Do you remember when you first tried to cook? I’m not talking about executing a recipe, but really delving into the steps and determine exactly what benefits a dish? Ok, so you all probably aren’t as nerdy as I am. I really do try to use cooking as a form of relaxation, but sometimes the scientist in me just gets in the way!
A while back Shauna asked her readers about the first meal they ever cooked. And frankly, I can’t think of that earliest time. I was probably 12ish, because I’m guessing it was after we moved in with my step dad. He was definitely the one that instilled in me a joy of food and the process of making it. I honestly have not a single memory of cooking before then, except for that awful dried out meatloaf my sister’s father used to make where the only way anyone could stomach it was by drowning it in ketchup. And poor me because I hated ketchup too. Given that my strongest memory in the kitchen from my younger years is a terrible meatloaf isn’t so encouraging. But I can look back at other times, because there were good memories of the kitchen. I remember just loving to help my mom make sun tea – we took a large pitcher and filled it with water and tea bags, and let it set out on the porch in the bright hot summer sun for a few hours. I was enthralled with watching the color develop over the afternoon, it seemed like magic.
In college I really began thinking about how to make food on my own, but believe it or not, one of my first major forays into cooking involved no cooking at all!
One of my good friends and I would get together and make bruschetta. I think we made bruschetta at least a dozen times. We figured out that this tasty Italian app is just one step away from being a salsa, and the key to keep it from turning into soup is by not letting the tomato juices get all over everything. Soupy bruschetta makes soggy bread. Not awesome. We thought to seed the tomatoes, and then we realized that the consistency was better if the skins were peeled, and learned the hard way (after laboriously peeling many cold tomatoes by hand) that blanching makes this easy. Ha! We made bruschetta so often I’m surprised I never got sick of it. Ha what am I saying, no one can tire of bruschetta!
I’m sure looking up a recipe online would have made it easy. It didn’t occur to either of us that there would actually be recipes on the internets back then. I used to own these things called cook books instead. You know, made of paper with pictures and ink printed on them…what are those again? Ha. Well some things are best learned by doing rather than looking up online. For example, it’s the best way to learn photography in my opinion. Some days I just take a bunch of pictures of random stuff and change a gazillion settings to see what they do and how to get a shot I like. There’s just something to be said about not having the answer in front of you and having to actually think about a situation. And now I’ll never have to think about the steps to make bruschetta again.
So there you have it, bruschetta was the first dish I ever tried to master. Not quite my first cooking memory, but it counts I think. It’s probably not the most authentic recipe, but I like how it tastes and I really enjoy the texture. It is the perfect poem to celebrate tomatoes (because food is just another form of poetry). Just perfect on some fried baguette slices, as the sun is wilting (along with the rest of us in this heat) down towards the horizon, a constant reminder these dog days are not over just yet!
6 stem tomatoes
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch basil, chopped
good quality extra virgin olive oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of each tomato, and blanch in the boiling water about 30s, removing immediately.
2. Peel the skin off of the tomato (easiest to do this starting at the “X” you cut), then cut out the stem and take out the seeds. Dice tomato meat. Place the diced tomato in a mesh strainer and shake to get rid of any excess liquid. Sometimes I will also then set tomato on a paper towel to help soak up liquid.
3. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil. Mix with your hands. When ready to serve, serve on top of crackers, your favorite gluten free bread, whatever you like. Drizzle olive oil and top and sprinkle salt and pepper. Enjoy!