Roasted Tomatoes with Pancetta and Breadcrumbs…and my favorite cookbooks of the year.

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The year is almost over and instead of reflecting and planning for the future, I’m enjoying a week off from work with nothing to do and catching up on everything I’ve missed on the internet this year.

Every newspaper, blog and magazine is doing their new years round ups so I thought I should jump on the bandwagon. The only ones that really interest me are the best books of the year and the best albums of the year. I don’t really trust anyone in particular, so that usually gets me nowhere. I guess for organizations sake, it makes sense to pick the best of something in the past 365 but that seems like such an arbitrary way to go about it. So instead, I’m just going to tell you about my favorite cookbooks right now, some of which are new and some of which are old. Cookbooks might seem a bit anachronistic to some and too housewifey to others- but I find them comforting and almost always the purveyors of better recipes than those found on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I get tons of inspiration and recipes from websites and blogs, but they don’t have the same feel as a cookbook. A really great cookbook is not only a source of inspiration, but a friend in the kitchen. I’m more likely to listen to Marcella than my own mother!!! That’s not to say my mother isn’t the most amazing cook of all time, but somehow cookbooks instruct in a loving, authoritative way- while mother’s suggestions seem bossy. And I’m the worst…the most bossy princess in the kitchen there ever was.

1. La Tartine Gourmande by Beatrice Peltre

This book should be #1 on everyone’s list. It’s one of the most original and interesting collections of recipes I’ve ever seen- not to mention incredibly delicious and on the healthy side. Bea’s photos are beautiful and the vegetable-based book offers up things you’ve never even imagined like Jerusalem Artichoke soup and black rice salad with grapefruit. I’ve bought this for many presents already and I HIGHLY recommend you get one for yourself.

2. Canal House Cooking

This was recently gifted to me on Christmas and I’ve already dived right in- as you’ll see from this post. Canal House is like a cooking collective of experiences chefs and home cooks. The recipes feel tried and true and with some new ideas too! Lot’s of new and interesting uses for vegetables. Lot’s of beautiful photos help to guide you in the right direction. Plus the first three volumes, divided by season, come in a beautiful blue slip case.

3. Bocca by Jacob Kenedy

It’s no secret Italian food is not my favorite, but Bocca seemed different to me. I picked it up off the free shelf at my office and have drawn inspiration from it all year. Kenedy’s stuffed escarole has become an entertaining staple and his panzanella has also made a few appearances this year. I love that most of the recipes are of that lemony, spicy, sicilian nature. But a lot of them contain hard to find ingredients and sparse instructions – often the problem with restaurant chef cookbooks. Still, there are tons of great ideas in here.

So, from Canal House…here’s my version of their roasted tomato dish that’s definitely doing to make another appearance on the plate in the near future. The secret here is anchovies. But don’t shy away anchovy haters…it’s just a kick of saltiness to flavor the breadcrumbs – I promise you won’t even notice them. The idea is that the roasted tomato looks beautiful and with added olive oil, becomes the tomato sauce for the pasta.  Serve each tomato on a small amount of spaghetti and have your guests cut up the tomato into small pieces.

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Roasted Tomatoes with Pancetta and Bread Crumbs

Serves 4

You will need:

4 medium tomatoes (I used beefsteak)

1/2 cup diced pancetta (sold already diced at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods)

2 Tablespoons + 4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 anchovy filets

1 ciabatta roll or 1/4 of a baguette (stale is okay)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly (not diced)

1 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 Teaspoon fresh italian parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

1/2 box spaghetti

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Using a food processor, pulse the bread until you have fine bread crumbs, you will need about 1 cup (but a little more will just make more crispy bits for the sauce).

2. In a small skillet cook the pancetta until crispy (about 5 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a plate while keeping the fat in the pan. Turn heat to low  and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and the anchovies (must be low heat- otherwise they will splatter). Using a wooden spoon, mash the anchovies until dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs, turn the heat up to medium and cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes and add the pancetta back in to combine. Set aside to cool and mix in 1/2 of the thyme and parsley.

3. Prepare the tomatoes by slicing off about 1/4 inch of the top so you can see the seed pockets. Using your fingers, scoop out the seeds. In a small roasting dish, place the tomatoes cut side up and stuff with garlic slices. Using a spoon, scoop the bread crumb mixture onto each tomato, pressing as much into the pockets as you can. Sprinkle extra  over and around tomatoes. Drizzle 4 Tablespoons of olive oil all over and roast for 1 hour and fifteen minutes.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Cook spaghetti until just al dente – about 11 minutes. Serve in bowls with 1 tomato on top.

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