Tomatoes Growing Up

 photo IMG_0407.jpgIn the past several years I’ve had a fair amount of garden success.  We’ve had tons of greens, homegrown broccoli and cauliflower, peas, green beans, bell peppers, leeks, chives, potatoes, onions, raspberries and asparagus. And ohhhhhh the strawberries. All of this glorious bounty has been overshadowed by a string of defeats in the tomato patch. And folks, where I live, if you don’t have tomatoes, you don’t have a garden.

 photo IMG_0410.jpg  photo IMG_0408.jpg  photo IMG_0417.jpg

I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve tried different varieties, growing from seed, growing from seedlings, growing from not so “seedlings,” watering with a timer, drip irrigating, growing upside down, and I won’t even go into the soil amendments and natural cure alls. I’ve rarely had lasting success, and when I have, either the deer, the squirrels, or some climate induced illness takes over.

So given that I am not ready to give up on tomato growing (which clearly indicates that I have serious issues), I decided to get a little radical. This year, we’re going vertical. Why? Because all my garden gurus say it’s a good idea, and it’s the only thing I haven’t tried. And, given that diseases associated with humidity have been one of my primary enemies, it seems like a good idea. Continue reading

Summer Awesomeness Fritters

What to do, what to do….  I really like to cook.  More importantly, I really like to eat.  But even I, with my pretty broad palate and spirit of culinary adventure, run into a case of the “I Don’t Knows” every once in a while.  When this happens to me, I take a good long look in the fridge.  What is in there that is either 1) so fresh that I will hate myself if I don’t eat it while it’s awesome OR 2) a little long in tooth and must be used now before it becomes a science experiment?  Better still, what to do when you’ve got a little of both?  This was my conundrum. My reluctant zucchini plants produced a couple more squash and while picking them I realized I hadn’t yet used the last surprise squash (powdery mildew is a pain in the patootie).  While I dug out the less fresh zuke, I came across some cobs of grilled corm from two nights prior – now that’s not going to get tastier there in the crisper.  What to do with this varied bounty?  Why, fritters, of course.  I’m so glad you asked.

I came across this little beauty while searching for “kid friendly zucchini” recipes.   Frankly, the idea of kid friendly zucchini is hysterical to me as mine will not touch it in any form in which it is recognizable, thus the recent zucchini stealth move on the mac ‘n’ cheese, but I’m always willing to believe that someone has gotten their child to eat a vegetable that mine won’t.  So I was game for the fritters, but of course I had to mess with the recipe, because who wouldn’t?  Ok, maybe a lot of people wouldn’t, but if you’ve been here before you realize that I simply don’t follow the recipe, ever.  Sometimes it’s a matter of stupidity and disorganization (a recent cashew cheeze debacle comes to mind), but most of the time it’s just orneriness.  And so Ms. Music, I see your Kid Friendly: Zucchini Fritters, and I raise you a whole mess of corn and a few other bits to reveal (drumroll, or something…)

Summer Awesomeness Fritters with Tomato and Avocado – makes enough for several adults for one meal or two adults for one dinner and a few lunches

    • 5 c shredded zucchini, drained
    • 1 c grits (I used semolina, but would use grits or coarse corn meal next time)
    • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
    • .5 c all purpose flour
    • 1/4 c nutritional yeast or parm
    • 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
    • 4 t salt (or less if you’re not like me)
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 4 eggs (I used flax)

  • 2 c buttermilk (I used soured almond milk)
  • 2 c corn (preferably leftover amazing grilled corn)
  • 1.5 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 avocado cut into pieces
  • drizzle rice vinegar
  • drizzle balsamic

Prep Notes: Shred your zucchini, either in a food processor or using a grater.  Place in colander or sieve and salt lightly.  Allow to sit (in the sink) for at least fifteen minutes.  Your zucchini will drop a lot of water and your fritters will be lighter and better cooked through than if you skip this step, trust me. If you’re making flax eggs, this is a good time to go ahead and get on that as well.  Soured almond milk?  Sounds gross, yes, and frankly, it wasn’t pretty, but it did the job.  I used a 2c measure, put 2 T of white vinegar in the bottom and then filled to 2c with UNSWEETENED PLAIN almond milk.  Got all curdly and separated a bit, still worked just fine and tasted superb (I mean in the fritters, no I’m not that hardcore, I did NOT drink the soured almond milk).

In a large bowl, combine flours, yeast or cheese, Old Bay and salt.  For those of you who aren’t from around these parts: if you haven’t heard of Old Bay, I am VERY, VERY sorry.  It is a seasoning mix that is used in this area  mostly in seafood dishes, and in particular on steamed blue crabs.  If you don’t have any in your area (and again, this would be VERY sad), I imagine you could sub out some other spice blend intended for the steaming of seafood. You could also leave it out, but you’d be missing out on some awesome.  Stir to combine.  If you’ve not cut the corn off the cob, go ahead and do that to give the zucchini some more time to drain.  Press the top of the pile of zucchini to release more liquid.  I’ve even gone so far as to wrap it in a tea towel at this point and squeeze more liquid out… this was probably unnecessary, but kind of cool to see.

Add eggs and butter or soured milk to dry ingredients.  Stir to combine without over mixing.  Add zucchini and corn and gently stir to distribute.  Let rest for 10 or 15 minutes.  Cook as you would…  if you know what I’m about to say, you’ve been here before… pancakes.  For me this means a cast iron skillet on medium with vegetable oil heated in the bottom. Flip when firm on edges and some bubbles have formed.  Cook in batches and keep warm in oven.

While cooking fritters, assemble avocado tomato goodness by combing the remaining ingredients.  Serve fritter with tomato avocado goodness on top sort of helter-skelter – ilke so:

Delish. A big bite of summer in every forkful. As for kid-friendly… not so much for us, but that meant I got to have more for lunch.

Some of My Good Days Look Like This… And Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce

We had a super busy day yesterday in mid-Maryland.  Evening plans and Father’s Day/my birthday on Sunday meant garden obligations had to be met in short order to allow festivities to be truly festive and to allow my neurotic soul to breathe easy and enjoy.  So as soon as breakfast was done (a big honkin’ kale smoothie made into a parfait with overnight oats – cause that’s just how I roll), I grabbed the lawn mower and got a move on.  The great thing about mowing around the garden is that it allows me to peek in and re-evaluate my plan of action.  I had originally planned to leave my broccoli and cauliflower alone as I wasn’t convinced they were done.  I had tomatoes to plant, preferably in the ground as my container tomatoes just don’t seem to do well.  I had basil to pot and various other things to plant, water, weed all in time for my 25th high school reunion (gulp, that sounds like a long time ago).

I quickly discerned that most of the broc and cauliflower were either spent or not budding (with 100 degree heat in the forecast, it seemed like time to give up).  I cleared those puppies out, planted a few new cucumbers and a tomato.  Dug up my ornamental fennel that a dear friend sent me seeds for from her plant in Michigan (i had thought it was edible so put it in the veggie garden – that’s a big plant for no eating in the veggie garden, but lovely and so yum smelling). “Mom…. a snake!”  Ran to children.  Observed large rat snake leaving patio, down retaining wall into woods.  Back to garden.  In went the watermelon.  Husband (pack mule) brought soil and compost to required location and did the part of the mowing that makes my knees go all wing-wangy.  Soil and compost piled in sunny spot, tomato planted.  Carrots pulled, beets pulled, raspberries picked (and eaten –  who could resist?!).  Dig, dig, dig, Hunh?

 Turtle in garden.  Shell completely closed.  Husband transported turtle to patio for warming.  Turtle slowly gained courage and eventually crawled away.  Weeds removed, basil planted, zucchini checked for mildew.  Japanese beetles on raspberry canes squished (without remorse).  Garden haul gathered and taken to kitchen.  Fresh carrot munched while removing leaves from 8 broc/cauliflower plants (rinse, wrap in cool wet and slip in plastic bag then fridge), beets same, carrots same.  Second fridge full.  Warmed leftover bulgur and added freshly harvested (raw) broccoli so it warmed and got the tiniest bit tender.  Stirred in homemade Asian peanut sauce from container in fridge.  Deeeeelish.  Shower.  Actually used a blowdryer – yes, a special occasion indeed.  Met friends, dropped off kids.

Reunion.  Such fun.  Hugs.  Fabulous old (and by that I mean young, vibrant, and absolutely wonderful) friends.  Stories.  Hugs.  Dinner. Cake. Wine. Bed.

Just about perfect.  Hope you are all enjoying a fabulous weekend.

Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce

  • Two large glops of peanut butter
  • A few shakes of soy or Bragg’s (to taste)
  • red chili flakes (or chili paste)
  • crushed garlic
  • minced/crushed/or powdered ginger
  • chopped cilantro
  • water

This is a wonderful sauce in that it is highly adaptable and easy to adjust for different tastes and uses.  I usually don’t measure (shocker, I know), start with the PB, and add the other ingredients to taste (which means I get to eat it while I’m making it, which is obviously a good thing).  Most of the ingredients are optional or could be changed out, but I find this combo to be the most yum.  When I’ve mixed everything but the water to taste, I add enough water to make it suit my needs.  If it’s a drizzling sauce I add more water.  If I want to dip veggies in it, less water.  It keeps beautifully and adds a lovely Asian peanut vibe to just about anything you might want to eat.  Great on noodles, fabulous on broccoli…. especially broccoli you’ve just brought in from the garden.