Saturday, July 23, 2011


Generally, these days, there's a pile on the counter that looks a little something like this:

This is due to the tomato plants in the garden looking a little something like this:

It's a full time job to keep the garden and the kitchen tomato pile manageable. I've mostly given up on the garden, but I'm wholeheartedly trying to keep the number of countertop-tomatoes-to-be-eaten-as-soon-as-possible down. I've been trying variety of techniques - one is eating a lot of dinners that look like this:

I've also been regularly roasting sungolds on big baking sheets, cut in half with olive oil and salt and pepper and salt and sugar, and throwing them in everything from grits to salad to pasta:

Last week, I made a Tomato Tarte Tatin from Bon Appetit. I'd been told it was incredible; the recipe describes it as "a revelation."

First, you blanch, peel, seed, and slice a bunch of tomatoes. I used a mix of Romas and an heirloom called Jaune Flame, purchased from Rob at the market.

Then you cook the tomatoes in a mix of butter and sugar (secrets of deliciousness revealed) in a skillet.

Then you top the skillet with puff pastry and put it in the oven.

Then you turn it upside-down onto a plate and swoon at how beautiful it is.

Then you put ice cream on top and drool and take a bite and then take another and then cut yourself another piece and put ice cream on that and eat it all up because how could anyone ever stop eating caramelized tomatoes cooked as a dessert item?

  • 1 3/4 pounds plum tomatoes (8 large)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed, corners cut off to make very rough 9- to 10-inch round

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring large saucepan of water to boil. Cut shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Add 4 tomatoes to boiling water. Blanch tomatoes just until skins at X begin to peel back, 15 to 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Peel tomatoes. Cut out cores, halve lengthwise, and remove seeds.

    Spread butter over bottom of 91/2-inch-diameter, 2- to 3-inch-deep ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron). Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over butter. Arrange tomato halves, rounded side down and close together, in concentric circles in skillet to fill completely.

    Place skillet over medium heat. Cook until sugar and butter are reduced to thickly bubbling, deep amber syrup (about 1/4 inch deep in bottom of skillet), moving tomatoes occasionally to prevent burning, about 25 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Immediately drizzle vanilla over tomatoes. Top with pastry round. Using knife, tuck in edges of pastry. Cut 2 or 3 small slits in pastry. Place skillet in oven and bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown, about 24 minutes.

    Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Cut around sides of skillet to loosen pastry. Place large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts as aid, hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Carefully lift off skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have become dislodged.

    I've also been keeping busy with plenty of other kitchen projects. Today I baked oatmeal sandwhich bread out of Baker's Illustrated:

    We had a ton of peaches sitting on the counter and threatening to go bad, as well as pitted cherries from my birthday present to myself in the freezer. Since the oven was already on for the bread and to roast tomatoes, I threw together a peach-cherry crumble based on my favorite strawberry rhubarb recipe:

    Last weekend I spent one day experimenting with various bread recipes in the cobb oven out at Duck Run Farm with Keenan and Elizabeth. We made soft pretzels, two kinds of focaccia, and some incredible cinnamon rolls. Keenan also made us a beer can chicken. It was all real damn good.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Life is just a chair of bowlies.

    Last weekend, Ruby and Marie came to visit me from Brooklyn. We made a vegan, gluten-free feast! They were super excited about fried green tomatoes, and they were here right in time to pick some off of the tomato plants that had yet to ripen but were falling over from their own weight.

    We coated them in a mix of cornmeal and our collective favorite spice, smoked paprika. Marie and I went to a cooking demo once at the famous Park Slope Food Coop where smoked paprika was introduced to both of us, and we've been hooked since.

    We also made some potato hash and a raw kale salad with tahini dressing.

    Marie and Ruby were impressed with the kale plants, as I have been too, since they've lasted so much longer than I expected them too. I planted them way back in April! Friends, you saw them in person just in time. Over the past week, what with all the rain and humidity, the kale has been totally taken over by a friendly but hungry little bug.

    Oh well! More kale in the fall. I'll pull the plants out of the garden as soon as it stops being almost too hot and sticky to breathe outside.

    And speaking of the garden! The tomatoes are out of control! As much as I tried to prune them this year, at a certain point they just get so huge and wild that it feels almost useless to cut them back. Though I'll admit that every time it rains, the plants fall down a little bit more, and I have to use reinforcements like twine and rocks and bricks to hold them upright.

    There are tons and tons of sungolds, and the plants just keep getting bigger.

    The celebrity tomatoes have started to ripen too! This week starts tomatosplosion. I'm planning for gazpacho, salsa, maybe some chutney, and hopefully a dessert tomato tart coming soon, since these bad boys are going to all ripen within a very short window of time.

    Sadly, a few of the tomatos are getting dive-bombed by birds. I love my backyard, in part because there's tons and tons of beautiful birds that fly back there, but they also do annoying things like poop everywhere, eat my beet seedlings (next time I'll cover them with chicken wire or buy bigger transplants or start them inside), and take bite-sized chunks out of my tomatoes.
    Silly birds! Tomatoes are for humans! The second planting of tomatoes are growing strong too, the pink girls, but none have ripened yet. Hopefully it'll be a while before they do, since I'm inundated with celebrities and sungolds now anyway! One of the four plants is mostly dead - I'm not sure why, but the leaves are all dead and crispy - but the other three plants seem to be thriving reasonably well.

    The bell peppers continue to grow as well - I wish they would turn red as they're supposed to, but I may need to go ahead and harvest them anyway since they're definitely the right size to take off the plant, if not even a bit on the big side at this point.

    My container plant project took a turn for the better, too! For a while there the Italian basil transplant was dying - I had it inside, and moved it outdoors a few weeks ago, and since then it's looked much better. New leaves have grown in around the ones that were dying. And check out the two purple basils in the middle! I love those huge green leaves with purple stripes coming out of the righthand one - I can't figure out how those leaves look so different than the other purple leaves, since they all came from the same seed packet, but they're pretty cool looking! And the cilantro is growing too, especially after I added some more seeds.

    Whole Foods is having a super duper one-day-only cherry sale today. They have these sometimes at the peak of certain produce seasons; during strawberry season, they had a one-day-super-duper-discount type deal as well. As a mini-pre-birthday present to myself, I indulged in fruit. Cherries! And, my all time favorite fruit, figs.

    Thank you, West Coast, for producing beautiful tasty fruit for my birthday week. It's hard for me to explain just how much I enjoy biting into a ripe fig, so let me express my sincere gratitude for having some of my very own as I wait for my own fig tree to (hopefully, someday soon) ripen. California, I look forward to meeting you in person for the first time in a few weeks and eating some of our produce straight from your trees!