I was listening to a piece on NPR the other day and Barry Estabrook, the author of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Has Ruined Our Most Alluring Fruit was on the program talking about farm labor practices and the murky world of how our products get to the table. Barry has a great blog called The Politics of the Plate which you should look at just for his piece on the passing of Georgia legislation to use probation laborers on farms in a response to the lack of migrant workers due to the new immigration bill which becomes law on July 1.
A lot can be learned from the book and the NPR piece, but one thing struck me: This has nothing, beautifully nothing, to do with our CSA box. This box of stunning vegetables was picked by skilled peeps whose names I know. And to boot books tomatoes are not these beauties that we are about to cut into. Those are fleshy, rubbery things which can never truly capture what a beautiful tomato truly is… the taste of summer.
Beefsteak red tomatoes are just best sliced and dressed with a simple vinaigrette, herbs, salt and pepper.
ANOTHER Simple Vinaigrette
¾ cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon juiced
2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
¼ cup cider vinegar
Mix all of the ingredients together and stir well before using. This vinaigrette is a great because it is simple and neutral. The idea is to compliment the tomatoes without overpowering flavors.
These are some of the sweetest tomatoes ever. I really love using these little tomatoes for tomato confit by peeling them and gently poaching them in olive oil. A few keys to making this technique work great for these tomatoes are blanching quickly (this will enable you to peel the skin), steep herbs and aromatic vegetables in the olive oil over low heat (120˚-160˚), and wait until just before serving to salt them.
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1&1/2 quarts olive oil
1 smallish sweet onion (cut in half)
1 very small sprig of tarragon
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of thyme
¼ teaspoon whole toasted fennel seed
¼ teaspoon chili flake
Gently score the bottoms of the tomatoes, blanch in boiling salted water (30-45 seconds), and shock in an ice bath. Peel each tomato and set aside. Add all of the other ingredients into a pot and gently heat to about 160˚F. Add the peeled tomatoes and allow them to poach in the oil at a temperature range of 120-160˚F for at least an hour. When you are ready to serve them, use a slotted spoon to gently retrieve them and salt lightly. These are great served in a salad, as a hors d’oeuvres (with arugula, mozzarella and balsamic), or as an accompaniment to a main course.
Still wonderful. Serve them with the blackberries!
These are no doubt the best blackberries I’ve ever had. Shae Rehmel, our pastry chef, was telling me about a technique for serving these berries that keeps their raw form but brings out the sweetness in a light way. Shea makes a small amount of simple syrup with the addition of a few of the blackberries, strains out the seeds, chills and then tosses the fresh blackberries in it to coat lightly. Serve that with cookies.
These potatoes are very similar to Yukon Gold in color and texture with slightly rosy skin. These are going to be great for my go-to potato side, potatoes pommes anna. Pommes anna is thinly sliced potatoes layered in a cast iron pan with clarified butter that are lightly browned on medium-low heat (on a burner) and then finished in a 350˚F oven. This technique is great when you have really nice potatoes because it tastes great, looks pretty, and is pretty much just potato. The only thing to be mindful of when making this is to work quickly and toss the potato slices in clarified butter as you work to avoid brownage. A helpful tip Ben Barker gave me years ago was to incorporate onions into latkes and potatoes dishes of similar technique where oxidation is an issue as they help keep potatoes looking fresh after cutting.
3-4 medium potatoes
1 sweet onion (sliced)
¼ cup warm clarified butter
salt and pepper
Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-hot. Thinly slice the potatoes (if you have a mandolin of the slicing kind this would be a good time to break it out) working in small batches tossing the slices in the warm clarified butter as you go. Add the sliced sweet onion and season with the salt and pepper. Drizzle a small amount of clarified butter into the hot skillet and begin layering the potatoes and onions in the pan. This feels a lot like dealing cards. Be mindful of the heat of the pan. You want the potatoes to sizzle but you don’t want smoke. Once you’ve layer a nice thickness of the potatoes and onions in the pan place in the oven. You want the potatoes to be golden brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan (this should take about 10 minutes). Drain all excess butter right as you pull it out of the oven and carefully invert onto a plate (you may want to run a spatula under to make sure it all comes out at once).
We will be staying true to form by making an easy bread and butter pickle that are great to have around for lots of uses.
5 pickling cucumbers
1 sweet onion
¼ cup kosher salt
pinch of celery leaves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
¾ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup real maple syrup
Wash the cucumbers under cold water and then slice into thin rounds. Slice the onion and mix in with the sliced cucumbers in a large bowl. Add the salt and toss well to coating evenly and let sit at room temperature for one hour. Rinse the onions and cucumbers under cold water and a colander to rinse away all of the salt. Add the pinch of celery leaves and set aside (back in the bowl). In a non-reactive pot (stainless steel) combine the crushed red pepper, turmeric, mustard seeds, vinegar, water, sugar and maple syrup. Bring this to a rapid boil and add pour it over the cucumbers, onions and celery leaves. Cool and let them soak for a day or two.
This stuff is looks a lot like romaine and tastes a lot like butter lettuce. Wash it well and use it as a base for a summer vegetable salad (Simple Vinaigrette) or a great Caesar salad.
So many uses…Onion Jam next week.
These are the little patty-pan variety and are really nice grilled and served hot or grilled and cooled and used as an element in your summer vegetable salad. These are also really cool sliced and added into the B&B pickles.