Welcome to my blog, where one may find all sorts of random, hopefully amusing tidbits about food & other things.

May 17, 2011

tomato jam.

For my 17th birthday, my aunt told me she was taking me to a restaurant of my choice during New York Restaurant Week. Previous to her bringing it up, I had never heard of any Restaurant Weeks. So imagine my surprise and joy at finding out that, for a limited period of time in whichever city (there are Restaurant Weeks in Philadelphia, Boston, etc.), you can dine at a high-class restaurant for a prix fixe? Heaven.

Anyway, we ended up at Spice Market. It is a gorgeous restaurant, albeit dark, with the drapes and candles and other exotic decorations everywhere. Jean-Georges Vongerichten caters to people who desire a Southeast palette, and the food captures aspects of Thai, Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese food. I am not going to do a total review right now (maybe another post), but one of the more memorable of the 7 (or was it 10?) courses was this tomato jam, served with papadam. I was intrigued by the savory jam, a concept I had never given much thought, and dug in.

It was spicy.
It made my eyes water. It made my throat burn. I downed my water. I remembered water is useless and ate papadam as discreetly as I could in this sophisticated, elegant restaurant. That was a fail. I fanned my mouth with my hand ... and stopped as I noticed my aunt laughing at me.

All in all, I adored it. Once I had finished dipping all the papadam in it (gingerly, after those first few generously laden bites), I was close to just eating the tomato jam straight with my spoon.

That was two years ago. In the present day, I am sitting with my mom and grandma at the kitchen table, discussing what we should make for dinner. Somehow, the topic of tomato jam arises, and my mom tells me that my grandma makes the absolute best tomato jam. My eyes widened a little before I grabbed my keys and threw on flip flops to go buy more tomatoes to make a large batch of jam.

My mom ended up making it, and although it wasn't exactly how I remembered it, it was delicious. Maybe we'll roast the tomatos next time ... I put it in a bowl next to some pita chips I made from baking whole wheat pocketed pita bread, plain. Although we really just ate it with peruvian chicken kebabs and tzatziki in regular pita bread. So good.

Tomato Jam
created by my mother.
My mom doesn't use measuring utensils and such when she cooks, she eyeballs everything. As a result, I have estimates of what she used. This turned out really nice and spicy. Cooking provides much more room for adaptation than baking, so feel free to adjust the spice and sweetness levels!
  1. Heat some oil.
  2. Add 3-4 pinches worth of mustard seeds, minced green peppers (my mom said the equivalent of half a jalapeno, seeds included), 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida.
  3. While the spices are flavoring the hot oil, chop 4 tomatoes. Put the pieces in a microwavable bowl, cover with a dinner plate, and heat 1-2 minutes to steam and soften the tomatoes.
  4. Add the tomatoes carefully to the hot, infused oil.
  5. Add salt and red chile powder (substitute: cayenne pepper), to taste.
  6. Simmer until some of the liquid evaporates.
  7. Add about a shelled walnut-sized amount (heaping tablespoon) of jaggery (substitute: brown sugar).
  8. Simmer until desired viscosity is reached. Make note, that as the jam cools, it will thicken slightly.
Enjoy with a variety of meats or in sandwiches or with papadam!

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