Saturday evening was planned in advance to be a gathering of Salem friends, Tina and Steve Martin along with Steve Anchell and wife, Donna Conrad. All are real estate clients of mine morphed into dear family friends. We love it when our friends possess a bit of nuttiness and quirkiness, and these chums are all well qualified. I will add that Tina is an expert seamstress and professional costumer, while hubby, Steve, runs a tight ship at the Historic Elsinore Theatre, keeping us all entertained. Steve A is a professional photographer, author and teacher who conducts photograph master classes all over the world. Donna is a gifted writer as well and helps her clients keep their books ship-shape as a CPA by day.
By midday Saturday, we learned that all had fallen into the grips of la grippe or the flu, if you will. Grateful that our household is enjoying a period of good health, we decided to forge ahead with the hors d’œuvres we had planned to take and add a main course for tonight’s meal and weekly post.
Early in the morning I was perusing epicurious.com for ideas and inspiration. I came across Tomato “Sushi”. I’m a patsy for such things that aren’t exactly what they seem to be but rather culinary amusements, or twists like “Filet Mignon of Tuna.” (You can read more about that in an upcoming post.) It’s also creations like these that Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame does so well and so often. One that continues to intrigue me is his Salmon Cornets. The cornets are actually a baked savory batter which are fashioned into miniature “ice cream” cones to be filled with a sweet red onion-spiked crème fraiche and topped with salmon tartare. Now that’s an “amuse-bouche!”
The description in the sushi recipe credited Chef Christoforos Peskias as the creator, but there was no photo – argh! It took several readings of the recipe before my mind was able to conjure up a mental image. I then googled “Chef Christoforos Peskias tomato sushi” to learn more and perhaps score a photo. No luck with the photo, but I did find an almost identical recipe in The New York Times’ archive crediting Chef Christoforos Peskias as well. It is this recipe I have decided to use.
I think I know why I couldn’t find a photo of this creation. I had to wrestle this recipe into submission. Oh well, I admitted earlier that I’m a “patsy” for such things. The critical part is slow roasting the tomato quarters just right. In the epicurious.com recipe, the tomatoes are peeled then quartered and roasted, cut side down. In the NYTimes.com recipe, the tomatoes are quartered unpeeled with the seeds and inner tomato pulp removed and roasted skin side down.
I used the NYTimes.com method and found removing the skin afterward near impossible. I did, however, salvage enough roasted tomato quarters to make a serving for us all and pose for their close-up. Next time, I’ll roast them like the epicurious recipe. “I ain’t down yet!” as Molly Brown said.
Note to the parties on the mend: We promise to repeat for you all soon.
I hope that my experience makes yours easier. These almost identical recipes break down into two tasks:
- Creating an attractive top for the sushi rice via the roasted tomato flesh
- Bringing together multiple ingredients for an exotic “sushi rice”
- 8 ripe plum tomatoes, approximately 2¼ lb. (about 565 gr.)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ cup (60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil plus a little for brushing
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf (Turkish)
- ¾ cup (180 ml.) sushi rice
- ½ cup (120 ml.) dried currants
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) white rum
- ¼ cup (60 ml.) rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) mint leaves, julienned
- 1/3 cup (80 ml.) pine nuts, toasted
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) cumin (I toasted whole cumin and used that for the garnish)
Heat the oven to 250° F (120° C).
- Peel the tomatoes. This is easily accomplished by scoring an “X” on the bottom of each, blanching them in boiling water for about 1 minute then plunging into an ice-water bath. Using a paring knife, you should easily slip off the peel.
- Quarter 6 of the tomatoes from top to bottom. Carefully remove the inner pulp and seeds, separating the pulp from the seeds as you go. This pulp, along with the two remaining tomatoes, will become part of the rice mixture.
- Oil a baking dish large enough to hold the 24 tomato shells. Arrange them on the dish with the insides facing up. Thinly slice two of the garlic cloves and top each tomato quarter with a few slices and the leaves of one of the thyme sprigs. Drizzle some olive oil over them and put in the oven to slow-roast for about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, halve the two remaining tomatoes at the “equator”, exposing the seed cavities. Remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. (A tiny demitasse spoon is perfect for scooping out the seeds.)
- Heat the ¼ cup (60 ml.) olive oil in a heavy 2-quart (2 lt.) saucepan. Add the onion and remaining garlic, minced, and sauté over med-low heat until soft, about 20 minutes or so. Add the chopped tomatoes, remaining thyme sprig and the bay leaf. Continue cooking while stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture begins to stick and brown slightly. (The original recipe says this should take about 2 hours. Thankfully, mine took only about 20 minutes.) Remove from heat and let cool. Remove the bay leaf and thyme.
- Place the currants in a small dish and cover with the rum.
- Combine the sushi rice with 1¼ cups (300 ml.) water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and let sit covered for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the rice to a mixing bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and cinnamon, mixing well.
- Place the cooked tomato and onion mixture in a tight meshed sieve and press to remove as much oil and moisture as possible.
- Fold the tomato mixture along with the mint, currants and pine nuts into the rice. Season with the salt and white pepper and let sit for about 30 minutes.
- Form the rice mixture into 24 ovals. Top each with a piece of the roasted tomato, brush with a little oil and top with the cumin.
Note: I included in the photo a small dish of soy sauce which accompanies traditional Japanese sushi and sashimi. However, these morsels are tasty and flavorful on their own, so forget the soy sauce.
Vic rounded out the meal with a Thai-inspired fish dish steamed in banana leaf boats and small twice-baked potatoes. You will see his post on this recipe soon.