Green Eats: Spring tomatoes

The roasted plum variety brings spring to the dinner table, especially when paired with fresh green garlic.

Tomatoes 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Tomatoes 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Many of us are so busy these days trying to figure out what to do with all the hametz left in our pantries, that we might just miss the wonderful assortment of spring vegetables out there in the markets, with which we can plan our Pessah meals. It’s time for my annual reminder that this is the (only) time of the year to take advantage of green garlic season, during which you can ask your greengrocer, or better yet a vegetable dealer in one of the open markets, where you can select the freshest bulbs to make you a garlic braid that will last for months. Look for the largest bulbs with the “fleshiest” garlic cloves you can find, and long green healthy-looking stalks. Remember to hang it out of direct sunlight in an airy place to dry.
There’s a fresh new crop of plum tomatoes in the markets now, and I used them just a few days ago to make my talented friend Chef Hanoch Bar- Shalom’s roasted tomatoes. Utterly simple to prepare, they both look and taste divine, and add a colorful touch to any holiday table. You can use some of your newly acquired fresh garlic with them too. Recipe follows.
I also recently found a small box of purple string beans at my local Shufersal branch. Although they are extravagantly expensive, I know that their deep purple color is evidence of powerful anti-oxidants, and since I was looking for special items for a birthday dinner, they fit the bill. The very best way to use them is to simply cut them on the diagonal into 2 cm pieces, and add them raw to mixed green salads. Don’t boil them – they’ll lose their fabulous deep purple and turn green.
I’m off to Brazil for Pessah, but I still feel incumbent upon me to give you a few ideas for getting rid of that last hametz in your cupboards, like: Use bread crumbs to make eggplant schnitzel, oatmeal to make apple crisp, leftover halla to make bread pudding and croutons for soups and salads, pasta to make baked casseroles that your kids can eat as a snack. You can even use that last bottle of beer, and the last of the flour to make Easy Beer Bread with Figs.
I’m including my recipe. Happy Pessah!
P.S. If you’re having overseas guests during Pessah, you might want to take advantage of Jerusalem Post writer Sybil Kaplan’s Shuk Walks of Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem, in English, one hour (stay to shop on your own afterwards), April 20, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call (02) 671-5135 to register. Map provided.
Makes 4-6 servings
Use large ripe plum tomatoes. In Hebrew they are called agvaniot tamar.
✔ 10 large plum tomatoes, halved ✔ 4 sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary or za’atar ✔ 3⁄4 cup olive oil ✔ Coarse salt and coarsely ground black pepper ✔ 6 garlic cloves, crushed
Preheat the oven to 200º. Arrange the tomato halves (cut side up) and thyme sprigs in a large Pyrex glass baking pan, and pour over the olive oil. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper and roast for 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and golden.
Brush the tops of the tomatoes with the garlic and roast an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 1 small loaf
I make this recipe with spelt flour, but you can use a combination of whole wheat and white flours instead. If you use all white flour, you will need an additional quarter to a half cup. Best eaten within a day or two. Toasted and spread with mustard or mayo, it’s a delicious sandwich bread.
✔ 31⁄4 cups whole spelt flour
✔ 1 Tbsp. baking powder
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 2 Tbsp. molasses
✔ 11⁄2 cups of beer
✔ 6 dried figs, finely chopped
✔ Flour or oatmeal for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 180º. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease. (Can also be made in a small loaf pan).
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, mix molasses and beer. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and mix with a wooden spoon, until the batter becomes the consistency of a dough. Stir in the chopped figs and mix well. Sprinkle in a little flour as necessary.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gently a few times until no longer sticky. Add any additional flour slowly – too much and the bread will be hard and dry. Pat into a rectangle shape and fold one side over other. Place the “package” with the seam side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes, till golden brown. Turn out onto a rack and let cool.