Monthly Archives: August 2015

Just Peachy

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We’re really hitting the peak of the produce season here in New England, and finally getting ripe peaches in the markets and farm stands.  Several years ago at around this time of the year, Roy took me to Fabulous Niagara Falls. Which were, certainly, quite fabulous and worth a story in their own right.  But one day of our trip we abandoned the Glory of the Falls and hared off cross-country to Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is a very cute town smack in the middle of a very surprising wine country.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t usually associate words like “Canada” or “New England” with words like “Vineyards” and “Good Wine”.  Martha’s Vineyard notwithstanding, but that’s got very little to do, at present, with grapes.

As it turns out, however, Niagara-on-the-Lake (I am told) possesses a micro-climate very similar to the Burgundy region of France, which makes for some surprisingly tasty wines.  And the ice wines, of course, are superb.  The denizens have chosen to make maximum use of this micro-climate and the vineyards by installing Sonoma-style wineries on site, including vineyard tours, shops, gorgeous buildings, and some very, very excellent restaurants offering dining right there in the vineyard.

We dined that night at Trius and had a meal to remember for at least, oh, five years based on the dates from my pictures for that trip. I remember the entire meal as ranking right up there with any that I’ve had in France, or Italy, or Manhattan, or San Francisco, or Houston – all dining heavens of the first water.  The first course, however, seized my attention as something I had never previously encountered.  It was some sort of corn-peach-white wine soup, and I spent the months after our trip to Niagara attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen.  I came close, but I never quite hit it.  The resulting dish is nonetheless one I turn to at least once a year, when the corn is high and lying in heaps of light green ears on the tables at every farm stand in the countryside, and the peaches are growing soft, ripe, and juice.

Here it is:

6 ears corn
1 onion, chopped finely
2 good cloves garlic, pressed, or minced
3 large ripe yellow (not white) peaches
6-8 C chicken stock
1 C heavy cream

If your peaches are not ripe enough to peel with your fingers, they’re not ripe enough to make this soup. Put a bowl in the sink, and peel the skins off with your fingers, catching all of the juices in the bowl. Pull out the pits. Use your fingers to crush the peaches up nicely, and put them in the bowl too.

Strip the kernels off of the ears of corn, and put both the kernels and the cobs in a large stewpot. Put the onion, garlic, peaches, enough stock to cover everything and bring to a boil. If you are feeling adventurous, add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle.  Turn down to a fast simmer and cook, uncovered, for at least a half hour, although you can go quite a bit longer, and extract more flavor from the corn cobs every minute of it. Cool, then remove the cobs. Run everything else through a blender to puree. Stir in whipping cream and serve warm.

SOOOO GOOD.

While I was working on this one, and doing research on the web for it, I ran across another wonderful thing to do with peaches. This one is more of a stew than the previous recipe, but SOOOOO GOOOOD.

1 onion, chopped
2 T butter
2 lb ripe red tomatoes
2 big fat yellow peaches
½ C cream
½ t salt
tarragon

As before, if your peaches aren’t so ripe that the skins are basically falling off, they’re not ripe enough for this dish. Put a bowl in the sink to catch the juices, pull the skins off over the bowl, remove the pits, and crush the peaches with your fingers.

Pour boiling water over the tomatoes to loosen their skins. When the skins start to split and fall off, drain them, and holding the tomato over the bowl with the peaches, pull the skin off with your fingers. Be sure to catch all the juice and seeds. Pull the tomato cores out and discard, and crush the tomatoes with your fingers.

Heat the butter in a stockpot, and saute the onions until they start to turn translucent. Empty the bowl of peaches, tomatoes, and fruit juices (because, remember kids, tomatoes are a FRUIT) into the stock pot. Sprinkle a generous amount of tarragon into this, at least a tablespoon, maybe more depending on your taste. Add the salt and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the tomatoes disintegrate.

Let it cool a bit, then puree it thoroughly in a blender. Stir in the cream. Serve hot or cold. Top with more chopped tarragon.

SOOOO GOOOOD.

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Communing With The Crustaceans

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Our is largely a Jewish household.  Judaism, thankfully, is a somewhat flexible proposition, unless you’re a Fundamentalist (or, as we call them, Orthodox).  The rules laid down in the Torah, the base text for the Christian Bible’s “old testament” have been interpreted and reinterpreted over the last three thousand years or so, to the point where many of them are nearly unrecognizable, and others are simply ignored.  Kashrut, the rules for What May Be Eaten, have morphed over the millenia to the point where we now have Kosher For Passover Face Cream.

Roy, having been raised in an Orthodox household (although we are both officially Reconstructionist), is a bit more a stickler on these matters than I am.  As a result, I do not cook dishes that combine the muscle protein of mammals with the dairy products of those mammals (originally: thou shalt not cook a kid in its mothers’ milk).  It is kind of barbaric, if you think about it, to deck out the animal protein from a species with the fluid of life from that same species.  I can get behind this.  Mostly, and certainly with respect to what I cook in the house.  Also, I respect Roy’s choices by refusing to cook treif (Forbidden Foods) in the house, when he’s around and in the position of potentially consuming them.  I don’t cook pigs or shellfish of any kind in the house, when Roy is about.  What I do on my Private Time is my Private Business, but I’m certainly not going to violate his Spiritual Beliefs by confronting him with objectionable items.

That said, my firm and private feeling is that this world is full of tzuris (great grief, and grief-inducing events such as the recent explosions in China, and certain…elements…of the US political scene).  I do not, actually, believe in a Score-Keeping God, and I sure as hell don’t believe that – if we were brought here by some Creator – that Creator started off with a list of Things Off-Limits.  I respect the journeys of those who choose to grow spiritually through restriction.  I, however, am not one of them.

My feelings on the subject are that all of these exotic rules are intended, primarily, to foster spiritual awareness of even the mundane act of dining. And I thoroughly respect that.  The meat brought into our house comes from animals that were raised with kindness and respect, and slaughtered with compassionate focus on minimizing terror and discomfort.  I don’t actually care whether a rabbi was around to wave hands and deliver some kind of benediction.  If a critter met its end, wild with fear and having spent a miserable few weeks or months, it ain’t Kosher in this house.  Chickens eaten in this house dined on bugs, settled conflicts with other chickens using its god-given beak, and got to squabble like chickens do, when they’re left to their own devices.  And so forth.  Be Kind, is the first of the law in my personal books. Be Respectful Of Life, that’s right up there too.

So, given that I clearly play Fast And Loose with the incredible scaffolding of rules, regulations, and other complicated psychological issues erected around the Act of Eating by Jewish Law, we come to one of my many possibly heretical convictions:  Oysters are Kosher in Wellfleet.  Lobsters are Kosher in Maine.  Some oysters are also Kosher in Maine, and some Lobsters are Kosher in Wellfleet.  I am Eve eating the apple, and doing it several times a summer.

But.

But.

But.  This does not imply that I scoff at what I believe to be the central philosophical point of this fantastically byzantine set of Eating Rules.  No.  I respect that even more highly, and insist on maintaining a Spiritual Awareness of the most mundane act of dining.  Especially as it regards animal life.  After all, some other creature died so that I might eat it.  That other creature’s life ended and mine goes on, in part, because the creature is no more.

I’m the sort that doesn’t even like to trample ants on the sidewalk, and feels bad about killing yellow jackets, and feels uneasy that these hornets die because they’re a threat to my existence, given my major allergies.  It’s not their fault that I’m allergic to them, after all.  They simply behave according to their nature, just as a horse does when things get a little too exciting in their blind spot and they kick.  It’s not a reason to die, but death still happens.  I don’t take life lightly.  Unless it’s a cockroach, especially a Giant F***ing Flying Roach like we have in Houston, or Fire Ants, all of which I feel completely comfortable, for some reason, wanting to eliminate from the Great Laboratory of Physical Existence.  I don’t fully understand this, but will no doubt spend the next decade contemplating.  Anyway, with the exception of the roaches and the fire ants, I don’t take life lightly. So I feel, strongly, that if something has given its life for me, even if it didn’t agree to this deal, even if it wasn’t asked – especially if it wasn’t asked – I have a powerful Moral Obligation to confront my role in that arrangement.

Which brings me to the topic of how lobsters are kosher in Maine.

A cow, it dies to provide sustenance to…a hundred people, maybe, after taking into consideration all the bits and pieces.  Maybe even more.  A chicken, it dies to provide sustenance to four, maybe six people, removed at some distance from the act of giving up its life.

A lobster, it dies to provide sustenance to one.  One person, not at all removed from the sacrifice, but sitting feet away from the process.  One.  One lobster, one person.

This creates some difficulty for me.  It is much easier to ask, or expect, that a creature will give up its life in exchange for the sustenance of a hundred than for the sustenance of one. I experience a moment of intense discomfort when inspecting a tank full of crustaceans, and having to select one of them to die for me.  Not for nameless others.  I am, even though I hand off the actual chore to a cook, that lobster’s executioner.  It is difficult.  I understand the Cycle of Life, I take my place in that knowingly, and thoughtfully, but the fact remains: I am at the top of the food chain, and other creatures lose their lives for my dinner.  It’s just not as…direct…with anything else as it is with a lobster.

My approach to dealing with this discomfort is to recognize the sacrifice that another creature made, involuntarily, at my behest, and to honor that creature’s spirit as completely as possible.  I am told that – as a result – the experience of watching me eat a lobster strikes awe into the hearts of all who witness it. Other diners, my companions, the wait staff at the restaurant, you name it.

I honor that lobster’s spirit by refusing to let even a tiny fragment of it go to waste.  I honor that lobster’s spirit by refusing to engage in any distracting activity while I am communing with it in the act of dining.  For me, this is a Spiritual Act.

For everyone else, it is a breathtaking exhibition in focus, ferocity, and determination, apparently.  I scorn those individuals who eat only the easy-to-access meat in the tail and the big claws.  I scientifically dismantle my lobsters, consuming every scrap of meat in the walking claws, the carapace, the fins on the tail, the small segments of the claws, and yes – the tail and the claws too.  When I have finished with a lobster, there is nothing left but the shell.  And the tomalley, because I’m concerned about the concentration of toxins from the crap that people will insist on dumping into the ocean.  Other than that, there is nothing.

And woe betide any who expect conversation, attention, or any other distraction from my experience of communing with the spirit of the recently-departed lobster.  The chit-chat, the request for another beer or a refill on the water, the ordering of dessert, the demand for the check, all of this can wait for another time.  I reckon any critter that gave its life for me deserves my full, complete, and wholly-undivided attention while I’m assimilating its physical existence.   I don’t care how many people are struck dumb in wonder at this spectacle.  The lobster, honestly, is the only other being in my universe at these moments.

Baseball 101: A Primer for New Fans and Foreigners

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I get to go to a game at Wrigley in the next week or so, thus fulfilling a bucket list item.  Accompanying me and Roy to that game is an assorted bunch of friends, including some people who are far more familiar with cricket than with baseball.  We have, in fact, a Baseball Virgin.  I took it upon myself to provide her with an orientation to baseball, enough to follow the game without confusing it with cricket, and have some fun.  When Roy, who has been a baseball fan since the day he became more than a gleam in his daddy’s eye, heard this Orientation, he felt that I should make it more generally available. So here it is.

1. Two teams.  They trade off taking offensive and defensive roles.  Unlike cricket, the pitcher is a defensive role, while the batter is an offensive role.  The catcher is also an defensive role.  So the pitcher stands on the “mound” in the middle of the diamond, and he throws the ball in the direction of the batter (who stands on “home plate”), with the hopes that the batter will not hit the ball, and the catcher – who is a teammate of the pitcher – will catch it.

2. The batter can choose to swing or not.  There is a defined zone (roughly between the batter’s shoulder and hips, and within an established horizontal range) where if the batter does not swing at the ball at all, he gets a “strike”.  If the batter swings at the ball and misses, no matter where the ball is, he gets a “strike”.  If the thrown ball is not within the pre-defined zone of acceptability when it crosses “home plate” and the batter declines to swing, it is a “ball”.

3. The catcher, who is on the same team as the pitcher, is expected to develop a robust and complete information basis about the players on the other team.  While all players on each team are expected to be Informed about all players on the other team, the catcher bears an extra burden of research and informed-ness.  The catcher will thus make suggestions to the pitcher about desirable pitches, given his understanding of the abilities and preferences of the batter.  These suggestions are conveyed through a very complicated series of secret hand and finger movements that are delivered from the area of the catcher’s crotch (no, really).  The pitcher is not obliged to accept the suggestions, but “shakes them off” at his risk, since the catcher often knows more about the batter than the pitcher.  It looks like the catcher just stands there the whole game, but this is one of the more intellectually-demanding roles within the game, and the catcher is often responsible for conveying the Strategic Plan to the the pitcher, and by extension, the rest of the team.  You can see this signalling process if you watch televised games closely, but you will not be able to see it when you attend the game.

3. If the batter does not hit the pitched ball into the field, and the catcher fails to catch it, it is what is known as a “wild pitch”.  The pitcher gets blamed for this, and it potentially confers a short-term strategic advantage on the offensive team, as the ball is considered to be in-play while the catcher fumbles around to retrieve it.  “Fastballs” can achieve speeds in excess of 100 mpg (160 km), so bumbling the ball is not a small thing.

4. The pitching to a given batter will continue until the batter 1) makes contact with the ball and sends it into the field, 2) the batter accumulates three strikes (in which case he must retire from the field), or 3) the batter accumulates four “balls”, in which case he advances to first base; this is called a “walk”.  It is possible for a pitcher who does not wish to risk having the batter connect with the ball to throw four pitches that are effectively impossible to hit due to aberrant location; this is called an “intentional walk” and is, in my opinion, the strategic recourse of the Incompetent and Cowards.  Roy has a different perspective on this, but I will not be swayed. I regard the Intentional Walk as a deeply unsportsmanlike maneuver. A batter that retires from the field due to accumulating three strikes is “out”.  A batter that earns two strikes and three balls is regarded as having a “full count”.

5. Assuming the batter connects with the ball, the batter will run towards “first base”.  If you are standing/sitting behind the batter, “first base” is the corner of the diamond to your right.  If the ball is caught by a defensive player without touching the ground, the batter is “out” and must retire from the field without achieving a base.  If the ball flies outside of predetermined boundaries (the “foul poles”, positioned at the edge of the field in a line with first and third base) it is called a “foul” and the batter will have another chance to hit the ball.  These are considered to be “strikes” unless regarding them as such would create the third strike (which forces the batter to retire); in this case, it is simply disregarded.  A batter cannot be forced to retire from the field for hitting foul balls.  A batter that is forced to retire from the field due to making it to the base after the ball arrives there is “out”.  Each offensive team must retire from the field after accumulating three “outs”.

6. Assuming that the batter connects with the ball and that the ball contacts the ground before it is caught and is not a foul ball, the batter races to first base, second base, third base, and home plate in that order.  If a defensive player picks up the ball (“fields the ball”) and tosses it to the defensive player that is located at one of the bases before the runner can achieve that base, the runner is “out”.  So if batter hits the ball and starts running to first, but the ball is thrown to the “first baseman” (a defensive player) before the batter can make it to the base, the batter is “out” and must retire from the field. If the batter makes it there before the ball does, he is “safe”.  There are umpires (neutral officials) stationed by each base who make the call as to whether the runner or the ball arrived first.  These calls are a major source of controversy, and will be the primary reason that you hear the crowd booing after some action on the field.

7. The batter – now the runner – has discretion over whether to choose to advance to the next base or not when running.  Offensive coaches are stationed at various points on the field to provide information and suggestions to the runner.  If, however, a runner is located on a base that another runner is trying to achieve, the first runner has no discretion about advancing, and must do so regardless of the consequences.  For example, Batter 1 makes contact with the ball and advances to first base uneventfully and is safe.  Batter 2 now makes contact with the ball and must advance to first base.  Any base can be occupied by no more than one offensive player, so Batter 1 is now forced to attempt to run to second base, even if it is obvious that the ball will be thrown to second base before he arrives there and thus force him to retire from the field.  Alternatively, we have another scenario:  Batter 1 has advanced successfully to first base.  When Batter 2 is “up” (receiving pitches), the catcher fails to catch a pitch, and Batter 1 seizes the opportunity of the ensuing confusion to advance himself to second base (this is called “stealing a base”).  Now, assuming that Batter 2 connects with the ball successfully, first base is now “open”, and Batter 1 can decide to attempt to advance or not, depending on the assessment of the situation.  Batter 2 has to run to first, but Batter 1 may or may not try to run to third.

8.  Scoring happens if, and only if, an offensive player succeeds in running to first, then second, then third bases, and then on to “home plate”.  This may happen with one hit ball, or there may be a number of batters attempting to hit the ball in turn.  If a batter hits the ball in such a way that it carries out over the field between the foul poles (it is “fair”) but lands behind the wall separating the playing field from the stands, it is a “home run” and anyone currently on base, plus that batter, runs around the three bases and on to home plate, and each of them score.  When a runner achieve home plate it is called a “run”, and this is the only way a team can score. This is a very big deal and will disrupt the progress of the game briefly while the announcers rehash it, the organist plays celebratory music, the fans of the team that scored stand up and cheer, etc.  If there are runners on first, second, and third bases when this occurs (having runners on all bases is referred to as the bases being “loaded”), it is called a Grand Slam and is a VERY special thing.  I have only seen one Grand Slam in my life while attending a ball game, and it will disrupt the progress of the game for several while the fans celebrate.

9. The pitchers for each team have a special warm-up zone for their team, which is referred to as the “bullpen”.  The backup pitchers, as a group, may also be referred to as “the bullpen”.  When a team decides that they need to replace a pitcher (because the current pitcher is experiencing a crisis of confidence, or is inadequate to the task, or has racked up too many pitches during the course of the game) they will make a “call to the bullpen”.  This brings the game to a halt while the new pitcher runs out, the preceding pitcher retires “to the showers”, and the new pitcher warms up with the catcher.  This can delay the game for up to five minutes, depending.

10. There are nine innings in a game.  One inning consists of one team assuming the offensive role while the other assumes the defensive role (the “top of the inning”) and then once the offensive team has earned three outs, they switch places so that the previously defensive team is now the offensive team, and vice-versa.  If the game is tied at the end of nine innings, it continues on with “extra innings” until a full inning is completed with one team accumulating more runs than the other.  So if at the end of 9 innings, Team A has a score of 6 runs, and Team B has a score of 6 runs, the game goes into extra innings.  In the first extra inning (the 10th inning), if Team A scores a run at the top, and Team B does not score a run at the bottom, the final score is Team A: 7 runs and Team B: 6 runs, and Team A wins.  If, however, Team A scores a run at the top, and Team B scores a run at the bottom (or if neither team scores a run), then the game goes into the 11th inning.  This continues until one team finishes the inning with more runs than the other team.  I have been to games that ran into 15 innings.  Exhausting, IMO.

11. The typical experience at a ball game involves eating a hot dog and drinking a beer.  It may also involve eating some Cracker Jack, a boxed treat made of popcorn with caramel coating and peanuts.  Between the top of the 7th inning and the bottom of the 7th inning comes the “seventh inning stretch” at which time everyone stands up and sings “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out To the Ballgame”.  Singing “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” is not an optional exercise.  You will draw strange looks if you do not engage in this practice.  Fortunately, it is an easy tune to master, and usually, the words will be broadcast on a large screen so that everyone can take part.  This is arguably the Central Experience of a baseball game.  All Americans, even if they don’t like baseball, know how to sing Take Me Out To the Ballgame. They may not admit to knowing it, but they do.  You can have no idea what the heck is going on for most of the game, but you still stand up and sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame at the seventh inning stretch.  To fail to do so is unthinkable.

You will want to get some practice on this.  Here is a fairly typical rendition of it, including the bouncing baseball to remind you when to sing which syllable:

Here is a version of it actually being sung at Wrigley Field, by Harry Carey, a significant character in the context of the sport.  You will see bars, restaurants, souveniers, and streets in Chicago that are named after Harry Carey.  You can see that everyone stands and participation is universal.

It is considered Good Form to “root” (cheer) for the home team, unless you have some particular stake in the outcome of the game (in which case root for whichever team you have the stake on).  Typically, you will substitute the name of the team into Take Me Out To The Ballgame, replacing “home team” with the name of your team.  You sing “Let me root, root, root for the [YANKEES/RED SOX/CUBBIES/ASTROS/GIANTS/BREWERS/etc.] if they don’t win it’s a shame”.  Deploying your preferred team’s name into this context may generate frictions with other fans if you are not supporting the home team; you should exercise judgment about whether you prefer to substitute in your team’s name, or to simply go with the generic “home team” or simply drop out on that phrase entirely.
It is not appropriate to substitute in the name of a team that is not playing at the game you are currently attending.  That is, if you are a Yankees fan attending a Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros game, you would not sing “root, root, root for the YANKEES”.  Actually, if you’re Yankees fan you might, and doing so will merely reinforce the pre-existing unfavorable beliefs that everyone else holds about Yankees fans.  The correct approach is in this case would be to sing “root, root, root for the WHITE SOX” or “root, root, root for the ASTROS” or “root, root, root for the home team!”  Enthusiastic fans accompany the “root, root, root” with a series of aerial fist-pumps.  This term and/or gesture does not have any sort of vulgar or sexual content, as it would in other English-speaking jurisdictions.
12. Expect to dine at the game.  There will be booths selling burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, hot dogs, pretzels, parmesan fries, ice cream, hoagies, beers, and possibly cocktails.  You will probably be able to obtain vegetarian options, if that’s how you roll. Even if this is not your usual fare, I highly recommend it as an intrinsic part of the experience.
Welcome to America’s Pasttime!

The Little Back Dress of the Kitchen

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Every woman has one in her closet.  It may be a blouse, or a pair of jeans, or a skirt, or a jacket, or something else entirely.  It’s the garment that she knows that, when she’s having an I Hate My Body Day, she can put it on without making things worse, and might even wind up feeling better about things. It’s the garment that, when she’s having a I Look Good! Day, she can put it on and feel like a million bucks, and connect with that feeling like maybe she can stop traffic or kill the conversation in the room just by walking in. It’s the garment that she knows that, when she’s got a fussy situation – a job interview, a first date, an awkward conversion scheduled – she can put it on, and never worry for one second about being distracted by a poky tag, or a weird seam, or something riding up, or something slipping down. It’s the garment that has Confidence woven directly into the fabric. It’s the garment that takes whatever is going on, and makes it noticeably better.

Every woman has at least one, and if she doesn’t, she needs to get a couple of good friends and go out and get one. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I had one of these from Target, once, and I paid $17 for it. Before that, it was one I ran up myself, on the household sewing machine. Money isn’t required. Paying attention, and knowing that such things exist, is.

Which brings me to tonight’s dinner. The recipe that goes anywhere, does anything. The recipe that is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and leaps buildings in a single bound.

You know those nights when you drag in from work and you’re completely exhausted, you sure as hell are too tired to go to the grocery, and too tired even to think about ordering out, and don’t want to order out anyway, because Junk Food, and you’re too tired to cook, but you know that if you go to bed hungry, you’ll only be Extremely Sorry later? Those nights when you’re really wanting to do Right by the kids, and give them a balanced meal, but soccer, and laundry, and a clogged toilet?

Or maybe it’s those mornings when you wake up, thinking maybe you shouldn’t have had that third martini last night? Or you have a houseful of family, and not enough breakfast cereal and milk? Or maybe you’ve invited six people over for brunch, and just can’t face making a batch of crepes?

This is your recipe. I have had this recipe in my cookbook for so long that I have completely forgotten where I got it, or when, or how. I have this recipe like I have hair on my head, or the ability to read. I think sometimes I may have been born with this recipe.  And now, I am going to pass it along to you.

The version of this recipe I have in my personal cookbook is this:

1 lb. fresh tomatoes
butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T parsley
4 eggs
2 T basil
¼ C milk

Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato, and drop into a pot of boiling water until the skin cracks and starts to peel.  Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into dish of ice water.  The skin should fall off directly.

Melt some butter in a medium skillet.  Cut tomatoes into pieces and put them into the melted butter with the garlic.  Add parsley.  Cook over medium-low heat until tomatoes melt and cover the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, beat eggs with basil and milk.  As soon as the tomatoes have melted, add egg mixture and allow to cook through, stirring occasionally.  Serve with toasted french bread.

The real recipe is this:

Take however many tomatoes you have.  Peel them using the blanching technique described above, because, really, it is the absolute best possible way to get the skins off tomatoes.  Cut them up into a couple of pieces, discarding the super-hard bit around the stem area.

Pick a fairly large pan and melt some butter in it.  Or ghee.  Or coconut oil, although that’s really not the best, or olive oil, again, not the best.  Butter here really is optimum.

If you have some garlic, peel it and chop it up, or, better yet, run it through a garlic press.  How many cloves depends on 1) how big the cloves are, and 2) how garlicky you like things.   We had a run of really crappy garlic here that had cloves the size of toenail clippings from the nail salon.  You’d need about 30 of those things to get a good garlic flavor.  Or, if you have them, use a half-cup or so of chopped-up garlic scapes.  Or if you don’t have garlic, and you do have shallots or scallions, chop 2 or 3 of those, finely, and use that.  Or, if you don’t have anything fresh at all, but you do have dried garlic flakes, use a half-teaspoon of those.  Saute any actual vegetables in the butter until they soften up. If all you have is garlic flakes, add those to the tomatoes.

Once your Seasoning Vegetable Of Choice has softened up, dump the cut-up tomatoes in the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low, and go give the kids a bath, or fold the laundry, or sit down with your feet up and drink a cold beer.  Let those tomatoes cook softly until they’re basically melted into a mush.

Then take some eggs.  How many eggs depends on how many people you need to feed.  For me, if I’m cooking this for my own dinner and not eating anything else, I use about 3 or 4 eggs.  If I’m cooking brunch for my ten closest friends, I use about 4 lbs of tomatoes, and most of a carton of eggs.  Use enough eggs to feed the number of people you need to feed.  Put the eggs in a bowl, and dump an herb into it.  Dried basil, dried thyme, oregano, fresh basil, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, all of these work really well.  Add a bit more herbs than seems sensible.  When I made this tonight, I added four tablespoons of herbes de provence, which is – in my opinion, the Best Possible Herb for this dish – to the eggs.  Beat it all together.

Take grated cheese.  If you have shredded parmesan or grated pecorino, that’s the best.  If you just have the parmesan out of the big green canister with the top that wheels back and forth between “shake” and “pour”, that will do too.  If you have grated cheddar, OK.  Dump a good quantity of that into the eggs.  How much depends on how well you like the cheese you’re adding.  Beat it all together for a half-minute.  Then pour it into your melted tomatoes.

Now let it sit.  Once in a while, as you’re unloading the dishwasher, or pouring a bath, or changing the laundry over, or mixing bellinis for your brunch guests, give it a stir.  Cook it until the eggs are as dry as you like.  Serve with whatever bread you have.  Slices from a three-day old sourdough loaf work fine.  Chunks torn off a baguette work fine.  Pita works fine.  Naan works fine.  You do, pretty much, want to serve this with some kind of absorbent bread-like substance.

Eat happily, knowing that even though you spent a minimal amount of time on this, and didn’t focus on it any more than you’d focus on Flea Market Flip, you’re eating a relatively nutritionally complete meal…and if you’re serving it for brunch, just prepare yourself for the Inevitable Question: “Is there any more of this?”  because – if you’re dining with good friends – that question will arise.