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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Seth's Kitchen: Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Zucchini

Ah, summer veggies. The main reason people garden. I have done posts about red sauce, gazpacho, preserved eggplant I,II, hot sauce. These are all major winners. Ratatouille variations are good, too, garlic, onion, zucchini, eggplant, peppers; saute, then steam. Add some red sauce or fresh tomatoes at the end. Last time I threw in chickpeas, along with good quality fra' mani pork sausage, kind of an eggplant stew, super good. {nb Fra' Mani is a company started by Paul Bertolli who wrote one of the most readable chef-y cookbooks I've seen, Cooking by Hand. His stuff is super high quality and fairly priced at my local IV Food Coop}. Eat ratatouille on brown rice, or polenta, or with good bread. It's tasty warm or cool.

A note on the red sauce. Be nice at the farmer's market. Cultivate relationships. You want to be getting boxes of tomatoes for this. 2nd quality is fine/preferred. The farmer doesn't want food to go to waste, and you don't want to pay 4$ lb for sauce making tomatoes, so everyone is happy. They might not have them on that particular day but could bring them next time. The batch size for me is/was 40 lbs of tomatoes. That cooks down over a long time to ~4 quarts of sauce. That way it doesn't take up alot of freezer space. You can dilute it some when you use it if you want. It's pretty darn good even with Romas but is magical when you can get a deal on heirlooms. Some of this is in the red sauce link..... Fairly standard garlic, onion, porcini, thyme, oregano, fennel. Secret ingredient is thai fish sauce (anchovies). I get dried porcinis from Pistol River Mushrooms online. I've been very happy with them over many orders. Equipment wise you want a big pot for cooking the tomatoes (I have a 5 gallon stainless Viking pot that I got on ebay), a low/wide/thick bottomed pot(s) for reducing (I got a deal on a 28cm/11" Falk saute pan, but any decent quality wide stainless pan with a thick bottom is fine), and an old french #2 Moulin-Legumes food mill (with interchangeable disks, I use the one with small holes), for getting rid of the skins.

If I am eating tomatoes raw, aside from eating them straight up while in the garden I'll cut them in wedges, a little salt, a little good olive oil. Basil never hurts of course.

The key with growing tomatoes is rotation, there's a blight that builds up in the soil and can take your plants out if you don't rotate. Using alot of worm tea can slow the need for rotation. Egg shells in the soil and milk when necessary (calcium) stop blossom end rot which messes up the fruits. Under water your plants, smaller plants, smaller, non-watery, fruit is the goal. So good. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has a TON of tomato varieties. Read the reviews and pick interesting ones to try. My favorites this year include King of Siberia, Glacier, Bison, Sara Black. Peppers and eggplant want more water than tomatoes.

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