Friday, July 3, 2009

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

It seems to take an eternity for my tomatoes to ripen on the vine. Since I can no longer wait patiently, I've taken to roasting the store bought varieties.
It's a simple matter, just halve them,
douse in olive oil, add a little garlic and season with sea salt, pepper,
fresh thyme
and roast for about 45 minutes.
The heat of the oven evaporates the moisture and intensifies the tomato flavor. Winter, spring, summer or fall, if you have an oven you can have great tomatoes!

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
several sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Halve the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Toss and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are shriveled.
Roasted Cherry tomatoes taste great sprinkled over fresh slices of mozzarella cheese, mixed into salads or just eaten on their own.

All pictures and recipes are the sole property of The Gypsy Chef unless otherwise credited.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Shortcake

Easter morning would find my grandmother preparing what she called biscuit dough. While the rest of us were shuffled off to church she would cut little cakes out with a jelly jar and bake them off. While they were baking she would slice strawberries and stir into them about a pound of sugar to produce syrup. After dinner the biscuits would be split and strawberries would be ladled onto the biscuits. Fresh cream would be poured over the lot. We kids would grab our bowls and scoot out onto the porch where we would gobble them down in strawberry bliss.
Still to this day Strawberry Shortcake just says Spring to me, while Easter means chocolate to my teenagers. Every year I prepare Grandma's Strawberry Shortcakes with a little twist. Sometimes I add blackberries or raspberries. I've laced the fruit with Grand Marnier, Framboise and Kirsch. Adding just another layer of flavor. This year my kids are demanding chocolate. What is more natural than adding mini chocolate chips to the shortcake dough? I found beautiful long stem strawberries in the market that I decided to dip in semi sweet chocolate. The perfect combination held together with lightly whipped cream. I'm sure Grandma would approve. Happy Spring!

Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcakes

4 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced
1/4 cup of sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2/3 cup half and half

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stir the sugar into the berries and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Place flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse flakes. Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Stir in the half and half with a fork until the mixture is moistened and begins to hold together. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured cold surface and knead once or twice to pull it together. Pat the dough into a 1 inch thick disk and cut with 2 inch or 3 inch biscuit cutters. Knead the scraps to form another 1 inch thick disk, to cut more cakes.

Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Beat the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until thickened.
To serve, split the shortcakes and place the bottom part on a plate.
Top with strawberries and syrup. Spoon whipped cream over the strawberries and cover with the shortcake top. Dollop more cream and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Makes 7- 3 inch shortcakes or 8- 2 inch shortcakesWritten and photographed by Pam.

Download recipe Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcakes

Baby Artichokes Roman Style

Last year on a trip to Rome I had a delightful dish called Carciofi alla Romana, or Artichokes Roman Style. They were beautifully trimmed, slightly chilled, and flavored with mint, garlic and parsley. Served with a wedge of lemon and drizzled with olive oil they were exquisite. I thought I would try to replicate this dish with baby artichokes. The sweetness of the artichokes worked well with the fresh mint.
I was lucky enough to have the help of my teenage daughter. While I took the pictures, she cleaned and trimmed them, leaving the stem attached. We then steamed these beauties for 10 minutes. At this point they were ready to be sauteed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil for just about 2 minutes. At the end I threw in a handful of chopped mint and parsley. Tossed a couple of times in the pan they were fragrant and ready to eat.

Before I could get a really good picture of them, my kids wolfed them down. Having the assistance of my beautiful daughter made them taste even sweeter. Thirty small artichokes will serve 4 people as a side dish, or 2 hungry teenagers as a snack.Start by cleaning and trimming the artichokes. Pull the leaves off one by one and discard.Once you've gotten down to the soft leaves, the crown will break off quite easily.Using a melon ball tool, clean out the choke.Once you've removed the choke,trim the stem and rub all cuts with lemon.Place in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice.

Baby Artichokes Roman Style

30 baby artichokes, trimmed and stem left intact
1 lemon
, halved and juiced into a medium bowl of cold water (reserve the halves to rub on the chokes)
a handful of parsley leaves

8 leaves of fresh mint

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the artichokes by breaking off the leaves one at a time. When you reach the central cone, the leaves will be soft and light green. You can break these off leaving the heart and choke. Using a melon ball tool, remove the choke. Trim the stringy outer layer of the stem and rub all cuts with lemon. Toss the trimmed artichoke hearts in the lemon water.

Finely chop the parsley and mint together. Set aside.

Steam the chokes for 8-10 minutes until tender. At this point they can be set aside to be served later. If serving immediately, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan with the garlic. When you can smell the garlic's aroma, add the artichokes. Toss the artichokes in the garlic and oil for about 2 minutes. Add a handful of the chopped parsley and mint mixture. Toss again several times, and serve with a squeeze of lemon over the top.

Serves 4, as a side dish.

All texts and photographs are property of The Gypsy Chef