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The colours of the holiday season: red, green and white

The colours of the holiday season: red, green and white

The Christmas tree lights are all packed away again, but I am not quite ready to let go of the cozy feeling that comes with the holiday season. So I have dimmed all the light and dotted candles around the room. For this week’s vegetable post, I had to pick something that reminded me of Christmas on a plate – it had to be a red cabbage dish.
Since I was a child, most Christmases there has been a bowl of ‘Rotkohl’ with apples steaming on the table. And for years I enjoyed turning even the most rushed winter weekday meal into a little feast by popping open a jar of red cabbage. Because I will admit that for a long time I usually served cabbage from a jar. I did try braising it a few times, but was always a little disappointed with the end result. But then I discovered this fabulous recipe. The secret seems to be to in only briefly searing the cabbage. (With the extra added bonus that the cabbage retains its amazing amounts of nutrients).
The other wonderful thing about this dish is that it combines this wintery vegetable beautifully with the green fresh flavours of plenty of herbs. Every spoonful holds a little promise of warmer, sunny times to come.

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness - Eleanore Roosevelt

It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness – Eleanore Roosevelt

Ingredients
(adapted from the blog ‘Soup Addict’ which in turn used the recipe from Deborah Madison’s ‘Vegetable Literacy’)
Serves 2
100g Greek yoghurt (I like Total 0% fat)
50-100ml buttermilk (amount depends on the yoghurt used)
salt, pepper
250g (2 cups) of red cabbage
1 small red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley

Recipe
1. Mix the yoghurt with just enough buttermilk so it begins to become runny.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Grate the red cabbage.
4. Chop the red onion.
5. Heat the oil in a frying pan.
6. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent.
7. Add the cabbage, squeeze in the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir immediately and keep stirring until wilted. The cabbage should not be cooked for too long just two to four minutes should be enough.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in a little lemon juice. Taste and add a little more lemon, salt or pepper as desired.
9. Reserve some of the dill tops and chop the rest together with the mint and parsley.
10. Toss the cabbage with the herbs.
11. Plate the cabbage and drizzle with the yoghurt sauce.
12. Scatter with the reserved dill tops.
.

Serve with
Roast Mustard Chicken and some Cauliflower Puree
• Or a piece of chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto baked in the oven or just a simple steak

Tips & Variations
Add some more flavour to the yoghurt sauce

• Add some more flavour to the yoghurt sauce with some finely chopped garlic or
• Tahini paste
• Replace the sauce with crumbled feta cheese

Some of the health benefits
Low in fat – Red cabbage is low in calories, and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C – The best-known sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, so it may be a surprise to learn that 1 cup of chopped red cabbage has 56 percent of the recommended daily intake of this important vitamin. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights inflammation and protects cells from damage that leads to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease. Your body needs vitamin C to make collagen, which is the connective tissue that gives structure, strength and support to muscles, skin, bones and other tissues throughout the body. Collagen is also essential for the process of healing wounds. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that fight invading bacteria and infections. (healthyeating.sfgate)

Anti-aging effect – Red cabbage is a wonderful source of Vitamin C, which helps in anti-oxidation and is therefore involved in maintaining beautiful skin and delaying aging naturally. The outer leaves are rich in Vitamin E, which aids in producing a glowing complexion.

Good for the Eyes and Skin –  Red cabbage is a rich source of vitamin A, which is involved in maintaining clear eye sight. Vitamin A also acts as a natural moisturizer, keeping your skin smooth and supple.

Boosts Immunity –  Red cabbage is an abundant source of Vitamin E, and thus helps in immunity building, DNA repair, and other metabolic processes. Red Cabbage boosts the immune system’s ability to produce more antibodies.

Cleanses the body –  Red cabbage contains large quantities of sulphur, and other minerals that work as cleansing agents for the digestive system. Raw red cabbage (incorporated into your diet in salads) cleans the bowels, thus preventing indigestion and constipation

Anti-cancer properties – Researchers have recently identified 36 different varieties of anti- cancer chemicals in red cabbage. This beneficial property is due to the high content of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that has been linked to cancer protection. Some varieties of anthocyanins have double the antioxidant effect of vitamin C. Red cabbage is also a good source of indoles, compounds that may reduce the risk of breast cancer by altering estrogen metabolism.

Prevents Osteoporosis – Like many other vegetables, red cabbage is a good source of calcium. Calcium is an essential mineral for people of every age, as it aids in the strengthening of bones and teeth. Proper intake of calcium-rich foods at a young age is important to help overcome osteoporosis during old age.

Reduces Alzheimer’s risk – The building up of certain plaques in the brain is found to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. In a study conducted by researchers, the consumption of red cabbage in test individuals noticeably reduced the formation of these plaques. Red cabbage, unlike white or green varieties, has a higher concentration of natural anthocyanins that helps protect against this form of dementia.
(greenparenthood)

Not your traditional meatballs - fabulously unique lentilballs with mushroom

Not your traditional meatballs – fabulously unique lentilballs with mushroom


I so love the first few days of the New Year: I get to cocoon at home and just laze around. The goal is to enjoy being as unproductive as possible. The only exception I make is for cooking – that is allowed as there are few things that are more relaxing than cradling a plateful of comfort food.

With my first dish this year I wanted to continue the tradition of starting the year with a lentil dish to symbolize abundance of happiness and prosperity. At the same time I needed a “veg of the week”. Granted, I am stretching the term vegetable by including mushrooms, but one bite of these lentilballs and you are sure to forgive me.

I did doubt trying this recipe: It seemed like way too much effort for some simple veggieballs – you have to use a pot, a food processor, a fry pan and then the oven. But oh, it is worth it! The lentils give these little morsels a lovely light texture and the mushrooms add to the deep full flavour. These lentilballs are too good to be called vegetarian “meatballs”- they really are a dish of their own right.

First, I had them in tomato sauce on zucchini ‘spaghetti’ with plenty of parmesan for a lovely healthy dinner. I think they would also be great with some (zucchini) pasta, pesto, fresh arugula and some parmesan shavings.
For my second dinner I had them in a tortilla wrap with some fresh veg and a yoghurt sauce. These lentilballs make a great alternative to the standard falafel and would also work great with a tabouleh and quick raita.

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There was an additional reason for choosing this dish: my fingers were itching to try out my newest kitchen gadget. The Spirelli spiral cutter, that I got for Christmas. What a fabulous little tool! Instead of producing those scraggily bits that you get with a julienne cutter, this gadget cuts the most perfect and incredibly long zucchini ‘spaghetti’.
My kitchen is tiny there is a very strict door policy: no egg slicer, garlic peeler or  corn stripper hidden at the back of my cupboards. But, if like me, you regularly enjoy zucchini ‘spaghetti’,  this is a great little utensil. A big thank you to my parents for a great gift.

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Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Cookie and Kate’)
About 20-25 meatballs

200g (1 cup) dried brown lentils
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
225g (8 oz) mushrooms
45g (1/2 cup) oats
20g (1/2 cup) flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp red pepper flakes
salt, pepper
2 tbsp oil
1 medium to large onion
3-4 garlic cloves
60ml (1/4 cup) red wine (or red wine vinegar, but then a little less)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs
salt, pepper


Recipe

  1. Place lentils, vegetable stock, bay leaf in a sauce plan. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min. (Yes, they will still be undercooked.)
  2. Drain, discard the bay leaf and allow to cool a little.
  3. In a food processor, combine halved mushrooms, oats, parsley, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  4. Pulse until you have a crumbly mixture. Do not process for too long as you do not want the mixture to turn into a puree.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion and cook for about 5 min or until translucent.
  6. Chop/press the garlic and add. Cook, stirring, for about 30 sec.
  7. Now add the lentil mushroom mixture. Cook for 5 min stirring all the time. (Do not worry if the mix sticks to the bottom of the pan, just keep on scraping it off with a spatula.)
  8. Add the red wine and soy sauce to the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.
  9. Check the seasoning. (You want a little heat from the pepper flakes and enough salt.)
  10. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool until it is comfortable to handle.
  11. Make a well in the middle of the lentils, add the eggs and whisk them together before stirring them into the lentil mixture.
  12. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  13. With wet hands scoop little balls onto the sheet. (I made about 25 walnut size balls, but you can also choose to make about 15 golf-size balls)
  14. Bake for about 20 min (or 35min for larger balls).

Tips & Tricks
These freeze well. To reheat wrap well in aluminum foil and warm in a 200C (300F) oven.


Serve with

  • Tomato Sauce, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some grated parmesan
  • Pesto, arugula, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some shaved parmesan
  • In a tortilla or pita bread with lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and some yoghurt
  • With a tabbouleh and raita maybe a little beet salad on the side

Some of the health benefits of mushrooms

  • Vitamin D – Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight.
  • Promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues. Also studies showed that white button mushrooms promoted the maturation of immune system cells–called dendritic cells–from bone marrow. According to the researchers, this may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defence systems against invading microbes.
  • Antioxidants—the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body—we’re more likely to think of colourful vegetables than neutral-hued mushrooms. But a study at Penn State university showed that the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC)—a measure of a food’s total antioxidants—of crimini and portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.
  • Boosting your metabolism with B vitamins that are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy. They also help the body metabolize fats and protein. Mushrooms contain loads of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Good for you bladder due to selenium. Studies have shown that the higher the level of selenium, as measured in blood serum and toenails, the lower the risk of bladder cancer. Selenium had a significant protective effect mainly among women, which the researchers believe may result from gender-specific differences in this its accumulation and excretion. Several types of mushrooms are rich in this essential trace mineral: 100 grams of raw crimini have 47 percent of your daily needs, cooked shiitakes have 45 percent and raw white button have 17 percent.
  • And last but not least they are low in calories
    (found on the site “Best Health”)
The magical flavours of the Middle East

The magical flavours of the Middle East


I cannot believe that I have been posting “Vegetable of the Week” recipes for a while now and I have not yet shared this favourite of mine with you. This is one of these minimum effort, maximum taste dishes: whip this up at the last minute to go with your week night meal, or prepare it ahead as part of a fabulous dinner party spread.

The flavours have a hint of the Middle East which makes this a fabulous side dish for spicy lamb chops with cauliflower couscous, for example. But you can also keep it simple and just serve this up with some rice, a steamed chicken breast or a piece of fish.

Ingredients
(From “delicious – simpel & stijlvol”)
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider (or white wine) vinegar
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp mild paprika powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 carrots
10 radishes
flat-leaf parsley
salt

Recipe

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, lemon, vinegar, honey, paprika, cumin and cinnamon.
  3. Cut the carrot into very thin slices.
  4. Blanch the carrot for 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water.
  5. Mix the hot carrots with the dressing and allow them to cool down at room temperature.
  6. Cut radishes into thin slices.
  7. Chop the parsley.
  8. Combine the carrot, radish with 2/3 of the parsley.
  9. Place on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.


Serve with

Some of the health benefits of carrots

  • Good for your eyes – rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina, to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision.
  • Reduces the risk for cancer – with falcarinol and falcarindiol
  • Anti-Aging – The high level of beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant to cell damage done to the body through regular metabolism. It help slows down the aging of cells. And Vitamin A and antioxidants protects the skin from sun damage. Deficiencies of vitamin A cause dryness to the skin, hair and nails. Vitamin A prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, and uneven skin tone.
  • Prevent Heart Disease – Studies show that diets high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Carrots have not only beta-carotene but also alpha-carotene and lutein.(source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-benefits-of-carrots.html)
Comfort food - simple and heartwarming

Comfort food – simple and heartwarming


My “Vegetable of the Week” had to be something comforting and belly filling that goes with the these dark and cold winter evenings. So this week I am serving aubergine (eggplant) cooked into a creamy one-pot wonder with lentils.

I am not sure what it is about this dish, it is not fancy tasting or beautiful looking, but I have been cooking it over and over again in the last few weeks. Maybe it is because it comes together in just about half an hour. Maybe it is because it takes hardly any effort – just a little chopping and some stirring and in the end there is only one pot that needs washing.
But I think, mainly it is the earthy taste in combination with the soothing texture – every single spoonful brings a feeling of total comfort and warm fuzzies. The only problem is that I am always left wanting seconds and thirds, fourths and…. Well, you get the picture. At some point I even stopped cooking double portions as the second serving never made it to the next day.

I will be honest, this is not a dish you serve guests. It is not fancy or complex; this is honest weekday fare you make for your family or just for yourself.

Typically I eat this stew as a main course with some cooked green beans and maybe a dollop of yoghurt. You could also serve this as a side to spicy kofta or lamb chops.

There is only one secret you need to know to make this dish work: always taste it a few times towards the end of the cooking time and season it until it tastes so good you do not want to put the spoon down. Be prepared that the first bite will not blow your socks off. The secret is adding just the right amount of balsamic vinegar, lemon and salt. (I realise that balsamic is not authentically Lebanese, but in my opinion is absolutely essential.)

Now there is only one more question to answer: To peel or not to peel? You can go either way. Peeling the aubergine will result in a more creamy stew. I leave the skin on: I prefer the texture, a large amount of the nutrients of the aubergine are in the skin and last (but certainly not least) it is less work.

Ingredients
(inspired by the blog “Tortore”)

Serves 2

2 red onions
oil
1-2 garlic cloves
150g lentils (I like green lentils for this dish although Puy or French would also be good)
300-350ml water
½ cube vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 large or 3 medium aubergines
balsamic vinegar (the secret ingredient)
lemon juice
optional: ground chili flakes
salt, pepper
optional: chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro)
optional: pomegranate seeds

Recipe

  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. In a pot heat the oil and gently fry the onion until translucent.
  3. Squeeze in garlic and fry until soft.
  4. Wash the lentils and add.
  5. Add the water.
  6. Sprinkle in the stock.
  7. Add bay leaves.
  8. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
  9. Turn down the heat to low and cook 10 min.
  10. Cut the aubergine into chunks (you can peel them as well). Add to the lentils after they have cooked 10 min. Cover again with the lid.
  11. Stir around every 10 min and cook until the  lentils are tender and the stew is the consistency you like. With peeled aubergine this is around 20-30 min with unpeeled 30-40 min.
  12. Now for the important bit: this dish is nothing if you do not season it right. Add about 1 tbsp of balsamic, salt and pepper. Now taste – usually with the first bite you will doubt how this could ever turn interesting. With the right amount of balsamic and salt it will taste fabulous.


Serve with

  • I usually only have some cooked green beans on the side, but it would also be great with
  • Spicy kofta
  • Lamb chops

Other aubergine recipes

Some of the health benefits

  • Low in calories, no fat and high in fiber.
  • Good for the heart: Research studies show they can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. But you must cook them the right way to get these benefits.
  • Improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. But remember—these nutrients are concentrated in the skin of the eggplant.
  • Relieve stress through being high in bioflavonoids.
  • Strengthens the capillaries and prevents blood clots with vitamin K.
  • And if that was not enough, they are full or iron, calcium and other minerals.
    (source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-great-reasons-to-eat-eggplants.html)
Golden fall sunshine on a plate

Golden fall sunshine on a plate


Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the city, but I was hit with a twinge of jealousy when I was visiting a friend up north the other week and I realised that I would never be able to say, as she did: “a neighbour dropped off a few wheelbarrows full of pumpkins, do you want to take some home?”

I do not have much experience with preparing pumpkin, but that did not stop me from filling an entire shopping bag. Although it was very humbling to see that I hardly put a dent into that huge pile at the bottom of their driveway.

Back in my tiny city kitchen I roasted the pumpkins, threw them in a blender and froze the puree in small portions. I now have a freezer full of little parcels of rich golden puree I cannot wait to experiment with. The first recipe I tried (and have made a few times since) was a total hit. These pumpkin pancakes are wonderfully light and airy, gently fragrant and packed with nutritional goodness (fiber, iron, vitamin A and E and that is only from the pumpkin, the quinoa flour is one of the healthiest foods you can find).

Thank you so much, H&J for a fabulous weekend, your wonderful hospitality and these amazing pumpkins!

 

Ingredients
(hardly altered from the blog ‘My Natural Family‘)
Serves 2

3 large or 4 small eggs
110g (1/2 cup) pumpkin puree (see below for how-to)
125g (1 cup) Greek yoghurt (I use Total 0% fat)
1 tsp baking powered
60g (1/2 cup) quinoa flour
1tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
maple syrup or honey to serve
optional: pecan nuts

Recipe

  1. Whisk the eggs lightly.
  2. Add pumpkin, yoghurt and stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Wipe you pan lightly with oil.
  5. Fry little pancakes, flipping them when bubbles appear and the edges turn golden.
  6. Serve with a generous drizzle of maple syrup or honey and maybe a few pecan nuts..

 

Tips & Variations

The original recipe uses canned instead of fresh pumpkin.


How to roast pumpkin

  1. Heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Cut off the top and bottom of the pumpkinS.
    (Why would you only bake one – make as many as fit your tray and freeze the puree.)
  3. Cut the pumpkins in half.
  4. Spoon out the pumpkin seeds
    (these make a great snack when roaster – recipe will follow when I can restrain myself from eating them all before taking a picture)
  5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  6. Rub the inside of the pumpkin with a little oil.
  7. Place the pumpkin cut side down on the paper.
  8. Roast in the oven for about 40-60 minutes until the flesh is soft.
  9. Allow the pumpkins to cool so you can handle them.
  10. Spoon the flesh into a blender.
  11. Puree the pumpkin.
  12. The puree can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days of can be portioned and frozen.

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Horrifically good

Horrifically good

Happy Halloween!

Over the last few years Halloween has become one of my favourite holidays (to be honest, by now it is only second to Christmas). Halloween was never celebrated in my family, or the places I lived in. Nonetheless, by now it feels like a tradition.

To me a typical halloween is a day spent together with friends and family, old and young being creative and having fun. The party really is all about the preparations: You fold white napkins into ghosts and wrap biscuits in bandagees to make them look like mummies. By the evening the house is filled with spooky decorations and the dinner table is piled high with horrifically delicious food.

These grissi are quick and fun to make; they look great serverd with a blood-red beet soup.
(Of course you can omit the black ink and make regular grissini as well. So much better than the store bought variety.)

Ingredients

(hardly adapted from the blog “delicious days“)
30-40 grissini

1 heaped tsp dry yeast (or 10g fresh yeast)
250g bread flour (e.g. type 550, NL: Tarwemeel – see tips and variation for additional info)
1 level tsp of fine salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bags of squid ink (4g each)
Optional: nigella seeds, coarse salt, sesame seeds

 

Recipe

  1. Stir the yeast into 125ml lukewarm water.
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  3. Add yeast water, ink and oil to the flour.
  4. Use the kneading hooks of your whisk (or a spoon) to blend all together. After the dough starts to form turn it out onto a clean works surface and knead for about 5 minutes until you have soft dough. (I got not stains from the ink.)
  5. Lightly oil the bowl. Place dough inside, cover with a towel and allow rising in a warm place for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 200C (390F).
  7. Cover a baking tray with baking paper.
  8. Roll out dough to a thin rectangle (about as thick as pasta).
  9. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into thin strips (the tiniest bit wider than tagliatelle).
  10. Roll each strip into an even shaped rope and place on the baking tray.
  11. If using spice, brush with water and sprinkle with spice.
  12. Bake for 10 (-15 minutes). They should turn lightly crispy (and if you do not use ink a touch golden)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  14. Stored in an airtight container they will stay crisp for a few days.

Tips & Variations

I used half whole wheat spelt flour, half whole wheat bread flour. Unfortunately the latter had large bran pieces in it. I would use this combination of flours again if I was making plain grissini, but for the black sticks a flour without bran will result in a more stunning looking black grissini

Other Halloween ideas

Cheese Biscuits Disguised for Halloween
Black Widow Cocktail

Sunshine on a plate

Sunshine on a plate


Some weeks are such a roller coaster ride that by the time the weekend arrives you just want to curl up at home and rest your weary bones. When I woke up this morning the week was still with me like a nasty hangover.  I knew I needed a day of pampering myself.  So first I turned around and dozed a little longer…

Then I slowly eased myself into the day with a little reading and some yoga. But to me a beautiful slow morning is not complete without a plate piled high with heartwarming pancakes.

Pancakes must be one of my favourite foods. It’s fabulous how you only have to stir together a few simple ingredients and within no time the house fills up with a soothing aroma.

But I think what really does it for me is the endless amount of healthy variations you can experiment with: oats, rye, rice – and now my newest discovery is a buckwheat pancake with cottage cheese. The outside is lightly chewy, the center light and wonderfully moist.

Flip them onto a plate and smother them with hot blueberries. Or serve them savory with some fried bacon, tomato and mushroom.  Granted, the grey clouds outside were still grey, the cold rain still ruthless, but hey, I was inside enjoying my weekend and my nourishing pancakes.


Ingredients
(hardly altered from the blog “Jul’s Kitchen“)
Serves 1

1 egg
100-125g cottage cheese (or ricotta)
100ml milk
100g buckwheat flour
1 pinch of salt (or 2 for the savory version)
1 tbsp stevia (or a little black pepper if you are going savory)
1 tsp baking powder
(Frozen) blueberries

Recipe

  1. Separate the egg. Whisk the egg yolk together with the cottage cheese and the milk.
  2. Stir in the buckwheat flour.
  3. Season with salt and pepper (or stevia).
  4. Whisk the egg white until light and stiff.
  5. Stir the backing powder into the batter.
  6. Fold the egg white into the batter.
  7. Heat a frying pan and fry small pancakes (about 10-15)
  8. Whilst the pancakes are cooking stew the blueberries until hot

 

Tips & Variations
Instead of a sweet version with stewed fruit fry some bacon until crispy, sauté 100g of mushrooms and fry some tomato halves.