Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh my. I'm a tomato-cooking fool, I fear!

But it's that wonderful time of year.  Tomato season is at it's zenith, zucchini are still abundant, brussels sprouts are coming on and there is just so much bounty coming off the farm on Sauvie Island, I can't stop cooking. 

Have I said before how very pleased I've been with the CSA we purchased?  It's been the best $17/week investment we've ever made.  Not only have we been delighted by the fresh-from-the-farm vegetables and the unique assortment we've had thus far, I've learned so awfully many interesting vegetarian recipes.  Who knew you could made a de-licious tart with Swiss chard?  Previously, I'm embarassed to admit, my only experience with Swiss chard was that time in the 70's when I, with assistance, took the bunch of chard, separated the leaves from the stem, breaded and fried the lot of it!  I cringe when I think of it today.  Thus far, my favorite chard-based meal was the Moroccan Bulgur and Greens. While it simmers atop the stove for several hours, it tastes and feels so very light and refreshing!  But back to today's cooking frenzy.

Typically, I'll gorge myself on fresh vegetables this time of year and lament the absence of same come January or February. This year I'm preserving much of this wonderul summer goodness. I'm hoping to have enough left to feast on it this winter.

Today for example, I roasted tomatoes to freeze for winter.  The smell as they roast makes the 400 degree oven worthwhile.  I also made a batch of a very simple, fresh tomato sauce (as it cooked down, the juice tasted like the very best tomato soup I'd ever had) which should be devine come December. 

I also prepared a very interesting, spicy little spread; Calabrian Eggplant spread.  Apparently it originates in the tip of Italy's 'boot' and is just delightful!  Eggplant cooked slowly until it falls apart on it's own with the added kick of peppers.  It will be fabulous on a pizza this weekend.  (I'm going to have to learn to grill pizza.)

But tonight will, I think be my 'piece de resistance';  a tomato and goat cheese tart with fresh from the farm tomatoes, goat cheese from the farmers market today, a salad of farm fresh lettuce and, yup, fresh tomatoes dressed with only olive oil and pepper balsamic and good, albeit store-bought, bread.  Served with some fruity wine from sounds like heaven.  Oh yeah, fresh peaches for dessert.

Gotta run, I'm drooling on the keyboard...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer cooking (some'r not?)

I think summer-time cooking is just the best!  Owing in large part to our move to vegetarianism just over two years ago, and my acknowledged inability to garden in general and espeically on an 8-by-8-foot deck, we bought into a CSA this year.  It has been, at $17 a week, the very best food investment we've made.  I've learned so many new tricks and tips from the wonderful cooking coach I have at Sauvie Island Organics.  And I'm learning how to experience the bounty of wonderful, fresh-from-the-earth vegetables. 

Consider the lowly, oft-maligned carrot.  Who knew that fresh from the ground, with dirt still clinging, it could be transformed by a simple scrub into such a wonderful treat?  Truly, I found them to be better than...well, not BETTER than pecan pie, but a close thirteenth or fourteenth place to it. 

On the farm, especially after he retired, Daddy had a bounteous garden.  He planted something like 100 hills of potatoes (his little Irish daughter loves her potatoes) with the requisite zucchini and tomatoes.  The tomatoes from SIO have taken me back to the glorious late-summer days of my youth.  Farmers markets notwithstanding, I'd forgotten just how wonderful a fresh, REAL tomato tastes.  More than just the taste, it's the texture and aroma of a fresh-from-the-field tomato.  Heaven on a plate - or in my case this week, heaven on the palm of my hand.  Too delicious!

And, owing to the encouragement of the coach at SIO, I've learned to depart from recipes which I have always followed almost to the point of slavish devotion.  For example, I created a black bean salsa this week to which I added corn cut from the cob and in a flash of genius (Art says I'm too humble.  What?) I added cooked quinoa.  Now we have a delicious salad hearty enough for dinner. 

And of course, we have roasted beets which, when combined with potatoes (more of that Irish girl thing) and topped with perfectly poached eggs render themselves a delicious beet hash which we had for breakfast this morning - so pretty.

I could go on for hours (and pages) extolling the virtue of summer cooking - and I will, just not today.  The sun is shining, it's officially the end of summer and I need to play in the sunshine while it lasts.