Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tomato Blog

Welcome to Tomato Blog!

All tomatoes, all the time!

Salsa tomatoes.

Garden tomatoes.

Roasted tomatoes.

These are birthday tomatoes... they were roasted, then jarred, wrapped in a pretty red gingham napkin, tied with a ribbon and lovingly delivered to Ruth, in honor of her birthday.

We are eating them fresh, standing in the garden. They are actually bursting with flavor. We sent a bag home with Anna Banana and cousin Barbara. Tomorrow, I will roast more.

It may seem a bit much, at the moment, but in February we will revisit these pictures, and sigh. We will leaf through seed catalogs and moan softly. In February, we will know just how dear these summer days are.

Friday, July 27, 2012

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Breakfast Lunch Dinner

If this meal could speak, it would have a sweet, seductive voice. It would be enticing, wise, and nurturing. The roasted tomatoes, the small, creamy garlic cloves, the smattering of cream cheese on a toasted and seeded bagel... oh my.

Yes, this meal could speak volumes, but I am stammering, struggling to find the right combination of words to describe my conversion, my naive venture into the magnificent world of the roasted tomato. People, I tell you, I had no idea. It's so simple. They're only tomatoes, after all! But good gracious, with the smallest effort, they became so much more!

Alex ate even more than I did. We pulled them off the sheet, like hot cookies. They are a savory dessert. Geoff came home, late, and the few that were left were his dinner. Suddenly, we no longer have a lot of tomatoes. Suddenly, I want to build another garden bed, just for tomatoes, a hot house for February fruit... we are this smitten.

Everyone, I've read some sad comments about drought, heat, withering gardens... I'm sorry. Last year our garden was a silly thing, and we had no more than five tomatoes, as late as August. Gardening, it's not for the weak, or faithless, is it? I send sincere wishes to all, for relief from heat, for gentle rain, and for at least one cookie sheet loaded with heirloom, garden tomatoes, seasoned as you like, and roasted to sweet, seductive goodness.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Garden Beds and Cookie Sheets

This morning I picked a few more tomatoes, to roast. Visiting the garden, before the sun was too high, I could see that it was time for the beds to enjoy a deep, generous soaking. Geoff and I added drip irrigation, which has been very nice help... except we are still working out some pressure issues... definitely time to install those pressure regulators.

See the sunflower in the foreground? Maria planted that seed at school, and brought it home in a paper cup, last spring. So, the two dark-centered flowers are the ones she started, and the rest we planted together, to keep hers company. I know. They're much too much close together, but I can never bear to thin plants. I get so eager and delighted with each sprout, and knowing that thinning is beneficial never makes enough sense to my emotional state of mind when I see them enduring and growing. Never mind. They look happy enough, to me.

I took some larger tomatoes inside, and started on my first venture into slow roasting.

I sliced them.

Allow me to interrupt myself, thank you. Who loves their knife sharpener? We need one, because I might have had as much luck slicing these poor dears with a spork, our knives are so dull.

As best I could, I sliced the tomatoes. Then I laid them on parchment paper, over a cookie sheet, dashed a tiny bit of flaky, kosher salt, and whole, tiny garlic cloves. On half of the tomatoes I added a scant sprinkling of Italian seasoning, and over everything I drizzled olive oil.

Allow me to interrupt myself, thank you. I need a drizzler, too. Sometimes the oil drizzled nicely, and sometimes it puddled. Hmmmm.

The whole tray went into a 350 degree oven. I did not time them. I let them go, until it smelled good. And while they slow roasted, I went out to give the garden that long cool drink I promised.

The texture of the face looks almost like velvet, and the bees are enchanted, dazzled, charmed.

We planted three varieties of sunflowers. Let's call them tall, taller, and really tall. And Maria's are a mystery variety. Crouching beneath them, Maria and I imagine Stuart Little walking in our garden, like a redwood forest for a mouse-like boy.

This bed has cucumber, and Anaheim peppers, and a fading dill.

One more question, please... if we want to collect dill seeds, should we let them dry on the flower, or pick them now, and dry them in a cool, dark place? I am pretending we are going to make pickles. Sometimes, when I pretend, real things happen.

The second bed is a mixed up situation of strawberries and volunteer tomatoes. I don't think either plant is faring particularly well in the shared company, but they manage well enough that I cannot imagine pulling anything up, starting anew.

The far bed has two hearty, mighty, thriving heirloom tomatoes, and in their shade the last of some sweet carrots. I really must plant more carrots, and cilantro. Both are so absurdly easy to grow, I should never be without.

I don't know much about dill. I like it in egg salad, and sour cream dips. I am enjoying the faded flower heads. Now, to figure out the collecting of those seeds.

Tendrils. Even the word vines and wraps it's determined self, holding firmly, gracefully. If this early growth is any indication, we may actually get to enjoy cucumbers, this year. I am sure none of us wants to recall the garden year that wasn't. It seemed like 2011 was not a great year for anyone's green thumbs. Thank goodness for new years, and keeping faith.

Time for mulch. Real heat is beginning to settle in, and our thirstier plants need all the help we can give them.

Hello, Benjamin.

He was all purr and fur, last night. Normally he sleeps downstairs, but he came to visit us, and he could not get enough love and affection. RrrrrrrrrrRrrrrrrrrRrrrrrrrrMrow

They say roasting tomatoes sweetens them. These little cherry tomatoes taste as though I've candied them. They are kind of ridiculously sweet. We are eating loads of them. Maria has a handful with every meal. Too bad they don't grow in February!

Ready for another question? This white fig tree is about two years old, and this is the first remarkable quantity of fruit we've seen, but nothing's happening. Every day I find a hard fruit, on the ground, and no hint of ripening. Alright, my first suspicion is lack of water... do you agree that more water could make a difference? I am going to redouble my efforts, and make sure this dear never goes dry.

Here is a pumpkin vine that we actually planted. We have already harvested pumpkins, from all the compost volunteers, now this lovingly tended pumpkin pie plant is spreading out and thriving. What would Stuart Little make of this?

Then, I recall... something in the oven. I dash inside. It smells really good.

It smells really, really good. And it tastes even better!

I am already thinking of our favorite bread, spread with these tomatoes, and roasted garlic... oh my.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Forgive Me

Warning: this is a post so random, shallow, eclectic, pointless, even I am left scratching my head, and asking: What? Why? Who... hey, are there any cranberry bagels left?

You're welcome.

I could stop now.

But I have this compulsion to write: I haven't been taking pictures lately. And by "lately," I mean in the last 48 hours. It concerns me. And I ponder the reasons. I think it has something to do with how slow I've made my poor computer, by loading it with 150,000 photographs, which sort of eats up a lot of hard drive space. Now, when I edit images to post in Chickenblog, the computer crunches and grinds, smoke rises in small, choking spirals, and I have to wait insufferable minutes for things to happen.

OKay, I probably should stop now. This post is already raising red flags in my mind. In spite of my virtual Internet anonymity, I still aspire to be a blogger of estimable note, and I am pretty sure that drivel, like this, is not the path to success.

This is our corn harvest.


(objects in picture may appear larger than they actually are)

These three, small ears of corn represent toil, vigilance, devotion, sacrifice, sweat, labor, and wishful thinking, on my part. The gopher, responsible for the pitiful quantity of corn, lost the war, but the collateral damages were, obviously, severe. If we were inclined to eat gopher, we'd be hosting a hearty feast.

My mom and I were on our phones this morning. She was updating me on the plans for Grandmother's ninetieth birthday extravaganza. It has not been an easy party to organize. There is no lack of enthusiasm for the occasion, it's just been a challenge for her to get all the moving parts, dates, venues, and peoples to cooperate and coordinate. Anyway, I am in awe of her work.

But. Today she asked me about our "talent gift." Someone got the bright idea that we could demonstrate sweet skills for Grandmother, by singing, or playing an instrument, dancing, juggling, reciting... by being talented and entertaining. Oh, Lord. She told me about cousins, and skits, and songs, and harmonizing, and all the sweet things other people are rehearsing, and then there was this long, awkward pause, and I realized she was waiting to hear about our part in the show... what are we planning?

Oh, Lord. We. Uh. We.

Oh, Lord.

Do you know that Max can play Ode to Joy on a toy accordion? Seriously. The accordion is cheapy, but Max taught himself, and it actually sounds pretty good. Personally, I cannot imagine squeezing one end, with one hand, and fingering keys with the other hand, staying in rhythm, hitting the right notes, and making music, but Max can do it. The trouble is he cannot bring himself to do it in front of anyone.

Do you know that William, Max, and Alex can sing? Sing well. I like it. No, I love it, when they sing. (I cannot sing; that's something I was told, in no uncertain terms, one Christmas, in front of family, and the message and damage are permanent.) Naturally, I fantasize about being able to sing decently... decently enough to be heard, and appreciated, and the boys, who can sing well, would rather not, thank you very much. Life is funny like that.

We are thinking of resuscitating the initial prototype of the automaton we brought to Maker Faire. So far, it is a hand that can write and draw. Hey, how cool is that? And how cool would it be if the automaton drew a picture for Grandmother, and wrote a message. It could write: Happy Birthday Grandmother. We love you. Our song is quiet and shy, but you inspire us to make, tinker, play, and celebrate!

hehehehe... I was just now trying to think of a conclusion, or something to kind of tie the loose ends together, and then I remembered: I have no point. It is something of a relief.

I cannot restore the time you lost, reading this post, but you have your whole beautiful life ahead of you, so get over it.

Go forth, and be merry! Have a bagel! Or something.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sweet Sun Salsa

Friends, Paul and Janece, came for a casual, weekday dinner, and I made my first summer batch of salsa. (Why did I say "casual?" I cannot think of any meal here that is otherwise.) I warned them: "It won't be good until tomorrow," as I sampled the first mouthful. But these are summer tomatoes, and their goodness is already bursting... no need for the flavors to mingle and ripen overnight, and so that first bowl of salsa never saw the inside of our refrigerator. It was good and gone!

So, yesterday I picked a bushel and a peck of tomatoes, with plenty more still on the vines. How many, or much, is a bushel and a peck? I do not know.

Many, at least twenty, years ago, Geoff's mom, Ruth, shared her fresh salsa recipe with me. I still remember the tall mason jar of fresh salsa in her kitchen... delicious! I don't have the recipe any more, not on paper, but I think I have retained the general idea of it. The recipe goes something like this:

Tomatoes, lots of them... happy, sun kissed, garden fresh, heirloom tomatoes!
A red onion... can we agree red onions are purple?
Green Onions
Cilantro... I have these lovelies growing in rows, next to the sunflowers
A can of tomato sauce
Some crushed red pepper
Black pepper
Oh! And some Anaheim peppers, maybe a jalapen-yo (My tilde isn't working. ?Que pasa, Apple?

I am growing Anaheim peppers. I tease Geoff by calling them Chile Relleno plants. I picked two, and roasted them over a gas burner. Once they are blackened, I wrap them in a dishcloth, so the steam will further loosen the skins.

After the peppers cool, I lop off the stems, mince them, and throw them in with all the chopped onions, tomatoes, and about four ounces of tomato sauce. The cilantro is loosely chopped and mingling with all the other goodness. I dashed in some pepper and salt, to taste. That is all. Es todo.

Sometimes an Anaheim can have a little heat, and sometimes I have a jalapen-yo handy. This particular batch of salsa is mild. In fact, the tomatoes are so sun-kissed sweet, the salsa tastes more like a darling tomato jam, than anything picante! And since it has been sitting over night, the flavors have probably mellowed even more, so I may be adding some finely minced jalapen-yo, or a bit more crushed pepper. The main point is: do what you like... the seasonings, and flavors should make you smile, whether it's from the sweet freshness, or fiery freshness, it's your choice.

Anna Banana left me a recipe in her comment, and so today, these tomatoes, and more, will be slow roasting:

"About roasting the red fruit (not apples), I just roasted them sliced in half lengthwise, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic and fresh oregano. 300 degrees 90 min. Freeze them in baggies and pop them into dishes that deserve them."

Thank you, sweet friends, fellow cooks. Thank you, sweet sun!