It’s no secret that I have an obscene love of food. What most people don’t know however, is how much that love extends to the utensils and dishes with which food is prepared, served and enjoyed. I would wager, in fact, even my own family is in the dark as to how deep my fondness for all things food-service related runs.
There is something about fall that is truly endearing on every level. The combination of warm, soft sweaters; the sound of leaves blowing across the ground; the smell of chill in the air; and the inherent comfort in the foods that call the season home don’t hurt. Of that I am sure. But for small farmers and local growers the season signifies something greater than even these material comforts.
Fall, for farmers, is the end of an era. It is a time of hard work as is every season, but it’s also a time of reflection, of examining what worked and what did not. It’s a time of tweaking systems. A time of extending harvest, milking the earth for just a few more weeks of production. More than all of this however, it’s a time of loss. Of saying goodbye. [Read more…]
I have always adored misshapen pumpkins most.
I have always preferred imperfection.
That’s why, when last weekend, as I watched my own two girls pick out their yearly jack-o-lantern prospects I was proud to see flattened stems and dented backsides making the cut.
Last week, in On Inheritance we talked Heirloom tomatoes; their origins, beauty, roots in the land and the way such a simple fruit can connect us with our ancestors, the generations past. This week, we’ll take a more practical look at the summer’s most coveted bounty with some of the best recipes from around the web.
After decades of conditioning to the acceptance of dull, pale, supermarket varieties one of the biggest questions people have about heirloom tomatoes is what to do with them. Sure, they’re pretty, but how do we eat them? Everyone knows they’re great for slicing, but a rare few know the true breadth of a good heirloom’s culinary possibilities.
Prior to the relatively recent industrialization of our food system however, heirlooms were all that existed and as such the possibilities for their uses extend as far as our imaginations. From salads to sauces, pizzas to pastas heirloom tomatoes are the perfect accompaniment to just about any dish and even make great waves as the dinner table headliner themselves. That said, without further ado, some of the best heirloom tomato recipes I’ve found to date:
Food Network gives a well-received template for creating an heirloom tomato salsa, my only tweak to their system would be to encourage you not to limit yourself to one variety of tomato. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different textures, colors and tastes to find the blend you enjoy most.
Martha Stewart offers her rendition of the all-American Friday night dinner with her Oven-Dried Heirloom Tomato Pizza and there’s really no sense in trying to improve a recipe from the master, especially when it doesn’t get any simpler. I love how she lets the tomatoes flavor take center stage in this one with just a dash of pepper to spice things up.
Sea Salt With Food’s Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad doesn’t specifically call for heirloom tomatoes, but substituted for the conventional grape tomatoes the heirloom would really make it pop.
And last, but certainly not least, one I have not tried but that I couldn’t help but be fascinated with; Cheddar Cheese Pancakes with Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette — yes, I said warm bacon — from Sippity Sup. Try it and let me know what you think. It has both tomatoes and bacon so it has to be good.
Until next week, happy tomato eating!
* Heirloom Tomato Art in this column is by Big Bean Photos, f2 Images and Darrah Parker, respectively. Because Tomatoes are not just for eating, but also good for decorating. So go get yourself a print, or ten.
August, the eighth month; a time when there is no longer any denying that what stands just on the other side of these long, hot days is autumn. The year is two-thirds over. And, I loathe to admit, in many locales so is the growing season. Last week the ripening of my tomatoes came on in earnest. Just in time, as a sick and demented cosmic plot twist would have it, for me to leave town for 5 days. While it’s a time, as I mentioned in both On Inheritance and Cooking Up History recently, I look forward to with great gusto every year it’s also a time when I’m forced to face the truth. Unlike July when what awaited me on the other side of long, hot days was more long, hot days all that awaits me now is autumn. And, as much as I love falling leaves, back-to-school, pumpkin pie and knobby sweaters I hate — yes, I said hate — the dwindling period of yet another growing season. Even if it will be filled with some of the year’s most satisfying meal prospects.
Unfortunately for some areas — especially those in the deep south and the southwest — where the weather is too hot even for heat loving varieties this is already largely a reality. But before we go feeling too sorry for them, or them for themselves, remember those locales will have a second growing season just as the rest of the country is laboring the get the most out of the end of their first and only. So if you’re in a location where much of the summer’s bounty is taking a back seat to killer temperatures, hang in there and check back in next month when the availability of local produce will pick back up by leaps and bounds in your area. Just don’t stop visiting your farmer’s markets in the meantime, there is still plenty to find there.
And for the rest of us; what can we expect to find gracing farmer’s stands this month? Look for heat loving produce and those items that require a long growing season to be ripening by the bushels in August. Peaches, those tasty tomatoes we’ve been discussing and peppers of all varieties — the hotter the better if you ask me — as pictured will all be available in many places, but alongside them you’ll probably also find sweet corn, okra, plums, melons, cucumbers, figs, nectarines, eggplant and apricots.
Until next month, Happy Farmer’s Market Shopping!