Friday, September 9, 2011
Smoked Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Sausage Pasta
The other day I was going through my cabinets when I came across a stove top smoker, still in the box. Oops. I'd bought it over two years ago never used it. I happened to have Roma tomatoes on hand and the next thing I knew I was drizzling them with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and smoking them.
I let them go for a few hours until they were halfway to the 'sun dried' phase - wilted but not completely shrunken - then tossed them with olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic powder, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes.
At this point I knew I had something special on my hands. Part of me wanted to hoard them in a jar in the fridge but hunger got the best of me and soon I was mixing them into pasta. If I die right now I'll feel like I accomplished something. These tomatoes are that good - rich, smokey and sweet. A haunting combo. They would also make a fantastic appetizer stuffed with a little goat cheese and fresh thyme...but I digress.
If you don't happen to suffer from my gadget affliction and own a stove top smoker, no matter. That can be solved in a matter of seconds. Do it.... DO it....
I can't wait to experiment with what to smoke next!
Smoked Roma Tomatoes, for Pasta, Appetizers, or Anytime
6 Roma tomatoes, cut in half, length-wise
Red wine vinegar, for drizzling
salt and pepper
Place your stovetop smoker on a gas burner. Add a pinch of cherry wood chips to the center then place the rack inside. Scatter the tomatoes over the rack, cut side up, then lightly drizzle them with red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Shut the top leaving a half inch crack and set the heat to medium. As soon as you see smoke coming from the crack, shut the top all the way and smoke the tomatoes for four hours, checking on them every half an hour or so after the first hour to make sure you don't need to adjust the heat. (If it's blackening too quickly, lower the heat, if not much is happening after the first hour, raise it a little.)
After four hours, the tomatoes should be thoroughly shrunken and be about half the size they were, but not withered to the sun dried phase. Remove them from the smoker with tongs and toss with the following in a glass or plastic lidded container:
1/4 teaspoon thyme, rubbed between your fingers
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Couple dashes garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 large bay leaf or two small
2 tablespoons olive oil
Set aside until ready to use or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To make the pasta, continue to the following recipe:
Pasta with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Turkey Sausage, and Goat Cheese
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1.1 pounds turkey sausage, removed from casing and broken up with your fingers or wooden spoon in the pan
3/4 pound whole wheat pasta (rotini, penne, or whatever you like)
1 cup pasta water (use 1/2 cup to deglaze the sausage/onions in pan, plus as much as needed afterwards to help the goat cheese meld into the sauce)
3 oz goat cheese
3 tablespoons Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves plus additional sprigs for garnish
Add the butter to a medium/large dutch oven and put over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a good pinch salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage and break up with your spoon as you cook it through - about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add in a handful of kosher salt, return to a boil then add your pasta and cook until JUST al dente, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to your onions and sausage to 'deglaze' the pan and help you scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then use a spider to add the cooked pasta to the pan. Mix well then toss in the goat cheese, parmesan, and thyme leaves. Give a good stir to melt and break up the goat cheese, adding a splash or so of the reserved pasta liquid to help things get along, then add in your smoked tomatoes (and all the oil and seasonings.) Stir again (tomatoes will break up which is fine) and check the consistency to see if you want to add more pasta water to make it more moist and taste for seasoning. Add any salt and pepper if necessary and serve in heaping bowls garnished with sprigs of fresh thyme.