Sunday, December 26, 2010

Simple Sides

Planning the menu for Christmas dinner can turn a bit complicated in our family. As foodies, everyone wants to contribute to the meal, yet stay traditional. We usually have lamb and Dad’s famous horseradish mashed potatoes, but then us girls get to choose the rest of the dinner. This year Kathy made yummy stuffed-mushrooms as an appetizer. She filled them with cheeses and bacon, can we say, “more please?!?!”. Mom always thinks presentation, so she wanted to do something colorful she chose sautéed green beans and then glazed carrots. Now, glazed carrots can be good if done correctly, but I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love with them. I ate too many as a child, always being told I wouldn’t be able to see if I didn’t eat carrots. Well, sure enough I ate so many glazed carrots in my youth that I have 20-20 vision to this day. And although another helping of Vitamin-A rich vegetables is not a bad idea, I talked Mom out of them chose to make something different, roasted tomatoes.

I have learned how to make amazing slow roasted tomatoes at the National this past semester. However, we never really used them as a side, they were more for sauces and marinades. I prepared the tomatoes the same way. Using my new knife (great Christmas present!) I sliced the tomatoes in half. We used 2 small boxes of campari tomatoes. In a medium bowl I added ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, and ½ tsp black pepper, and a pinch of sugar. After tossing together I spread on a lined jelly roll pan. Note- I made the mistake of not lining the sheet tray with aluminum foil and clean up was a disaster! So, be sure to line the tray before spreading out the tomatoes. I put the tomatoes in the oven at 400° because that is the temperature the lamb was roasting. I think 350° for 45 minutes is better, but at a higher temperature oven it still works, just needs to be watched more closely. To make these tomatoes a little more interesting I decided to combine them with two of my favorite ingredients, balsamic vinegar and goat cheese. To make the balsamic reduction I put 1 ½ cups of balsamic vinegar with a teaspoon of sugar and let it simmer on medium high heat until reduced (aka it’s a thick sauce). Then I crumbled fresh goat cheese. Once the tomatoes were ready, I plated them, added a bit of cheese, and spooned the sauce over them. The flavor combination was delicious and added not only flavor, but a balance in taste to the whole menu. What a great way to celebrate Christmas!

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