Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tomatoes, cut in half horizontally and seeds removed, on a baking sheet pan that has edges, not touching one another, so they roast, not steam.
Drizzle with regular olive oil and spritz with white wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground peppercorns. Add fresh thyme leaves, minced fresh basil, tarragon and/or petite fresh oregano petals.
Roast on the middle oven rack for about a half hour and turn the heat down to 300 F. Continue roasting for another half hour. The tomatoes should be blackened, charred.
You could do this on your barbecue, wrapped in individual tinfoil packets shiny side in.
While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare my Chinese batter and heat Mazola Corn Oil (it’s cholesterol-free) to 350 F in a cast-iron enamel-coated stovetop pot or Dutch oven. Never cover an oil heating pot.
Into the batter, dip raw, crispy broccoli pieces, pieces of cauliflower and whole white button mushrooms. Use a slotted spoon to move them to the oil pot to allow excess batter to fall off. The consistency of batter should be like for making pancakes; not too thin.
Deep-fry until the batter is golden; veggies will still be perfectly crunchy and extremely yummy. Rest on white paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Make in small batches to keep oil temperature stable. Adjust heat as necessary. Salt immediately while still hot. If children are not eating this, you might like to sprinkle a little cayenne. The little escaped bits of deep-fried batter are wonderful crunchies.
Make a mountain of the varied battered, deep-fried veggies on a large warmed serving plate and add two halves of oven-roasted tomatoes and a roasted onion half if you choose, on each serving plate. You could also roast horizontally halved medium onions alongside the tomatoes. You could also roast marinated bell pepper halves.
If you have black plates available, using them makes a very attractive serving presentation.
Marinated charred-roasted or barbecued bell peppers (seeds removed) in multiple colours, with their char-roasted skins (not burned), are a wonderful addition. I don’t remove the charred skins. The charred bits complement the other flavours, as when preparing my Roasted Bell Pepper Soup.
Serve on a bed of hydroponically grown Boston Bibb lettuce, sometimes called butter lettuce.
Drizzle each plate with any of my aioli or mix creamy fresh horseradish into homemade mayonnaise and sour cream mix.
Pour a little of the sauce over each plate just when ready to serve. Top with bottled store-bought Manzanilla green olives studded with sweet red peppers. You might like to stir a little of the olive packing juice into the mayo sour cream horseradish sauce.
You could even dry the stuffed olives and batter them and deep-fry them as well.
You might choose to use my warm blue cheese dressing. Or even my special Caesar salad dressing would be great.
You might like to top the roasted tomatoes with crumbled feta or pucks of my marinated Canadian creamed goat cheese.
This deep-fried veggie salad should be eaten immediately. It will have come to room temperature, which is just perfect. But guess what, it’s completely edible the next day, too.
This is a handy recipe when cooking for one because the amounts are totally flexible.
A friend from Sri Lanka ate this deep-fried veggie salad at my place recently and said, “Wow! Tell me how you did this. My teen daughter won’t eat vegetables. But I think she might love this.” I prepared samples to take home. Report back: “Daughter ate it all and asked for more.”
I often split the vegetables once deep-fried, so people can see what’s being offered on the plate. They look as wonderful as they taste, with the interior colours being very vibrant.
Carrots in orange sauce
Split fresh picked skinny carrots lengthwise. Place in a sauté pan in a single layer. Add several knobs of butter. Begin to sauté. Add a half cup of homemade seasoned chicken stock. Simmer just until fork tender.
You have made candied orange peel. Sometimes add orange liqueur or Asbach Uralt, just a tablespoon in the candied syrup at the final stage. And the candied peel is in your orange sugar jar. But what did you do with simple syrup that you poached the orange rind in? Always store it in a covered jar in the fridge. Keeps for several days. You can freeze it.
Now you have an incredible use for it. When the carrots are fork tender and the broth has reduced by half, add a half cup of the orange rind cooking syrup. Stir and reduce further. Finely chop a piece of candied orange rind into slivers. Now stir the slivered rind into the reduced sauce and add a couple of fork-mashed macerated black mission figs from your Asbach Uralt cognac marinating jar.
Position your long skinny carrots in a single layer on a serving platter. Pour the reduced sauce over the carrots. Drizzle with just a little of the cognac figgy jus.
As an accompaniment to my whipped mashed potatoes, a great change up: For an interesting alternative to regular mashed potatoes, cook and purée boiled fork-tender parsnips or kohlrabi and fold into the potatoes just when ready to serve hot. Use your kitchen machine, not the blender because that will make the root vegetables gummy.
An amazing meal with roast beef or roast pork. Or even with ham for Thanksgiving. Of course it doesn’t need to be said that roast chicken or turkey would also be wonderful served with these very special candied carrots.
Deglaze the meat roasting pan with Asbach Uralt brandy. Burn off the alcohol and stir in a little figgy marinating jus to make a sauce gravy.
Serve everything piping hot. Heat your dinner plates in a large pasta pot full of hot tap water and position each plate on a large charger plate, on a cloth placemat, so as not to damage the tabletop. An easy and wonderful way to keep hot food hot, to serve.
For your steak or roast, add a knob of your pre-made and always at the ready compound butter. Try this: Gorgonzola cheese in butter and crushed hazelnuts. Chiffonade of fresh basil. Drizzle the compound butter with figgy brandy marinade jus, roll into a log and store.
If you decide to freeze the butter log, when just barely frozen cut into generous pats and reposition as a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the coldest part of the fridge or freeze for using another day. If you prefer pop-out knobs of compound butter, fill ice cube containers and freeze the butter. When rock hard, tip into a plastic food storage bag and push out air and zip closed. Always ready at a moment’s notice. A simply divine topper for many things. Enjoy!
My favourite rose sparking pink champagne, Royal de Neuville is a perfect pairing with this meal. I personally don’t care for their Brut, but men often enjoy it. Very dry, an ounce is a good palate cleanser for some.
A scoop of my figgy plum ice cream served in a tiny chocolate cup and drizzled with the cognac black mission fig marinating jus is a happy dessert served with an espresso.
Alternate: prepare medium-size onions the same way. Quarter onions so you have quite large firm pieces. You will definitely enjoy them served my way for an interesting switch up.
Not so plain ordinary carrots – my way!
Fill a proper-size stovetop pot with cold water, according to how many carrots you choose to use. Add salt and just a little white sugar. Add chopped carrots. Cover at a tilt. Bring to a roaring boil. Turn down heat and continue to boil until fork tender. Likely about eight to 10 minutes. Drain. Add a generous knob of unsalted butter and a generous pinch of either white or golden brown sugar. Add a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. Grated fresh or from a jar will do.
Best cooked carrots ever!
Deep-fried carrot chips
For those who say they don’t care for cooked carrots, they are often up for changing their minds, loving my buttered sugared carrots. But there are many other ways to enjoy cooked carrots, one being: using a mandolin, shear paper-thin slices of generous size carrots. Place the carrot slices into a clean kitchen t-towel (not terry towel) and shake to remove any moisture completely.
Using a large sieve or a generous spider spoon, deep-fry the paper-thin slices quickly in a pot of 350 F corn oil. Drain on a white kitchen paper towel and immediately sprinkle with coarse salt while still very hot. Or choose to sprinkle with fresh dried crushed thyme or mint or dill. Or offer a plate of each. Serve with one of my aioli or your favourite dip. Enjoy! It’s fun to serve these in a dollar-store Chinese food paper box cup.
Alternate: You could substitute kohlrabi, parsnips, or firm hard potatoes.
© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”| Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience