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Almost Instant Bruschetta (Quickie tomato spread)

18 Oct

Got a tomato and some day-old bread?

Swirl around to soften and Bob's your uncle!

Swirl around to soften and Bob’s your uncle!

Use it up deliciously and look fab doing it.

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

Ingredients:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

A few ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 or two cloves garlic minced

Day-old bread, sliced and lightly toasted

Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet. Toss in tomatoes and garlic and stir around at medium until skins begin to separate. Spread on toasts. Sprinkle with salt. Serve.

Glow!

Glow!

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Summer Tomato Recipe (or just chop fresh tomatoes over warm pasta and you’re done!)

16 Oct

We won’t be eating this light and fresh summer way much longer.

The little man and I pulled out the tomato plants today. They could have stayed in a bit longer and we might have had a few more vine-ripened tomatoes, but he took off all the little greenies (“39, Mom! I picked 39 tomatoes!”), holding up his shirt hem to make an impromptu bag for them, while I folded the netting (okay, attempted to fold the netting and then just balled it all up because it was making me crazy) and then he pulled out all the plants (about ten) I threw them in the leaf compost and we called it an afternoon. After a summer of garden disasters, the pounds and pounds of tomatoes we got from our ten plants was a true joy. And I have several quarts of sauce and puree in the freezer for later!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

My dad (he of the crazy-ass mostly vegan diet) just had surgery for bladder cancer last week, so we’ve been very, very busy with other things, not least of which is preparing food for everyone so that we all continue to eat well and keep up our strength while we work on his recuperation and everything else (like work — fullltime and freelance — and school and soccer and violin — and on and on). So yes, the healing and kitchen are going great guns, but the writing is not.

So this is not even a recipe, but a solution. Boil pasta in generously salted water and drain, reserving 1/4 Cup of pasta water.. Chop up fresh tomatoes and toss them into the pasta with a splash of olive oil, a splash of pasta water, a couple of basil leaves if you’ve got and maybe some finely minced garlic. Serve with grated cheese/a sprinkle of salt, Or not. Eat. Move on to the next thing and try not to mourn the end of the summer tomatoes. Save your seeds and plant more next year!

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it's almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it’s almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

Provenςal Vegetable Tian (a magnificent summer vegetable send-off!)

12 Oct

It was a recipe I’d been saving for just such a moment. It was stuck to the fridge with a magnet, getting spotty with splashes and splatters from the sink, wrinkly from the vapors of steaming pots and sizzling pans.

The olives provide proper punctuation to the vegetables.

The olives provide proper punctuation to the vegetables.

It was one of those tear-out recipe cards from a Martha Stewart magazine, so of course the picture was luscious and perfect in that casual, unstudied, flooded with natural light, Hamptons kind of way that makes you want to chuck out all your furniture and start over with a fresh new color scheme that changes with every season so that your perfect children are filled with wonder and delight every time they come back from their posh boarding school for a long weekend with their equally perfect friends.

Ergo, when the moment came and I had my opportunity to emulate those graceful denizens of the airy heights of impeccable style in my own small way, well of course I had to seize it!

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it's almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it’s almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

Piles of late summer vegetables were languishing (I think this new world of mine needs to “languish” a lot, don’t you?) on the counter, in need of some using. And as it happens, they were just the vegetables I needed for that bloody vegetable tian Martha recipe that has been languishing on my fridge for two years like an accusation. And as it happens, the recipe was pretty easy, as long as you are somewhat competent with a knife. It didn’t require anything odd or fashionable. Continue reading

How to Blanch, Blend and Freeze Paste Tomatoes for Raw Sauce

14 Sep

Yay! Home-grown paste tomatoes!

Don't they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Don’t they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Boo! Not enough time or energy to make paste!

 

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Yay! Shortcut!

We’ve finally got some joy out of our backyard garden. Three raised beds (the fourth strawberry one doesn’t count because it is not expected to produce in the first year) and all we got was garlic, decent peas, decent lettuce, some kale, ONE zucchini…and a lot of failed everything else.

Live action! Padushi uses hi immersion blender to finish the job

Live action! Padushi uses his immersion blender to finish the job

Therefore I am inordinately happy about the fact that I have harvested a couple of pounds of paste tomatoes, with more greenies getting pink on the vine.

So…here’s the easy way to deal with the ones we’ve picked on a Thursday night, near collapse from the workweek and doing a million other things at the same time. Didn’t bother cooking them down. The raw fresh taste will still be there in the winter!

FREEZE! or use immediately....

FREEZE! or use immediately….

Raw Pureed Paste Tomatoes for Freezing

1) Get a big pot of water on the boil.

2) Get a bowl of ice water ready.

3) rinse the tomatoes (if you must).

4) drop tomatoes in the boiling water.

5) as they split, pluck them out and plunge (I love the word plunge) them into the ice water,

6) when they cool, pull the peels off.

7) chop, dice, or run through a mill or processor.

8) use or store or freeze.

DONE!

400th Post – A celebration because YES, I have ripe tomatoes!

7 Sep

This is my 400th post, which seems to be quite a lot. It’s funny how much energy you can manage to put into the things you love. Even when you don’t have any energy to spare.

Another view....

Another view….

So I am not going to say much, just show you my paste tomatoes, which are lighting up a summer that was otherwise dark with failed crops….

And more to come...provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

And more to come…provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

Thanks to all of you for your visits and comments, It is terrific to know that there are so many kindred spirits out there gardening, cooking, eating….I would love it if you would take a moment to tell me what some of your favorite posts or recipes are!

Your friend in food,

Natalia

(P.S. that is not blossom end rot on that ripe one in the background…just a funny ripple in the skin. Whew!)

Don’t Throw Them Out! Easy Sauteed Beet Greens

3 Sep

So I’m at the Greenport farm stand with Vinny, buying fresh local stuff for our Caribbean cooking extravaganza (see chipotle jerk slow cooker chicken if you haven’t already) and just for dinner in general. Vinny selects some beets for grilling which is new for me and therefore very exciting. But I am not distracted enough by this to miss the shocking fact that Vinny has told the nice woman at the farm stand to go ahead and cut off and discard the beet greens, which she does.

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that's when the beet greens are best too!

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that’s when the beet greens are best too!

“Wait!,” I say, when I find my voice. “You are not gonna take those?”

“What do you do with them?” asks Vinny.

And he is drowned in words, as I and the nice woman at the farmstand tell him — at the same time — how delicious they are and how good for you and how easy to prepare. Vinny is always game for a new adventure, so we take the greens back with my promise that I will show him how to do them.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

Beet greens, which should be removed about an inch above the root as soon as you have a chance, are full of folate, phosphorus, zinc, and a bunch of other good nutrients They are low glycemic and filling, and for more on the nutrients, click here. While beetroot will keep in the fridge, beet greens should be used quickly. They are super tasty and make for a fast vegetable side. Plus, you pay for them! Why aren’t you using them?

The greens, which admittedly cook down to nothing, were a big success and Vinny also kept reminding me to put it up on the blog. So here it is! (for a fancier recipe that incorporates roots and greens, click here)

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil...and that's just what I did after taking this photo.

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil…and that’s just what I did after taking this photo.

Sauteed Beet Greens

1 bunch beet greens (cut from beets about an inch from the root bulb)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (or ½ Tbs) minced

Salt to taste

Chop the greens roughly (or not, if you like a longer leaf), removing the tougher stalks. You can roll them up and slice strips too. Thoroughly rinse and spin the beet greens.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet on medium, letting the garlic get golden without toasting. Add beet greens, stir to coat and cook on medium until completely wilted and tender (you may need to add a Tbs of water if things get too dry). Salt to taste and serve.

Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

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!

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….

 

 

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.

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