Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bountiful Baskets Recipe: Slow Roasted Tomato Pesto

Have you ever heard of Bountiful Baskets?

Bountiful Baskets is a food cooperative.  In a nutshell, a food co-op is formed by a bunch of people that don't want to pay high prices on produce.  They pool together to buy bulk produce at a discounted price--about $16-18 for a huge basket of food. The food gets divied up in a very organized fashion every Saturday morning at various locations from parks to empty buildings.

I call it the hippie co-op, because there is something inherently anti-big business about them.

One thing that I love about the hippie co-op is how you never know what will end up in your basket each week.  All they say is that it's about 50% fruit and 50% vegetables.

One week, we got a jicama (pronounced hee-kuh-muh).  Actually, we got two.  We had no idea what it even was, so we headed to Smith's to see if we could find a similar looking root-like vegetable.  We ended using them in a stir fry--raw jicama has a nutty, earthy taste, but soaks up the flavor of stir fry sauce quite nicely. 

One of our jicama

Another week, we got artichokes.  I know it may come to a shock to most of you, but we've never taken on an artichoke before. And Swiss chard?  Who knew it works and tastes a little like bok choy!

If you're considering signing up for Bountiful Baskets but thinking to yourself, "Gosh--I won't know what to do with half the stuff in my basket, I better not get one", don't fret!  There is plenty of normal produce.

Like tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes.

We have received a lot of tomatoes in our baskets lately. Like more than we know what to do with.

I recently finished a book by Orangette blogger, Molly Wizenberg--A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table.  I loved the short essays about her life and the recipes she paired with those stories--she's a lovely writer, plus there are recipes!  I highly recommend the book.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

One of Molly's recipes popped into mind when I found myself looking at a dozen tomatoes:  Slow-roasted tomato pesto.

You start with those tomatoes, about 3 1/2 pounds worth of tomatoes. She recommends Roma tomatoes, but we only had those sandwich tomatoes from our Bountiful Basket.

Clean and dry your tomatoes.  Cut them in half and trim off the stem bits.

Lovely, aren't they?

Put them into a large bowl and toss them with olive oil, about one tablespoon.

Then lay your tomatoes, cut-side up, on a large baking sheet (or a couple pans will work too).

Sprinkle with salt and ground coriander.

Then bake the tomatoes for about 4 to 6 hours at 200 degrees F.   Now, we really did just leave it in for a few hours while we did work around the apartments we manage.  I think it ended up being about 5 hours.  Ah--and that aroma of roasting tomatoes!

Anyway, the tomatoes should end up being a little shrivel-y looking on the edges, but still juicy in the middle.

You can store these away in an airtight container until you're ready to make the pesto, which we did because we were pooped after 5 hours of apartment work.

When you have a few minutes to make the pesto, pull out your tomatoes and your food processor.  Thankfully we have a food processor!

To the food processor, add 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and a couple of garlic cloves.  If you like garlic, I'm sure a couple more wouldn't hurt!

Pulse until the garlic is finely chopped.

On to the basil leaves:  I rinsed then dried the leaves using paper towels, but I suspect if you had one of those salad spinners, that would do the trick.  Pull the leaves from the stems and add to the food processor, about 2 cups, and process until smooth. 

Scrape the sides down PRN (PRN = as necessary).  But look how vibrant this green is!

Then add your tomatoes and process those too!

Hmm...looks a little weird.  I wonder if I could keep that lovely green color by using green tomatoes next time...thoughts to ponder.

Well, I've gone this far...I gotta keep going!  Add 1/2 cup of packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I tasted it and added a little more salt. 

And that little more salt made it AH-maz-ing! 

People, I want to point out that I'm Asian. I'm not supposed to make pesto.  My quarter Italian husband is supposed to make this fancy schmancy sounding recipe.  But no--I did!  And you can too!

(Sorry, I'm sounding like one of those motivational speakers--but I'm serious, it is so easy to make and definitely worth it.)

It is so lovely and summer-y.  Just add some good crusty bread and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe (apparently this is so very Italian) and voila!--a light, refreshing meal!

Oh, you've got to try this recipe!  Just do it!

Or if you have extra tomatoes, bring them over and we'll make some for you!

Anyway, here's the recipe:

Slow Roasted Tomato Pesto

To roast the tomatoes:
3 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
Ground coriander

Wash and cut tomatoes lengthwise, trimming the stem bits off.  Put all tomatoes into large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Then place on a large cookie sheet, cut side up and sprinkle with salt and coriander, about a pinch of each for every 4 to 6 tomato halves.  Bake for 4 to 6 hours at 200 degrees F.  Store in an airtight container till ready to make pesto.

To make the pesto:
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
2 c. packed basil leaves
3 c. slow-roasted tomatoes
1/2 c. tightly packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic into food processor and pulse till garlic is finely chopped.  Add basil leaves and process till smooth.  Add tomatoes and process well--it will still be a chunky and thick.  Add the cheese and combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store in airtight container for up to a week.


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