Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homegrown: Greenhorns screening

Look, I grew some peppers! Yup, that's my entire harvest.

If you're interested in more serious young farmers (I am! my former roommate is starting at the Farm School this fall!), the documentary "The Greenhorns" is showing at the Brattle tomorrow (September 28).

They say:
Our documentary is called "The Greenhorns," and is about the struggle and valor of young farmers in America. It was directed by a Cambridge native.

We need help promoting to Boston-area citizens who care about the present and future of fresh, local food and sustainable farming. Will you help us get the word out? We want to pack the house. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with young farmer leaders from the greater-Boston area.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Tomato Pickles

My tomato plants have given up the ghost (looking at my neighbors' healthy vines and the glossy volunteer plants bursting out of the window boxes at Johnny D's, I suspect the cause was neglect, not seasonality). BUT ANYWAY, I picked all the green tomatoes as a farewell to this year's garden.

And I made two pints of green tomato pickles. (Pretty excited about pickling this year; maybe someday we'll talk about our cucumber pickles.)

The recipe I used came from Brooklyn Homesteader (via a page I tore out of, oddly enough, Bust magazine), but I don't see it online. (There are plenty of other recipes for green tomato pickles, though.)

You can also make it up! Basically, for each pint, put half an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and some pickling spice* in the bottom of the jar. Add sliced green tomatoes to fill the jar. Bring a mixture of half apple cider vinegar and half water to a boil (you'll need about 1 cup of liquid for each pint you're canning), and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 tablespoon sugar for each pint jar. Pour the hot liquid into the jars, carefully screw on the tops, and turn them upside down to seal. (These aren't properly canned, so store them in the fridge.)

My recipe also doesn't say how long to wait before eating them, but we'll probably give them a week or two before tasting.

* What's pickling spice? You can buy it premixed, or make your own according to a recipe, but I combined mine directly in the jars, based on what I had, with no attention to proportions. It's a combination of spicy/savory (mustard seed, celery seed, peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander, red pepper flakes or other chiles) and warm/sweet (allspice, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves) spices, often using whole seeds or pieces (rather than ground).

P.S. Loving my "Yes We Can" T-shirt from these guys.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stuffed Lipstick Peppers

These stuffed peppers are our next entry in the cabbage-disguised-as-Mexican-food sweepstakes (see cabbage enchiladas, previously).

Enterprise Farm sent us a dozen "lipstick peppers" (amazing small sweet red peppers) in last week's box. These ones are stuffed with a mixture of rice, refried beans, leftover tomatillo salsa, cheese, and sauteed onions and, yup, cabbage.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cabbage Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa

A major feature of life around here recently has been brainstorming ways to eat cabbage.

Inspired by some delicious (non-cabbage) enchiladas we'd had in New York, we had the idea of cabbage enchiladas. (Jack plumped for cabbage hard tacos, but was voted down.)

Strangely, we were not the first people to think of this. The key question about cabbage enchiladas turns out to be whether you put the cabbage on the inside or the outside. (Yes, I did briefly consider "both." That's how much cabbage we have.)

The recipe we went with was this one for Mexican Cabbage Rolls, substituting rice and beans for the ground beef to make them vegetarian. They were tasty (if a bit hard to cut), and if you got home late, you didn't get any. (No leftovers counts as a big win when we're cooking with cabbage.)

Serendipitously, Picadilly Farm sent us tomatillos today, along with a simple green salsa recipe, which made a tasty enchilada topping. Their recipe called for serrano or jalapeno peppers, but we used some roasted green chiles our friends Nathaniel and Ariel imported from New Mexico and left at potluck last week.

Simple Tomatillo Salsa

Husk and wash your tomatillos, and cut them into halves or quarters. Throw into the food processor with a garlic clove, a big handful of cilantro, and chiles to taste. Process until smoothish, and add salt and maybe lime juice to taste.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ketchup and Tomato Jam

I have a story to tell you that starts with forty pounds of tomatoes, but to ease into it, I'm going to start with just six pounds: four for ketchup and two for tomato jam.

Either Malcolm Gladwell ("The Ketchup Conundrum"; totally worth a read) or Jeffrey Steingarten (The Man Who Ate Everything) is the original king of telling you that it's impossible to make a better ketchup than Heinz. Jonah Lehrer has written about the problem. So has the Washington Post. And the Kitchn.

So of course I was going to try. There are lots of ketchup recipes out there, but aspiring to match average all-American ketchup, I used the USDA-approved canning recipe. (I made 1/6 the recipe, using four pounds of tomatoes and ending up with less than one pint of ketchup.)

But to hedge my bets, I also plotted to make a spicy tomato jam from America's Test Kitchen. Should my ketchup disappoint, I could plausibly deny that I had even been trying to make ketchup.

I e-mailed Jack the jam recipe, just to emphasize that I was not planning to make ketchup.

He wrote back, "They are totally talking about ketchup, right?"

But the ketchup recipe and the tomato jam recipe were actually very different. The only common ingredients are tomatoes and sugar (and the jam uses six times more when you consider its yield). They also both have vinegar, but different kinds.

Also, and this is important when you're as lazy as I am: the jam was fast and did not require peeling tomatoes. Or painstaking sieving. It did not bring you to that stage, an hour into the process, when you realize you've made tomato-flavored water that you despair of ever reducing down to ketchup consistency. And it yielded more finished sauce than the ketchup, while using half the tomatoes.

The jam -- whose secret nonvegetarian ingredient is a healthy amount of fish sauce -- turned out savory and jammy and sweet and chunky and every kind of delicious. I'm really pleased with it, and I've been enjoying it on toast and eggs and grilled vegetables and everything else I can think of.

And the ketchup? It turned out almost exactly like Heinz ketchup. I'm not sure what to make of that.

P.S. The upshot of having homemade ketchup on hand is a French fry renaissance in our house. We're trying a new frying method courtesy of Jeffrey Steingarten (really, his The Man Who Ate Everything is mouthwatering, despite the food criticism being fifteen years old). Instead of doing a long low-temperature fry (to cook the insides) followed by a short high-temperature fry (to crisp the outsides), you just cover the potatoes with room-temperature oil, turn the heat to high, and pull them out when the temperature hits 350. Results so far are encouraging.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Almost Enough Tomatoes

This is just the tomatoes that have come into our lives in the last day.
Between our two farm shares, the four plants out front, and a peach-picking trip hastily turned tomato-picking trip*, we are starting to have something almost approaching nearly as many gorgeous ripe local heirloom tomatoes as we can manage to eat.

I know, #firstworldproblem.

Jack and I scored a co-op hat trick, using up a rock-hard forgotten half baguette, some basil we'd grown ourselves, and a bunch of the tomatoes in a panzanella, or bread salad. (Incidentally, the New York Times apparently did a whole series on things to make with stale bread?)

Then Jack made a fresh tomato sauce over diced eggplant, sort of inspired by Cook's Illustrated's vegetable lasagna. (We also salted and microwaved the eggplant before cooking, as described in the Cook's recipe, which had the result of making one of our housemates ask "Where'd you get all the mushrooms?")

But Anna did it best, with a simple plate of sliced tomatoes topped with balsamic vinegar, a little oil, and salt. Yum!

* A field trip to Smolak Farms (where we had great success picking peaches and plums and nectarines last year) to pick peaches before they were blown down in the hurricane was a disappointment because of 1) lack of ripe peaches, and 2) lack of hurricane. Fortunately, they also have you-pick heirloom tomatoes.