June 26, 2020
“Is that salsa?” one of my cooks asked as I pulled a steaming tray of blistered tomatoes out of the oven. It could be, but that was not what I was going for.
I’ve always been fascinated by how cultures treat different ingredients — and many times as I watched someone from our kitchen crew make salsa for a family meal, I’ve wanted to grab the charred tomatoes and put them on rice.
So here is a recipe inspired by a salsa that leans toward wanting to be a masala. It will keep in the refrigerator for many days and taste good warm or cold. Find the best tomatoes and olive oil you can, and enjoy it on toast or over rice or pasta. Top if off with fresh herbs for a fragrant finish.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
2 pounds okra
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sea salt, divided
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
5 pounds heirloom tomatoes
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Slice the okra into tiny wheels (remove tops) and toss with fennel seeds, one teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks; if small, leave them whole and spread them in a single layer onto a large baking sheet. Spread the garlic over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with remaining salt, cumin seeds, and black pepper.
Then drizzle half the remaining olive oil over the tomatoes, spreading evenly. Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
If the tomatoes appear to be charred and soft, turn them over. If not, let them cook for another 10 minutes.
Spread the okra on top of the tomatoes and place the pan back in the oven to cook for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the okra is cooked through but still bright green.
Turn the heat off and let the masala rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the tomatoes before serving.
The higher quality the tomatoes, the better they will hold up and less liquid they will put out.
To make a spicy version, add 2 teaspoons of chili powder when adding the cumin.
Put this mixture in a jar and preserve it for winter.
December 02, 2022