Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tomatoes in abundance

The tomatoes are marching through the door at just the right pace. We are having sliced tomatoes at all meals and making gazpacho with little sense of scarcity. I have to say that the red mulch that I have used on 12 of my 24 tomato plants has not been all that successful and I would probably not use it again. In fact I have pulled up a Belgian Giant and a Sweet Italian that were not producing.

The tomato “issue” this week is which one of you is going to the Fair. I have been nursing some Belgian Giants, but I think there is a Big Early and a Boxcar Willie that could win the honor.

It is getting to be time to pickle some of my bush pickling cucumbers. Oh, and the Cranberry Beans look ready for harvest. The asparagus long bean is just now flowering with a lovely purple flower. And speaking of flowers, my morning glory caused me to shout halleluiah in the garden yesterday when I say my first bloom. They have been struggling since I put them in in May but now they are thriving.

I made THE most wonderful ratatouille last Wednesday. If it weren’t for the fact that you have to have a 400 degree oven on in August, it would be perfect. It’s adapted from a Dean and Deluca recipe.

Ratatouille Recipe

1 lb of yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 lb zucchini, chopped
1 lb yellow squash,
choppedBell peppers, seeds removed, chopped into 1/2 inch square pieces:--1 lb green bell peppers--1/2 lb red bell peppers--1/2 lb yellow bell peppers
1 lb eggplant, 1/2 inch cubes
1 lb fresh ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf1 sprig rosemary
3/4 cup vegetable stock (or thin tomato juice)
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Using a large oven-proof pan over medium high heat, sauté onions in olive oil until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and reduce heat to low.
3. While the onions and garlic are cooking over low heat, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in another frying pan over high heat. As soon as oil starts to smoke, quickly add enough zucchini cubes all at once to cover the bottom of the pan. Keep on cooking over high heat, stirring, until zucchini is lightly browned on all sides. Remove zucchini cubes, and add them to pan with the onions.
4. Repeat process until all of the zucchini cubes have been cooked. Do the same with the yellow squash. Make sure to add a little olive oil between each new batch. Continue with the bell peppers, then the eggplant cubes, adding the browned vegetables to the onion pan as soon as they are cooked.
5. When all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) are browned and in the pan with the onions, increase the heat to high and stir, making sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add salt to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary, the vegetable stock, and stir well. Place in oven for one hour.
6. Boil water in a saucepan on stove. Remove stems from tomatoes, and crisscross the bottoms with a knife. Plunge into boiling water for a minute or two, until skin starts to fall away. Rinse in cold water and remove skin. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, remove seeds, chop coarsely, set aside.
7. After the vegetables have been in the oven for an hour, remove from oven, drain vegetables in a colander set over a bowl. Clean browned bits (if any) off bottom of pan with a paper towel. Return any liquid to the pan and reduce to a thick glaze over medium high heat. Keep on adding juices to the pan as they run out of the vegetables into the bowl.
8. When all the juices have been reduced, return vegetables to the heavy pan. At this point the ratatouille should be moist and shiny, with very little liquid. Turn heat off. Add the chopped tomatoes and cover. If serving as a warm side dish, let the ratatouille stand for 10 minutes, just enough to "cook" the tomatoes. The ratatouille can be served at room temperature or refrigerated and reheated the next day.
9. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaf, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Dean & Deluca.

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