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Make Your Own (Freezeable) Tomato Puree

29 Aug

While I wait, anxiously, for my own paste tomatoes to ripen before some sort of blight gets them (my tomatoes are abundant and my only hope left for a reasonable harvest of something this summer), my CSA, Restoration Farm, is piling on tomatoes of all stripes..I think we picked up 7-10 lbs this week alone, and since the friend we share with , Allison, has not been around, we’ve been taking it all home. So…I have made and frozen a couple of quarts of sauce recently, using the simple recipe that follows.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

There are other ways to do it (some cooks just blanch, peel and run through the food mill and don’t cook it at all; while some, including me, just blanch and freeze whole tomatoes), but I like this because the puree is smooth and ready to go in a pinch and the hint of garlic gives it a round flavor without taking it in a particular ethnic direction.

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

The blanching may seem daunting at first and yes, it does add time to what you are doing, but it is so simple and I like to watch the tomatoes float up and down in the bubbles and slipping off the peels so easily is somehow satisfying.

So give it a try if you get your hands on some paste tomatoes and enjoy summer freshness when there is snow on the ground!

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns….

Tomato Puree

3-5 lbs paste tomatoes

3-5 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp coarse salt

To blanch tomatoes, put a big pot of water on to boil. Be ready with tongs and a big bowl of ice water on the side.

Rinse and core tomatoes. Drop into boiling water (you will probably have to do batches). Remove each tomato as soon as its skin starts to wrinkle/split, and drop in the ice water.

Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooled to handle, slip off the peels and discard peels or add to stock (thanks John Picardi, or was it Mad Dog for that tip!).

Dump the water from your big pot and add the peeled tomatoes, split or chopped in half if you like. (If you have a food mill, you can put the tomatoes through the mill first to eliminate seeds. Or, there is another suggested way to do it later in the recipe). Add garlic and salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for five, ten, 15 minutes…however long you want. The flavor is bright early on and mellows somewhat with more cooking, so it is up to you which you prefer.

When you’ve reached desired flavor, let cool. At this point, since my food mill is missing a piece, I press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl. The solids remain in the strainer and…true confessions…I use that as a spread on toast because the seeds don’t bother me there, but they do bother me in a smooth sauce. Then pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container (you will yield anywhere from a pint to a quart depending on quantity of tomatoes and how much liquid evaporated in the cooking) and freeze for a fresh neutral tomato puree in the middle of winter!

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At Least We’ve Got Some Beautiful Garlic….

31 Jul

Our vegetable garden has been fairly catastrophic this year. Aside from a decent harvest of peas and some nice lettuces, much of what we have planted has been eaten by critters, rotted by excessive rain, wilted by excessive heat, or inexplicably stunted. The radishes never took off, the broccoli hasn’t produced a single floret, the eggplant looks like an bad bonsai experiment — utterly lacking in buds to boot — even the basil has been chewed to a lace and ribs, and do you know ANYONE who can plant zucchini two years in a row and only have ONE, that’s right, ONE SINGLE SOLITARY, zucchini to show for it? That’s just pitiful.

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Well, I could go on, but that might jinx the tomatoes, which actually look quite good, except I think my watering has not been consistent and there could be some blossom end rot in my future.

So, I will look on the bright side and say that not only did our garlic produce lovely scapes earlier in the season, but we are also drying a healthy bunch of our own garlic bulbs, planted last October in our raised beds from a head that I reserved from Restoration Farm last season.

Accentuate the positive...our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Munoz calls this stage: terrestrial jellyfish

Accentuate the positive…our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Muñoz calls them terrestrial jellyfish for their look!

So, no recipe today. Just a deep breath, thanking goodness that I am not depending on my crop to feed my family. A celebration of what has gone right. And a resolution to keep trying. Because knowing how to grow your own food is important and because perseverance is important and because everything takes time to master.

Wish me luck with the fall vegetables, some of which are already planted….

 

 

Finally! A Summer Alternative to Roasting: Tender and Crunchy Grilled Beets

29 Jul

We are awash in beets in the summer and while roasted beets are fantastic, the recent heat wave has not made me (or anyone else) eager to run the oven at all!

Vinny buying the beets at the Greenport Farmstand...Vinny might make a better blogger than me...he was very insistent that I photograph everything!

Vinny buying the beets at the Greenport Farmstand…Vinny might make a better blogger than me…he was very insistent that I photograph everything!

So, thanks again to the Macchiroles, I learned a new technique for an old favorite. it was great at theirs and then this week my dad gave it a try and they were sublime.

Capturing Vinny's every move

Capturing Vinny’s every move

So, without further ado, here is the recipe (this is a very busy week of kid stuff — all good, but more in-depth posts will not be happening for a while!)

These are simple and delicious...beet sweetness

These are simple and delicious…beet sweetness

That caramelization balances the saltiness!

That caramelization balances the saltiness!

Grilled Beets

As many beets (the root part) as you’ve got

Olive oil

Pepper and salt (or Adobo seasoning)          

Top, tail and peel your beets (Note: Vinny does not peel, his but scrubs them well. It’s up to you!). Slice into ¼ inch rounds. Rub with olive oil until evenly covered and add salt and pepper or Adobo to taste. Alternately, you can marinate them for a while in the olive oil and seasonings while you do other things.

Lay rounds on a hot grill and cook, turning after about four minutes. Check after eight minutes. They won’t get soft like roasted or boiled beets, but they will be tooth-tender. Serve as a side to any summer dish!

You may also like:

Roasted Beets with Feta and Walnuts

Roasted Beets with Feta and Walnuts

El amor entra por los ojos -- This dish is love at first sight!

Roasted beets with orange and beet greens!

Three Deliciously Sweet Blueberry Baking Ideas

14 Jul

Blueberries are in at Restoration Farm, our C.S.A.! We pick our own, each family picking as much as seems reasonable, given that we share with a lot of people, but keeping in mind that these berries won’t stay ripe forever.

Blueberries are one of those power foods, loaded with anti-oxidants, which may or may not counter the aging process. We just know they are powerfully delicious! The good news is they don’t seems to lose that phytonutrient power when frozen. They are also native to North America, which makes it positively patriotic if you are from around these parts.  The bad news is that even domestically-grown blueberries are high in pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group. So use their freezeability to your advantage. Buy them organic while in season and freeze them for later use!

Here are three of our favorite blueberry recipes — should you be brave enough to turn on the oven in the middle of a hot summer. Or, store these recipes when you store your blueberries in the freezer, and pull them out for a burst of summer in your baking in the middle of winter!

Blueberry-Strawberry Muffins

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

Blueberry Pound Cake

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry-Lingonberry Muffins

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

I wouldn’t say I am cheating on you, but you might see it differently….

10 Jul

While I haven’t been posting with my usual frequency here on Hot, Cheap & Easy, I have been busy working on stories for Edible Long Island’s blog (and for the upcoming digital launch). it has of course, involved food and agriculture.

So if you’ve missed me lately, I have missed you too!

So let me catch you up a bit on what I’ve been up to. Please click on the images or links and feel free to comment over there as well as over here. We love feedback!!

A Slow Food Huntington potluck at Restoration Farm!!!!

Click on image to go to my short post on Edible Long Island about the Slow food event!

Click on image to go to my short post on Edible Long Island about the Slow food event!

Do NOT call it a garden! The Stony Brook Heights Rooftop FARM at Stony Brook University Hospital.

An unusual location that makes perfect sense...a farm on a hospital roof!

An unusual location that makes perfect sense…a farm on a hospital roof!

 

Easy Summer-Squash Slaw (remoulade of zucchini and yellow squash)

3 Jul

Summer squashes are starting to appear in farmer’s markets (and, in the case of zucchini/courgettes, in my garden!) …so…since they tend to be very prolific and an integral part of weekly farm shares all summer long and are also cheap in supermarkets at this time of year — it is time to start getting good recipes together!

Summer squashes — which include yellow squash, also called marrow; yellow crookneck squash; and zucchini, also called courgettes — are pretty good for you according to Self.com, are delicious, and lend themselves to many great dishes, So there is no reason to be sick of them by August or to refuse your neighbors’ offers of extra bounty when they get overwhelmed with what they’ve grown.

Don't peel the squashes; part of the appeel (sic) of this salad is the hint of color!

Don’t peel the squashes; part of the appeel (sic) of this salad is the hint of color!

Mind you, I may have fewer than anticipated…some critter, which may or may not be the cutworm, sliced off several of my zucchini flowers before they could produce the magic green wands….grrrrrrr.

Some of the recipes I have offered before for these garden giants are Zucchini Corn Fritters, Zucchini Fritters with Manchego and Rosemary, and Sauteed Summer Squash with Oregano and Lemon,

Today I went for something different – a quickie slaw alternative called remoulade, like the French classic Celeriac remoulade. This one integrates the garden vegetables that most lend themselves to grating. You can mix and match them however you like!

The Perfect Summer Side

The Perfect Summer Side

Easy Summer Squash Remoulade

(makes side salad for 2; multiply recipe for a crowd!)

2 Cups mix and match: zucchini/yellow squash/hakurai turnip/mild radish, grated with a large hole grater.

Squeeze of lemon*

1 Tbs grated red onion

1-2 Tbs prepared mayonnaise

1 tsp your preferred smooth mustard

Generous pinch salt

Pinch of freshly grated black pepper, if desired

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve as an alternative to cole slaw.

*If there will be a lag between grating the vegetables and making the remoulade, add lemon juice to the waiting vegetables to prevent browning.

Five Delicious Asparagus Recipes – done in no time flat!

15 May

Asparagus is in season in these parts and that means a drive out to the North Fork of Long Island for asparagus, as much of it as I can afford and think we can eat in a few days. Leandro and I love it and usually just break off the bottoms, smear in olive oil and put under the broiler for ten minutes. We sprinkle them with salt and eat them with our fingers.

But sometimes, sometimes, we get a bit more fancy. Just a bit. Not complicated, because we don’t do a lot of complicated stuff, but just dressed up enough to make it special. Here are five terrific recipes for this springtime delight!

Savory Asian Asparagus Steak Bites! (Click on image for the recipe)

Savory Asian Asparagus Steak Bites! (Click on image for the recipe)

Frittata with Asparagus (duck or hen eggs) Click image for recipe!

Frittata with Asparagus (duck or hen eggs) Click image for recipe!

Leek and Asparagus with eggs (Click image for recipe!)

Leek and Asparagus with eggs (Click image for recipe!)

Zippy roasted ped pepper dipping sauce and roasted asparagus (Click image for recipe)

Zippy roasted red pepper dipping sauce and roasted asparagus (Click image for recipe)

Ready to roll: Hummus, Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Wraps!

Ready to roll: Hummus, Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Wraps! Click image for recipe!

Food and NCC: Oran Hesterman, Fair Food, and a Trip to Restoration Farm

22 Apr
(Update from Natalia: please see comments for a response from Dr. Hesterman!)

Spring has sprung upon me with flurry of all good things. Reunions, gardening, visits from family, coursework, channeling my inner drama queen for my film student cousin’s movies (!), learning opportunities, parties…It has been a terrific few weeks. However, it has left my blog community rather neglected! I have missed you too.

Dr. Hesterman and students (and me, bottom left)

Dr. Hesterman and students (and me, bottom left)

Mind you, I have been cooking, but some of it has been experimentation that hasn’t quite worked out yet (falafel comes to mind). Other stuff has been tried and true recipes that you have read about before. And well, yes, I have been out to eat, ordered in, skipped meals, eaten a lot of salad (in anticipation of the shorts and T-shirt season), fed my son pizza (even for breakfast! oh, the shame…) and scavenged from my parent’s leftovers. So I don’t have as much as usual to report on the actual making-of-food front.

I do, however, want to share a few tidbits with you and happily, they involve a unification of my food world and my teaching world! (But if my students tell you I made them shovel shit, it is simply not true! Well, not entirely. Read on for details) Continue reading

Oh Yes We Can Can (But we might not)

8 Mar

Call it canning by increments…or that road paved with good intentions.

filling the jars

filling the jars

I keep planning to can, and then somehow…

Two years ago I jarred Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, but didn’t go as far as heating and preserving; we just used it all up while it was fresh.

Getting the bubbles out with a spatula

Getting the bubbles out with a spatula

Last year I bought all the equipment — Walmart aka the new Woolworth’s was the only place that actually had it all in one place — and then put it all in the basement and that’s as far as it got. I jarred my jam and froze my tomatoes as usual.

This year’s incremental move towards canning is to do a workshop with Caroline Fanning, one of the growers at the CSA we belong to: Restoration Farm. Basically, Caroline did most of the work sterilizing and prepping and making apple butter, and  me and the other attendees loaded up some jars and put them in the pot, then we all chatted about a range of food issues until the jars were ready to be removed.

Caroline checks for bubbles

Caroline checks for bubbles

We stopped talking long enough to hear the pops from the jars as they told us they were ready, and then we resumed our multitude of rich conversations. It happens with food-obsessed people; we are so happy to find ourselves in the company of similarly loony people that we can’t stop sharing everything we know.

steamy hot from the pot

steamy hot from the pot

My joy was enhanced by the fact that Caroline’s husband and growing partner Dan took my son and his kids to build snow forts elsewhere, so I got to devote my full, uninterrupted grown-up attention to culinary, homestead-y type conversation for almost three hours! Heaven.

little soldier boy jars at attention

little soldier boy jars at attention

So it may take me yet another season to actually do preserves, but then again, it may not. Caroline demystified it very well for us and it is not as horrendous as it seemed in my Little House of the Prairie addled mind.

In the meantime,I offer some pretty pictures of the jars in the afternoon light and a link to my friend and colleague in food writing T.W. Barritt, who actually went home and tried it and can give you a recipe for apple butter, canning instructions and everything!

Where Do You Get Your Seeds? (Reader Input Request and Poll!)

22 Feb

As we get into the planting season, several people have asked me where I get my seeds. The answer is, from several sources (not all organic, as it happens, with my Puerto Rican herbs and peppers): the local garden supply stores like Hicks or Starkie Brothers, giveaways at foodie events, friends who send, seeds I’ve saved from our own garden or from the C.S.A. box.

Click on the radishes for Botanical Interests.

Radish French Breakfast Organic HEIRLOOM Seeds

Click here for High Mowing Seeds. Click here for Johnny’s Seeds.

So, I’m putting it out there…what are your most reliable and/or beloved seed sources and why? Please click on Comments at the bottom of the post to add your spoonful of wisdom.

And the poll (which refuses to be centered!)

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