Friday, August 28, 2009

pondering preserving

I began peeling tomatoes at 7:00 this morning. By 8:00 the scent of boiling oregano-spiced sauce was wafting upstairs into the bedroom. (I won't lie. Even this early the smell sparks a pang of hunger cereal cannot compete with...)
After a few not-so-successful attempts to preserve raw-packed tomatoes, pizza sauce has become the preferred method of canning the San Marzanos that have just begun ripening.
As the canner was bubbling away this morning, I was pondering the act of preserving food. As the notion of eating local, seasonal items is such a hot topic these days, I wondered, even if these items come from your own backyard and were packed away months ago, is it odd to eat tomatoes in middle of January? Blueberries in October? Does doing so confuse our sense of the season?
Best not to think too hard so early in the morning...

But rather to share a recipe that celebrates some of these local, seasonal goodies while they are still abundant:
(adapted from Joanne Weir's recipe for Tuscan Bread Salad with Tomatoes and Basil in From Tapas to Meze)


1/2 loaf of day-old rustic bread (about 1/2 pound)*
3/4 cup water
4 tomatoes (I used a variety of carbon, San Marzano and orange-fleshed purple smudge), seeded and chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers (rinsed if they are salt-packed)
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice the bread into 1-inch thick slices and place on a large plate. Sprinkle both sides of the slices with the water and let sit for 1 minute. Gently squeeze the slices with your hands to dry the bread. Tear the slices into rough bit-sized pieces and place them on paper towels to dry for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, garlic, capers, basil and parsley. Add the dried bread and toss gently to combine.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the balsamic and white wine vinegars with the olive oil. Add to the bread mixture, tossing gently to combine, and season with salt and pepper.

*If your bread is not quite stale, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and place the slices directly on the center rack for about 5 minutes or so just to dry them out a bit (not toast them) before sprinkling them with the water.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the august kitchen

My kitchen is a sauna.

On any given evening this month, you will find three of my four burners and one impossibly small oven in use. Jars are in the oven keeping hot, a pot of simmering tomatoes, pickling brine, or fruit of the day is bubbling on one burner, a small pan of hot water for sterilizing canning lids and bands is on another, and on the back, boiling and gurgling away, sits the water bath canner.
Batch by batch I'm pickling, jamming and preserving my way through all the irresistible edibles of the August garden...

...and stopping here and there to sample some things picked straight away.

A pretty post not long ago reminded me that there are bouquets of edible arugula flowers in my herb bed that I've been meaning to taste. I hadn't realized the flowers were edible until earlier this year when I saw intriguing bags of the dainty white blossoms for sale at the farmer's market, and I had forgotten about them entirely until Lucy reminded me.

Some just-unearthed potatoes from a friend and a few handfuls of spicy arugula and cooling burnet were on hand, and since the kitchen was already a steamy tangle of pots and pans, I thought, why not boil another kettleful of water? Let's have pasta.

Ziti with Potatoes, Arugula and Burnet
(adapted from Alice Water's recipe for Pasta with Potatoes, Rocket and Rosemary in the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook and remembered from this post back in the spring)


2 potatoes, sliced in halve lengthwise, then into 2/3-inch half-rounds
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped, stems discarded
4 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 Lb ziti (or other pasta)
1/4 Lb mixed arugula and salad burnet (about 3 cups), washed and spun dry
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a handful of fresh arugula blossoms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sliced potatoes with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread them in one layer on a baking sheet, and bake until golden - about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (I found it useful to 'un-stick' the cooked slices from the baking sheet using a spatula soon after they came out of the oven).

While the potatoes cook, heat a pot of salted water for the pasta and mince together the garlic and rosemary.

When the potatoes are done, cook the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the sliced onion for a few minutes, or until beginning to brown. Add the garlic and rosemary mixture and cook for just another minute. Add the sliced, cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Add the cooked and drained pasta and the mixed greens, stirring gently to combine and wilt the greens just a bit. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, tossing to combine. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish, scatter the arugula blossoms on top and serve.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

never turn your back on zucchini...

...or this may be the outcome:
And it wasn't the only one...
But look! Tomatoes!!! (and beans and eggplant and peppers and cucumbers...)

It's good to be home.

Grill-Roasted Late Summer Vegetables with Fresh Oregano


about 5 Cups chopped zucchini (this was 1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small zucchini for me)

1 very ripe deep red tomato, chopped

1 very ripe orange or yellow tomato, chopped

3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves stripped, chopped, and stems discarded

1 large clove garlic, minced

olive oil

large pinch of sea salt

a few grinds of pepper

chopped fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

aluminum foil (a sheet about 24 inches long)

This is one of my favorite ways to cook in the summer, but this dish can also be made in a roasting pan in the oven. The cooking time might vary - keep an eye on the veggies, and I would heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare a grill (we use a charcoal grill with a hinged cover).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. Add the salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat the vegetables in the oil. Set aside.

Make an aluminum foil packet: fold a sheet of aluminum foil (about 24 inches long) in half to form a squarish shape. Fold over two of the open sides crimping them a bit to seal. Gently open the one un-crimped side and spoon the vegetable mixture into the packet. Fold over the opening to seal. You should have a tightly sealed squarish foil packet.

When ready, place the foil packet on the grill, put the lid on, and cook until the vegetables are cooked through - about 25 minutes depending on the heat of the grill. Ours was approximately 225 degrees. If the foil packet begins to char on the grill, move it to a cooler spot or lower the coals underneath it. When the vegetables are ready, carefully transfer the packet to a plate, open it slowly (there will be steam) and transfer them to a serving bowl. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh parsley, if desired, and serve.