Breakfast

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Ah, the great Tomato Art Fest recipe contest. This year—my third entry—had the theme “bruschetta.” As soon as I found out, the gears started grinding. I’d already found a great recipe for a savory cornmeal scone, so I decided to do a breakfast bruschetta: a sundried tomato scone topped with tomato jam.

sundried_tomato_cornmeal_scone

But what kind of tomato jam to make? Do you know how many thousands of tomato jam recipes there are out there? I don’t, but I’m certain “thousands” applies. Different methods, ingredients, sweetness and savory levels…there are a lot of options. I finally decided on what appeared to be the easiest, a jam made in the oven. No stirring, no scalding, hardly any work. And I threw in a few new elements to make it my own and, in my opinion, even better.

First, the scone. The original recipe was made with roasted bell peppers. Other than a few minor tweaks and subbing in sundried tomatoes, I made this exactly as published originally. It tastes fantastic with either peppers or tomatoes. And I love that it makes a small amount (half or one third the size of most scone recipes), so it was easy to test and tweak until I got it where I wanted it.

Second, the jam. I made a lot of changes to the basic recipe to get it to the final product and I was very happy with it. A little savory, a little sweet. It is downright delicious. Putting the two together, though, might’ve been overkill. I’m not sure, but once again, I was not a winner. Oh well. Despite that, I can say with confidence that it should’ve been. I had some expert tasters (two who don’t even like tomatoes, one who is a professional chef) test out the jam and scone and I got overwhelmingly positive reviews. So, quite the endorsements. Another reason you should try this out? It’s so easy. After you’ve chopped everything up, you just put it in your oven and let the heat do all the work. Caramelizing onions has never been easier. And the onions and the roasted garlic are wonderful additions to the tomatoes. The brown sugar and balsamic vinegar play off each other well, too.

oven_roasted_tomato_jam

Notes: for buttermilk, I just added 1/3 tablespoon to a measuring cup and then filled it to 1/3 cup with milk and let it stand while I prepped the dry ingredients for the scones. Boom, buttermilk. For the jam, I used a glass 9x13 baking dish and didn’t line it with aluminum foil. It took some soaking, but it all came off, so just use your judgment on that one. I also put the tomatoes in the freezer before peeling.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Jam
adapted from The Kitchn
yield: about 10 ounces

4-5 ripe red tomatoes, peeled
one bulb of garlic, divided and cloves halved
one medium onion, thinly sliced into 1-2” pieces
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher or (coarse) sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dark brown sugar

Slice tomatoes into wedges and spread in a 9x13 baking dish/pan lined with aluminum foil (optional). Mix in the garlic and onion and drizzle generously with olive oil and then a light drizzle across the mixture with the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon and lightly dust with black pepper. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar on top.

Bake at 325°F for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are very soft and the onions have caramelized. Increase the heat of the oven to 450°F and roast for another 15 minutes to char the tomatoes slightly.

Remove from the oven to cool. Stir to mash the tomatoes if necessary. Serve warm or room temperature, but store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks in a tightly sealed container.

Sundried Tomato Cornmeal Scones
adapted from Cooking Light
yield: 4 scones

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup diced moist sundried tomatoes
1/3 cup buttermilk
olive oil

Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender, 2 knives or food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in tomatoes. Add buttermilk and stir just until moist.

Pat dough into a 6-inch circle (about hand-size) on a baking sheet lightly coated with oil and cut into 4 wedges. Bake at 400°F for about 25 minutes until golden. Serve warm.

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When life gives you peaches…you make peach butter.

Okay, so that’s not quite how the phrase goes, but when I happened upon a big basket of peaches that were right at their prime (to me, that is; I like very ripe fruit), I couldn’t resist getting a giant bag of them. I got about six pounds for a dollar per pound. We ate a few and the rest went into the freezer until I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

Spoiler alert! I decided on peach butter.
Spoiler alert! I decided on peach butter.

The freezer part was an experiment. I wondered if the peaches would be easy to peel when frozen like tomatoes. They are. However, this only works with already-ripe peaches (the skins don’t just fall off under the water if the peach is hard as a rock when you put it in the freezer, FYI). While they were freezing, I decided on peach butter. Twice actually, but I'm going to tell you about the easier process I used (slow cooker) for Ginger Peach Butter instead of the much more time-consuming and worrisome process for the Amaretto Peach Butter (note: it was good, but most of the flavor cooked out by the time the consistency was right).

Getting the skins off the peaches is just the first step in the process toward peach butter. Once they’re off, I set the peaches in large bowls to thaw. As they thaw, juice collects at the bottom. This is a crucial part of the step toward peach butter that doesn’t take a thousand years to make. Drain that juice off. Set it aside. Make some peach-ade. Or popsicles. But don’t put it in your pot with the peaches.

Once your peaches have thawed and drained, you slice them up and put them in a very large slow cooker. Note: Doing this in the slow cooker means turning it on and leaving it (lid off, so the water can evaporate) and not having to worry about stirring or scorching like on the stove top. I recommend it. Add some citric acid or lemon juice (about ¼ cup for 4-5 quarts of chopped peaches) to help prevent discoloring and about ½ cup (or a little less) of sugar per quart (test later to make sure it’s sweet enough for you, but it shouldn’t be too sweet). And whatever flavor you’d like to add (I added about six tablespoons of grated fresh  ginger to my peaches in one batch and a cup of amaretto in another batch). And then cook on low. Slow and low, that is the tempo. For a very long time.

Aww, yeah, peach butter on a biscuit.
Aww, yeah, peach butter on a biscuit.

After the first hour or so, more liquid separates and rises to the top. Use a ladle and drain it off. That juice has a little more fiber from the fruit in it, so it's even better as popsicles. I combined mine with some lemon-lime seltzer water and mango puree to become delicious, delicious popsicles.

But back to the peach butter. Good thing I started this process in the morning, because this took a long time, despite draining off all that juice. After about 3 hours of cooking, puree the peaches (I just used my stick blender and yes, it was hot, but no, I didn’t get burned because made sure it was all the way at the bottom of the pot before turning on). After pureeing, cook for, oh, another 3 hours or so to get it to the right consistency. That’s a matter of taste, but a good test is to put a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes and then put a dollop of fruit butter on the saucer and leave it for two minutes. If it retains its shape and doesn’t separate into a blob surrounded by a pool of liquid, it’s done. There are some other tests, like if the track remains after a wooden spoon is dragged through, and so on. But it really depends on how you like it. Shouldn’t be too runny, though. But note that the color does darken as it cooks, which is kind of a bummer. Particularly if you were using some dark fruit to begin with.

After it's done cooking, it's ready to be canned! I didn’t have time to start up the canner that evening, so I put it in another pot and into the fridge over night. The next day, I heated it up again to can it. Fifteen minutes in a hot-water-bath. Make sure you have 8-10 half-pint jars for canning (or 2 jars per quart, plus one just in case). The citric acid should help keep it looking good and it should be good to eat for at least a year.

It’s good stuff. Y’oughtta make it. Slap it on a biscuit (if you don't make biscuits, I recommend Mary B's buttermilk tea-size frozen biscuits, but if they're not available where you are, Pillsbury southern style frozen biscuits are also pretty good), put it on toast, oatmeal, or just on a spoon. It's delicious.

Looks delicious, doesn't it? IT IS.
Looks delicious, doesn't it? IT IS.

If you're interested in slightly more detail on this process (really, it's not difficult nor does it require precision), check out this fruit butter post on Food in Jars.

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Hoe cakes are a rather new thing around my house. When I was growing up, we only had cornbread. Though, my mother's aunt used to make "fried cornbread" that was very similar to hoe cakes. But that was fried with and in bacon grease and was probably closer to what folks around middle Tennessee call "hot water cornbread."

Anyway, one day, I wanted some corn bread but didn't really want to make a whole cornbread, so I looked up hoe cakes (instead of just using the recipe on the package, for whatever reason). Just about every recipe was from or based on Paula Deen's recipe. So, I pulled it up, made a few adjustments and tried it. And they are good. And I am ashamed. Though, the best part about it was that it made me think to use my cast iron pan. That was really the key to making these hoe cakes.

hoecakes

But Paula's hoe cakes aren't really the traditional hoe cakes. Real hoe cakes (hoecakes) require little more than cornmeal and water. I've made those, too (since making the first batch). And they are good, but they're not quite as good as Paula's (which are really more like cornmeal pancakes). So I've included both recipes, but only the pictures of those beautiful Paula Deen hoe cakes. Try either or both yourself; they're fantastic.

Hoe Cakes aka Cornmeal Pancakes
adapted from Paula Deen
yield: about 16 hoe cakes

Ingredients
Corn or vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup self-rising cornmeal*
1 cup flour

Mix all ingredients together, except for the frying oil, in a bowl until well combined. Heat the frying oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Fry until browned and turn with a spatula to brown the other side. When done, remove each hoe cake to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

*Note: If you use self-rising cornmeal mix (which already contains flour), use 2 cups and no flour.

***

Hoecakes
adapted from Dixie Lily
yield: about 10 hoecakes

Ingredients
1 cup Dixie Lily self-rising corn meal
1 1/2 cup boiling water
vegetable oil for frying

Combine corn meal and boiling water in bowl and stir to blend. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil over medium low eat until a droplet of water sizzles when dropped in. Spoon batter, by tablespoonfuls into hot skillet and fry until golden brown. Turn and fry on the other side until golden brown and serve with butter or potlikker.

*Note: don't use cornmeal mix with these. Just don't.