Fresh Tomato-Basil Gratin

September 7, 2007

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With this basic gratin formula, you can make any number of vegetable, meat, or fish casseroles. This version is a delightful way to finish out the summer’s tomatoes and basil. And, it’s bound to please any vegetarians you might be feeding. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds sweet onions, thinly sliced (4 medium)
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (5 medium)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon marsala wine
3 ounces log goat’s cheese
3 ounces water
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup torn, loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside. In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. In a medium chef’s pan over medium-high heat, sauté the tomatoes and bay leaf in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring frequently, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and reduce, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the goat’s cheese and water, stirring until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the onions, tomatoes, feta, goat’s cheese mixture, eggs, basil, parsley, and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into the prepared gratin pan and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 50 minutes or until browned.
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.

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Pesto Flatbread

July 12, 2007

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You know that dreamy feeling you get when you bite into something and you think, ‘I could eat this every day for the rest of my life’? That’s what Pesto Flatbread does for me. Honest, I’m not kidding. I could eat this every day. SAM

2 cups all-purpose, high-gluten flour [do NOT use soft-wheat flour]
1 tablespoon stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon sea salt [preferably Guerande fleur de sel]
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup warm water
3 to 6 tablespoons basil pesto

Place a large pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 550 degrees F. In a food processor fitted with the plastic blade, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. With the processor running, slowly pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then just enough water to form a ball.

Cut two 12-inch rounds of parchment paper and place on two pizza peels. Knead the dough two or three times and cut in half. On a lightly floured pastry board, roll or stretch each half into a 10-inch round and transfer to the parchment paper. Spread evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Slide the flatbread and parchment paper onto the stone and bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow the flatbread to cool for 3 or 4 minutes; then spread each round with 3 to 4 tablespoons of pesto.
Makes two 10-inch rounds.


Pesto

July 11, 2007

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Basil originated in India, where the type called ‘Thulasi’ is still considered holy. In ancient Greece, it was the royal herb, fit only for kings. Legend has it that basil wards off snakes and scorpions, keeps lovers faithful, and opens the gates of heaven to the dearly departed. One bite of this basil pesto and you’ll be a believer. SAM

2 ounces pine nuts
2 ounces fresh sweet basil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small dry skillet over very low heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly browned, shaking frequently to prevent burning. Transfer to a counter top to cool. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pine nuts, basil, garlic, Parmesan, and oil. Pulse with an immersion blender until smooth.
Makes 1 cup.