BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes

Diva Cukes and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

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Sweet Sun Golds are finally ripe.



Raw dinner of rice wine vinegar- and-sesame oil-marinated cukes and cherry tomatoes bathed in olive oil, garlic and basil and tossed over pasta.


Maybe I should only try to blog during the academic term, and then I wouldn’t leave my readers hanging come summer. Believe me, I so wanted to blog these past few weeks, and have the pictures and notebooks full of musings to prove it. But the Great Firewall of China wouldn’t let me. and Facebook are blocked; though news sites such as NPR and the New York Times (which was in 2000) now aren’t. How I now treasure the freedom to troll the Web at leisure.


My first eggplants.



My first peppers, too.



One delicate zucchini. When more come, I'll turn to these recipes.


It’s refreshing to come home to garden-fresh veggies after two weeks of slurping down greasy sauces and fatty pork belly. Thanks our dear accupunturess friend, our tomatoes, eggplant, beans, cukes, zucchini and herbs remained watered in our absence. So today, orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Diva and slicing cucumbers, some small strawberries, basil, tarragon, some baby eggplant and gone-to-seed fennel welcomed us home. Sweet, raw goodness. For a light dinner, I marinated the cherry and yellow pear tomatoes in olive oil, garlic, basil, tarragon and salt and pepper. I shaved in a delicate zucchini and small green pepper (also from the garden) for good measure. Then we served this raw sauce over pasta. To ease the transition back from Asia, I quick-pickled the cukes with seasoned rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, red onion, garlic and a tad of salty ume plum vinegar. Dan was tired of those flavors. But somehow they still had some lingering appeal for me.

Written by baltimoregon

August 30, 2010 at 12:28 am

Corn, Tomatoes and Melons from a Sacramento Valley Roadside Stand

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Ripe tomatoes for 49-cents a pound. Local, yes, but obviously not organic.

The tedious drive down I-5 from Corvallis to the Bay Area is not one we hope to make again anytime soon, at least not there and back as we did in one weekend. But we had a wedding in Napa, and since our budget and patience have been drained by summer travel, driving seemed preferable to flying.

There were bright spots along the way: a satisfying outdoor lunch at The Cottage in Cottage Grove, spectacular views of Mount Shasta and gourmet tacos and agua fresca in Ashland. But the most memorable stop? A nondescript roadside stand on Highway 20 near Sacramento, just before we exited for I-5 N to Redding, and finally, Oregon. We passed it by, but I made Dan turn back. Summer corn, which isn’t quite yet ripe in cooler Corvallis. Melons. Giant Beefsteak tomatoes. I didn’t care if they weren’t organic. At least they were local, grown (perhaps with copious amounts of synthetic fertilizer and fungicides) in the fields that backed up to the stand. In the hot California sun.

The Charter Family Fruit Stand, on Highway 20 and King Road, just before you exit for I-5 towards Redding.

It was Sunday afternoon and packed with customers. They husked ears of sweet corn, sitting in heaps on ice, five for $1. Green bell peppers were five for $1, too. Tomatoes were 49-cents (marked down from 65-cents) a pound. At the farmer’s market, I think I’ve paid up to $3.50 a pound for organic tomatoes. Here, generic orange-fleshed melons were 2 for $1, as were fragrant cantaloupes; large honeydews and mini watermelons were just $1 each. The produce was local, fresh and cheap, and people couldn’t get enough of it. We grew giddy ourselves, coming home with such bounty for less than $10. I’m still committed to organic agriculture, but I choose local over pesticide-free produce shipped in from China or Latin America. And this farm stand makes affordable, healthy produce available to the masses.

Sweet corn on ice. I'd never seen that before.

As we drove home, I planned to make gazpacho and Mexican-style roasted corn with these treasures. I remembered seeing this melon gazpacho recipe, but tonight, didn’t allow enough time to macerate the ingredients in lemon juice. Instead, I turned to Mark Bittman’s far simpler tomato-melon gazpacho. The quick sautee in olive oil really brought out of the flavor of the still unripe orange-fleshed (with a honeydew-like rind) melon we used. I also finally peeled and seeded tomatoes using the proper technique, though I’m still not sure it’s worth the time.

Unfortunately, the soup lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Dan declared it heresy to make gazpacho without garlic, but wouldn’t that overpower the sweet, delicate melon flavor? Maybe it just needed salt. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to brighten things up. The bright orange soup presented well, at least, garnished with a dollop of yogurt and basil leaves. Anyone have better melon gazpacho recipes to recommend instead?

The corn, which we oven-roasted in the husk, was delicious. I still prefer my corn roasted on a proper grill, but we’ve never been big grillers. I’m still dreaming of that magical Mexican corn recipe from last summer. But my mother thinks it’s a crime to slather fattening butter and sour cream onto sweet corn. When it’s really good, she prefers hers without condiments.

Oven-roasted corn and tomato-melon gazpacho.

Written by baltimoregon

August 10, 2010 at 1:39 am

Luscious Lamb Ragu

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Lamb Ragu

Already defrosting-ground lamb, bought on a whim from Afton Field Farm at rainy closing time at the Saturday market, inspired this simple, stick-to-your-ribs meal. Beef, pork, or even rabbit, yes, but you might not think to put lamb in your meat sauce. But it’s delicious, albeit with that slightly gamey, lanloiny, earthy lamb flavor. We had Mark Bittman’s vote of confidence in this endeavor. We used leek instead of onion, added garlic and fresh oregano to the mix and used milk because we didn’t have cream on hand. Pecorino Romano would have been nice–keep the lamb in the sheep’s milk of its mother, or something–but our Parmigiano-Reggiano had to do. Dan loved it. Meat and tomatoes, over pasta. Nothing makes that boy happier. And after a rain-soaked day, it was just what I needed.


Paints and raincoat soaked through.


Will it ever be dry and sunny again?

Written by baltimoregon

November 9, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Lovely Local Lamb and Figs

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Getting intimate with the rack.Getting intimate with the rack.

Dan’s uncle and aunt, our yenta (not in the busybody sense), came all the way from New York to visit, so I wanted to make a special meal.

Eggplant Parmesan? Fresh fish? But then I stumbled upon new Bon Appetit recipe for Lamb Chops with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Figs. That’s what I would make. But calling these lamb chops is a bit misleading. It’s rack of lamb cut into chops. Not the most recession-friendly recipe. But luckily I found an affordable local source of lamb just down the road. I even biked to their store to procure it. Nice rack. Had to crack a little joke as I took the 3-lbs. of meat (and mostly rib bones) from the freezer.

Blushing beauties: Kadota figs.

Blushing beauties: Kadota figs.

The hardest part of the recipe was timing the cooking of the lamb right and carving the chops. All you do is rub the rack with herbs and garlic, add some salt and pepper, brown, roast then roast the succulent halved Kadota figs in the lamb fat. I especially love such plain-looking green figs with their resplendent blush interiors. In Siddhartha, when Herman Hesse compares “her mouth to a fig split in two“: that’s a description that’s stayed with me. Don’t you just love Google Books?

To whet our appetites, we noshed on local cheeses (including the end of an addictive Rogue Creamery Rosemary Cheddar) with hazelnut sourdough bread from the farmers’ market. They sampled my pickles; the kosher dills were a hit, maybe even better than Ben’s? What better compliment could a girl get. The asparagus and okra pickles didn’t go over as well.

Rounding out the meal was Julia’s always reliable, amenable whole grain salad. I threw blanched green beans from our garden and roasted local Italian peppers into it. I recommend making it with Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (Israeli couscous, orzo, split garbanzo beans and red quinoa). I think that’s the Trader Joe’s item I most miss. I always pick some up when I’m in Portland. It’s supposed to be coming to Corvallis. Of course, they’ll probably discontinue carrying this product by then.

The meal.

The meal.

Julia's whole grains.

Julia's whole grains.

Written by baltimoregon

September 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

Albacore Doesn’t Just Come in a Can

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Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

What a difference a year makes. I never thought I’d feel at home in Corvallis (or blogging, for that matter) but here exactly a year later since the move and this project began, and I’m well at ease.

We’re frantically trying to weed and tame the yard this weekend after a summer and, well really, a year of neglect. But I’m at least adept enough to coax a few vegetables from the earth. The green (and purple and yellow) beans, tomatoes and remaining leeks are still abundant enough to source a meal.

Fresh albacore is the obvious reply to what to make for dinner this time of year.

Apparently there’s only about a week left in the season. The one-pound chunk we bought downtown today at Harry & Annette’s Fresh Fish just came in from the coast this morning. Fresh albacore is affordable, fleeting and so much more delicious and less fishy than the canned stuff. It’s not sushi-grade bluefin or yellowtail but it’s a milder still meaty fish that melds well with a range of flavors, particularly gingerly Asian marinades.

The most recent food column in the local Corvallis newspaper inspired me. Since we shy away from the grill, we roasted the fish at high-heat, 500 degrees. We whipped up our version of the fresh tomato-ginger “relish” and the hot mustard better sauce. I doubled the sweet onion in the relish since I lacked green ones. And some leftover lebni yogurt cheese stood in for whipping cream, yielding a tasty but curdled butter sauce.

My home-grown beans we steamed and sauteed with lemon, rosemary and chopped walnuts. Freshing but a tad bit bland, according to Dan. But overall a memorable meal.

I just wonder if cooking will continue to capture my attention in 2009-10 as it did, sustaining me, last year.

Written by baltimoregon

September 6, 2009 at 1:38 am

Really Raw Tomato Sauce

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 DSC00040I went all of July without blogging. I’m embarrassed. It’s the first month I’ve skipped since this project began, with the move, last September. I meant to explain my absense. But the days, and meals, got away from me. I have the pictures to prove it. I left Corvallis June 30 and won’t return until this weekend. Since then, I’ve eaten my way through Vancouver and Halifax in Canada, Maine, the South Shore of Boston and New York, and all over South Africa. But I still miss the simple pleasures of the kitchen. I missed farmers’ market and garden produce during one of Oregon’s most bountiful, albeit alarmingly HOT, months. Will any of my neglected tomato plants wait to ripen for me? Did those bush beans, so sloppily sown, ever sprout?


Ripe romas, 15 for $1. Does it get any better?

Ripe romas, 15 for $1. Does it get any better?

After rich restaurant meals in foreign cities, I’m taking comfort in fresh, simple flavors. I’ve only now thrown myself, headlong, into the pleasures of summer tomatoes this week visiting family in Charlottesville, Va. Ah, the joys of delayed gratification: months of forgoing tasteless, but still tempting, winter tomatoes now yields its reward. Tomatoes this fresh and sweet don’t need adulteration. A little garlic, olive oil, a pinch of salt, a chiffonade of basil, that will do. I’ve craved these raw tomatoes. My husband was suffering from pasta withdrawal. So Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce was the only thing to make. Make endless variations with different cheeses and herbs. And the roma tomatoes I bought 15 for $1, madae this dish quite economical.

I fell in love with the preparation several years ago after reading Gael Greene’s description of the simple dish in her memoir. And she’s right: “only the best summer tomatoes will do.”

Written by baltimoregon

August 6, 2009 at 8:10 am

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