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Feb 23 2006

Tomessence

The first-ever patriarchy-blaming open thread appears to have enjoyed some measure of success, possibly because of the focus on restaurants with funny names, such as Pho Well Hung, and on commercial potato products with funny names, such as Tater Tots.

Some of the non-Americans wondered what a Tater Tot is. That was funny, too. The Twisty Bungalow is a Tater-Tot-free zone, and has been for many years, but, like corny dogs and Frito pie, O they are a part of me still. Specifically, this part here, the third pucker from the left on my right glute.

Pictured above is the plate of assorted salads (squid, curried crab, fusilli with olives and fresh mozzarella, gazpacho) I ate for dinner last night while idly wishing that someone would come bursting through the door with a Tater Tot intervention.

There are those who would question the sanity of attempting a gazpacho in the middle of winter, a time when all edible tomatoes traditionally go yachting in the South Pacific. Flame me if you must, but I compensate for their absence by adding to the regular gazpacho recipe a puree of mediocre winter plum tomatoes that have been halved, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted in a slow oven for a couple of hours, thus concentrating their tomessence.

20 comments

  1. ae

    I shall flame not. Tomatoes being my favorite food (even above the hallowed Tater Tot), I take ‘em any way I can get ‘em whenever I can get ‘em, and slow roasting the mediocre plums to bring out their tomessence sounds like a fine plan! Damn, that looks tasty.

  2. Jodie

    yum! I wish I felt better (flu) and I’d cook. Chicken noodle soup out of the can for me, alas.

  3. Liz

    the middle of winter, a time when all edible tomatoes traditionally go yachting in the South Pacific.

    On a 50 ft. luxury vessel named “The Ro-Tel”?

  4. Amber

    Twisty, I can always count on you to expand my vocabulary. Tomessence, indeed!

    Tell me, what is your feeling on polenta? I tried this for the first time last night; just cooked it up and put a mushroom & parmesan-reggiano type sauce over it. It was very bland though. I’m wondering if I should mince up some garlic & onions and throw it in there while the polenta cooks next time.

    Have you messed with the stuff?

  5. Kat

    I’m filled with deep longing for tater tots now. England only has croquette potatoes, which are similar but filled with mashed potato rather than grated. It’s just not the same.

  6. Anja

    I know this probably belongs in that other thread, but I’m bothering you with it anyway:
    How about a Thai restaurant (in an area of Copenhagen now cleansed of drug addicts and prostitutes) called “Porn Sak”?
    I’m going away again now.

  7. hedonistic

    I initially confused the word with “tumescence.” But I doubt our dear Twisty would never use that word, so, nevermind. ;-)

  8. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    The Eastern European version of polenta is cooked, then layered in a baking dish with grated sharp cheddar to cut the blandness. The immense size of my behind is, in part, a testament to its tastiness.

  9. Sara

    I love the word “tomessence.” I shall spread it. Perhaps you will consider adding it to the pseudodictionary?

    I love tomatoes, love them, love them, love them! (And I have a fever, and I’m floating along on DayQuil, so I’m extra enthusiastic about everything.) I usually grow way too many in the summer to eat while they are ripe (and in my part of Massachusetts that’s pretty much August only), so I end up, on the last day of their yumminess, while they are still tender and bursting with juice but not yet quivering on the edge of rot, throwing them whole into ziplock baggies in the freezer. This way I preserve the fresh tomato flavor of August for the fresh tomato famine of the rest of the year. When I am making hot soup, stew, stir-fry, etc., all I do is throw the whole frozen tomatoes into whatever I’m cooking, and they melt deliciously into the melange. They take up a lot of freezer space, and when one falls out and bonks me on the head, it’s not pleasant. It’s worth it, though. Or maybe the repeated concussions only make me think it’s worth it.

    I imagine you could do this, too, and then when you get the yen out of season just defrost some in a bowl overnight to make gazpacho. My true love has defrosted them to make his own special raw serrano-spiked enchilada sauce, and they worked perfectly.

    Mmmmm…tomessence…

  10. Arianna

    Kat don’t complain about your lack of tater tots, for you glorious British have potato waffles, which are about a million times better, and you have salad cream to put on them. I miss potato waffles done in the toaster on max, even if my partner forgot to turn it down one day and we nearly burned down the kitchen!

  11. laughingmuse

    Ummm…. tomatos! I love their saucy extracts so. (Often because it’s hard to find a very ripe, candy-sweet one.)

    Mmmm. Another photo that is making me think I should actually cook more. Lately I’ve been so tired/whatever when I get home that I eat my trusty bar-form food, or maybe, at the most, make some pasta with sauce from a jar.

    Although I did pick up a tube of garlic concentrate, and squirting that all over pasta, with some raw milk cheese = yum! (OK, some pepper too.)

  12. doggerelblogger

    I love your food posts. You inspire me to get off my ass and post about my unholy love for fine cheeses. I will do that soon.

  13. Ellenore

    Oh wow! Did you get that food in Austin? If so, what restaurant?

  14. Liz

    The Eastern European version of polenta is cooked, then layered in a baking dish with grated sharp cheddar to cut the blandness.

    The Southern American version of polenta is called grits.

  15. Nancy

    In the book, the ugly American was the only good one, and in that context, ugly meant plain and unpretentious.

    As for Tater Tots, I never heard them called just “tots” till Napoleon Dynamite. Now I hear it (along with every line quoted from that movie) all the time.

  16. Twisty

    Ellenore, I bough the squid salad at Central Market. The rest I made.

  17. Shiloruh

    In Southwest USA grits are posole.

  18. Hattie

    Amber: I love polenta and make it all the time by my easy method. (Divulged upon request.) It is best bland. I don’t even salt it. The point of it, as is true of white rice also, is that it complements the strong or spicy flavors of other things.It gives your palate a rest, and it has a nice texture. You can put grated parmesan on it or gravy, if you want to.
    I’m not blaming here, but it’s the only thing I can do.

  19. Antipodean Kate

    I see that the Wiki link supplied by Chris Clarke shows what I suspected: that we here in OZ call ‘em potato gems. Not as alliterative and certainly the word ‘gem’ suggests some sort of pinnacle of potatoey achievement which I do not believe they attain, but essentially the same thing.

    We do not make potato gem casseroles in the Antipodes however.

  20. Kat

    Arianna, you’re right, those are pretty damn good and you’ve succeeded in making me crave them instead.

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