Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tomato Confit Sauce (GFCF, vegan)

Mmmm….

This is my favorite sauce.  Truly, I could just ladle it into my mouth with rude slurping sounds, but I usually restrain myself and put it ON something.  It works as a pasta sauce or a topping for steamed veggies, baked fish or chicken, or just about any meat.  Or tofu.  It would make tofu taste good, I’d bet, which is an admirable feat for any sauce!

You can serve it straight up, but since it is concentrated and PACKED with flavor, I will sometimes sauté chopped veggies on the side — zucchini or other summer squash, mushrooms, and red bell peppers are good choices — and stir it into the confit, with perhaps some canned (or fresh) diced tomatoes, to extend the sauce.  The result of this recipe is somewhere between a sauce and a condiment.  I think it would make a fabulous topping for bruschetta, and the other night, when I served this, my husband (who is much more keen on presentation than I am) said, “You could just make a schmear of this across a clean plate, and serve the fish on top of it.”  Good idea, especially as this highly-rated flounder recipe didn’t turn out quite as flavorful as I had imagined.

The ingredients are fairly flexible, depending on how much you have on hand, but here are the non-negotiables:  Tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, fresh herbs, olive oil, and sea salt.  What transforms these usual suspects of the culinary arts is ROASTING them.

A reader, who is also a Facebook fan, suggested — oh, about a year ago, I think — that I try making “confit” from my tomatoes.  I had not enough to make paste from, but too many to just use in salads and sandwiches.  She said she got the idea from Martha Stewart, who does indeed have a Tomato Confit recipe.  However, I have tinkered and perfected, and now what I do hardly resembles the original, so I think it is transformed into something NEW, and even better.  Although I might hesitate to label this as a true confit — that is, I really do not know how long this would last, as a preserve — it still bears its confit roots.

The best part is:  IT IS SO EASY, and it makes your home smell like a pizzeria, without the actual pizza.  🙂  Speaking of, this sauce doubles as pizza sauce that is to die for!

So, here we go!

Tomato Confit Sauce

click here for printable PDF

makes about 3½ cups

  • 1½ – 2 lbs of fresh, ripe, small tomatoes.  Halve and remove the area around the stem, but no need to seed, peel, or core
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh, finely-chopped herbs (I like rosemary and basil), divided
  • ½ large onion, cut in slivers (a regular brown or yellow onion would work best — something with some zip to it)
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, halved
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • a generous pinch raw sugar
  1. As you prepare the ingredients, preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Into a 11″ x 7.5″ (or similarly-sized) glass or glazed stoneware baking dish, drizzle about 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the fresh herbs.
  3. Place tomatoes, cut side down, shoulder to shoulder in the baking dish.  They can overlap somewhat, but it’s best if they are all skin-side up, cut-side-down.
  4. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the rest of the herbs, the slivered onion, and garlic.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, then sprinkle on the sea salt and very lightly sprinkle all with a pinch of sugar.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, in a 325°F oven for 45 minutes on a mid-to-low oven rack.  Then, remove the foil and continue to roast, uncovered, until everything is soft, and about half of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. It should look like this:
  7. Cool to room temperature (or until at least not-hot), and transfer all to a food processor or blender.  I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and pulse back and forth on chop and grind (I have to do it in two batches, as the bowl doesn’t hold the whole recipe).  Process until the sauce is mostly-smooth, but not uniformly so.  You want to be able to see the flecks and small bits.
  8. Taste, and decide if it needs more salt or even some pepper (I’m not a big fan of black pepper), then restrain yourself from eating all that concentrated deliciousness, right there.
  9. Enjoy!
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Jack the Bulldog

If this came in little-girl sizes, I’d likely get this for Audrey.

My six-year-old daughter Audrey just may end up a vegetarian.

I read Charlotte’s Web earlier this year to Audrey and three-year-old Fiala, and the story impacted Audrey so greatly that she can no longer eat pork.  She deeply empathizes with Wilbur.  At first, my husband Martin thought this ridiculous — actually, he still does — but I could see in her tears that she was abundantly sincere, and we’ve decided to let her eat according to her conscience.  Anyway, many people don’t eat pork for a wide variety of reasons.

Fiala, little stinker that she is, uses this as ammunition.  “Aaaaaauu-dreeey,” she sing-songs across the table with a chunk of meat on her fork, “I’m eating piiii-iiig!”

Audrey bursts into tears (yet again), and I correct Fi, admonishing her on the graces of kindness.

Audrey’s tender heart toward all creatures great and small has changed the way I evaluate books.  “How many moments in this story,” I search my memory, “will bring Audrey to tears?”

A week ago or so, I decided to read Little House on the Prairie to the girls.  It’s not in the curriculum we use, and I think its omission is a travesty.  The book is a must-read, in my estimation, for any American girl.  I discovered the series when I was eight, and read it non-stop, much of it secretly by night-light, until I was finished with all nine books within a week, an experience that left me exhausted but completely satisfied.  Shortly afterward — weeks, in fact — it was determined that I needed glasses.  I’ve read that eyestrain cannot cause one to become near-sighted, but my experience makes me suspicious.

Anyway.

The Ingalls family, in the early pages of the story, sets off in the 1870s to parts West, possessions in a covered wagon, their dog Jack, described as a beloved brindle bulldog, trotting tirelessly under the wagon.

Completely as a side-note, in the last 18 months, our family has dog-sat both an English Bulldog and a French Bulldog.  I cannot see either of those lazies trotting tirelessly anywhere.  Jack must have been the longer-legged American Bulldog, or maybe even a Boxer.  That’s just my own theory, though.  🙂

As the wagon fords a creek, suddenly the water violently swells and rises, sweeping even the mustang ponies off of their feet, threatening to upset the wagon.  It’s quite a tense moment.  When the family arrives on the other side of the creek, it is discovered that Jack is missing.  Laura — and Audrey right along with her — is completely distraught.

I sat there as the chapter ended, a sobbing six-year-old on my left, an unmoved three-year-old on my right.  Fi had sat contentedly through the whole thing, brushing a dolly’s hair, and was now happy that the reading was over and that she could get up and play.  I put out my hand to hold her back, my mind racing.  It had been a long time since I’d read the book, but I thought I remembered that Jack was discovered later to be completely fine and wholly alive.  I surreptitiously flipped through the next chapter, and found, to my relief, that Jack’s “resurrection” happened in just a few more pages.

“Audrey,” I asked her, “would you like to keep reading?”

“NNNOOOOOO!!!” she emphatically wailed.  “I never want to read that book again, EVER!!”  She started to bolt.  I caught her back.

“Little daughter,” I told her as gently as I could, “I know you’re very, very sad for Jack right now.  I don’t want to leave you sad.  Will you let me keep reading?  I think what happens in the next chapter will make you happy again.”

“Nothing can make me happy!” she continued, very dramatically.  “JACK’S DEAD!!  HE DROWNED!!  PA CAN’T FIND HIM!  HE WASHED AWAY IN THE RIVER AND HE’S DEAD FOREVER!!!”  In her tone and in her eyes, she was dripping with accusation:  How could I read such horror to her?  How could I even consider that she’d want to read about the death of a dog??  What was wrong with me???

I looked over again at Fiala, and marveled that there can be such different personalities in one family.  Fi appeared to really not give a hoot what had happened to Jack.  Those two little girls are opposites in nearly every way, the same as my oldest two boys, Ethan and Grant are.  Grant is the anti-Ethan, and Fiala is the anti-Audrey.

In spite of both girls’ wishes, I convinced both of them that they’d be best off, listening to another chapter.  They settled in again, Fi back to her dolly-brushing, and Audrey with a grumph and a pout, tears still streaming down her cheeks.  I resumed reading.

It’s also funny, what a blank slate children are.  What is cliché and so very transparent to a long-time book reader like myself came as an absolute shock to Audrey:  The “wolf” who threatened the Ingalls’ camp that night was not a wolf at all, but an absolutely worn out, mud-crusted bulldog named Jack.

Audrey squealed with relief and joyous shock, literally jumping up and down at Jack’s resurrection.

Crisis cut short, tender feelings soothed, normal life and hope in good books and a mother’s heart restored.

I shared a slightly abbreviated version of this story with my friend Kathy on Monday, figuring that, as an intense co-animal-lover, she’d appreciate Audrey’s tender, powerful feelings toward Jack.

Instead, she cocked her head and looked at me.  “Is that what God does with us?” she mused.  “There might be something in that.”

Thrown for a bit of a loop, I think I stood there with my jaw slack.

We had just finished an epic conversation on what God does with us, when things are pending, unfinished, when the results are not easily seen, when the light at the end of the tunnel is a pinprick point, too far to fathom, and we are battling the fear that our heart’s desires might be low on God’s priority list…

“Is that what God does with us?” she posited again.  “Read the next chapter in our lives just a little sooner, out of mercy for our tears?”

I thought of my interaction with Audrey, and could clearly see the parallel.  I had felt it important to not just flat-out tell Audrey, “Jack lives.”  In those moments when Audrey was dissolving in a puddle of emotion, I made the decision that it was important for her character, and just for the appreciation of tension in literature, and to experience the coming joy, to not reveal the outcome in advance.  Yet, I didn’t want to abandon her to her heartsick, out-of-control self.

She was so sincerely broken for Jack’s death, yet I knew that Jack didn’t actually die!  I tried to soothe her, knowing things would truly be better — and very shortly! — and was almost unable to do so, because Audrey was almost violently upset at both the book, and at me.

I know that not every sad story has such a joyous outcome.

Still, though, is that what God does with us?

I’d never considered it before.

I’m learning to trust that He has my heart in His hands, my tender, short-sighted, and often mistakenly-distraught heart.

I have 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence in the God of Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

My NEEDS.

I know He’ll supply my NEEDS.

I have a 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence that He’ll supply all of my NEEDS.

But my wants?  The deep desires of my heart?  The things that I long for, that stir the deepest part of me?  The things that speak peace and beauty to my soul, and satisfy my emotions??

I’m much less confident of that.

I’m very aware that, very often, He’s much more concerned with building my character, molding me into the person of Jesus Christ, than He is with answering every whim of a prayer, every emotion-sotted plea.

Trusting my Father God with my heart is much more challenging than trusting Him with my needs.

Yet, does He sit with me on the little sofa in the quiet room, reading the story of my life to me, tenderly calming me by — on occasion — compelling me to sit still just a while longer and listen, because He knows that the outcome, which currently looks so bleak, will actually be filled with JOY, the kind of joy where I squeal and jump up and down with elation and relief and unabashed surprise???

Perhaps He does.

I think He does.

I think I may be experiencing a bit of that, right now.

My heart can scarcely believe it, but I’m picturing Him, right now, turning those pages, gentle voice and all-knowing mind drawing me back from the brink, longing to return to me the hope that I have almost abandoned.

Harder, indeed, to believe that, than believe that He’ll meet my needs.

But, thanks to Jack the bulldog, and an insightful friend, I’ll listen more carefully — both now and in the future — for my God to scan those pages ahead, and do more than console me, but reveal the truth that was hidden, a truth that holds satisfaction, and which does meet the desires of my heart, the heart He created.

What one writes about things unshareable

I can’t write about anything truly meaningful to me, of late.

No, I don’t have writer’s block.

There was a blog I used to regularly read, now defunct, but at one point, the writer said, “You know, I could be a lot funnier on here if no one I knew read this blog.”  I’m not often shooting for comic effect, but I have often remembered her words and completely understand her sentiment.

Given my druthers, I’d be completely an open book.  I’m probably much too transparent, and don’t often see the potential fallout from unwisely revealing the secrets of my heart.  However, so much of my life is tied into others’, and I need — for their sake — to be careful what I tell of their interaction with me.

That causes a mighty internal dilemma.

I had a wonderful 2.5 hour lunch with my dear friend Kathy yesterday.  Among many other topics of conversation, we spoke about writing.  She mentioned that she enjoys when I write about the struggle, the unfinished bits of life.  I enjoy that, too:  writing about the things that are pending, unresolved.  I can’t find it in myself to write about the (non-existent) shiny, perfect, tidily-wrapped events in my life.  I also don’t find any satisfaction in reading about The Pristine Life in others’ blogs, which means I don’t enjoy about 95% of the other “mom blogs” out there, because most women seem to post only the best pictures (in word and photo) of their lives.  I’m not like that.  I don’t envy the perfect lives of others;  if they truly exist, more power to them!  Or, more sparkles and smiles to them…

Does that sound bitter?

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I’m not bitter.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

I do enjoy when something resolves wonderfully that was hard-won, and I’m likely to write about that, as well.

But most often, it’s the path to resolution that I find most intriguing.  I’m much more compelled to write about that.

I consider:  If a blog-reader saw me in real life, would she say, “Wow.  She’s so much prettier in her pictures.”  That’s why you’ll never see a Glamour Shot pic of me on here, make-up perfect, perfectly coiffed hair gently blowing in the breeze, some gorgeous and well-accessorized outfit on my frame…

I consider:  If a blog-reader sat down to dinner with our family, would they be aghast that we have trouble keeping Audrey head-up and feet-down, and keeping Grant from trying to treat everyone simply as ears for an apparent stand-up monologue?  That’s why I don’t blog about only The Good Parts of Mothering.

I like to keep it real.  Really, truly real.

But on the other hand, I do dearly want to be an encouragement, not a downer.  I want to impart true hope, and long for my words to be pulsing with true life.

It can be a tough balance, at times.

Still, it’s one for which I strive, and that makes it all the more difficult for me to write, when the things that are deep in my heart, about which I crave to write, are unshareable.  They’re just not mine to divulge, because they concern the lives of others, too, and blogging about it would dishonor them.

I semi-recently tried to write about a struggle involving another person, and thought I was vague enough to protect everyone involved.  I wasn’t.  It backfired, big time.  There was an explosion of hurt feelings, and oh! that was a difficult, bitter pill to swallow.

I am so often exhorting my six-year-old whirlwind, Audrey, “Be careful!  Be gentle!” but a huge part of me sympathizes with her exuberant bungling of pretty much everything, because I am that little girl, too.

Ah!  This post has not entirely gone in the direction in which I intended.  I was going to write about Jack the bulldog from Little House on the Prairie.

Next time, perhaps.

EDITED TO ADD:

Thought I’d post a non-Glamour Shot. Taken today. Barefoot, jeans, and a baseball tee. No make-up. Glasses. Coffee in hand. Current novel on the untidy counter behind me. The only thing not completely realistic is that I showered this morning, which doesn’t happen every day, so I might be a little cleaner than usual. 🙂

Integrity vs. Loyalty

Sometimes, I worry that my children won’t learn enough.  Or, rather, that, as homeschooled children, they won’t learn enough of the “right” things.

Of biggest concern is my high schooler, Ethan.  He’s 14, and a freshman.  He’s currently doing Sonlight’s Core 200, which is actually SL’s sophomore year program.*  Since the bulk of the history portion of this program centers on Christian church history and apologetics, I’m unsure if I can actually count it as a history credit.  In addition to church history, he’s also reading some serious lit:  Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, and Robinson Crusoe are all books he’s read this year.  Still, I sometimes wonder if we’re on the right track for him.

Then, some days, like today, I’m certain that — no matter if it is the “right” thing or not — there is SUCH VALUE in homeschooling.  We discuss topics that, in all likelihood, never reach the ears of a typically-schooled child.

The curriculum assigns readings from an anthology of poetry.  I have long held that poets are at least as interesting as their writings, and we’d be remiss to not become acquainted with each poet from the book.  This extra discussion makes the “poetry” section of his day take extra-long.  I don’t feel badly about this, but we’re just now finishing out week 16 of the poetry assignments, while the rest of his work is in week 30.

Anyway.

James Henry Leigh Hunt 1784-1859

Today had us read one of James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poems, Abou Ben Adhem.  The poem is all right;  not fabulous in my opinion.  The basic premise of it is that even if you don’t excel at loving God, it’s all right;  as long as you love others splendidly, God will bless (and ostensibly love) you the more for it.  That warrants discussion in itself.  However, we didn’t much discuss that.  What we did discuss was the nature of balancing integrity with loyalty.  Too much loyalty without integrity reaps a harvest of brown-nosing and spin-doctoring, sweeping sin issues under the rug.  Leigh Hunt, though, seems to have erred too much on the other side:  integrity over loyalty, which is rather ironic, given the topic of Abou Ben Adhem.  In other words, he was fond of speaking the truth, but not in love, not out of necessity, and often biting the hand that had fed and befriended him, publishing scathing critiques of his contemporaries’ works, and writing exposés of famous people of his day (leading, at one point, to a two-year jail sentence, for criticizing the Prince Regent)…  Unsurprisingly, he (and his wife and his ten children) frequently found themselves friendless and penniless…

Ideally, one would have family, friends, employers, et al, to whom one could be loyal, yet still retain one’s integrity.

I presented to Ethan the best example of both loyalty perfectly balanced with integrity that I know:  his father.  In our itinerant society, my husband has remained with the same employer for more than 20 years.  An integral part of our church (and on staff at said church) for nearly 23 years.  Married for 17+ years.  Each of those take commitment and loyalty.  Yet, he is also integrous to the nth degree, sometimes exasperatingly so, as he seeks to follow both the letter and the spirit of a law.  I was particularly pleased to show Ethan that one can excel at both integrity and loyalty.

It was definitely one of those learning experiences that I know Ethan wouldn’t have had elsewhere, and it made the whole day feel worthwhile.

—————-

*It’s not that Ethan is remarkably advanced;  it’s that we have already so extensively covered American History, which SL slates for freshmen, that I wanted him to learn something different.

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