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Archive for August, 2007

Things came to a head last weekend – we had bags and bags of tomatoes and peppers, starting to lose firmness.  It was clear that drastic steps needed to be taken.  I made this sauce in a couple of steps, so I’ve written it up as such.  You’re welcome to do the marathon pasta sauce session if you’d like…

Carrie’s End of Summer Harvest Sauce

3 bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise (I had orange and red bells)
1 onion, sliced into 1-inch slices
5 cloves garlic, peeled
about 4 lbs tomatoes (give or take a pound), cored and halved

First step, roast these babies up.  I’m not afraid of tomato skins (and am a bit too lazy to peel them), so I toss everything with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay them out on a large baking sheet or two (peppers and tomatoes should be cut-side down), and roast at 400° for 25 minutes or so.  If you’re anti-skin, peel the tomatoes before roasting.  Your nose will tell you when this mixture is perfectly smoky and soft and sweet.  Yum.  Allow this mixture to cool, then it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

1 can organic tomato paste
One large handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

This is where your pasta sauce preferences will come into play.  I don’t mind some larger chunks of tomato and the like in my sauce, so I just use the tomato mixture as is.  It will break down into smaller chunks as it cooks.  If you like a smoother sauce, you can puree some or all of the mixture before continuing on to the next step.  Empty your roasted tomato mixture into a large pot.  Add the tomato paste, basil, wine, salt and pepper, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally, tasting often for spices.

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I froze a bunch of this in small containers, so we’ll have a big, flavorful shot of summer whenever we want it.

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Pie Off ’07

How excited am I for Labor Day?

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Before this season, I didn’t know what suckers were on plants, and now I’m obsessed with searching for them.  As the tomato plants grow, they produce side stems or suckers which, if left alone, will grow just like the main stem.  They’re the shoots which grow directly in the angle of two other shoots, cutting a 90° angle into two 45°s.  They’re fine in theory, but they take energy away from the main stem, causing smaller tomatoes that take longer to grow.  Can you spot the two suckers in the above photo?

At the beginning of the season, I was more vigilant about pinching these off so that my fledgling plants would have all the energy they needed to produce plenty of fruit.  Maybe I could slack a little now, since they’re already well established, but it’s become habit.

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So, I’ve taken to pinching the suckers off while I’m playing search and destroy with the hornworms (who have grown to OBSCENE sizes, by the way, and are responsible for the bare stems in the first photo)…

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I don’t even know what to do with these, outside of squeal and point.  They’re terrifying, really well camouflaged, and can decimate a plant in a day.  Bastards.

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This and bowls like it have been the impetus for me getting back in the kitchen:

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It’s a little hazy, but you can see that the tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant are coming at us en masse.  Somebody better cook ’em up!  Our meal last night used up just two of our wonderfully fresh ingredients – a massive squash from a friend’s garden and a huge handful of purple bush beans.

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These beauties were delicious, just sauteed in a splash of olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  They cook to green, so it’s like nature’s cooking timer.  Perfect cheat sheet.

I had this gargantuan squash that had been mocking me for days – I knew it had grown to an unreasonable size, so it wouldn’t be the best thing to eat plain.  I decided to roast it (scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350° until soft, about 20 minutes), stuff it with cooked rice, top with cheese and pop it back in the oven for that yummy browning.  I think I’m re-inspired.  Bring on the harvest – I can take it!

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What the Kale?

I’m stuck, people.  I’m such a fall vegetable person – butternut squash makes me swoon and roasted anything makes my heart go pitter patter.  So, I really shouldn’t have any trouble using up all this farm share kale!  What’s the problem? 

Well, the problem is that it feels like 189° in my cottage, and warm comfort foods seem a bit out of season.  I love the kale – I do.  Anything that tastes like it’s chock full of vitamins is aces in my book.  I’d just love some inspiration.  What are you doing with your kale these days?  I’m about to receive another bag-full today – advice needed, stat!

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Absentee Blogger

It’s not that nothing’s going on – we’re landscaping and gardening our hearts out… when we’re home.  It’s been a pretty busy few weeks here, which means lots of phò dinners out, coffee mugs piling in the sink, and laundry reaching the ceiling.  Yikes.

One of our “relaxing” moments came with this found chiminea – so excited to sit down and enjoy, we fired it up with just a little too much wood:

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Don’t worry – Chris hasn’t been scorched alive by the killer chiminea just yet – it’s just a freaky photo.  We now know to just put one log at a time in this beast.  Needless to say, it was not such a relaxing evening, as we were too busy making sure the sparks wouldn’t light our houses on fire.

On my list of things to do once the crazy dies down around here:

Garam masala cookies – I had some at People’s, and am determined to make them myself

Homebaked bread for our morning toast – I know, summer is not the typical time for firing up the oven, but I have the kneading itch

Harvesting more of our delicious tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplants, tomatillos and melons – I may need to suspend the CSA box while things are exploding in the garden

Cheese Battle, Take 3

Finish my rag rug made from old clothes (I’m far too impatient to actually learn to crochet, so I’m doing it half-assed – pictures to come)

Learn how to use my new camera – coming in the mail any day now – a gift to myself to make up for all the extra work I’m doing!

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Summer in a Bowl

Three of my favorite things – fresh, delicious, and supereasycheapfast (okay, so maybe there are more than three great things about this dish).  This salad incorporates all the crisp summer garden tastes – if you’ve taken over the yard like we have, just head outside and pick some tomatoes and basil and get to quick work for a delicious side dish or an emergency one-dish dinner…

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Summer in a Bowl

For the dressing:

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, pressed
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

1 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped red onion (I wish I’d had more, because I like the spicy kick of the onion to balance out the sweet corn – experiment with more if you try this!)

All’s ya do is cook the orzo in a pot of boiling water for 7-8 minutes, then drain and run under cold water.  While the orzo is cooking, whisk the dressing ingredients together and combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the orzo, then toss in the dressing.  Taste for s&p and savor the tastes of summer.

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