Potatoes and leeks in tomato broth
My kids are the most bright and beautiful. Just like everybody else’s kids. Do I tell them they’re bright and beautiful? Of course I do! Every time they say something funny or make something clever, every time they act wisely or kindly. Every time I feel it, which is all the time. Am I worried that I’m going to turn them into entitled little narcissists? Honestly, I’m not. The world will knock them down. People can be so cruel, and they’re just teetering on the precipice of the valley of nauseating self-doubt and insecurity that is the teen years. The world will knock them down, and they’ll be strong enough to get back up again.
There’s some article making the rounds advising that you shouldn’t tell your child they’re special. Of course your child is special! Everybody’s child is special, and we’re all somebody’s child! We’re all special in the way that we’re all unique, that is, equally so. You can’t be more unique or the most unique, it doesn’t make sense–the laws of grammar and nature don’t allow it. So it is with specialness. But my children are also special to me, each of them, in a way that nobody else in the world is. I feel that this is something I’ve earned. It’s the gift that comes along with all the worry and trouble and sleepless nights. Do I tell them this? Not in so many words, I suppose. “Special” is such a strange word, so overused and undervalued, with such shifting meanings. But I hope that they understand it, in the way children understand a million things that we don’t say to them in so many words.
So I will praise my children, I want them to feel good about the things they do well, I want them to feel brave about trying things they might not do well. I want them to feel good about themselves. Insecurity is a dangerous quality, in my experience, and can cause people to behave in petty or destructive ways. When you feel bad about yourself it’s tempting to make other people feel bad about themselves, too. The big hope, of course, is that they’ll love themselves, and they’ll love everybody else, too. Which is where empathy and respect enter the equation. You teach them about empathy and respect by the way you treat them as though they’re special, and you treat each other that way, and the dog, and your neighbors, and everybody that you meet. Praise your children! Tell them that they’re smart and funny and beautiful. Respect them, show them love any way you can. Tell them that they’re special. To you, and in the world. It will make them stronger. And while you’re at it, praise someone else’s children as well, praise everybody’s children.
Roasted tomato and pine nut sauce
These two dishes go together! Partly because you use the broth from one to cook together. Partly because they’re both a tribute to late summer produce. We have (almost) more tomatoes than we know what to do with. And from our lovely farm we’ve got heaps of tiny potatoes, beautiful leeks and red and yellow peppers. If they grow together, they taste good together, right? I like to make oven roasted tomato sauces because it’s so easy to pick the peels out when they’re done cooking, rather than do that whole boiling and peeling thing before you make the sauce. But if you use all the juices from the tomatoes in the sauce it turns out quite thin. I decided to save the juiciness to baste some tiny potatoes and some braised leeks–simple, with only lemon thyme, white wine, and a lot of salt and pepper. The tomato sauce, then is much thicker, and it’s thickened still with toasted bread and nuts. Almost like a romesco sauce, but with pine nuts instead of hazelnuts, and far more tomatoes than peppers. You can use whatever tomatoes you happen to have in abundance at the moment. I used a mix of red, yellow, black. It’s nice spread on bread or roasted eggplant. It would make a nice sauce for pizza. Or you could just dip things in it. Whatever you like!
8 – 12 tomatoes, any size or color
1 plump clove garlic (or two smaller) skins on but pierced or sliced
small handful of fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, what you like)
2 T + 1 T olive oil
1 t raw sugar (or brown sugar)
1 roasted red pepper, cleaned and trimmed (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 thin slice baguette or sourdough bread
1 t smoked paprika
small handful fresh basil, chopped
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the top middle off of each tomato. If they’re very seedy, give them a squeeze to get rid of some of the seeds. If they’re very large cut them in half. Place them upside down or cut side down in a roasting pan just big enough to hold them all side by side, squeezed together. Scatter the herbs over, press the garlic in between a few tomatoes. Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, till their skins are puckered and starting to blacken. There should be quite a lot of broth in the pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the tomatoes. You can add a little more or less if the tomatoes are very sweet or very tart. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the tomatoes. Pick off the skins of the tomatoes, giving them a little squeeze to get all the flesh out. Discard the skins. Peel the garlic.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bread and nuts, and cook until they start to brown and smell toasty. Stir the nuts and turn the bread from time to time.
In a food processor, whiz the nuts, bread and garlic until coarse and crumbly. Using a slotted spoon, add the tomatoes, letting them drain into the roasting pan as you go. Add the butter, balsamic, paprika and basil. Whiz until you have a thick, brick-colored sauce. Season well and serve.
1 pound tiny potatoes, cleaned and trimmed (or larger potatoes cleaned and cut into 1-inch chunks)
1 T butter
1 leek, trimmed and cleaned
2 t fresh lemon thyme
dash white wine
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
Boil the potatoes in salted water until you can pierce them with a knife but they’re still quite firm. Drain well.
Slice the leek in half lengthwise and then into eigth-inch slices. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and thyme and stir and fry until the leeks start to brown and the pan dries out. Add a slug of wine and a dash of water, and continue to cook until the leeks are fairly tender, maybe five more minutes.
Put the potatoes into a high sided dish that holds them comfortably with an inch or so to spare on top. Cover with the leeks. Pour the tomato juices over the potatoes until they come about 1/2 inch over the top of them. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for maybe ten more minutes. Eat with some nice crusty bread to mop up the sauciness.