Story last updated at 6/4/2014 - 3:12 pm
I love this time of year. The fishing season is on, Juneau comes alive with the visitors who visit our beautiful city, and the produce is fresh.
The problem with all the wonderful fruits and vegetables available is that I tend to get so excited shopping for them that I overpurchase and then after a week or so, I’m left with tomatoes, melons and herbs that must be eaten quickly or else they’ll spoil. I fear to say aloud how many pounds of produce I’ve discarded because it became overripe.
One particular item that tends to ripen quickly is the tomato. I love tomatoes and usually buy the heirlooms. Lately, I’ve been receiving them in my produce boxes from the organic farm in Washington, and they’re absolutely delicious.
In my desire to eat tomatoes before they spoil, I usually roast and perhaps puree them. I serve them as a tapenade or add them to a pasta sauce. It’s a great way to use lots of tomatoes.
Last night, I decided to roast several tomatoes that had been in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I love the smell of roasting.
Whether its vegetables, beef or chicken, the aromas that waft from the oven are rich and luxurious and envelop me in a flavor blanket. I sit in my cushy chair with a good book and anticipate the moment I can dine upon my roasted treasures.
Once I removed the tomatoes from the oven, they were so eye-appealing that I decided not to puree them but rather make a side dish.
Topped with sea salt, coarse black pepper and fresh chopped basil, this simple dish definitely stood out. Other possible additions are aged balsamic vinegar, parsley or tarragon.
Adding fresh herbs to your recipe will always provide a bit of pop. I put fresh Italian parsley in my scrambled eggs quite frequently, and fresh lemon thyme on roasted chicken or fish is heavenly.
In the winter I, like many cooks, use frozen meats and vegetables, but I add fresh herbs to give the dish an earthy, just-harvested flavor level.
For example, in my little boutique apartment, I don’t have much room for an herb garden, but I do take advantage of my friend’s potted herbs and enjoy adding them to my recipes. Recently, she made a green salad and threw in some fresh basil. What a wonderful idea. The flavor was brightened, and it had that “what’s that hidden flavor?” quality to it; that little somethin’-somethin’.
Regardless of your cooking skill level, I encourage everyone to reach for the fresh vegetables and herbs whenever possible. Things I keep on hand each week: parsley, cilantro, garlic, thyme and rosemary. With these few ingredients, I can make just about any meal special.
This week, I present a dish that saved a few tomatoes from the landfill and uses fresh basil to add a taste of summer: Roasted Tomatoes with Basil. Easy and quick — two of my favorite cooking components.
Until next time …
Eat and enjoy,
Roasted Tomatoes with Basil
2 – 4 tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
Preheat oven to 425º. Place tomatoes on foil-lined baking sheet. Season well with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes are soft and charred. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil. Add roasted garlic for additional flavor boost.