What’s your .. Why?
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We sat in a big circle this past Saturday, the beginning of a new 8-week Challenge. By this point, everyone had a date with the scale, been photographed in something unflattering, and circled more than once by a nice person with a tape measure.
Each said a little something about themselves. A college student, a new mom in search of a lost waistline, another wondered aloud how she’d let herself get to this point .. again
There wasn’t a story I couldn’t identify with.
As time drew to a close, there was one more question left to be asked.
“Why, why do you want to do this?” She paused. “Don’t answer right away; I really want you to think about it. Yes, we all have vanity goals, that pair of jeans staring at us from the closet. But this is different. This is the why that will keep you going long-term
Have you had a health scare? Can’t run and play with your kids at the park? Have a family history of heart disease?”
She sat across from me nervously folding her paper. “I really want to figure this out while I’m still young. I want to be the healthiest I can be, not only for myself but also for my husband. You see, he’s deployed overseas.”
A deep breath in, “And though it might be vain, when he gets back in a couple of months, I want to look fantastic for him.
” .. naked.”
You go, girlfriend! We’ll all be cheering you on
Over the weekend, I made a version of a favorite tomato gratin recipe. It’s a recipe I limit myself to making in late summer when heirloom tomatoes are at their peak, and garden-fresh basil is plentiful. This one is a bit of a project, but very much worth it on a quiet weekend afternoon.
One of the things I love is the way it strikes bright, flavorful, rustic notes, with a preparation that isn’t overly decadent. A baking vessel is lined with layers of deeply caramelized onions, thinly sliced potatoes coated in Greek yogurt, ripe tomato slices, and basil leaves.
This the sort of thing that’s perfect just out of the oven, or reheated the next day.
Be sure to read the recipe in its entirety before committing to it. The prep takes some effort, and it also will take a decent amount of time to bake
Heirloom Tomato and Basil Gratin
- 2 lb heirloom tomatoes
- 1 ¼ lb potatoes, washed and unpeeled
- 6 cups thinly sliced onion (about 2 pounds)
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp clarified butter
- a small handful of basil leaves, slivered
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Spice Blend
- 1 ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
- 2 ½ tsp curry powder
- ½ -¾ tsp red pepper flakes
- Prepare the Spice Blend
- Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside
- Caramelize the Onions
- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over high heat. When hot, stir in the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the onions soften (~4-5 minutes)
- Turn the heat to medium and stir in the clarified butter. Stirring frequently, cook another 10 - 15 minutes, or until the onions are just beginning to caramelize.
- Dial the heat back to medium-low, and continue cooking, until the onions are deeply golden (~ another 20 minutes)
- A minute or two before the onions are finished cooking, stir in the spice blend.
- Remove the pan from the heat and set aside
- Assemble and Bake
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- In the meantime, slice the potatoes into ⅛" thick rounds (using a mandolin, if you have one).
- Place them into a medium bowl along with the Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a bit of pepper. Toss well, and set aside.
- Use a knife to cut the tomatoes into ¼" thick slices. Arrange across a large plate and sprinkle with another teaspoon of salt and some pepper.
- Layer half the caramelized onions across the bottom of a 9 x 9" baking dish (I used a 10" round cast-iron pan)
- Using half of the potatoes and half of the tomatoes, arrange them on top of the onion layer
- Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt from the potatoes and a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the layer with a pinch of salt and half the basil.
- Scatter the remaining onions across the potatoes and tomatoes already in the pan.
- Then arrange another layer of tomatoes and potatoes on top. (This will be the top of your gratin)
- Pour the remaining Greek yogurt from the potatoes, and last tablespoon of olive oil across the top. Season with another pinch of salt and the remaining basil.
- Gently press down on the vegetables
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours, or until the potatoes are tender throughout the dish. Increase the oven to 450° F, uncover the gratin, and cook another 30 minutes, or until the top has is golden