French Onion Soup Recipe

healthy french onion soup | pamela salzman

If it wasn’t winter before this week, it sure is now. Not in Southern California, of course.  But for the rest of the country.  Although people in LA dress like it’s zero degrees when it’s 55.  It’s totally funny.  I cracked up when I saw this post on Pinterest last week:

50 degrees in California, 50 degrees in Michigan

So I figured that everyone would be in the mood for soup this week, no matter where you live!  I had completely forgotten about this delicious French onion soup I taught two years ago, until my husband asked me to make it.  My entire family, Mr. Picky included, are big soup fans and I love making it.  In general, soups are easy, flexible, reheat well and a good way to consume homemade bone broth, which I am convinced is so healing, immune-boosting and good for digestion.

lots of sliced onions

 

French onion soup is a classic, and I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel here, just sharing the way I like to make it.  And isn’t that the beauty of cooking?  Figuring out how to tweak recipes to your liking?  I prefer an onion soup that is loaded with onions and with a rich and flavorful broth.  I’ve tasted a few very lackluster onion soups and that is not this one!

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

The key to the broth is good stock and the proper alcohol.  Yes, you can serve soup with alcohol to children since the alcohol is burned off in the simmering process.  My kids have had plenty of alcohol in cooked foods and were not affected in the slightest.  Brandy or vermouth plus some white wine are my favorites.  I do not love this soup with red wine, personally.  Another tip I can offer is using the slicing disc in your slow cooker to slice all the onions.  It will take you all of 1 minute with no tears to do it this way.  If you have no food processor, get out your best knife and get close (not too close) to a big open flame, like a gas burner on your stove, and slice away.  The flame from the stove will burn the gases from the onions and you won’t cry.  Promise!

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

As for the cheesy toast, I personally don’t add the traditional Gruyere toast on top to mine because I can’t eat too much dairy, but my family loves that part.  My son adds toast only, I add chopped parsley, and my husband and daughters love toast + cheese.   I think it makes more sense to toast the bread and melt the cheese separately in the oven than broil it in the soup bowls.  The soup bowls get so incredibly hot and it’s not safe at all to serve such hot bowls to kids (or anyone.)  It’s much simpler to add the melted cheese toast to the soup bowl.  But you can broil it in the bowls, too.  I would serve this with a meal of roasted fish and a green vegetable or just a large, hearty salad.  This soup is all about comfort, warmth and total deliciousness.  One bite is like a cozy blanket wrapping itself around you.  What more could you need on a day like today?

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
French Onion Soup
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 pounds yellow onions (about 6), halved and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt (double this if your stock is unsalted)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • ¼ cup Cognac or brandy
  • 4 cups rich chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups high quality beef broth (or use mushroom stock or chicken stock)
  • 6 ½-inch slices of baguette or French bread torn by hand
  • 6 ounces Gruyere, shredded (or buy it pre-sliced)
  • a pinch of Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. COVER and cook 10 minutes.
  2. UNCOVER, add thyme, bay leaves, salt, black pepper and cook onions until they are very soft and deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. I usually start at medium heat and then when I see the onions start to color, I drop to medium-low and then to low heat. This is the key step in this recipe. If the onions don’t get golden, the soup won’t have as much flavor. But you also don’t want to burn the onions because then the soup will taste bitter.
  3. Stir in the wine and Cognac, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  4. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Taste for seasoning. Keep in mind that if you are adding cheese, you will be adding extra saltiness.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, arrange the baguette slices or bread pieces on a baking sheet in one layer and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the broiler to high and position the oven rack 6 inches from the heat. Either top each piece of toast with a handful of grated gruyere and broil until melted. Divide the soup between 6 bowls and top each soup bowl with a piece of cheese toast. OR place 6 oven-proof soup bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet and fill each with soup. Top with the toasted bread and then the cheese. Broil a few minutes until cheese has melted.
Notes
This soup tastes even better the next day! If you want to double this, caramelize the onions in 2 pots. Otherwise it's too many onions at one time.

 

Parmesan Peppers Recipe

prepping peppers | pamela salzman

I just returned home from a beautiful vacation on Long Island with my family.  It’s always my favorite week of the year and I enjoy the time even more when the weather is perfection like it was last week (barring the crazy 30-minute quasi-tornado on Tuesday morning.) I try to visit my parents in August rather than earlier in the summer because my father’s vegetable gardens are much more abundant now.  I think one of the best, most rewarding things in life is to be able to grow your own food.  On so many levels it’s good for you and good for the earth.

prepping peppers | pamela salzman

It can be very confusing to know what’s in season these days since we can buy virtually anything at any time.  But if you’ve ever gardened, you know that certain vegetables are planted during certain times of the year.  When I was growing up, I knew strawberries were only around for a short time so I would eat as many as humanly possible to take advantage of nature’s little springtime gift.  Same with tomatoes.  In fact, my mother loves telling me the story of when I was little and I ate so many unripe green tomatoes out of my father’s garden that I made myself sick.  I guess you can have too much of a good thing.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Here’s a newsflash for some people:  bell peppers are a summer vegetable.  Sure you can buy them all year, but they’ll be imported and likely not organic.  Another newsflash is that bell peppers are usually on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of most highly contaminated produce, so I always buy organic or not at all.  Yikes.  Now I look back and thank my lucky stars my father grew lots of peppers without pesticides.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Sweet bell peppers have a soft spot in my heart because they were one of Mr. Picky’s first “approved” vegetables.  I can even remember the day he tried a stick of raw red bell pepper and said, “Hey, this is good!  It’s juicy!”  Munch, crunch.  Then I went overboard trying to put sweet bell peppers in everything because I thought they were my ticket to broadening his limited palate.  Well my strategy didn’t exactly work.  But I’m glad I went pepper-crazy because I found this recipe for Parmesan peppers and it has become a favorite.

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

Parmesan peppers is one of the easiest and tastiest side dishes.  It gets multiple flavor boosts from garlic, thyme, lemon and Parmesan cheese, although I often use Pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese.  It’s true that my son prefers his bell peppers raw (“juicy and crunchy”), I prefer the sweeter flavor and silky texture from roasted peppers.  One sliver of these peppers wrapped around a bite of fish or roasted chicken is just delicious.  And if you can find two (or even three) colors of peppers, this is a really beautiful side dish.  And I repeat, easy!

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

So the big question is, does Mr. Picky eat this?  And the answer is, almost.  What does that mean?  Like most kids, he’s slow to come around to vegetables and he likes to try things on his own terms.  It’s annoying for sure, but it is pretty normal.  So the first couple of times I made this, he was like “no way I’m eating that.”  He did have the obligatory taste, but nothing more after that.  More recently, he has eaten an entire piece and declared, “it’s pretty good, but I’m fine with one piece, thanks.”  The last time he had one piece and said, “it’s good and I’m pretty sure I’ll eat more next time.”  Welcome to my world!

parmesan peppers | pamela salzman

While there are no guarantees in life, these peppers have always been a hit with everyone else who has tried them, including my two daughters. What I do know for sure is that summer and local peppers won’t be around forever, so do enjoy them while you can.

Parmesan Peppers
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011
Ingredients
  • 4 bell peppers (a mix of yellow, red and orange is nice)
  • 1 clove thinly sliced garlic
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
  • juice of ½ lemon, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stem, core and quarter bell peppers; place on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Toss with garlic, thyme and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange skin side down in a single layer and roast until softened, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and preheat the broiler.
  6. Sprinkle the peppers with Parmesan and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and peppers are slightly charred. This will only take a minute or two.
  7. Remove from oven and drizzle with lemon juice, if you like. You can leave the thyme sprigs, but they are not to be eaten.
Notes
Feel free to leave out the cheese if you need. These are also great with a few capers sprinkled on when they come out of the oven.

 

Mediterranean Fish in Parchment recipe

You see that beautiful piece of fish down there?  That is my idea of a perfect dinner — simple, healthy, light, delicious, seasonal, easy-to-make.  If my family didn’t thrive on an ever-changing dinner menu, I would love to eat this twice a week with a fresh salad and a glass of rosé.  Perfect.

mediterranean fish in parchment

Fish in parchment is easier than it looks and one of the most healthful ways to cook fish.  I have taught and posted two other fish in parchment recipes which you may have tried, one with cilantro and ginger and the second with summer herbs.  Both are delicious and perfect when you want something light in the summer.

L1210229

L1210231

The basic idea when you’re cooking in parchment, is to use ingredients that all cook pretty quickly and at the same rate.  Make sure that parchment is tightly sealed and you’ll create a little steam oven in that packet.  I always make sure the fish is well-seasoned with salt and pepper and that I add a smidge of fat, either butter or olive oil for flavor, and then there are lots of possibilities.

L1210238

Once I see those first local tomatoes at the farmers market, I start going a little tomato-crazy.  I especially love cherry tomatoes because they are always so sweet.  In this recipe, you can’t beat the combination with the sautéed garlic, salty capers and olives and zingy white wine.  I would eat this with a simple rice pilaf or quinoa salad or a raw zucchini salad.  My family would probably love a little pasta with pesto to go with it.

med fish parchment collage 1

I have taught this recipe in my cooking classes many, many times and sometimes I added some raw baby spinach leaves under the fish.  The spinach wilts beautifully and tastes delicious with all the other ingredients.  Shaved zucchini slices would also be perfect, but you could also add vegetables to the packet like blanched (not raw) green beans or slivers of roasted peppers.

mediterranean fish in parchment

Of course, if there are ingredients in the recipe you don’t care for, feel free to omit.  After I finish going over a recipe in my class, I take a few minutes to talk about substitutions.  Questions about how to change the recipe are the most common questions that come up — how do I make this gluten-free? My husband won’t eat anything with onion.  I hate olives.  Etc, etc.  I give you permission to take out the olives if you want.

mediterranean fish in parchment

Summer is here, friends.  Let’s get cooking!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Mediterranean Fish in Parchment recipe
Author: 
Serves: serves 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • a handful of mixed fresh herbs (I like to use mostly parsley with a little basil and mint mixed in), if you have them or sprigs of fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt + extra for seasoning fish
  • a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper to taste + extra for seasoning fish
  • 4 filets of wild halibut or sole
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter or unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 4 12-inch squares of unbleached parchment
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add sliced garlic, red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant and almost golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, capers and fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange each piece of fish in the center of the parchment paper and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
  3. Top each filet with a fourth of the tomato mixture, 1 teaspoon of butter or oil, and 2 teaspoons wine.
  4. Bring 2 opposite sides of the parchment together and fold. Continue to fold all the way down until you reach the fish. Twist both ends of the parchment so that it looks like a hard candy wrapper. Repeat for each piece of fish. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes based on the thickness of the fish.
  5. Transfer each packet to a plate and use caution when opening – the steam will be very hot!
Notes
Sometimes I like to add a handful of baby spinach leaves to the parchment before topping with the fish.

 

Baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers recipe (variations for GF and vegan!)

 

baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers | pamela salzman

I just finished teaching this recipe in my March classes and it was a huge hit!  I don’t even like chicken and I seemed to always be looking for a bite at the end of class.  I had so many requests to post this recipe that I had to oblige, even though the images aren’t totally the best.  I think this would be perfectly appropriate to prepare for Passover, with one minor adjustment.  And it’s a great recipe to adapt as cherry tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes become available.

pepper the chicken before dredging

The recipe is basically a braise, but the chicken is cooked uncovered for most of the time, which is why I call it Baked Chicken, versus Braised Chicken.  But the formula is still very much the same — browning the meat first to create flavor and color, sauteing onions, deglazing, putting meat back in and baking in the oven until cooked through.  Once you understand the steps, you can start making up your own recipe or adapting recipes like this one with other ingredients or flavors.

dredge the chicken lightly with flour

I personally like using bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken since I think they taste better and stay a little moister, especially breast pieces.  Unfortunately, cooking with bone-in, skin-on pieces takes longer than boneless, skinless and may not be a great option for those of you needing a really fast recipe for after work.  Fortunately, this recipe can be adapted for cutlets and even a slow cooker, so look for those options in the instructions.

olives, capers, thyme, jars of tomatoes

This dish produces very tender, flavorful chicken, as well as the accompanying onions and sauce.  In the ingredient list it offers the option of draining the juice from the jar of tomatoes or keeping it.  Here’s my thought process on that one:  if you will be serving the chicken with noodles or pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes or something that would welcome a lot of sauce, then you should keep the juice.  Otherwise, drain the juice and just use the tomato pieces.  I also love this dish during cherry tomato season, when I will use 1 1/2 pounds of  halved sweet cherry tomatoes in place of the jarred, and basil leaves instead of the thyme.  Large vine-ripened tomatoes that have been blanched and chopped are also great.  Both of these options create a much lighter, fresher dish.  But every variation is very delicious.

deglaze with wine and tomatoes

Other adaptations I discussed in class:

  • subbing fennel for half the onion
  • omitting the olives and adding chopped mushrooms with the onions
  • adding a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with the garlic
  • in the summer, subbing sliced sweet bell pepper for some of the onion
  • searing cauliflower steaks and using those in place of the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan option

add the olives capers and thyme

 

nestle chicken in the tomato mixture

I always use breasts when I teach because most of my students prefer white meat, and therefore it’s just easier for me to buy all breasts.  You can certainly use any part of the chicken you want.  In fact, it’s more economical to buy a whole chicken and have the butcher cut it into pieces for you.  But I highly recommend not buying 1 breast per person.  It’s too much meat to eat in one sitting, unless you are an Olympian or a body builder!  I have never actually seen anyone at my house or at a dinner party eat an entire breast.  I have seen people cut them in half and push one piece off to the side and just each one half.  What I love to do is prepare the breasts, allowing for 1/2 per person, and removing the bones after the chicken is cooked and has rested a bit.  Then I slice the meat on an angle.  It’s much more manageable to eat it this way, as well as more elegant and attractive to serve.  See this post on the gloves I use to get down and dirty when I carve chicken!

Let me know if you have specific questions about timing or with what sides to serve this.  Hope your holiday planning is going well!

baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers | pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
Baked Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, sprinkled with 2 teaspoons kosher salt when you get home from the market unless you are using kosher chicken which you should not salt (read this post on how and why to season your chicken in advance)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging (all-purpose, spelt, GF flour, etc.) -- use matzoh cake meal for Passover
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ medium onions, cut through the root into sixths or eighths (or sliced thinly, but I like wedges better in this recipe)
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 18-ounce jar diced tomatoes with the juice (or drain juice for less sauce) (I like Jovial in glass jars. Read this post why.)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or more white wine
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs or large basil leaves in the summer/fall
  • ½ cup pitted olives, such as kalamata or Bella di Cerignola
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • chopped parsley for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the chicken dry and season with black pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
  3. If the pan looks dry, add a little oil. If it looks like there’s more than 2 Tablespoons oil, drain a bit off. Add the onions, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and sea salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, white wine, stock and cook, scraping any brown bits on bottom of the pan.
  5. Arrange the thyme, olives and capers over the onion mixture. Place the browned chicken pieces side by side on top. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven.
  6. After 15 minutes, baste the chicken with the juices in the pot. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 30-40 minutes (depending on thickness), basting every 10 minutes if you have time. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (You can also cook covered on the stove over low heat for 30 minutes.)
Notes
For a boneless, skinless version, check out my recipe for Lemon –Thyme Chicken Cutlets and follow the same directions.

For a slow cooker version, use skinless chicken and  3 Tablespoons each of stock and wine instead of 4.  Follow same directions, but after deglazing, pour everything into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on HIGH or 6-8 on LOW.

Fresh tomato soup recipe

fresh tomato soup recipe | pamelasalzman.com

The moment we arrived in Lake Garda on Wednesday for the last leg of our trip, I looked at my husband and said, “Good luck getting me on that plane back home.”  The vistas are breathtaking, the air is clean, and the food is to die for.  Total heaven here.  Check out my Instagram and Facebook page for some pictures.

aromatics for tomato soup

One food combination that I will never tire of is tomatoes and basil.  And if you add some high quality mozzarella, I am even happier.  I do so many combinations of tomatoes and basil in the summer, whether it be in soups, salads, pasta, eggs, grains, on toast, and on and on.  Needless to say, I have been indulging like crazy in Italy, where I will argue you find the best tomatoes!

tomatoes

I made this soup at home before I left.  The recipe is from Angelini Osteria, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, and was printed in the LA Times recently.  I didn’t waste any time making it!  Trust me when I tell you that you must use great, flavorful tomatoes here. Otherwise, the soup will probably taste like nothing.  I’ve tasted other Italian tomato soups in the past and they’ve all tasted like tomato sauce.  Not this one!  It’s so light and fresh with just a little essence of basil.  It is summer in a bowl!  Also, did you know that tomatoes are very rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer compound.  But the lycopene becomes more available when the tomatoes are cooked.  Bonus!

cooked soup

I couldn’t help but drizzle some good olive oil on the soup and tear a smidge of burrata into it, too.  If you want to keep this dairy-free or vegan, just forget the burrata and add a piece of grilled bread rubbed with some garlic.  You really can’t go wrong.

puree and strain

Sadly, this vacation is coming to an end soon.  But I am excited to get back in the kitchen in a few days and cook again.  I’ve been so inspired by all the places we have visited.  I am also looking forward to seeing many of you next week in class.  Lots of stories to share and yummy food to make!

burrata

zuppa di pomodoro (fresh tomato soup) | pamela salzman

zuppa di pomodoro (fresh tomato soup) | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fresh Tomato Soup
Author: 
Serves: 4-5 (although the original recipe said serves 6-8)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • ½ carrot finely diced
  • 2 large basil leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt + additional to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • optional garnishes: burrata, grated Parmesan cheese, croutons
Instructions
  1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, basil and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender; 10-12 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, along with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes to break down the tomatoes and meld the flavors.
  3. Remove from the heat and puree the soup in a blender or food processor, then strain through a strainer.  Taste for seasoning.  I added a bit more salt.
  4. Serve the soup hot or warm, with desired garnishes and a drizzle of olive oil.

Roasted summer vegetable tian recipe

roasted summer vegetable tian | pamelasalzman.com

After Barcelona, we went to Aix-en-Provence, which is the center and heart of Provence, France.  I adore the South of France!  We had a guide for the day since I don’t know the area well and I had no time before we left to do proper research.  I absolutely love hearing about the history of European towns because it puts everything in context.  This wall was here for this reason.  These two towns were perched on opposite hills facing each other for that reason.  Plus the only way to keep my son interested is if you talk drama – wars, fighting, weapons, who won, who got killed, etc.

make a bed of sautéed onions and garlic

More than that, I love seeing how other people live.  Do they drive or walk?  What do they eat for lunch and when?  How much vacation do they get every year?  What’s the coffee shop for locals?  I am very, very nosy!   I was so excited to find and experience the local farmer’s market in Aix and see what is sold here and how it is different from my market in Manhattan Beach.  It thought I was so lucky to be here on market day, until our guide told me the market is open every day until 1:00.  People in Provence prefer to shop daily for their food so it’s really fresh.  Heaven.  It was such beautiful market, where they sold everything from tomatoes, herbs, melons and lettuce, to eggs and the freshest fish, to the most delicious olives ever and lavender sachets with lavender from the fields in Provence.  I could get used to that.

slice vegetables about the same thickness

 

While I was in Provence, I remembered the recipe for this Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian that I taught when I was in France 2 years ago and in my cooking classes in LA last summer.  It’s a very simple, easy, seasonal vegetable side dish and of course, it’s quite delicious.  Who wouldn’t love a casserole with gently cooked onions on the bottom and then a mélange of tomatoes, zucchini and potatoes on top, where the tomato juice kind of infuses everything and mixes with a bit of fresh thyme and some Parmesan cheese?  Yum!  I love it because it goes with anything, whether you are making a piece of grilled fish or some roasted chicken or you want a light vegetarian meal with either a frittata or a simple green salad.  Don’t forget a cold glass of rosé, too!

arrange in dish

It does take some time to cook, so it’s not a last-minute deal.  But you also don’t have to time it perfectly with your meal, since I think it actually tastes just as good warm and even room temp.  You know how I love a good do-ahead!

roasted summer vegetable tian | pamela salzman

 

The one thing I miss when I’m on vacation is cooking at home, especially when I see such beautiful ingredients around me.   For now, I’m picking up inspiration everywhere I go.  Next stop – Italy!

roasted summer vegetable tian | pamela salzman

Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, about ¾ pound, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 small tomatoes, about ¾ pound, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 medium zucchini, about ½ pound, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Warm oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until tender and lightly golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer onion and garlic on the bottom of an 11 x 9 gratin dish or a 10-inch round baking dish. Overlap potatoes, tomatoes and squash over the onion mixture. Season with salt (I use about ½ teaspoon) and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme and Pecorino/Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes until golden and potatoes are tender. You can serve this hot, warm or at room temperature.
Notes
Try to find potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes with approximately the same diameter so the casserole looks balanced.

You can also add shredded gruyere or buttered bread crumbs to the top for an extra special finish.

 

How to make slow roasted tomatoes

slow roasted tomatoes | pamela salzman

Someone leaked to Mr. Picky that in one of my recent posts I was guessing that he wouldn’t be showering regularly at camp.  It wasn’t a judgment on my part, just an observation from past history.  However, it seems as though Mr. Picky interpreted that as a challenge.  What you might not know about Mr. Picky is that he is competitive to a fault.  He also loves statistics and keeps track of everything, especially when he’s first in something.  But believe me, his “firsts” are not what you might expect.  “Hey, Mom.  Did you know I was the first one down for breakfast 8 days in a row?”  Or not firsts.  “Mom, guess what?  Guess what, Mom?  I was the second youngest at camp.  By 20 days.”  So I wasn’t entirely shocked when Mr. Picky said to me the other day that he’s on a showering streak.  Huh?  “Mom, guess what?  I have showered 37 days in a row!  For real.  I’m not even joking.”  I need to blog more about him not eating cooked vegetables. slow roasting tomatoes

Well, Mr. Picky had to come from somewhere.  Guess what, friends?  I’ve eaten a tomato in some way, shape or form every day for the last 24 days and I’m not even joking.  Whereas I fear Mr. Picky is on a quest to find his way into some imaginary record book for showering, my daily tomato indulgence is for pure pleasure.  Furthermore, I know my streak will come to a sad end in a few months when tomato season is over. raw tomatoes prepped for roasting

I have a total obsession with summer tomatoes.  I always have.  When I was little, I would take a salt shaker into my father’s garden and have a tomato party.  First, I would pluck a nice ripe tomato off the vine.  For the first bite, I always had to shake a tiny bit of salt in my mouth and then take a bite of tomato.  Salt doesn’t stick to a whole tomato.  After that bite, I would shake the salt on the cut part of the tomato and eat away.  My mother told me a few times I even ate several green (underripe) tomatoes and made myself a bit sick to my stomach.

slow roasted tomatoes | pamela salzman

But I am only interested in local, summer tomatoes.  Nothing else compares and I wouldn’t even waste your time on tomatoes before June or after October, and even that is pushing it.  So right now, I’m in my glory and I am snatching up different varieties every week.   So happy!  And tomatoes are amazing for you – I just posted something on my facebook page yesterday about all their health benefits.

grilled veggie and hummus sandwich with slow roasted tomatoes

Something I just started making the last few years are slow roasted tomatoes in the oven.  Damn!  Have you ever tried these?  I’m not talking about sundried tomatoes, which for some reason I don’t like.  Slow roasted tomatoes are super-sweet and moist.  You can cook them as long or as little as you like, but I prefer to bake them until their texture is like moist, dried apricots.   So darn good and soooooooo easy!  It’s barely cooking, people.  And you can use them in a million ways.  Delicious on an antipasto platter, with crusty bread, eggs/frittatas, sandwiches, salads, in pasta, etc.  How could I forget straight-off-the-pan?  Such deliciousness if you have patience to slow cook them.  I figure since I waited all winter and spring for tomatoes, what’s a few hours?

slow roasted tomatoes | pamela salzman

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 12 plum tomatoes*, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly slices
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • unrefined olive oil for drizzling
  • sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. If you want to make more tomatoes, use a large baking sheet.
  2. Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, in one layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Place a sliver of garlic on top of each tomato and scatter the thyme sprigs over. Drizzle a little oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake until desired texture is reached. I like to go 8 hours. More time will result in drier tomatoes. Less time will result in juicier tomatoes. Ovens also vary, so check tomatoes periodically.
  4. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to a week. Covered in oil, the tomatoes will last a few weeks. You can also freeze them right on the sheet pan and when the tomatoes are frozen, transfer them to a covered container to freeze (ideally a freezer bag that is as small as will fit the tomatoes.)
Notes
*You can also use halved cherry or grape tomatoes and cook for less time.

Roasted smashed potatoes recipe

roasted smashed potatoes by pamela salzman

Everyone thinks it’s so funny when I whine that I don’t get invited much to peoples’ houses for dinner.   There is an assumption that I’m an accomplished chef and I must have such high standards for eating therefore it’s too intimidating to have me over for dinner.  Ha!  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I’m a home cook who never went to culinary school and I don’t ever make recipes with three sauces.  I could never work in a restaurant or hotel or be on one of those shows where you have to figure out what to do with octopus and cornflakes in 20 minutes.  Just for the record, I love simple food.  I don’t need anything fancy or chef-y.  I am very easy to please as long as it’s fresh and natural.  And I’ll bet that you are as good a cook, if not better than I am.  Anyone can have a food blog, friends!

red new potatoes

What I do love is sharing recipes that work for me, because I think we’re a lot alike.  And it makes me happy if more people are cooking at home, even if I’m not invited.  Wink, wink.  These roasted smashed potatoes are my favorite kind of recipe — uncomplicated, tasty, easy and healthful.  They go with whatever I’m serving and every single person in my family loves them.  If you’ve never made smashed potatoes, you are totally missing out.   They’re both fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside and if you add enough salt, damn delicious.  I could just eat a half dozen of these and some scrambled eggs and call it a night.  If you invited me over for dinner and made these potatoes with scrambled eggs, I would be in heaven.  Yep, that’s all it takes.

pierce potato with paring knife to determine doneness

The other night at our dinner table, there were several ways to eat these.  My husband makes up for my dairy abstinence by melting cheese on everything, including these potatoes.  Mr. Picky dipped his in mustard and Daughter #2 topped hers with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.  Daughter #1 and I ate these plain and simple.  I’m going to start teaching the little miss how to make easy recipes like this because she’ll be off to college before I know it.  Sigh.  Wait, what am I talking about?  Yippee!

toss boiled potatoes in a little oil

These are divine out of the oven, but I don’t love potatoes reheated.  To do some of the work ahead of time, boil the potatoes and refrigerate them.  Then, smash them and roast them to crispy perfection.  What is great is that you’ll use the whole potato, since most of the nutrients are in the skin or just underneath the skin.  And if you follow the Body Ecology Diet, red new potatoes are the only potatoes permitted since they have the fewest sugars of any potato.  Just an FYI.  Of course, most of you are not on the Body Ecology Diet, so use whatever baby potatoes you can get your hands on, like Yukon Golds.

arrange the potatoes evenly spaced apart

put another baking sheet on top to flatten potatoes

press down on the baking sheet to flatten the potatoes

When I taught in France last year, I did some roasted potatoes in duck fat, which I know doesn’t sound healthful, but to be honest, I think animal fats can be good to cook with at high temperatures, unless you’re a vegetarian.  Unsaturated fats (vegetable oils) can oxidize at high temperatures (above 350 degrees) which create free radicals.  Yuck!  Those are pro-inflammatory compounds that will age you from the inside out.  Saturated fats don’t do that.  Listen, I use olive oil at higher temperatures sometimes if it’s the only fat that works, but you’re better off with coconut oil, ghee or duck fat, in this case.  Do what you’re comfortable with because you’ll love these no matter what!

roasted smashed potatoes by pamela salzman

roasted smashed potatoes by pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Smashed Potatoes
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes, such as red-skinned or Yukon Gold (about 15-18)
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt for boiling the potatoes
  • 4 Tablespoons fat of choice, divided (e.g. olive oil, duck fat, or ghee)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.  Fill the pot three-fourths with cold water.   Place the pot on the stove over high heat.  Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.  You should be able to insert the tip of a paring knife easily into the center of a potato.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake to get off as much moisture as possible.  Place the potatoes back into the pot and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil.  Roll them around to coat with the oil.
  4. Arrange the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and evenly space them apart from each other.  Take another large rimmed baking sheet and position it right on top of the potatoes and press down, smashing the potatoes to about a half inch thick.  Remove the top baking sheet.
  5. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with the chopped thyme and salt and pepper.
  6. Bake until potatoes are golden and crisp.  I took them out after 30 minutes, but you can go much longer if you want them really crispy.  Serve hot or warm.