette that you've prepared and either toast or grill them. I love the taste of grilled bread, and because it is summer and the grill is probably rockin' out in the backyard anyway, just throw the bread on for a few minutes and you'll have something beautiful. If not, the toaster works as well, and so does a pan heating on the stove. However you do it, you need that bread to have a nice golden toast (or black char, if that's what you're in to). Drizzle as little or as much extra-virgin olive oil on the toasted bread and let it soak in.

Now we have two approaches to distributing the tomato!

Option 1:
While the bread is basking in its golden oil, prepare the tomato. I use a cheese grater to make my tomato spread, and it works like a dream. An immersion blender or other blender/food processor would work too, but it just doesn't achieve the same texture as with the cheese grater. You want that semi-rough pulp and you want some of that juice. Half the tomatoes and grate them like that, the flesh will grate straight from the skin, and you should be able to get most, if not all, of that juicy goodness out. To the tomato, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil and salt to taste. Spoon this mixture on top of the baguettes as you would butter and jelly (but you can go crazy with this one because it isn't so high in sugar).

Option 2:
Also while the bread is basking in its golden oil, prepare the tomato. Cut the tomato in half on its equator, but this time, instead of grating it, press the tomato half onto the sliced baguette and rub the juices and flesh into it. The bread will soak up a lot of the juice, so don't be afraid to squish and squash all the goodness on there.

As per Spanish tradition, I currently have the liberty to put nice slices of Jamón (Spanish cured ham from pigs that are only fed truffles and acorns...not lying) on my tomato bread. And so I did. These products are slowly making it into the American market, so keep your eyes open. At least in Louisville, I know that Fresh Market sells Spanish cured meats, and I saw it at 732 Social, when it was still open. I bet if you go to any other upscale cafés or restaurants you should be able to find it featured with the charcuterie.

*You can also rub a clove of garlic on the bread after it has been toasted and before you put on the tomato, or if you're into infusing oils, throw a garlic clove into the oil before you use it for this bread.

Next is a recipe for:
Patatas Bravas 
(recipe adapted from José Andrés, my Spanish culinary hero...look him up!)

Bravas sauce:
Fresh tomatoes
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Bay leaf
Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
Chili powder or cayenne (I used Chimayo, of course)
Sherry vinegar (I used white wine vinegar and it was fine)
Bravas potatoes:
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Potatoes (I used about 8-9 smallish Yukon golds) peeled and cut into cubes
Aïoli sauce:
1 Egg
Olive oil
1 Clove garlic
Lemon juice

Start with the sauce. The tomato needs to be grated on a cheese grater, much like the tomato bread up top. However much tomato you grate will be however much sauce you get out of them. Just know that the amount will need to reduce down by 2/3 in order to make the ideal bravas sauce. I myself used 3 tomatoes that were a bit larger than my fist. To the tomato, add about a teaspoon or so of sugar, a bay leaf ( I used one plus a little baby one), 2 teaspoons of pimentón, and a teaspoon of chili powder. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over the stove. When it is hot, add the tomato mixture and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat at that point to a simmer and let those flavors waltz around for about 20 minutes. In 20 minutes the sauce should be reduced and take on a beautiful deep red color. Stir in your healthy splash of vinegar and salt to taste. Reserve this sauce for the potatoes!

The potatoes should be cooked in a good amount of oil, as if you were going to deep pan fry them. Let the oil get hot enough to cook, but not hot enough to brown the potatoes. This is called oil-poaching, and the potatoes are done when you can stick a fork through them. If you prefer browned potatoes, heat up the oil at the end and brown them a bit. The oil-poached come out fine enough for me. Drain them on a paper towel.

Now it's time to whip out that immersion blender. Mmmm MmmmmM! Pop an egg in the bottom of the measuring container that came with your blender. Add about 3 inches of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a clove of garlic, peeled. Now stick your blender head right over the yolk and go to town whirring that olive oil and egg into creamy heaven. Start blending at the bottom and slowly move up as the mayonnaise is formed. In a matter of seconds, you will have the most incredible aïoli sauce you have ever tasted.

Okay, let's put this all together:

Put the potatoes in a bowl that already has bravas sauce in it. Toss and coat the potatoes until they're covered in that ruby red glory. Then, put a dollop of aïoli sauce on top (or on the side if you want to mix as you go). This is a great tapa for party appetizers, and you can eat the cubes with toothpicks if need be. Tiny cocktail forks are the way to go in Spain, though :)

Enjoy these appetizers with lots of friends, and enjoy the summer bounty of fresh tomatoes. I liked to get mine from my Grasshoppers farm share, and the Douglas Loop farmers market was always abundant with such wonderful picks, not just tomatoes!

 Listening to the Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! Podcast on NPR

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