Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

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September can be the time of tomato burnout, at least if you have your own garden or are friends with someone who gardens. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but fresh tomatoes at every meal do pall after awhile. We don’t personally have that problem this year, but we were inundated last year, especially with cherry tomatoes. I love the bounty of fruit you get from a cherry tomato plant, in July and August. By September I am usually faced with bowl after bowl of cherry tomatoes that no one is really all that interested in anymore.

The typical answer to too many tomatoes is to make sauce. This can be problematic with cherry tomatoes. No one is going to peel those babies and they sometimes have very thick skins. Last year I tried an experiment to deal with them in the quickest way possible. It was about a hundred degrees (I’m not exaggerating) and I wanted to get in and out of the kitchen in the shortest amount of time.

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Now, this does involve turning the oven on in the summer heat, but it isn’t on for long and the results make it worth it in my book. Long story short – roast those luscious nuggets of summer sunshine until they are browned and shriveled, which takes very little time since they are so small. Let them cool a little and then chuck them into the food processor. A quick whirl and they break down into sauce that is thickened by the pureed skins.

I like to freeze the sauce flat in ziplock bags, like I freeze my zucchini, to save freezer space. It also makes for easy and fast thawing later. You can thaw in the fridge overnight or put the bag in hot water. It also works to cut the bag off the frozen block of sauce and put it right in a pan to thaw over low heat.

Print or download the recipe.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
From The Cook’s Life
Yield varies

Cherry tomatoes
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake 20 minutes, or until softened and browning in spots. You might hear some of the tomatoes burst as they are cooking. There will be a fair amount of liquid on the pan from burst tomatoes and it might be caramelizing in spots. That is fine.

Let the tomatoes cool, on the pan, for about 30 minutes. The scrape, pour or otherwise transfer the tomatoes and all their juices to a food processor or blender. Process the tomatoes into a sauce. Scrape down the sides once and process again.

Pour the sauce into ziplock bags. Be sure to label them with the contents and date before you fill them or you’ll be writing on squishy bags. I like to use quart bags and fill them with about two cups of sauce. It is easiest to place the bag in a straight-sided glass or glass measuring cup before filling. Place the filled bags flat on a plate or a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen solid, you can store the bags upright like books or stack them flat.

When ready to use, thaw the bags overnight in the fridge or float in a bowl of hot water for about half an hour. You can also cut the bag off the frozen sauce and thaw it right in your cooking pot. Use the sauce as the base of any soup or stew, or spice it up for pizza or pasta.

Sun-Dried Tomato Flatbread

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I first made sun-dried tomato pesto a couple of months ago, to stuff inside chicken, along with goat cheese. I made a sun-dried tomato flatbread a week or so later, to use up a little leftover pizza dough. We really liked it, but I never made it again – so many recipes and ideas, so little time.

I decided the flatbread was too good to be a one-time thing. This time I used a whole recipe of my favorite whole wheat pizza dough, pressing it into one pan instead of two to make a fairly thick layer of bread in the finished product. You could also use half the dough, if you want a thinner flatbread. If you don’t want to make your own dough, you could pick up your favorite prepared pizza dough, or use a pre-made crust, like Boboli.

I topped my dough with a quick smear of sun-dried tomato pesto. I used a fairly thick layer of pesto, but didn’t spread it evenly – leaving it thicker in spots for a punch of flavor. After a heavy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese it was ready for the oven.

The flatbread turned out exactly how I imagined– soft bread topped with sweet yet savory, full-bodied tomato pesto, finished off with nutty, salty cheese.

I let the flatbread cool and then sliced it – I was saving it to serve the next day. If you are eating yours right away, feel free to tear off warm chunks, without waiting for it to cool.

The flatbread, like all bread, keeps really well in the freezer, and I am looking forward to grabbing a few pieces whenever I want a little something different to accompany dinner. And the next time we have people over, I’ll have a ready-made appetizer, waiting for me in the freezer. A little cheese and some wine and we are set. Heck, I might not wait until we have company.

Download or print the recipe here.

Sun-Dried Tomato Flatbread
From The Cook’s Life
Makes one large flatbread

Adjust the tomato pesto and cheese amounts to suit your tastes.

1 recipe pizza dough, or your favorite dough*
All-purpose flour, for sprinkling
½-1 cup sun-dried tomato pesto, purchased or homemade
1-1½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese, preferably not the powdered stuff

*If you don’t want to make dough, you could use a pre-made crust like Boboli. Follow the package instructions for baking.

Prepare pizza dough and let it rise once.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 by 17 inch half sheet pan,  two 9 by 13 inch pans or two round pizza pans.

Press the dough into the pan(s), sprinkling the top with flour if dough sticks to your hands. Try to get the dough all the way to the edges of the pan, and try to keep it an even thickness all the way across.

Spread the dough with a layer of sun-dried tomato pesto. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake the flatbread for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough. The pesto will darken somewhat. If the pesto looks like it is burning, lay a large piece of aluminum foil over the top of the flatbread. Bake until the cheese is just starting to brown and the edges of the dough are golden brown.

Cool flatbread on a rack before cutting into strips or wedges. Or tear pieces off and eat them warm from the oven.

Leftovers keep for a day or two in an airtight container. Reheat briefly in the oven or a skillet before serving. Microwaving can make the bread chewy. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature and reheat briefly before serving.

Butterscotch Brownies

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Rich and I are usually on the same page when it comes to desserts. These brownies are one of the few exceptions. I think they are the epitome of a non-chocolate dessert – soft, with a slight crust on top, redolent of brown sugar and vanilla. Rich thinks they are kind of bland. I am a lover of all things brown sugar, which could influence my feelings just a bit. And the recipe is my mom’s, so they are a taste of childhood for me.

I am not the only one who likes these, though. I always come home with an empty pan when I take them to any party. I made them for a church function once and I didn’t think I was going to get out the door without giving out the recipe to a friend. She made me promise I would send her the recipe as soon as I got home – no waiting until the next day. They are that good.

I have no idea where my mother got the recipe. It is another one of those that was always in the recipe box, ready for us to whip up a batch. I like them with pecans occasionally, but usually I like to keep them plain. You can make them a little lower in fat by substituting yogurt for half of the oil, if you like. They will be a little cakier, though still just as tasty. You can also substitute ½ cup of white whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour to add a subtle nuttiness. Sometimes I do both variations, sometimes one or the other, and sometimes neither. They are always irresistible, at least to me. I am going to try them with butter sometime, to see if that would make me like them more. I am almost afraid to, since I always eat way too many when I make them as they are.

They are easy to mix up – requiring no more than a bowl and a spoon; and they use ingredients you probably already have on hand. You can have them baked and ready to eat in less than an hour. Mix some up soon and let me know if you are in my camp, or Rich’s.

Download or print recipe here.

Butterscotch Brownies
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 brownies

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (or ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup fat free, plain yogurt)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup white whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 pan.

Stir brown sugar and oil together until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, salt and pecans (if using). Mix thoroughly, batter will be very thick.

Spread in pan, making as smooth as possible.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.

Place pan on cooling rack. Let cool about 10 minutes and then cut into squares. Let cool in pan until room temperature.

These freeze well. Easy to double.