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A Glimpse of Summer
“It was very warm for March, and the kite wind blew steadily from the south and turned up the silver undersides of the leaves.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I found out where summer is hiding. It’s such a small thing but I am ecstatic! You can catch me buying greenhouse grown tomatoes during the winter. I just can’t help myself. I miss the robust flavor of fresh tomatoes in salads and most of all the sweet intensity of roasted tomatoes. At the grocery store I noticed a packet of sun dried tomatoes–just tomatoes, in a package similar to dried fruit. I peered in the small clear window to inspect the contents and then gave the package a hearty squeeze. The tomatoes were soft and a bright sunny red. I couldn’t believe I’d uncovered a glimpse of summer hiding at the grocery store!
I usually find sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. They always taste of the oil they are packed in rather than tomatoes. Drowning in oil they have a heavy demeanor and are a burden to cook with. Sun-dried tomatoes all by themselves are a world apart from their lumbering oil-soaked relatives. They are intensely flavored, sweet without a trace of bitterness, just like summer.
The Whole Wheat Rolls are quite compelling on their own. They are very easy to make. The whole wheat flour imparts a delicate nutty flavor. They have no need of company and certainly didn’t request a spoonful of summer sunshine plopped down in the center of their whole wheat goodness. They will puff up rather magnificently when they bake if you place the rolls touching each other in a baking pan with sides. Pull them apart while warm, split them open and add a smear of butter for something close to heaven.
The Tomato Pesto is a beguiling reminder of the red hot intensity of late summer. Sweet, with big robust flavor from Parmesan and rich from walnuts and olive oil only a dollop is needed to transform the dinner rolls into outstanding winter treat. I scaled the Tomato Pesto recipe for ease of preparation in a food processor. Only a small portion of the pesto recipe is needed to make the rolls. The rest of the Tomato Pesto can be used to dress pasta or adds a layer of rich tomato flavor to egg dishes. The Tomato Pesto freezes well. For dinner one night I added more olive oil and some pasta water to the Tomato Pesto while overripe greenhouse tomatoes roasted in the oven. I tossed cooked spaghetti with the pesto, roasted tomatoes and slices of chicken sausage. Just before serving I added fresh arugula which wilted slightly from the heat of the pasta. Served with a flurry of freshly grated Parmesan my family was very content.
|Whole Wheat Rolls|
|1C||warm water 100°-110°|
|1pkg||active dry yeast|
|2T||butter, melted and cooled|
|2||eggs (1 for dough, 1 for egg wash)|
|1C||whole wheat flour|
|1C||grated Gruyere cheese|
|6||grape tomatoes, halved (garnish is optional)|
|1C/8oz||sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)|
|1/2t||red pepper flakes (optional, but advised)|
|1C||grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese|
- Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and mix until dissolved. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the sugar, butter and one egg (reserve the second egg to make an egg wash for the dinner rolls) to the mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. Add one cup of the all-purpose flour and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Remove the whip attachment and replace with the dough hook. Add the remaining 1 cup of all purpose flour, the whole wheat flour and salt. The dough will come together in a ball around the dough hook. Mix for five to eight minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic. If the dough is too moist add flour, a tablespoon at a time. Adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the mixer. Place the dough in a buttered bowl. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 1 to 11/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment, set aside. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to deflate. Divide the dough into equal portions. I made ten rolls. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Place the rolls on the prepared sheet pan, spacing them evenly across the surface of the pan. Cover the rolls and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour to 11/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- While the rolls are rising prepare the Tomato Pesto. In the bowl of a food processor add the sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt. Pulse until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until the cheese is finely chopped. With the processor running add the olive oil though the feed tube. Stop to scrape down the side of the bowl if needed. Process until the oil is throughly incorporated with the tomato mixture.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Prepare the egg wash by mixing one egg and one tablespoon of water, set aside.
- With a spoon make an indentation in the center of each roll. Place one tablespoon of Gruyere cheese in and around each indentation. Then add one teaspoon of Tomato Pesto on top of the cheese in the center of each roll. If using, press half of a grape tomato into the Tomato Pesto portion of each dinner roll. Brush only the dough portion of rolls gently with the egg wash.
- Bake the rolls for 18-20 minutes. Check the rolls after 15 minutes. When the rolls are done they will be a glossy fawn brown. A cake tester inserted in the dough portion of the roll will come out clean.
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