Garden Update: I’ve Got ‘Maters!

With the heat wave we have been experiencing here in Athens (heat indeces of around 106 degrees F daily–woohoo!) and no rain in sight, I have noticed that my tomatoes have started going into overdrive.

(The heat wave did finally break last night, with a spectacular series of thunderstorms that included mult-colored lightning, cracks and rolls of thunder and torrential rain. Now it is only in the upper eighties. This, I can live with.)

The “Jellybean” cherry tomatoes and the “Juliette” miniature plum tomatoes are just pouring out ripe tomatoes like there will be no tomorrow. ‘Maters like heat, and the long dry spell also intensifies their flavor a good bit–(the flavor of my basil plants and other herb plants have also intensified in the heat–less water=more essential oils=more flavor) such that these little ovoid and round red fruits are bursting with tomatoey goodness. (And, no, none of them smell like feet or pond water. They smell like tomatoes. Duh.)

The “Mr. Stripey” heirloom tomatoes are getting big, but are still green. I suspect I will not harvest them until September. Which is fine–between now and then, I suspect we will have plenty of tomatoes from our own plants and from the CSA shares to contend with.

Every day, I have been able to go out on the deck and pick a big double handful of fruits that get gathered in my skirt–that is what you see in the photo above–a typical afternoon’s harvest, and they last on my counter for about three or four days–if they make it that long before being eaten out of hand, made into a salad, or our new favorite way of eating them: in the ever-evolving summer pasta saute.

The bowl you see on the counter there holds about two days worth of tomatoes–that is enough for a batch of pasta every other night.

The first variation on the summer pasta is written up here, with a recipe. This second variant is similar, but different enough that it has a flavor that is unique, even if it does share many of the same ingredients as the first. The variant I will make tonight will be a further refinement, with the addition of some ingredients, the subtraction of others. So far, the tally of who likes which pasta is thus: Zak likes the lemony tang and light refreshing quality of the first version, while Morganna and Donny both prefer this new version, with its creamy, unctuous quality from the ripened cow cheese, and the nutty flavor that comes from a large splash or two of sherry. I am thinking that I like them both, but in different ways and for different reasons: like the lemony version because it is lighter, but I really like the creamy cheesy version, because it involves creamy ripened cow cheese.

You will notice that neither version contains meat protein.

There is a story behind that.

In addition to the fact that I have lots of tomatos and other vegetables to use, I am having problems, as I slowly slide into my third trimester, eating meat again.

For whatever reason, I absolutely cannot stomach it. I don’t like the smell of it, and more than a bite or two of anything other than chicken or seafood seems to make me nauseous. I am also having reflux problems from the utererous pressing on the espophagus, and making it difficult to eat anything heavy that takes a very long time to digest.

So…I am pretty well back to eating mostly vegetables and grains, with some chicken and seafood. Most of my protein these days comes from dairy products and eggs, both of which have remained edible to me. Quiche from the local bakery, in fact, has been a godsend–they use whole wheat pastry flour in the crust, so it has a wonderful nutty flavor in addition to the flaky texture, and they use great cheeses and local eggs (local butter and milk, too) and a variety of delicious vegetable fillings that are just right. A wedge of that is perfect in the morning, as I have discovered that fried or scrambled eggs are not wanting to stay down as easily as they had been in the past.

So, there we are. My garden is still growing like mad–the “Jellybean” tomato vines are probably twelve feet tall at this point, but I have no real idea, since they have grown up to eight feet, then drooped down and I have tied them back down along the stakes, to the deck railing, where they are snaking along in great, twining tendrils. I don’t think they will stop growing and making blossoms until frost. What is scary, is that I have not fed them since I mixed the organic fertilizer into their planter boxes before setting the 6″ tall baby plants in there. (Yes, just a few short months ago, they were that tiny. It is hard to believe.)

The basils are also exploding in fecundity, and I can pick a big bouquet or two a week to use in cooking and still have plenty of basil grow up for next week. The other herbs are not quite as fertile, but I have plenty of them to use every week as well. The chiles are giving me a handful of pods every other week, so I am happily harvesting them as we go and adding them to the pasta dishes with abandon.

So now, here is another variation on my summer pasta–this one including Sweetgrass Dairy’s Green Hill ripened cow’s milk cheese:

Green Hill Summer Pasta

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small or 1 medium yellow onions, cut in half, peeled and thinly sliced
generous pinch salt
big pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes or a good grinding of black pepper for those of you can use it–lucky beasties that you are!
zest of 1 lemon, minced
3-4 small, very hot chile peppers, such as Thai bird chiles, minced (or, to taste)
3 large chantarelle mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry sherry, divided into two halves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 pint haricot vert, topped, but with the tails left on, rinsed and thoroughly dried
11/2 cup2 small plum, pear or cherry tomatoes, cut into thin quarters or sixths
1/8-1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
3/4 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente and drained
1 Sweetgrass Dairy Green Hill cheese, rind removed (removing the rind is optional–except for folks like me who are allergic to it)
1/2 cup minced fresh basil and flat leaf parsley

Method:

Heat olive oil in a wide, deep skillet on medium flame. Add onions, and sprinkle with salt and Aleppo or black pepper, and cook, stirring until they go medium brown and limp. Add lemon zest, chile, mushrooms and garlic, and keep cooking, stirring, until the lemon zest and garlic brown slightly, and the mushrooms are golden.

Add half of the sherry, and cook, stirring, until the alcohol evaporates.

Add haricot vert, and cook, stirring, until they deepen in color slightly. Add tomatoes, broth and second half of sherry, and cook, stirring until tomatoes just begin to break down.

Add penne and the cheese. Cook, stirring, to incorporate the pasta and melt the cheese into sauce thoroughly. At this time the haricot should be tender-crisp, the onions should be dark brown and fully caramelized, the tomatoes melty and good, the cheese should be turning everything into an unctuous, creamy sauce. When this happens, taste for salt, correct seasoning if necessary, stir in the herbs and turn into a warmed serving bowl.

Notes:
In order to remove the rind from a ripened cheese, put it in the fridge to firm it up a bit. Take it out and cut the top off of it carefully with a sharp knife. Let it come to near room temperature, and then, using a spoon, scoop out the cheesy goodness, and put it into a bowl. The riper the cheese, the easier this is to accomplish.

If you cannot get Green Hill or don’t want to try, use any ripened cow’s milk cheese for this. You can use Camembert, or Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. You can use Creme de Brie if you don’t want to play with removing the rind, though it won’t taste as good. Or, you can leave the rind, and just cut it into pieces. The rind will never melt all the way into the dish, though, and that might disturb some diners who think rind is ucky. In that case, you can pick that out before you serve it.

Either way works, so long as you are not allergic to mold, in which case, my methods work better!

9 Comments

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  1. Lucky you! You may want to check out Indira’s tomato pilaf recipe. It looks killer, and I bought tomatoes at the farmer’s market yesterday so I can make it tonight. Mmmmmmmm…..

    Comment by Diane — August 4, 2006 #

  2. Your tomatoes look beautiful! We’re still socked in the heat wave in Rhode Island, and my tomatoes are happy but not quite ready. Will try the summer pasta recipe with some of our own local cheese — a new fromage blanc from the goat farm up the road.

    Comment by Lydia — August 4, 2006 #

  3. Good stuff! We eat pasta in the summer, with similar sauces, too…

    And for your readers who might not want to eat lots of wheat – http://www.tinkyada.com makes excellent brown rice pasta.

    Comment by Hadar — August 4, 2006 #

  4. I found an excellent, and easy, French recipe for tomato soup. You can serve it hot or cold.
    1 peeled and chopped carrot
    1 chopped onion
    Saute in 1 Tab. olive oil until soft, but don’t brown onion. Add chopped garlic if you wish.
    Add a pound and 1/2 or so of quartered tomatoes-doesn’t have to be accurate.
    Add 1 Tab. dry marjoram, 1 bay leaf and 1 Tab. dried thyme. Cook covered over slow heat until tomatoes saft and mushy, about 45 minutes. Cool. Put mixture through a food meal or just into a food processor. Serve hot or cold. It is great cool on a hot day. It tastes much better to me that gazpacho.

    Comment by Linda — August 5, 2006 #

  5. This looks fantastic! I just got some of our local cheese at the market this morning, and some striped heirloom tomatoes. mmm mmm goodness.

    I also got something I’ve never cooked with before- I don’t know if it’s a southern thing (I’m in NC) but google was not that helpful: purple-hulled peas. Any suggestions?

    Comment by Kati — August 5, 2006 #

  6. Oh- and for the folks who like their carbs to have a little more nutritional punch, we’ve been using the Barilla Plus pastas recently- they are much closer in texture and taste to a regular pasta than the first incarnation of whole wheat pastas, and have quite a bit of protein as well. They are more expensive as pastas go, but still pretty cheap as far as food in general.

    Comment by Kati — August 5, 2006 #

  7. Great post with lots of good ideas. I have so many tomatoes right now, it’s driving me crazy almost! Today, I made homemade tomato juice that I love drinking right out of the bottle with the refridgerator door open of course!

    I’m about to go into my 2nd trimester and I can’t stand meat at all! I spit out some veal at grandma’s house, bleck!

    PS: I love using the word “goodness” for food stuff, I did it the other day in my curry potato stuffed peppers!

    All the best,
    Riana

    Comment by Riana — August 5, 2006 #

  8. Thanks for all the tomato ideas, everyone!

    And I have to admit, that I love Indira’s tomato pilaf recipe and want to try it soon!

    I may adapt it to cook it in my rice cooker–we’ll see what happens!

    Comment by Barbara — August 9, 2006 #

  9. [...] our deck–which is the only place that gets enough light for growing such things. I’ve chronicled our success with this approach here on this blog, but this year, I wanted to do something bigger. I [...]

    Pingback by Tigers & Strawberries » Persistent Herbicides in Commercial Compost = Stunted Vegetable Garden — June 8, 2011 #

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