Who doesn’t welcome a warming, savory appetizer that invites the guests to “play in the pool” together! The perfect icebreaker and conversation starter for a holiday gathering, this dish urges everyone to dip chunks of sourdough bread into the steaming hot dish together. As the first dipper, you may need to demonstrate how to scoop some of the Garlic Tomato Sauce along with the Snow Mountain onto the bread. For squeamish dippers, providing spoons or spreading knives might make them more comfortable and is definitely less messy.
And don’t forget to provide plenty of napkins–this well-seasoned appetizer is outrageously delicious and lots of fun with everyone plunging into the bowl for the next bite–but it can also be a bit drippy.
This tangy and very winning appetizer is ideal for those extra-special times when you want to present a starter that stands apart. This is not one of those dishes everyone has in their repertoire–but you might be the first one to introduce it to your friends and family.
Party hosts love this recipe because it’s a delicious, make-head dish and can be prepared in three convenient stages: making the Garlic Tomatoes, preparing the Snow Mountain, and heating the dish just before serving).
All this starter needs is a basket of dipping breads like chunks of sourdough, soft or toasted whole-grain pita wedges, quartered toasted whole-grain bread, baked corn chips, or toasted cocktail breads. I think sourdough bread makes one of the tastiest bases for this sumptuous appetizer, but other choices are equally as good.
Here’s the process in a nutshell: Chop tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Cook them with herbs. Transfer them to a deep dish pie plate and set aside. Make the snow mountain. Spoon it into the pie plate. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Heat in the oven until bubbling and serve.
In addition to making a delightful appetizer, you might consider turning Garlic Tomatoes and Snow Mountain into a light lunch or dinner by providing a hearty salad before serving the bubbling starter. This is one of those dishes that’s really handy to have ready-made in your refrigerator when you’re busy shopping for holiday gifts, attending festive events, or rushing to the airport for out of town guests.
A NOTE ABOUT SEASONING DISHES IN GENERAL: I noticed that when I add salt at the end of cooking, the dish requires much less of the salt to bring up the flavor. This is especially true of tomato dishes that already contribute a rich, umami flavor–even without salt.
GARLIC TOMATOES AND SNOW MOUNTAIN
Yield: 10 to 12 servings as a starter or 5 to 6 as a light lunch or dinner
2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, chopped
7 to 8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound firm or extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 large garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro
- Have ready a 9- or 10-inch, deep-dish, heat-proof pie plate or an 8-inch square baking dish.
- TO MAKE THE GARLIC TOMATOES, combine the tomatoes and onions in a large, deep skillet and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, thyme, oregano, and basil. Stirring frequently, cook about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onions are broken down, the liquid evaporated, and the sauce is thickened and chunky.
- Add the salt and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Transfer the garlic tomatoes to the pie plate, and set aside.
- TO MAKE THE SNOW MOUNTAIN, drain and rinse the tofu, break it into pieces, and put it in a food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, coriander, dill weed, onion powder, and pepper and process until smooth and creamy.
- Spoon the tofu mountain into the center of the garlic tomatoes, forming a tall mound. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and place the herb sprig at the top of Snow Mountain. At this point you can refrigerate the appetizer until shortly before serving.
- PREPARE THE APPETIZER FOR SERVING: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If you’re serving the dish shortly after preparing it, put the pie plate on a large, rimmed baking sheet for easy handling. Tuck the appetizer into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle very lightly with paprika, and add the fresh herb sprig. Bring the bubbling appetizer to the table and set it on a trivet–and don’t forget the dipping breads!
If you’ve prepared the dish in advance and have chilled it, bring it out of the fridge about 2 or 3 hours before serving. Then pop it into the preheated oven.
If you’re taking it right from the fridge and want to heat it, put it on a baking sheet and pop it in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 400 degrees F. and warm for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is bubbling. Refrigerated, the leftovers keep well for up to 5 days.