Tomato & Eggplant Tart

Tomato & Eggplant Tart

Cooler evenings, a subtle change in slant of light, and the beginning waves of turning color in the landscape has me thinking of fall dishes, and this rustic tart featuring voluptuous ripe tomatoes from Brandmoore Farm layered with plump eggplant from Orange Circle Farm, the last of the harvest, eases the transition back into the kitchen.

The recipe is from Martha Rose Shulman, whose cookbook, the original The Vegetarian Feast, was among those I first learned to cook from. Her approach to vegetable-based cooking is to combine simple flavors that result in a complex whole. Though meatless, somehow this quiche-like tart filled with smoky eggplant, nutty gruyere, and herbaceous thyme manages to taste of bacon. Happy Fall Equinox, dear friends.

Note: If using a shallow tart pan, make sure to slice the eggplant thinly enough that two layers will fit. Should you find only one layer of eggplant fits, as I did, the end result is just as fine.

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Interlude: Mooncake — The Lost Art

I’ve always thought of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival as the Moon Festival, for the special cakes that would appear just once yearly. This celebratory treat is filled with seemingly opposing flavors and textures — the solid yet yielding crust, the dense yet soft filling of bean paste, the savoriness of the egg yolk against the sweet — and one of those memory foods that brings back thoughts of childhood. I remember how they were displayed in their fluted paper nests and, once gently packed into pink bakery boxes, would be tied up with several rounds of red cotton string criss-crossing the top, ending in a definitive knot. To serve, the cakes would be cut up into doll-sized wedges, each with its own sliver of golden yolk, a nod to the harvest moon about to make its way across the night sky.

Mooncake: The Lost Art from Andrew Gooi on Vimeo.

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Putting Up: Crushed Tomatoes and an Anniversary

Putting Up: Crushed Tomatoes

Another Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and with it the annual session I reserve just for canning tomatoes. Now at their peak, I took advantage of Orange Circle Farm’s online system to order enough Roma tomatoes to last me the coming winter. As one of the paste variety of tomatoes, these luscious beauties have a high flesh to seed ratio and minimal amount of core, making them well-suited to canning, and a joy to handle and process.

Putting Up: Crushed Tomatoes

Through the years I’ve canned tomatoes in various forms — whole, sauced, as ketchup and paste — and it’s as crushed that I’ve come to rely on as a staple. The tomatoes are packed conveniently in their own juices, and the processing time is less then if left whole. Figuring that 20 pounds would yield a dozen pints, I somehow came up with 16, so count on somewhere between the two. As for the upside down jars, a quick flip after leaving them to cool overnight allows the solids to settle back into their liquids.

Putting Up: Crushed Tomatoes

Canning tip: If using a boiling water canner and once the processing time is up, turn off the heat, remove the pot lid, and let the jars sit for an additional 5 minutes before lifting them out of the pot. This slight cooling period helps to prevent siphoning — the contents being forced out due to the sudden change in temperature when the jars are removed from the hot bath — a common occurrence. After the jars have been left to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours, remove the rings, check the seal and give the jars a quick rinse to remove any food residue. And, yes, for those who’ve asked, it’s recommended that jars be stored without the ring bands to allow you to see if the vacuum seal is broken.

Has this much time passed already? This post coincidentally marks the fifth anniversary of Diary of a Tomato — I am ever so grateful to you all, dear friends, for your continued support and readership, and look forward to sharing the ever-changing seasons to come.


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Salad Days — Lobster with Corn and Basil

Salad Days

I’d returned from a week hiking in Newfoundland and, faced with a bare fridge and a radical change in weather, I was glad to be able to cobble together a summery lobster salad mixed with niblets of sweet corn and a handful of herbs plucked from the garden. I’d spent so much time sampling traditional cod dishes while in Newfoundland, I never got around to their local lobster and came home with a craving for just this, one of my favorite dishes of the season.

Local ingredients — Lobster from Sanders Fish Market, local corn from Golden Harvest, salad greens from Generation Farm, and herbs from the garden.

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It’s as if we’ve all been unconsciously waiting with our breaths held, and the arrival this week of more temperate weather has allowed us to finally exhale, open the windows to let in the air, and stretch towards the springtime sun. The trees responded immediately to the change by quickly uncurling their leafy tips, the new foliage forming a lacy pattern in the bordering woods. Across the neighborhood the hum of lawn mowers could be heard, everyone rushing to catch up after what seemed like endless days of rain. I could swear that my own grassy patch sprouted at least another inch between the morning’s shearing and day’s end.

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First signs of spring

First signs of spring

No matter how dark or optimal the storage conditions, roots somehow know the changing of the season. Though the bulbs may be spent in the effort, their newly emergent greens are a welcome addition in my kitchen — chopped up, they’re sure to add a hint of spring to a soup, sauté or salad. As the light brightens and the days lengthen, happy vernal equinox, dear friends.

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Pan-Fried Noodles with Curried Chicken & Tofu

Noodles with Curried Chicken & Tofu

I meant to make longevity noodles to celebrate Chinese New Year’s and, with time running shorter than expected, instead threw together some kitchen staples for a bowlful of pan-fried noodles with curried chicken sausage and marinated tofu — a dish that cooked up so quickly, it almost qualifies as take-out. The noodles are thickish udon, boiled than pan-fried to crisp the edges. Next, a couple of links of Vernon Family Farm‘s curried chicken sausage were removed from their casings, and browned until the meat became crumbly and fragrant. Some baked and marinated Heiwa tofu found residing in the fridge added heft, while a dose of chicken broth simmered with a bit of cornstarch completed the sauce. All it took to finish was a gentle toss with the noodles and a squeeze of Anju’s Son-Mat hot sauce for extra heat. As untraditional as this dish may be, it feels like an auspicious start. Gung hay fat choy, dear friends, may the year of the Monkey bring you many good things.

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