Post-Tomato Recovery

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Now that the tomato wave has crested, I can take a moment to talk about everything else. Of course, there will still be fresh summer tomatoes for a while yet, but they will no longer be in every single menu item. Beverly Dixon's squash turned out to be delicious- sort of a cross between a spaghetti squash and a butternut. I split them, baked them, pureed them and then cooked the puree with chicken stock and cream. Next I added some chicken, some left over grilled corn and hot pepper flakes. The result was a light creamy soup that tasted exactly the way that raw yellow crookneck squash smells.

Figs come and go, but ultimately there promises to be a lot. I collect the ones that have become too ripe to use in salads. When I have two or three cups, I can make fig ice cream. This is easy because I almost always have vanilla ice cream base ready to churn somewhere in the fridge. I split them and toss with a little salt and enough sugar to lightly coat them. I let them sit out at room temperature for at least a half an hour to juice up. Then, I simmer them ever so quickly in this juice- you don't want them cooked you just want them to red up a little. This pasteurizes them so they don't discolor and makes them a little less icy when they are frozen. The pan is set on top of ice to speed its cooling, then I mash the figs with the back of a fork until they are both pulverized and chunky. Lastly I fold them into freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Two hours in the freezer will give you a perfect serving consistency but this ice cream is good for days. The flavor reminds me of those old fashioned horehound sticks.

All this tropical storm rain will probably finish off the tomato glut we've been enjoying, so the corn meal tart has to move on. Even I like this and my spine generally stiffens at the mention of anything deliberately vegetarian. It is being replaced by the yummy, if ugly skillet eggplant. This is a recipe that I stole years ago at a cover dish dinner. It's a sort of stew made of course with eggplant plus onions, olives, diced raw tomatoes and feta cheese. It sounds Mediterranean but the source is a grandmother in Asheville. Peaches have been stellar, so our cobbler will continue for a while before I start on layer cakes again. Right now it gets an assist from blueberries from Braken Brea Farms.

One last thing. This weeks marks the third anniversary of Katrina slamming into Louisiana and Mississippi. Someone on the radio this week remarked that their fifteen minutes were up and to stop whining, so I'm only going to remind everyone how nice a visit to New Orleans can be. People are saying that it's begun to feel normal- whatever that means down there- again. So to celebrate, to the left is a picture of Willie Mae Seaton, beset by media, frying chicken in her newly restored house last year.

posted by Bill Smith at 5:02 AM 1 comments

So Many Tomatoes, So Little Time

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Actually, this may be the week. The market this past Saturday could take your breath away with its flowers alone. Tuberoses are late but finally here and there were also the most remarkable fuchsia colored sweet williams. It looks like the tomato cornmeal tart will take it's place on the menu along side the tomato and watermelon salad and the cold baked tomato soup. Then there is still the occasional heirloom tomato plate and cherry tomatoes of every color, shape and flavor are tucked everywhere. Clearly, we're having a bumper season. That goes for other crops as well. Our pole bean and field pea salad has become our field pea vinaigrette with pole beans as the season progresses. (I have never had so many field peas, and I didn't have to shell any of them!) We are never without cucumbers. I think that the blackberries have finally run their course. Yesterday, I had to compete with angry catbirds for the last remaining cup or two. To make up for this, there are now many varieties of blueberry that ripen in late summer. Perhaps I'll bring back the blueberries with lemon mousse. Its portrait used to grace the cover of our dessert menu.

Corn continues to be nice. I have stolen a recipe for pickled corn on the cob from Susie Williamson after I had it at her Fourth of July party. The recipe calls for pineapple juice and chipotle peppers. As luck would have it, Amanda Barr had just brought me a bagful of them from Oaxaca, where she had been visiting her mother. Then there are also cucumbers and onions, another reliable side dish, almost unnoticed because it is so simple.

It often happens that the surfeit of tomatoes vanish overnight, suddenly leaving great gaps in the menu. Happily the vegetables of late summer await. Eggplant comes to mind. At this morning's market there were the first pumpkins.

posted by Bill Smith at 4:01 PM 0 comments

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