Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back Home

Hello again, everyone. Sorry for the long hiatus. Chrissie and I were out of town last week visiting family. Oh yeah, we went to Paris - yes, that Paris.

Short story on the food - it was good. We had a lovely time eating out over there. Our favorite haunts were cafes (French for cafe), restaurants (French for restaurant), and brasseries (French for Bar & Pub). The food was varied and filling. Not the architectural, 5-course, 6-bite plates of haute cuisine. More like topped over plates of meat and potatoes. The wine was cheaper than the beer.

The thing that struck me the most about eating there was how often I got really full. "Really full" is one past "normal full." I got to normal full after I finished the entree, but somehow, after sitting for a minute to let it all sink in, I always managed to find room for desert. If not that, then ice cream from a street vendor, or chocolate from a sweet shop, or something. The really nice thing about it was that I didn't ever feel sick from it.

That's something I've come to realize in my wanderings - good food will leave you full and never leave you sick. You always find a way to finish off the last bit with good food. With bad food, you look at the pile still sitting there and you just can't bring yourself to eat any more. Now, don't get me wrong, I've had good food other places than Paris. It's just there, it happened to me every day, and I felt very confident in picking a place on a whim and knowing my stomach would be very happy.

Having said all this, it seems only fitting that I conclude with a toast - here's to Paris, here's to good food, and here's to good friends!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tomato Sauce

Remember all of our green tomatoes? Remember how a few of them were actually red?

Actually, close to 4 pounds of them were red (or close enough). We took that chunk and decided to make some fresh tomato sauce that we could jar and save for some fun pasta dishes in the future. This time we used a recipe out of a James Beard cookbook that we picked up when Borders was going out of business. Such a sad, sad day. Borders was the only place I could consistently find Seattle's Best Coffee. Which happened to be the home of my absolute favorite cup of hot chocolate. I think they still exist in airports sometimes, but I'm not totally sure anymore.

But I digress. Tomato sauce. We'll post the recipe later, but the portion we used on pasta that weekend with our friend was absolutely delicious. So good in fact, that when we forgot to make salsa out of one of our other bowls of green tomatoes and they magically turned red, we made MORE sauce!

I wish I could say that we're set for the winter or something, but three jars just won't last very long. So, sorry fellow food-growers of the area. I'm not sharing this time. Unless you have something dang good to barter with. Be warned: I'm a picky girl.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chasing the Carrot

I grew up with plenty of cartoons depicting rabbits desperately chasing carrots that were kept strategically out of reach in front of them. Never did I imagine that one day I'd become that rabbit, almost literally.

I didn't really think that I'd ever grow a more pathetic carrot than the one pictured early in this blog's existence, here. Seriously. As cute as that little guy was, it wasn't exactly a gardener's dream. So imagine my chagrin when I decided to pull up a carrot from this year's garden and found this:

Let's do a side by side comparison. That's the same housekey after all.

I realize now that when the seed packet mentions that thinning the plants when they start to sprout is a good idea, they probably mean it. For the time being, I'm hoping that leaving my carrots in the ground for a little while won't subject them to the same rot that it did my tomatoes last year. Maybe then I can at least grow a crop of baby carrots. The chase continues.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brine Fail

Remember a bowl of those green tomatoes from our last post? I brined them. The short story - not that good.

I decided to spice the brine up with some ginger, dried chilis, clove, peppercorn, and fennel. Then I put tomatoes in at various stages of cutting. Some I chopped in half, some I cut incisions, and some I left totally alone.

Just about everything went wrong. The brine had too much going on. When the taste did come out in the tomatoes, it was reminiscent of cough syrup. Weak cough syrup mind you, but cough syrup all the same. On the plus side, the tomatoes didn't get mushy.

You really have to put some cuts into the veggies. I could not taste any of the brine on the tomatoes I left alone, which in retrospect doesn't displease me at all, but that still meant I was chewing boring green tomatoes. I'll put it out there right now, not my favorite. Something to remember for the future - cut up your stuff.

Last thing to boot - the jar that I was brining things in developed a crack (no idea how), so brining the green tomatoes was it's last adventure before being recycled. We had some good times with that jar. We originally got it and others to store cookies for our wedding. We made homemade cookies as wedding favors. Well, actually I should say that Chrissie made the cookies. The jar survived three moves, but I guess it couldn't survive this.

Chrissie was reading about green tomatoes last week and she told me an interesting tid-bit: all tomatoes have the same nutritional value regardless of ripeness. That's something for a silver lining at least.

If there ever is a next time on the brining, I'm going to have to use more salt. I also really want to add some sort of savory in there too, but I don't trust putting anything fatty or oily in there. I think it'll go rancid. Lately, my solution for this predicament is to add MSG, but I'd rather not resort to that because I don't want to be known as "that MSG guy." I will admit though, it's pretty tasty.

PS - there probably will be a next time on brining because that's how you make sauerkraut and that's something I really want to do. Point of interest, most commercially, mass produced sauerkraut is made by altering the cabbage with a mix of chemicals. I'm always disappointed when I open up a bag of kraut that I get from the grocery store shelf and I think that's the reason why. It just doesn't have the same something-something that traditionally made kraut does.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Peck of Tomatoes (or so)

One of the joys of living in the Pacific Northwest - it's October and the long cold and wet season is beginning right on cue. Seriously.

So, it's a good thing I suppose that we decided to harvest our tomatoes, green or not, last weekend. We tried hanging on through part of October last year and just lost a lot of them to a wet rot. This year, we have the joy of figuring out what to do with this:

Don't let the red bowl fool you. Most of the tomatoes you can't see are still green.
That's not even all of them. We have approximately 10.5 pounds of mostly green tomatoes that we'll be experimenting with today. Our plan so far is as follows:

L to R: Chutney, Sauce, Salsa, Fried Green Tomatoes, Brine

With any luck, we'll find lots of great things to do with green tomatoes since it looks like our climate will give us lots of them for years to come.

Wish us luck!