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Tomato Season 2010

Here's some pics of my motherload tomato harvest from this year...

 Bowls and Bowls and Bowls FULL!!!

 ...such an array of colors...

 ...and a handful of cherry peppers too (bottom right corner)

 mostly 'slicers'...

Im already anxious for next season!! ...How many months of winter do I have to wait??? hmm...


seed starting... phase 1- digging everything out!

...for in the depths of winter, i need to invest in something like this:
...i've smelled it before- it really smells like a big fat juicy tomato on the vine... YUMMM!
it would be especially helpful when im getting bombarded by colorful seed catalogs- OH MY!

but now to figure out what ive got left over from last year...


& i did save some tomato seeds last fall- im excited to see how they fare!
...this year, SO FAR (and i havent even been to the greenhouses yet!) it looks like ill be growing:
-absolutely my favorite tomato of the moment; heavy producer with gorgeous markings, uniform size- great slicer and perfect signature flavor...some weighing upwards of a pound!
-nice yellow color with great flavor. 8-10 oz fruits
-super slicer, awesome tomato flavor. another fav... also upwards of a pound
-deep dark crimson red fruits are a bit larger than cherry-size.
-these are stunning- white, with good flavor. very pretty sliced amongst other varieties and colors
-kind of an orange color, very prolific and a sturdy plant. smaller, 4-6 oz fruits
-super funky markings of all colors. maybe doesnt taste quite as awesome as it looks, but im willing to try it again, pending a better growing season.
-roma, paste variety- very hardy. good for sauces
love the shape, and theyre always a dependable producer. 
these have gorgeous ruffle-y 'shoulders'. beautiful italian heirloom.
-funky brownish cherry tomato with perfect flavor. they are extremely prolific, growing in big clusters.
very big, upwards of 2 pounds! great slicer with great flavor.
-smaller, 4-6oz fruits remain green and develop darker green 'stripes'. must 'feel' for ripeness. great addition to salads with other varieties
i love this one. deep red-purple color and great flavor. not super heavy bearing, but ill give it a third season
roma-style paste tomato, yellow in color. very prolific grower. good for sauces.

I also have about 7 varieties that i saved from last year that im not too sure about what the variety is- itll be a surprise! im also swapping seeds this year with about 4 people, so ill just hafta see what comes up!!  ;) 

i LOVE these seed resources:
they have such great variety and also you can get most everything in bulk!
ive ordered from them more than once and theyre very consistent.

also, baker creek ROCKS:
i aspire to be them someday- it all started when he was young and it has blossomed into a hugely successful heirloom seed movement. amazing selection!

and of course good ol'

i love recycling so i use seed plug flats leftover from greenhouses spring plant shipments- theyre great in more ways than one and plus, i can usually get 'em for free!! yay! 

to fill- just use a fine germination mix, then add about 1/3 as much of plain dirt. dont use miracle grow or any of that garbage dirt in a bag. its got a lot of perlite (which isnt bad, its like volcanic rock or something-not styrofoam) but also weird fertilizers and god knows what else, so try and buy a good organic variety.

mix medium and dirt together and wet down, not sopping wet- you shouldnt be able to wring any water out when you squeeze it. plus its just easier to wet it down first, than to to try and moisten dry medium when its in the plug trays.
SO then, ready to plant!
to be continued... ;)


THE BEST BBQ Chicken Pizza EVER.

So I dont mean to over-talk this pizza up to such big proportions, but seriously, if you were ever a fan of the whole bbq-style chicken pizza craze, this Oh SO good.
*OK, theres kind of a lot of steps to this, so read through thoroughly before embarking on this adventure!*

This particular time, I used Trader Joes' whole wheat pizza crust... (but it's also very worth your time to make your own) also, I rolled it out slightly thinner than the instructions on the package directed, brushed it with garlic butter and pre-baked it til it was just slightly browned. 

And  because I'm just weird like I am, I have pre-cooked & portioned, shredded chicken in my freezer, ready to just be warmed through... Although most of you arent like me,  it's quick to prep the chicken for this pizza- just poach a couple of chix breasts with some roughly chopped celery ribs, onion, carrot and garlic, as well as bay leaves, peppercorns and a couple dried hot chilies in simmering water until done. Let sit until cool enough to shred. Set aside.

 So then:
Thinly slice 1 medium sweet potato. Toss the slices with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and then grill the potatoes in a cast iron grill pan, turning over to crsip both sides, and then set aside. While the pan is still hot, grill 1 green bell pepper, cut into long strips, turning until lightly charred. Let cool and roughly chop. Set aside.

THEN, in another medium pan, caramelize 1 large yellow onion in butter on med-low until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.

Chop 1/4 lb. smoked bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. In a medium pan, fry the bacon 'bits' until crispy. (aka 'lardons') Remove and drain on paper towel lined plate. Set aside, reserving the grease and the pan:
   take the cooked shredded chicken and saute it in the leftover bacon grease, toss a bottle of Ken Davis in and heat through.

Shredded Mozzerella, Cheddar (1-2 cups each) and Blue Cheese crumbles (about 1c)
1/2 c thinly sliced scallions
2 T. Fresh chopped parsley
1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Lay sweet potato slices around the pre-baked crust. Spread reserved caramelized onions, grilled green peppers and lardons over potatoes. Top with the shredded chicken and bbq sauce from pan. Sprinkle the three cheeses, scallions, parsley and pepper flakes over top and bake until cheese is melted and lightly browned...



Pesto... in February??

...when Trader Joes is involoved  :)
...I bought three of their big packs of basil- probably about 2c. per pack...
Since pesto is really a simple process, with few ingredients, make sure you use high quality olive oil, pine nuts and cheese... it makes all the difference in the world!!

1c pine nuts, toasted (300 degrees for about 12 minutes)
8 cloves garlic
1c. high quality parmesan, finely grated (about 1/2 - 2/3 lb.)
6c. basil, washed and spun dry
8 T lemon juice, from about 3 lemons
1c olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 c water

Put first 3 ingredients into food processor (alternatively use a blender) & process until paste-y. Feed basil leaves through chute with processor/blender running, alternating with the lemon juice and olive oil until incorporated. Season with the salt and pepper and add water until mixed through.
Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze about 5 hours. Transfer to a freezer bag or tupperware and store up to 6 months (if it even lasts that long!!)  ...OR use right away, fresh from the blender!


Making 'meringues' has never been my strong suit... its always been a yolk contamination issue or I over beat and break the whites. dont forget under/over baking them etc... They're tricky little buggers. After countless trials and errors over the years, I finally got my touch with this recipe & was happy when I got the OK to make them for the Ely Art Walk open house this weekend... You can really alter this as a base and make any flavor combo you like:
vanilla/raspberry/cherry/orange/mint-chocolate, or exchange the cocoa powder for all powdered sugar and make plain vanilla, etc... you can also add food coloring too- have fun!

*Preheat oven to 300 degrees*

2c confectioner's sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder (or powdered sugar, if making vanilla etc)
2 T cornstarch

8 large egg whites, at room temp
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla, mint, any flavor extract...

luster dust or melted chocolate, etc for decorating- optional...
Sift together the first 3 ingredients. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Add granulated sugar, one tablespoon at a a time until incorporated. Beat on high until stiff, shiny peaks form. Add extract and food coloring, if using.
Gently fold the powdered sugar mix into the meringue. Fill 16" disposable frosting bag with meringue batter. (Use whichever shape/size tip you like, I used a plain one)
((this is what my arm felt like after doing 200 little blobs!))

Pipe the batter on to parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 1" apart. Bake 8 minutes and then reduce oven temp to 200 degrees. Bake 1 hour further. Let cool 1 hour more.

Decorate or leave plain. Eat alone or use in a fruit trifle   :)



Cold, rainy day in January leads to... Egg Rolls???

You bet! ...i could eat chinese food every other day ( the other ones, i eat mexican ) ... if you know me at all, i've got a 'fried' tooth- right next to my 'sweet' tooth- i LOVE egg rolls! but to buy those frozen "egg rolls" at $4.50 a box is bogus... (and how DO they pack so many preservatives into such a measly little roll??) those msg-laden frozen nuggets are just a waste of space. yes, they are easy. but oh so gross...

You may need to beef up your 'international pantry' for this one... If you're like me, you've got most of the usual asian condiments... you'll need:

fish sauce
oyster sauce
rice wine vinegar
soy sauce
sambal chili paste 
five-spice powder
toasted sesame oil

I also keep an assortment of hot mustards,  sweet and sour sauces and chili pastes on hand

1- 2   (15-count) packages egg roll wrappers
1 lb meat of choice- ground chicken, pork or shrimp (or a combo)
1 small head of napa cabbage- shredded, washed and spun dry
3-4 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 bunches scallions, sliced on the bias (diagonally)
1 package of bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
4 stalks of celery, sliced thinly on the bias
2 T sesame seeds
two-inch peice of fresh ginger, finely minced
5 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 tsp chinese five-spice powder
pinch of lemongrass powder (i use penzey's)
4 T soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
3 T oyster sauce
2 tsp sambal paste
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame oil

oil, for frying
1 egg, for egg wash
 Preheat large wok.

Add sesame oil to wok. Add garlic and ginger- saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add choice of meat and cook through. Add the 5-spice and lemongrass powders, the sauces, chili paste and vinegar. Heat through. Put in remaining vegetables in and saute until cooked through, but tender. Sprinkle in sesame seeds. Drain and transfer to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet- spread filling out and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Make an egg wash out of 1 egg and 2 T water.

Lay egg roll wraps out one at a time and fill with 1/2 cup of cooled filling. brush 2 adjoining edges with egg wash and roll up, starting with the un-egged corner closest to you. tuck in sides and roll up, firmly but gently,  to seal.
Make sure you keep a damp towel draped over unused wraps to prevent them from drying out.
-also keep finished unfried rolls covered-
-line a rimmed tray with paper towel and put a cooling rack on top-

Wipe out wok and preheat frying oil to just under 400 degrees. CAREFULLY slide one egg roll into hot oil, then another, not frying more than 2 at a time to prevent crowding and to keep an even oil temperature.
Using long tongs, turn roll over, gently holding it to brown other side.  transfer cooked roll to prepped cooling 'rack'...  Continue with remaining rolls...

You can freeze the rolls after they're completely cooled- reheat in 375 degree oven.

I like to make a simple sweet and sour sauce:
equal parts white sugar and rice wine vinegar
& 1 T hot pepper flakes

Combine in small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. turn off heat and add:
2 inch chunk of cucumber, finely chopped
let cool and serve with egg rolls...
 (its also good on rice noodles with some chopped roasted peanuts...)




Carmelized Onion Bread Pudding a day old baguette?? you should try this... SOOO tasty with a good ribeye and some haricot verts, OR by itself as a meal with a salad... you can use any kind of bread you have on hand, to suit your taste-i also love using croissants for this, it plays well with the sweet onion... mmm, & NO calories  ;)

Start by chunking the bread into large cubes... let dry on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours... (you'll end up needing about 8 cups of bread total...)
3 large yellow onions, sliced thin
4 T butter
3 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. parsley
salt and pepper
2 c whole milk
2 eggs
2 cups of a combo of two of the following; shredded fontina, swiss, mozzerella, provolone... any good melting cheese- i like a good 'stinky' fontina with the onions

Saute the onions in the 4T butter on medium heat, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Whisk together the herbs with the milk and eggs, season with salt and pepper.
Combine the 8 cups of reserved bread with the herbed milk mixture. Add the cheeses. Spread into a ceramic casserole dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, covering with foil if the top starts to brown too fast.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving...