Jun 25, 2011

Fruity vegetable...

How's that for an oxymoron. That's probably how a tomato would introduce itself if it were a standup comedienne. Officially classified as a fruit, I have seen more use of the tomato as a vegetable than as a fruit. It is easily one of the most versatile ingredients that can hide in the background of a sauce to add body or take center stage as the main topping on pizza.

Why such a big deal about the tomato? Well! I admire Chef Floyd Cardoz a lot and when the consummate gentleman won the Top Chef Masters, he made a very elegant dish with tomato as a base. I thought I'd borrow the idea and add my own zing to it. The result was a beautiful looking dish with very subtle flavors.

So to start with, I layered three sliced tomatoes and half a fennel root to my baking dish. Next I popped in a couple of bay leaves, few balls of black pepper and topped the veggies and spices with one cup vegetable stock, about a half cup white wine and about one and a half cup water. I covered the baking container and let the ingredients cook for 2 hrs in the oven at about 350 degrees. Then I pulled it out and strained all the liquid into a bowl making sure to press hard on the veggies to draw out all the liquid. To this I added some salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of anise seed.

While the tomato/ onion broth was cooking in the oven, I took some leftover rice, sauteed some mushrooms and mixed it in with some pesto and egg white. The consistency was such that I could shape the mixture into a patty. Then I grilled it on the pan till it was nicely browned on both sides.

The assembly was pretty easy - poured the tomato fennel broth into a bowl, placed the rice cake and garnished with some fennel leaves and cilantro. Voila! Behold the healthy, hearty and flavorful soup.

Soup, salad, sauce, curry base, side dish, garnish, topping.... mexican, italian, spanish, indian, mediterranean....stew it, grill it, bake it, stuff it, puree it, boil it, dry it or eat it raw. Do what you can with a tomato and it'll make food better - perhaps that's why it is the mainstay of so many cuisines.

No comments: