It’s Pumpkin Spice and Hot Cereal Time, In One Bowl!

Good Old Steel Cuts Swirled with Cashew Cream, Pumpkin and Spice!

Good Old Steel Cuts Swirled with Cashew Cream, Pumpkin and Spice!

I officially packed my shorts away for winter,trading them out with my heaviest sweatpants and long sleeved t’s that were boxed up all summer.

Yup, this stuff just got REAL. “Winter is coming,” and all that.

As I laundered and fluffed my comfort clothes, I pondered the concept of comfort food. After the recent news reports about the study that showed that “comfort food” doesn’t actually give you any lasting comfort. (NPR story here) I don’t expect to see sales of mac and cheese to plummet, do you?

It’s amazing that this was reported as breaking news, but somebody actually studied it. Of course, what we usually think of as comfort food is rich, heavy, and often associated with childhood. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meaty pastas and pizza, ice cream, chocolate cake, creamy pudding are often thought of as comfort food, right?

The popular notion is that we seek comfort from our stress and worry by digging into one of these foods, and probably eat way too much of it. Unfortunately, the momentary bliss of bathing our tastebuds with fat, sugar and salt is fleeting. Afterward, if you really ate alot of it, you do get a sedated feeling, as your body tries to handle the big load.

But in the study, nobody who ate a serving of comfort food reported feeling any better afterward. Maybe they didn’t eat themselves into a sugar coma, since they were being observed?

Where I beg to differ with the reports is their conclusion that food offers no lasting comfort. Granted, you need to put the right stuff in, to make it a healthier form of comfort.

So I emerged from my laundry room and decided to engineer a bowl of breakfast that would comfort me both while I ate it, and after. I went with our favorite Fall flavor, pumpkin spice. Except unlike all the lattes and mixed drinks, I used actual pumpkin and actual spice, not artificial flavor. I wanted a warm bowl of belly-filling oats, not a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

I’m so not interested in the many artificially flavored, sugar bomb iterations of pumpkin spice in the marketplace of late. Bad things happen to good flavors- and pumpkins and a mixture of spices are good flavors, not something to be abused.

And the Pumpkin-Spice Swirl Oat Bowl was born. After a few delicious experiments, I can empirically say that I felt comforted before, during, and after eating this comfort food. Thinking about it as I made it was even a comfort, as I anticipated eating it. Chowing down, super comforting, and of course, working for the rest of the morning with a slow-burning, energizing bowl of oats in my core seemed to shield me from the sadness that sometimes sets in when I put all my summer clothes away.

So, if you want a comfort food that works, give this a try. At least you won’t be flooded with regret after eating the whole thing.

Pumpkin Pie Swirled Oat Bowl

Serves 2

1 cup steel cut oats

3 cups water (or use part apple juice)

pinch salt (optional)

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (half a can)

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons pie spice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

1. Cook the oats in the water with a pinch of salt. Combine in a small pot and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let stand, covered, until time to serve.

2. In a blender or food processor, puree the cashews, adding 1/2 cup water as needed to make a creamy puree. Add the pumpkin, maple, pie spice and vanilla and process.

3. Transfer the puree to a sandwich sized zip top bag and seal, then cut off a corner to make a piping bag.

4. Portion the oats into two bowls and use a spoon to form a trench in the oats in the shape of a swirl. Carefully squeeze the bag to fill the trench with pumpkin. Squeeze it while holding the opening at the bottom of the bowl to get the puree down deep in the oats.

5. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, and cinnamon or pie spice if desired. Serve hot.

 

Save My Skin! Fresh Turmeric-Carrot Tonic

A Delicious Glass of Youth Serum

A Delicious Glass of Youth Serum

 

I don’t think it’s any huge secret that we all have the occasional skin “challenge.” It starts in your teens with breakouts, and we all go on our own individual “journeys” with various bumps, rashes, and eventually, wrinkles. I’m thrilled to have made it to the age that I can have all of the above, sometimes, all at once.

So, it pays to feed that skin, all along the way. When I’m sensing a scruffy pallor to my face, or a new eruption on the way, I try to head it off with some skin-nourishing foods. Carrots are an all-time skin all-star,loaded with antioxidant carotenoids, which protect and heal the skin, and even work to protect you from sun damage. The big guns, though, are below.

Fresh, Just Picked Ginger and Turmeric Roots

Fresh, Just Picked Turmeric (on the left) and Ginger Roots

I lucked out at the Farmer’s Market and scored these locally grown, just harvested roots. They even came with a healthy length of ginger leaves, which went right into the juicer. (Waste not, want not!) Turmeric is an amazing medicinal and culinary ingredient, famous for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties. Turmeric is also lauded as a brain protector, which isn’t a bad side effect for my vanity, either. The ginger, in it’s fresh, juicy glory, fights inflammation, aids digestion, and boosts immunity. I LOVE the flavor of ginger, so I have a tendency to just double the amount called for in a stir-fry recipe, because I want it to be assertive.

Just Barely Peel Those Carrots!

Just Barely Peel Those Carrots!

The apple is no slouch, either, with pre-biotic fiber that will help my good inner bacteria to flourish. The skins are packed with antioxidants, that have been shown to help the whole cardiovascular system.

I have to say, this juice was so tasty that I could hardly believe that it was “good for me,” but that’s the great thing about plant-based healing. If you are doing it right, you don’t have to eat or drink anything too weird. I learned that lesson along the way, so that you don’t have to. I have choked down some healing herb teas in my day that smelled like a blend of pond scum and socks, so it’s infinitely better when your healing potions taste like a glass of jazziness.

 

To your health!

 

Turmeric Carrot Skin Tonic

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 inches of fresh turmeric root

2 fat inches of fresh ginger

1 big apple, skin on

4 big carrots ( I had the lovely Beta-reds, use what you have)

Juice it all and drink.

Oat Rageous! Kathy Hester Goes All Oats All the Time!

 

Are you ready for savory, spicy, crunchy granola?

Are you ready for savory, spicy, crunchy granola?

I always thank the good people at Cheerios for getting the word out about oats. You can love or hate the commercials and the cereal, but they have done an amazingly thorough job of letting everyone know that oats lower cholesterol. But too many people seem to think that the only way to enjoy the goodness of oats is in either a hot or cold cereal at breakfast, or maybe a cookie.

Well, if you ever wanted to explore the world of oats beyond the cereal bowl, Kathy Hester’s new book OATrageous Oatmeals Delicious and Surprising Plant-Based Dishes From This Humble, Heart-Healthy Grain has arrived to broaden your oat-y horizons. This book is packed with vegan, gluten-free recipes that utilize the lovable oat in every course, from breakfast and cookies to main courses, soups, even beverages.

Of course, Hester has dedicated quite a bit of time to really exploring oats for breakfast, both hot and cold. If you thought you had only one way to make your morning steel-cuts or muesli, take a look at these explorations of the art of oat-y breakfasts. From Pumpkin-Oat Breakfast Cake and Kheer (Indian Pudding) Oatmeal in Winter, to Candy Bar Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal and Green Oat Smoothies in Summer, your oat options are expanding. Another chapter is devoted solely to granolas and bars, both savory and sweet (see recipe below.) We all love a sweet granola, but those savory ones are on the move, I’ve been making them and seeing them on menus at creative restaurants, so their time must be here.

And if you have always thought of oats as either rolled or steel-cut, Hester gives you plenty  of good reasons to explore whole oat groats. You may remember my past post on whole oat groats, a grain that I keep thinking will be the next big thing. (Recipe for Oat Biryani Here) Love your vegan mac and cheese? There’s a version made with oats. Looking for a fun vegan “meatloaf? Try the Sunflower Seed and Bean Oat Loaf. Pizza crusts, stir fries, you will find a way to get those sweet, tender, healthy oats into meals that will heal your friends and family.

Of course, Hester rocks the dessert chapter, with fab plant-based crumbles, pies, cookies, cakes, even Dreamy Dark Chocolate Oat Cream. Oh yes, I’m talking ICE CREAM made from oats. On to the chapter on making milks, creamers, teas, and even a liqueur, and oats take on a whole new meaning.

And since we all love our pets, there is even a selection of pet treats, all made with oats!

Honestly, the oat-lover in you will really enjoy this book. You can even make Hester’s Soothing Lavender Oat Bath Soak, and lie in a warm, soothing bath while you read about the enticing oat-based dishes you can make when you rinse off.

Because, well, OATS!

Curry Cashew Savory Granola

From OATrageous Oatmeals by Kathy Hester printed with permission of Page Street Publishing

Makes 2 cups (161 grams)

soy-free, gluten-free option*, oil-free option**

 

One of the reasons I love curry is that it blends spices used in desserts with savory and fiery flavors. Because of that, this granola straddles the line between savory and sweet. Try it as a delicious topping to the Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup (recipe on page 107) or a great change of pace to your normal morning yogurt.

 

2 tablespoons (14 g) ground flaxseed

mixed with 4 tablespoons (59 ml) warm

water

1 cup (92 g) rolled oats (*make sure oats are marked gluten-free)

3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil (**replace oil with 1 tablespoon [15 g] ground

flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons [30 ml] warm water in addition to the amount above)

1⁄3 cup (55 g) golden raisins

1⁄3 cup (26 g) finely shredded coconut

1⁄3 cup (43 g) minced cashews nuts

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1⁄8 teaspoon ground mustard

salt, to taste

 

Preheat oven to 350F (177C) and either oil a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Add all ingredients but the salt to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix well, then add salt to taste.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and press thin. You should have one large, flat

piece about 1/4 to 1⁄8-inch thin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are browned and the

middle is no longer wet.

 

Let cool on cookie sheet and break it up into large or small chunks with your hands. Use to top

salads or plain yogurt, or just eat by the handful for a snack!

Eat and Drink Seasonally, with a Sweet Potato Green Smoothie!

Gently Rolling into Fall with a Sweet Potato-Apple Green Smoothie

Gently Rolling into Fall with a Sweet Potato-Apple Green Smoothie

I’m pretty open about my green smoothie habit. Yes, after a workout, I crank up that Vita-Mix and make myself a big ol’ glass of greeny goodness, packed with more salad than I would eat at one sitting. I love it cold and frosty, with my frozen bananas and berries.

But then when a chill is in the air, a frozen breakfast starts to seem kind of wrong. Maybe It’s the fact that I have to put on another layer to drink it without getting an all-day chill, but it does seem kind of out of touch with the season. It’s also based on produce that is not really in season, either. So, to be true to my local and seasonal conscience, I’ve been baking up sweet potatoes to use in my smoothies.

Instead of bananas, which provide that creamy, almost dairy-like base for your greens, the sweet potato is a great option. Full of beta carotene and good fiber, it’s less of a sugar hit, more of a vegetable. Because it is a vegetable. So, I just throw a couple in the oven at some point in the week, usually when I am baking something else. No prob, just roast them at whatever temp you need for your bread or granola, and when they are soft and collapsing, take them out, cool, and if you have time, slip the skins off and mash. Put them in a tub and refrigerate.

Then, when it’s time for my smoothie attack, I can just lob a gob of yam in instead of a banana. That simple. And for this one, I have some delicious local apples, which I add without peeling. The peels are good for you- just buy organic and wash them well.

A couple of cups of greens, whether the last leaves of frost kissed kale from the garden or bagged greens from the store, and a few more additions, and I have yet another healthy breakfast that seems just like a treat. Win-win situation, all around!

Fall is a Great Time to Apple Up Your Smoothie!

Fall is a Great Time to Apple Up Your Smoothie!

Sweet Potato Green Smoothie for Fall

Adding the dates makes this quite sweet, you may want to try it without and see if your palate needs a little more sweetness.

Serves 2

2 cups baby kale or spinach
2 tablespoons almond butter
3/4 cup mashed sweet potato
1 large apple, unpeeled
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ice cubes
4 medium dates, optional

Put all the ingredients in the blender, in order, and blend. Serve immediately.

Beth Hillson Makes Going GF Easier Than Ever

The Book You Need to Navigate the Gluten Free World

The Book You Need to Navigate the Gluten Free World

My how things have changed. Take a look around these days, and gluten-free items seem to be everywhere. Some of the products leave alot to be desired, but most restaurants and grocery stores are trying to make an effort.

Well, forty, thirty, or even twenty years ago, this was not the case. Just ask Beth Hillson, author of The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free. Hillson got her diagnosis forty years ago, back when nobody had ever heard of gluten, much less, gluten-free. Celiacs were incredibly lucky to even be diagnosed, but incredibly unlucky when it came to dining options.

Back then, the doctor handed her a two page summary of everything they knew about celiac and going without gluten. Two pages. It reminded me of my Mother’s experience more like 25 years ago, when she was informed that she could not eat wheat any more, and given a one page sheet of foods that she could have. Jello and black coffee made the list. In both cases, the assumption was that you would now enter a world of extremely simple, home made foods, like plain meat, potatoes, rice, and a few vegetables. Spartan.

Fast forward to today, and you need 320 pages (the length of Living Well Gluten Free) to delve into the complex and expanding knowledge that you need to live without gluten. This isn’t a cook book, although it has a small section of recipes. It’s an up to date, comprehensive resource for anyone who has ever wondered, “what are the reasons for going gluten free?” or, “what the heck is gluten, and how hard is it to avoid?”

Even if you think you know alot about the issues, you will find something here that you did not know. In fact, Hillson has included a link to a quiz that you can take, just to see how much you know. I’ve linked to it here.

In the years since Hillson’s diagnosis, she has been busy. She went to culinary school, and took on the challenge of gluten free baking and cooking. She founded one of the early gluten free companies, Gluten Free Pantry, which she sold to Glutino in 2005. She is the food editor of Living Without Magazine, and the president of the American Celiac Alliance.  She published her book, Gluten-Free Makeovers: Over 175 Recipes-From Family Favorites to Gourmet Goodies-Made Deliciously Wheat-Free (Da Capo Press, 2011) Her popular blog, glutenfreemakeovers.com is a source for recipes and information, as well.

So whether you are mystified by the latest recommendation from your personal trainer (“get off gluten, it makes you fat!”) or you have a family member with some troubling symptoms, or you have a diagnosis and need to make sure you are doing this GF thing correctly, this book will help. It sure would have come in handy twenty years ago.

Beth Hillson's Banana Bread- Gluten Free and Delicious!

Beth Hillson’s Banana Bread- Gluten Free and Delicious!

Banana Bread

Yields 12 to 14 slices

Everyone needs an easy gluten- free quick bread in his or her repertoire. Delicious and versatile, this will become your go-to quick bread. You can keep it simple or dress this up by adding toasted coarsely chopped pecans, chocolate chips, or coconut. Swap the bananas for the same amount of pumpkin or sweet potato puree for another treat. For the best flavor, use very ripe bananas, the kind you’d be tempted to throw away. If yours are not overly ripe, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of banana extract to perk up the flavor.

3/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch or tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups very ripe mashed bananas (about 3 large bananas)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade, place the two sugars and the butter. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds. Add the bananas and vanilla, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs. Pulse until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Transfer to the prepared loaf pan. Set in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to set in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrapped in plastic wrap, this freezes well and will keep for 3 to 6 months.

This recipe may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten-Free: Everything You Need to Know to Go From Surviving to Thriving by Beth Hillson. (DaCapo Lifelong Press; September 2014; $17.99/Trade Paperback; ISBN-13; 978-0738217086). http://www.dacapopress.com/

Saving Basil for Winter, Before It’s Too Late

No Ice Cube Trays For Me!

No Ice Cube Trays For Me!

Here in Minnesota we are having a cold snap. That may sound redundant; Minnesota and cold snap are basically synonymous in the minds of people who live in other parts of the country. But here we are sailing along with our summer, wearing shorts and waiting for the heirloom tomatoes to ripen, and suddenly we have forecasts of 39 degree lows at night.

It’s painful, really. So I dragged out some sweatpants and a hoodie, just to soften the blow of wearing full-body clothing again.

And I harvested the basil.

Every year, I plant several basil plants, and revel in the joys of simple tomato basil salads, easy pastas tossed with herbs and veggies just picked out back, and pizzas on the grill. But when the temps get low, I know that the delicate herb leaves will start to get spotty and pale. One morning, I will walk out to see a plant with leaves that are blackened and inedible. I’ve let this happen, and cursed myself.

Why didn’t I pick the basil?

This year, I beat the chill. And being a person in a hurry, I used the tried and true method I have developed, over many years of just this sort of panicked harvest.

End of the Season

End of the Season

You see, there are lots of ways to freeze basil. The first that comes to mind is to make pesto. But the truth is, garlic degrades and tastes funny after a month in the freezer.

So never put the garlic in at this point. Ditto with salt, which only harms your delicate basil, and you can always add it later. No, keep it simple, just basil and olive oil. That also makes your basil more useful, you can use it in sauces, soups, even pesto, and just add whatever you want then.

So, just pick the leaves, was and spin dry, and put them in the food processor. Grind them dry. This will get you a better texture. Then, drizzle in just enough olive oil to make a paste.

At this point, Martha Stewart would put the paste in ice cube trays. Now I know that Martha rules the roost, but I tried this, and didn’t like it. Once the frozen cubes of basil are transferred to a zip-top or container, they have a lot of surface area that is exposed to air. This is the enemy of basil flavor. As the weeks pass, the basil starts to oxidize, and the cubes become shaggy looking. That precious summer essence escapes into the drying air of the freezer.

We don’t want that.

So my solution is to transfer the paste to heavy freezer bags, press out the air, and seal. Flatten the paste to a thin sheet. Freeze flat.

now, when you need a bit of basil, you can take out the frozen sheet and snap off a chunk. The basil is thin enough to break with your fingers. Put the unused bag back in the freezer, and toss the frozen basil right into the simmering pot of spaghetti sauce, or the processor bowl, where you have already minced your garlic and pine nuts.

Break off a Chunk and Go!

Break off a Chunk and Go!

Easy Peasy.

You don’t need a recipe. I filled my salad spinner to overflowing with basil, then processed it down to about 1 cup and a half of paste. In a gallon zip-top, it made a thin sheet. The bag could have accommodated twice as much basil.

So give my method a try before first frost.

You’ll thank me this winter!

It’s Whole Grain Month-With a Book Giveaway

Win a Bunch of Whole Grain and Sweet Recipes

Win a Bunch of Whole Grain and Sweet Recipes

September is Whole Grain Month. That means that for just a month, there is a push to raise awareness about the goodness of whole grains. The powers that be are letting you know how much better off our country would be, if only our citizenry would eat at least half of our grains whole.

Just imagine, from an economic perspective, how much we would save if heart disease were cut by almost a third, strokes dropped by a third, if diabetes cases dropped by 20%, if obesity became far less common? If we all got sufficient fiber and minerals, and multitudes of nagging health issues just evaporated?

If the millions of dollars of savings in health care costs are not motivating, just think of all that suffering. Have you had a family member who had a heart attack? I have, and sitting by that hospital bed, after the quadruple bypass, I saw how painful it all is, up close and personal.

But the public at large is still having a hard time making the connection. People are stuck in their habits, eating their refined white products and not making the change.

As far as I can tell, whole grain foods still have an image problem. It’s not that people haven’t heard that they are good for you, it’s that people haven’t learned just how delicious, satisfying, and beautiful they can be.

Forget everything you remember about whole grain breads that disappointed, and pastas that seemed to dissolve in the pot. Those days are over. If you haven’t tried them lately, prepared whole grain foods have gotten a major taste and texture upgrade.

And while you get your tastebuds accustomed to bread that doesn’t squish into mush as soon as you pick up the sandwich,  people like me do our best to create whole grain foods that will win you over. I’ll keep making muffins so delicious that nobody will call them health food. I’ll run to the kitchen to whip up quinoa salads and bulghar chilis and pastas that everyone will enjoy.

Because the greatness of whole grains is just too big to ignore.

In that spirit, I wrote a book a couple of years ago, featuring whole grain, all-plant based treats. Nothing refined goes into any of the recipes, the sweeteners are whole, the flours are whole, there is no margarine or fake food involved.

I’m giving away a copy, so you can try some tasty whole grain, vegan treats, you don’t have to buy a book! If you are not vegan, you can go ahead and throw an egg in there, instead of flax, and if you don’t care about whole sweeteners, you can use brown sugar instead of sucanat. But maybe you will like sweeteners like maple and palm sugar, once you give them a try.

Just for this month, make a plan to switch something you usually eat in a white flour form to a whole wheat version. Give it a month, try a few brands.

And get into whole grains, for flavor, fun and yes, healthy, healthy fiber.

It’s a win-win!

Just One of the Recipes from Sweet and Easy

 

Grape and Peanut Crunch (PBJ Crisp)

Serves 6

Everybody loves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, especially kids. This crisp is a fun and easy take on the familiar lunchbox combo, and it will probably get you more smiles than the sandwich. Now that organic grapes are available most of the year, you can make this crisp in the midwinter for a fresh fruit pick-me-up.

4 cups/600 g red seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup/120 ml fruit-sweetened grape jelly

2 tsp arrowroot starch or cornstarch

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Topping

2 cups/200 g rolled oats

1/2 cup/65 g whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup/55 g roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup/100 g granular palm sugar, palm sugar paste or Sucanat

1/4 cup/60 ml coconut oil

1/4 cup/65 g crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup/60 ml nondairy milk

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the grapes in an ungreased 2-qt/2-L 12-by-8-in/30.5-by-20-cm glass or ceramic baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the jelly, arrowroot starch, and orange juice and stir vigorously until thoroughly blended. Stir the mixture into the grapes.

To make the topping: In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, peanuts, and salt and stir until well mixed. In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine the sugar, oil, and peanut butter and mash or process until thoroughly combined. Stir in the nondairy milk. Pour into the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Crumble the mixture over the grapes, distributing it evenly.

 

Bake for 35 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes, then s erve warm. Stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, the crisp will keep for about 1 week.

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Tomato Basil Pizza, All About the Tomatoes

Just Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Basil, So Summer!

Just Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Basil, So Summer!

It’s tomato time, the time of the year when the genuine, vine-ripened flavor of just-picked tomatoes is exploding all over the place. In fact, if you are reading this on the Saturday that it posts, and you are within driving distance of St Paul, MN, you still have time to pick a tomato and come enter Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest.

I just happen to be judging this contest, on Sunday.

That’s right- Tomato lover that I am, I get to sample many, many tomatoes, and then try to pick the stand outs. Will there be intrigue, competition, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat?

Of course, but mostly, there will be one very happy Judge, fork in one hand, salt shaker in the other, swooshing and sniffing mouthfuls of ripe tomato as if they were fine wine.

If you are in the area, come see how it goes, at Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest, which starts at 2 on August 31st, at Freddies Tiki Hut, 1820 Rice Street in St Paul, MN. Of course, you don’t have to bring a tomato to have a good time. It’s a Tiki Hut with tomatoes, how could you not?

In anticipation of the event, I have been enjoying the heck out of my own tomatoes. This week the yellow pears and Santa Sweets have been delivering bowls full of tomatoey goodness. Enough, in fact, that I decided to make a roasted tomato pizza.

Just Picked From The Garden!

Just Picked From The Garden!

So, I cranked the oven to 425 and drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil. Too lazy to even halve them, I just wanted the heat to sear and concentrate all that tomato tangy-sweetness.

Roasted Until Collapsed and Blackened

Roasted Until Collapsed and Blackened

A few garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a tomato topping was ready. I have a few versions of pizza crust that you can use to make this, or you can use your own.

Gluten Free Pizza

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

From there, all you need is some caramelized onions a handful of fresh basil and a hot oven (or grill!)

So if I see you at the contest, please say hello. If not, don’t forget to seize the waning moments of Summer and eat those full-on flavorful Summer tomatoes.

Roasted Tomato Pizza with Basil

Serves 4

2 large onions, slivered

extra virgin olive oil

4 cups whole pear shaped cherry tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise

coarse salt

2 10-12 inch pizza crusts, ready to bake

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1. Caramelize the onions- heat the olive oil over medium high in a large saute pan, then add the onions. Stir until they start to sizzle and stick a little, then lower to medium. Stir often for about 20 minutes, reducing the heat as the onions soften. It’s best to give them 40 minutes more, at least, to fully caramelize, but if you want to stop as soon as they are golden brown, they should be pretty sweet. Sprinkle with a little salt.

2. Preheat to oven to 425 F. On a sheet pan or roaster, place the tomatoes and drizzle with oil, add the garlic and a pinch of salt and toss. Roast for about 30, until the tomatoes are exploded and blackened a bit. Scrape the hot tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl.

3. Prep your pizza crust for topping- cover with onions, then tomatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes. When the pizza is golden brown and crisp, serve, topped with fresh basil and a sprinkle of salt at the last minutes.

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