Many urban gardeners have been reaping the fruits – and vegetables – of their labour all summer. Home gardening is a great skill that many people acquire through trial and error, unless they are lucky enough to be taught by an expert.
The late Jack Chisvin was remembered in The CJN this week for the gardening skills he imparted to others. He worked with the people from Shoresh, a grassroots Jewish environmental organization, to help them make a sparse campus garden bloom with herbs and vegetables.
While Chisvin was involved in a number of Shoresh projects, his specialty was tomatoes. In his honour, this week’s Shabbat Table features tomato-based recipes.
The Millennial Spotlight this week will be on Seth Buchman, 31, a long-time food operations manager for Iron Chef and restaurateur Susur Lee. Buchman is a co-owner of the new What a Bagel restaurant that opened in St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto.
There’s nothing like eating a home-grown tomato fresh off the vine. Chisvin’s daughter, Karen, said the family enjoyed her father’s garden-grown tomatoes for many years, but they did not have any special recipes. She said they mainly ate the freshly picked tomatoes with some olive oil and seasonings.
I turned to food maven Norene Gilletz for some ideas on ways to use fresh tomatoes. She suggested gazpacho, a cold soup made of raw tomatoes and vegetables that are blended together, and a penne dish topped with roasted Italian plum tomatoes. Both recipes come from Gilletz’s classic culinary tome, The New Food Processor Bible.
Gazpacho is a classic of Spanish dish that originated in the southern region of the country. The soup is widely eaten in Spain and Portugal, particularly during the hot summer months.
Penne With Roasted Tomatoes And Garlic, Au Gratin
- 24 Italian plum tomatoes
- 10-12 cloves garlic
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh basil, packed, or 10 ml (2 tsp) dried basil
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pkg (500 g) penne (spiral pasta can be substituted)
- 250 g (2 cups) low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
Core the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Arrange them cut-side up in a deep non-stick baking pan. Set them aside. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
In a food processor fit with a steel blade, process the garlic and basil until they are minced, about 10-12 seconds. Add the olive oil and process briefly to mix with the garlic and basil. Spread the mixture with a rubber spatula over the cut tomatoes. Roast them uncovered in the preheated oven for about 1½ hour,s or until the tomatoes are tender and brown around the edges.
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the pasta water. Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot.
Place the roasted tomato halves and the pan juices in the food processor, using the steel blade attachment. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and pan juices, using several quick on and off pulses.
Add the tomato-basil mixture to the pasta in the pot. Mix well. Add the reserved pasta water and mix well.
Spray a 2.25-l (2-quart) casserole bowl. Add the pasta mixture to the casserole. Top with shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden. Makes 6 servings.
- 1 English cucumber (do not peel)
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded
- 1 medium onion
- 6 ripe, firm tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- juice of half a lemon, or 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil, or canola oil
- 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) chili powder
- 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) dried basil
- 10 ml (2 tsp) salt, or to taste
- 1 540 ml can tomato juice, salt-free or regular
Cut cucumber, green peppers, onion and tomatoes in 2.5-cm (1-inch) chunks. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the cucumber until it is finely chopped, 4 or 5 quick on and off pulses. Transfer the cut cucumber to a large bowl. Repeat the same process one vegetable at a time, with the green pepper, onion and tomatoes, adding each in turn to the mixing bowl.
Drop the garlic through the feed tube while the machine is running and process it until it is minced. Add the lemon juice, oil, chili powder, basil, salt and half of the tomato juice. Process until smooth.
Transfer to the bowl with the chopped vegetables and add the remaining tomato juice. Adjust seasoning to taste. Chill for several hours to blend flavours.
Serve with additional chopped vegetables, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.
Millennial Spotlight: Seth Buchman
This week, the new What a Bagel on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto opened, in what was a Jewish neighbourhood from the mid-1940s until about the late ’60s. Co-owner Seth Buchman’s culinary background is in restaurant management and operations.
After completing an undergraduate degree from McGill University, he thought he’d be attending to law school. But he ended working for Susur Lee, one of Canada’s most celebrated chefs.
“I was his director of operations before I opened up this location. He’s my professional mentor,” said Buchman. “He taught me that hard work and dedication is necessary for a successful restaurant business.”
About the time he was looking for a job after graduating, Buchman happened to dine at Lee’s restaurant. “It was the best experience I ever had,” he said. I went to him and I said, ‘I have no experience. I’m a smart guy who knows how to learn and work.’ I was hired as a cutlery polisher. Then I became a food runner, the person who takes the food to the table. Susur only promotes from within. He trained me to serve.”
Buchman worked his way up to general manager. However, his dream was to open up his own restaurant. And while Buchman’s skills are on the operations side of the business, he said he is passionate about food and sourcing local ingredients.
Environmental considerations, like using paper straws instead of plastic ones, are important to him, even though he said “they’re 14 times more expensive.”
Construction of the restaurant was also a challenge because his partners chose to do a wood-plank ceiling. “The wood makes the place warm and comfortable and relaxing,” he said. “We tried to create a home-like vibe. The booths have a cottagey feel.”
He explained that the bakery is the franchised part of the operation, while the restaurant was envisioned by his partners. They offer an extensive menu that includes a large selection of salads, sandwiches and poached egg dishes.
Buchman said that he does not spend much time in the kitchen at home. His food prep expertise is in barbecuing and his specialty is chicken wings. “I’m really proud of my barbecue skills. I love to host. I love to cook for everybody,” he said. “These wings are a very good finger food. Before you sit down for dinner everybody congregates over wings in the kitchen.”
Buchman said the key to crispy chicken wings is to grill them first without the barbecue sauce and apply the sauce once the wings are done.
Buchman’s Barbecue Chicken Wings
- 30 chicken wings (about 2.25-2.75 kg)
- 250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
- 10 ml (2 tsp) garlic powder
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ground rosemary
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 350 ml (1½ cups) barbecue sauce
Wash the chicken wings and pat them dry. Toss the wings in olives oil, coating them well. Sprinkle them with the garlic powder, rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the barbecue to medium. Place the seasoned wings on the grill and cook them for 12 minutes. Turn them over and cook the other side.
Remove the wings from the grill. Turn the barbecue down to low. Place the wings back on the grill and brush them with the barbecue sauce. Let them cook 30-40 seconds. Flip them over. Brush the second side with barbecue sauce. Grill the for another 30-40 seconds.
Place the wings on a serving platter and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.