Nom: Savory-Sweet Tomato Jam Jar

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me.

I don’t like raw tomatoes.

Seriously. Can’t eat ’em. I’ve tried tons of times, but I just can’t get past the texture and the taste.

But cook them up in a sauce, give me a bowl of salsa and chips, add them to a deliciously sweet and sticky jam and I’ll eat that up. Twice.

I first discovered the holiness that is tomato jam at Nordstrom’s Sixth and Pine restaurant. It was nestled delicately into a glass mason jar along with pesto and ricotta… hence the name tomato jam jar. Seriously, horns will play and angels will descend from the high heavens when you taste this recipe. It is that good. I promise you will want to make it for every birthday, holiday, payday and all the other days in between.

Plus, it is a super easy and elegant appetizer that you can impress all your foodie friends with. They will think you slaved over a hot pot and a cutting board all week.

There is no better way to use all of those home-grown tomatoes from your garden that you have right now than to make tomato jam. You can jar it and feast on your crop all winter long (how Home on the Range is that?).

Now don’t get nervous but there are a few moving parts to this recipe. You’ll need to make the jam first, which is the most time consuming part. The rest is cake!

Here is what you’ll need:

Tomato Jam Jar Ingredients:

for the jam

  • 1 ½ pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • the juice of one lime

for the crostini

  • one loaf crusty Italian bread
  • 1/2 a stick of butter

other ingredients: 

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • store bought or homemade basil pesto

Here is what to do, step by step (with pictures!)

STEP ONE: Preheat your oven to 350. Core your tomatoes. I like to use a teaspoon to do this. Another great tip is to take the produce bag your tomatoes came in and insert it into a plastic mixing bowl. Core each tomato over the bag and then just toss when you are done for easy clean up. Genius.

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When you have cored each tomato they should look something like this…

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STEP TWO: Rough chop your tomatoes and place (or throw… no judgement here) into a pot.

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STEP THREE: Add all your other ingredients to the pot and mix. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour or until your tomatoes begin to look glossy and the sauce thickens.

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STEP FOUR: Once your tomatoes have taken on a jam-like consistency you need to make sure they are cooled before plating. Take a tray (a baking sheet will do) and line it with parchment paper. Spread your jam in a thin layer and refrigerate until cool.

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STEP FIVE: Your guests (or just you— again, no judgement here) will need to spread the ricotta-basil-jam mixture on something equally as delicious, so let’s make some crostini. Cut a loaf of crusty Italian bread into thin slices and place on a baking sheet. This step is optional. Bagged crostini from the bakery or deli at your grocery store would be just a good!

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STEP SIX: Melt a half of stick of butter and brush onto your slices of bread.

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Bake the bread in a 350 degree over for 12 minutes. It’s done when the edges are browned, like this…

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STEP SEVEN: Mix one cup of ricotta cheese with a teaspoon of sugar and “whip” with your spoon until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Now layer your ricotta on the bottom of a glass jar or small glass bowl like this one. Add a layer of basil pesto (you can make your own or you can pick up pre-made pesto from the grocery store. I used this one). Lastly, add a layer of your tomato jam! It should look something like this…

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Serve with your crostini and watch your friends go crazy over this insanely delectable combination of flavors. You can also transform this into a sweet treat by replacing the pesto with a layer of almonds and the tomato jam with peach or strawberry jam. If you wanted to try your hand at a homemade fruit-based jam this is a great recipe.

Also, how gorgeous would this look on your holiday table?! It is never too early to start planning!

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Mangia! 

Thanksgiving in July

Thanks to the nature of the fashion industry I am always a season or two ahead. As everyone is enjoying the summer sun this week, I am already focused on buying fall clothes for my store and (starting in August) prom dresses for the spring of 2015!

It’s not my fault that all I can think about right now is fall- especially when I keep hearing the words “Christmas in July” being thrown around this month. That means we are SO close to boots, sweaters and PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!

Since I am dreaming of pumpkin muffins and lattes, I thought I could satisfy my cravings by making a feast of comfort food that incorporated one of my favorite fall dishes.

I have a soft spot for sweet potato casserole– you know, the kind with all that gooey brown sugar and marshmallows? Sure, you could pick up a whole batch of this delicious piece of heaven at Boston Market on your way home, but this homemade version is just so much better! I love this recipe from Rebecca Lang’s Around the Southern Table. In fact, I love her whole book! Download it now or pick it up at your local bookstore and you will instantly see why it will become a go-to in your kitchen.

The one thing that I changed about Lang’s version of sweet potato casserole was the topping. She uses crushed gingersnaps to create a crumbled topping but Chris doesn’t care for them. Instead I made my own crumble (recipe below). It is a generic recipe that I think everyone should know how to make. You can use this topping for tons of things- cobblers, crumb cake, crust-less apple pie. The best part is that it is easy to make and even tastier to eat!

Not sure what else to serve with your sweet potato casserole when it’s not November? I made fried chicken and herbed biscuits to go along with it! All recipes were from Lang’s book.

Stephanie’s Simple Crumb Topping:

1 stick of butter (softened- NOT melted!)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Method:

Mix together flour, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon so that your mixture is a light brown color. You should not see any white spots. Add your butter by mixing it into your dry mixture with your hands. You should eventually see the mixture turn into what looks like crumbs or crumbles. Use this topping for pies, cakes and cobbles . Simply top your dish with it prior to baking.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup oats or honey granola for more texture.

Make your casserole ahead of time! Prepare the base and then make your topping just before you are ready to bake.

Make your casserole ahead of time! Prepare the base and then make your topping just before you are ready to bake.

PS: My casserole dish in the photo above is Temp-Tations from QVC. The whole line consists of stoneware pieces that go in the oven, microwave, dishwasher and are pretty enough to serve from. This color combination was a spring limited edition but this set is the same one I have, just different color options.

Lemon Glazed Biscotti with Cannoli Cream

Fresh from the oven and ready to glaze! These biscotti are slightly browned at the edges but are still chewy!

Fresh from the oven and ready to glaze! These biscotti are slightly browned at the edges but are still chewy!

Looking for an easy dessert that travels well and will impress your family and friends? These lemon glazed biscotti are perfect! They are best served fresh-from-the oven so that they are warm and chewy, not hard and crunchy like typical biscotti. My husband’s recipe for cannoli cream is a great compliment to these cookies.

The warm cookie against the cool and creamy cannoli filling tastes like heaven in your mouth. If you serve this at your next party your guests will think you slaved over a hot stove and a KitchenAid all day but the truth is this dessert is super easy to make! Here’s the recipe and some tips from me to help you along!

Lemon Glazed Cookies

For the cookies:

½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
½ cup white sugar
2 whole eggs
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted silvered almonds

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk

***Cannoli cream recipe is below**

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare a baking sheet in your favorite way. I like to use cooking spray but you could line with parchment paper or use butter.

As with most cookie recipes start out by mixing dry and wet ingredients separately. Cream your butter and sugar with a hand mixer until it is light and fluffy. If you under-beat these two ingredients your cookies will be grainy- do not skip or skimp on this step! Add your eggs, one at a time. Then add the lemon zest and vanilla. Set this aside and take out a new bowl to prepare your dry ingredients.

Sift your flour, baking power and salt together. Slowly add this mixture to your wet ingredients (about one cup at a time, stopping to mix it in entirely before adding another cup). Mix in almonds (don’t forget to toast them before!). Your dough will be slightly sticky- that’s OK! Your cookies will still come out just fine!

Lay your dough out on a floured surface and knead until the dough holds its form. Then separate the dough into two portions. Form two logs on your baking sheet. Bake for 25 minuets (don’t forget to set a timer- this is important).

After 25 minuets of baking it’s time to actually make your dough into cookies! Take your logs out of the oven and lower the temperature to 325. Let the logs cool slightly on a cutting board for about 5-10 minuets. Take a sharp chef’s knife and cut your log into strips, creating your cookies. This recipe makes a small batch (NOTE: double this recipe if you are feeding a crowd!) so I like to cut mine on the thinner side. There is no right or wrong way to cut them.

Place your cookies back on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minuets on each side, for a total of 10 minuets. Let them cool slightly (so they are not burning hot but still warm). Prepare your glaze by mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl. It should be thick but still look and pour like a liquid. Glaze each cookie on wax paper and let dry.

Transfer to a tray and serve with cannoli cream (see below).

 

Cannoli Cream

3/4 of a large container of ricotta cheese- do not use part skim! (approx. 32 ounces)

2 small containers of mascarpone cheese (approx. 16 ounces) *NOTE: You can find this Italian cream cheese in most supermarkets. If all else fails try an Italian specialty shop- they are sure to have it.

1/2 box of powdered sugar (approx. 2 cups)

1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons vanilla

1 cup water

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup white sugar

Method:

The best part about this recipe is that most of the measurements are either the whole or almost the whole container, so you can just throw it into your stand mixer without measuring anything out! Start off by mixing your ricotta and mascarpone cheese together. Add vanilla, then add the powdered sugar. Your mixture will be sweet, but not sweet enough yet!

We will need to thicken and sweeten the cheese. In a bowl mix together your water, cornstarch and white sugar. Add to the cheese mixture. Everything should begin to thicken. Here is where you will need to exercise a little cooking creative freedom… If you feel like your cream is still too loose (it should be stiff enough to scoop up but creamy enough to spread as  you would a frosting) add another tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with three tablespoons of water. If you feel like it is not sweet enough do the same with your white sugar and water (in the same proportions). Do this until your mixture looks creamy enough and is sweet to your liking.

Let the mixture chill for at least a half hour before serving. I like to let it sit overnight, but if you are making it the same day as your event a half hour will do.

Sit back and enjoy as the endless compliments come in!!