Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Winter Wonderland

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Herbs
Tim and Tom
Valles Caldera

Usually by mid January I have had it with winter. Daydreams of warm, sunny, long, laying- in- the- grass- under- a- tree days are not far off. But this year, maybe because I am not in school or maybe just because I am willing time to go more slowly, I have a little more appreciation for the winter season in its entirety.

Last weekend, on a snowy cold Sunday, my family drove to The Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains. The preserve was initiated through a trust to preserve the historical and ecological nature of a huge heritage ranch nestled in the crater of a collapsed volcano. For a reason unbeknownst to me I had never previously been there- though I had heard of its reputation as an amazing place to hike, spot rare wildlife and enjoy meadows bursting with wildflowers in a relatively isolated location. I also had heard many a time about the sleigh rides that take place in the Caldera throughout the winter months and I was determined to go this year.  

And it was amazing. Despite it being freezing, it was quite unlike anything I had ever experienced. In New Mexico it is usually blue skies all the time (not a bad thing). But winding up the mountains, there was a misty surreal haze, with snowflakes gently falling onto the thickly carpeted white forest floor. 

We were greeted by the horse drawn wagon near a cluster of cabins only accompanied by a few silhouettes of pine trees in the vast whiteness. The sound of the jingling of silver bells as the horses trotted through the muffled silence of the falling snow was just how you would imagine. 

I am sure that most of you would agree that the best way to end a day of playing in the snow is to go inside and enjoy something toasty. Something like muffins fresh out of the oven and tomato soup made with tomatoes that have basked in the oven for hours mingling with herbs to become their tenderest, thickest, juiciest, tomato-iest version of themselves. The beautiful vermilion red soup and fluffy, half-cornbread-half-pumpkin bread muffins are sure to make the best winter days even better. 

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Ground coriander
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup flame raisins
2 to 3 cups vegetable broth

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Trim the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil, then lay them face side up on the baking sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of coriander, salt and pepper over every 4 tomatoes.
2. Roast for about 3 to 4 hours until the tomatoes start to become wrinkled yet juicy in the middle. Sprinkle the fresh herbs and raisins over the tomatoes and continue to roast for about 1 hour. Remove from oven.
3. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with 1 cup of broth, to start. Add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, whirring until the soup is smooth and desired consistency.

Pumpkin Corn Muffins (GF)
makes 12 muffins

1 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup gluten free cornmeal
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup warm almond milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
Pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, cornmeal, potato starch, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon.
2. Beat in the eggs, canola oil, almond milk and pumpkin with a hand mixer. Spoon batter into muffin cups, smooth out the tops and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Bake for 20 minutes until domed and golden. Test doneness by pricking them with a toothpick.

Recipe slightly adapted from Karina's of Gluten Free Goddess