Putting Up: Pickled Cranberries

Putting Up: Pickled Cranberries

These days leading up to the holidays are hectic ones, and this quick batch of Pickled Cranberries provided an unexpected moment of quiet in the kitchen, a kind of comfort in the making, as well as some glittering, festive jars that’ll keep me from arriving at the coming feast empty handed. These are companionable with roasted meats, like this week’s starring turkey, or a generous platter of appetite-whetting charcuterie. Marisa recommends saving the liquor left behind and adding to sparkling water; I’m imagining other potential libations, as in a blushing cranberry martini or prosecco spritzer. Thinking ahead, the book from which this recipe is from, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, would be equally welcome as an accompanying gift, as would any of Marisa’s inspiring cookbooks. Wherever you may be sharing a table this Thanksgiving, safe travels, dear friends, there’s still so much to be grateful for.

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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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