Breast Cancer Awareness Month — In honor of my mother and my best friend.
Two of our indeterminate cherry tomato plants are now 13-feet tall. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to tie and pick them. It means one of us is on a tall ladder, which is securely resting on a platform specifically built for the purpose, while the other one holds the ladder (just for reassurance). Even then, the picker is perched one-step above the comfort zone.
We planted our six tomato plants from seed this year – an activity that turned out to be a huge success. All summer our neighbors have watched their progress. We started getting comments when the tomatoes reached 6-feet, but over the past month or so we’ve seen cars stop and people point. If passersby see us out front, it’s a given that they’ll ask us about the tomatoes.
We figure they’ll continue to grow at least another foot before their season’s over.
I’m not sure what I’ll fix for dinner tonight, or tomorrow night, or the next night, but you can be certain of one thing… it will include tomatoes.
As of today, this is my favorite salad. I shaved an English cucumber into thin curls and combined them with creamy slices of avocado and a few fresh basil leaves. Then I added a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes. A sweet, tangy poppy seed dressing is drizzled over the top. I’ve had it three days in a row and I’m still not tired of it.
Cucumber, avocado and cherry tomato salad with poppy seed dressing.
Poppy seed dressing
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 cup salad oil, such as canola
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
In a deep, narrow bowl, combine the honey, vinegar, salt, and dry mustard. While whisking, slowly pour in the oil to emulsify. Stir in poppy seeds. Chill extra dressing.
These are so good. You can taste the pumpkin and the pumpkin pie spice in these buttery caramels. They’re rich and chewy and everything a salted caramel should be. When I read the recipe, I wasn’t sure about the toasted pumpkin seeds, but they add a nice crunch, and complement the caramel perfectly.
They take a bit of time, so if you decide to make these seasonal treats, keep in mind that you may be stirring caramel on the stove for as long as 40 minutes, and then waiting a couple of hours for them to set. For me, that was easy, because one of our daughters was helping, and it was a fun mother-daughter activity.
The recipe is featured on Food52, but it was created by cheese1227. We followed the directions to the letter, and they turned out perfect.
Makes 64, 1-inch caramels
Salted pumpkin caramels
- 2/3 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cups light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup good maple syrup
- 1/4 cup of water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel, such as Maldon Sea Salt
Dry toast the pepitas in a skillet until they start to pop. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-in square glass pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan. Evenly spread out the toasted pepitos on the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment.
In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, pumpkin puree and spices. Get this mixture quite warm, but not boiling. Set aside.
In a second heavy bottomed pan, with sides at least 4 inches high, combine the sugar, both syrups and water. Stir until the sugars are melted, then let it boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and slowly bring this mixture to 240 degrees as registered on a on a candy thermometer. This can take awhile — like 30 minutes — but don’t leave the kitchen, watch it carefully and stir it more frequently once it hits 230 degrees.
Still picking tomatoes in Portland, Oregon
It’s inevitable. The long days of summer shorten. One by one, the summer vegetables finally finish producing, and the plants are taken down and put into the composter. The earth is lightly turned and we sow new seeds for plants that can tolerate an occasional frost, such as spinach and kale.
Up until only a few days ago, Portland has held onto summer weather, and our tomato plants are still full of tomatoes.
We stand at the Sungold cherry tomato plant and eat its sweet orange fruit like candy. The large variety tomatoes are sliced and go into sandwiches, or are eaten plain, with just a sprinkle of salt. I also make these big beauties into sauces, salsa and soups.
The other cherry tomatoes, such as the Jolly Elf Grapes, tend to end up roasted in a hot oven, covered in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. After twenty-five minutes, their skins burst and they lose some of their juice in the pan. Out of the oven, I smash them with the back of a big spoon, stir in a few fresh basil leaves, and a couple of tablespoons of warm butter. Finally, I pour this roasted tomato mix over a steaming bowl of freshly drained noodles, such as angel hair pasta or linguini, and add a handful of soft, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
The candle is lit, the bread is cut, the wine is poured, and we enjoy the last days of the summer garden.
A couple of weeks ago I got together with two friends, and, as always, our topic of conversation turned to food. I’m not sure why pastries, fruit pies and galettes became the center of attention, but before I could even stop myself, I enthusiastically invited them over for a baking party at our house next week.
Danish pastry was the original idea, but I wasn’t keen on using premade puff pastry and if we took the steps to make homemade laminated dough, our fun little party would turn into an all-day affair. I decided fruit galettes to be a much more suitable endeavor, requiring the perfect amount of effort and time.
Yesterday I test-drove my plan. For the filling, I chose a few plums left from our plum trees and three sweet, juicy nectarines sitting on our counter. I also decided to add some frozen blueberries for color.
This humble, rustic pie was like biting into the last warm days of summer.
Stone fruit and blueberry galette. Pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry) recipe from Martha Stewart
Pâte brisée ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Fruit filling ingredients:
- 3 nectarines or peaches, cut into 3/8-inch (1cm) slices
- 2 plums, cut into 3/8-inch (1cm) slices
- Small handful of blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon (or less) milk
- 1 tablespoon apricot preserves (optional)
- Additional sugar for sprinkling on galette (I used organic sugar for this because I love its texture)
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)
With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator (save second piece for another project) and roll out on floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. You should end up with a circle about 14-inches in diameter. If dough splits at the edges while rolling it out, pinch it together. Place prepared dough on parchment or silpat lined rimmed sheet pan. (Edges of dough will hang over slightly.)
Combine fruit with the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Arrange fruit on pastry dough, keeping a 2-inch border. Sprinkle butter cubes over fruit. Fold pastry up over the dough, pinching it together where it overlaps.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush milk over pastry. Sprinkle with scant amount of sugar.
Bake galette for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is dark, golden brown and fruit is bubbly and cooked. Remove from oven and brush fruit only (not pastry) with melted preserves.
The green beans came down yesterday. It took the better part of two hours, mostly on a ladder, unraveling their fibrous, sticky tendrils off a nine-foot tall, wire grid support. We had twelve linear feet of pole bean plants. I found that wearing gloves made the job more clumsy, so with a small pruning nipper I tediously cut and tugged only about eight inches at a time away from the wire. After the support was cleaned of growth, I raked the yard and picked the sticky leaves off my clothing and shoes. (Strangely, they stuck particularly well to my shoelaces.) My arms were tired but the area looks tidy – ready for next spring’s peas.
Most of what was harvested I French-cut, blanched, put into heavy plastic bags and set in the freezer – to be enjoyed for future dinners. (Another big job.)
I selected the prettiest pound of beans to coat in batter and deep fry last night. The dipping sauce didn’t make the picture but it was soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil and a teaspoon of sugar mixed together – a perfect complement to the crispy beans.
These were delicious. A perfect way to celebrate hard work, resulting in a stupendous season of beans.
Check out last year’s post showing how to use a bean slicer – a nifty way to French-cut green beans.
Sesame tempura green beans with soy dipping sauce
Dipping sauce ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
Tempura beans ingredients:
- About 4 cups vegetable oil (for deep frying)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on finished beans
- 1 cup beer (not dark – I used Stella)
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed
Stir together the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside.
Blanche green beans in two batches by bringing a large pan of water to boil. Put half the beans into the boiling water and let them cook for two minutes. Using a large slotted spoon or spider, remove the beans from the boiling water and plunge into ice water. When beans are cool, remove from water and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with second half of beans, adding more ice to ice water if needed. These can be done up to two hours ahead of time. Just wrap them up and put them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Let oil heat to 365 degrees F in a Dutch oven or wok.
Meanwhile, create tempura batter by whisking dry ingredients together. Add the beer and continue to mix until batter is smooth.
Take a handful of beans and place in the bowl with the batter. Coat the beans with the batter. When oil is ready, one by one, shake off excess batter and carefully add to oil. Fry in batches, until they are golden and crisp, about 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from oil with a spider strainer to a paper towel lined sheet tray. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat until all beans are fried.
Note: I kept my beans warm in a 200 degree oven until all were done. Serve these as soon as possible.