Now that I have it, what the fuck should I do with it???
I just know you’ve gotta be asking yourself that too, right? Summer is over and I am totally overwhelmed, I’ve got so many tomatoes and cucumbers left, my garden looks like a men’s lockeroom.
It’s my fault, I planted them. The truth is that I am a sucker for a seedling. Once I’ve grown it from a speck, I can’t just throw it away because it wasn’t the biggest and the strongest. (See, in at least one situation, as far as I’m concerned, size doesn’t matter.) I have a garden and even after 9 years, I’m still shocked that things actually grow. Having been born with a black thumb, I am living proof, that any idiot can grow a cucumber. But even with my lack of talents, at the end of the summer, I still seem to have an “embarrassment of riches” as my best friend Michell would say. So now what? I have them, what the fuck am I going to do with all of them??????
Let’s talk about the tomato first. It’s a darling little fruit that spends its life acting as a vegetable. It comes in as many varieties and colors as the rainbow and taste great with a pinch of salt. They are easy to grow and anyone who has grown them knows the delicious difference between a tomato you grow and a tomato you buy at the supermarket. This year I grew these fancy schmancy heirlooms. I hijacked the seeds out of a salad at a party. No, I’m not kidding, and if you knew me personally (or have been reading this column long enough), you would know that my slipping seeds onto a paper napkin and stuffing them into my purse at a black tie event is not unusual. Sad maybe, but not unusual. And hey, if you garden, it’s not a bad practice. I now have the most incredible cherry sized tomatoes that are deep red with purple and green stripes growing in my yard. That’s something I never would have had a chance to get on my own. If you like it, have never seen it before and it has seeds, why not try? But I digress, back to what to do with the little darlings.
I like roasting. When it comes to tomato-overage, roasting is usually the first place I go. Roasting a tomato intensifies its flavor as well as removes most of its water. Now you may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between oven roasted and sun-dried? Well, I don’t like sun-dried. And while my personal preferences are probably irrelevant to you, there may be some other people who are fans of the tomato and not love those pungent, chewy, leathery things either. If that’s you, I just made your day. Roasted tomatoes taste like home made tomato sauce, in a teeny tiny package.
My favorite tomatoes to roast are the little ones. Cherry, grape and any variety that is around the size of a silver dollar will lend itself, fantastically to roasting. You will be left with an amazing addition to a salad, a dynamic accompaniment to a sandwich, a hearty ingredient to a pasta dish and they’re even great just to eat all by themselves. Once you have roasted the tomatoes, they will stay in an airtight container for 2-3 days. If you cover them with a little Magic Oil (sub olive) and keep them in the back of the fridge, they’ll hold up to 2 weeks. The oil will congeal and it will look peculiar but it will be delicious. Just let the container sit at room temperature for a few minutes before using. Email us for free samples of Magic Oil if you’d like to give it a try.
Roasting is a slow process for a tomato. I am by no means trying to deter you away for this recipe; I do however want you to be educated. If you are going to try roasting them, do it on a day that you are going to be hanging around at home. This isn’t a quick, throw together. But let me tell you Hunny, it is dam well worth it and your house is gonna smell so very good. J
If you find yourself with an abundance of larger tomatoes, slice them crossways and just scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Roasted large tomatoes will make an amazing sauce for pasta. All you need is a food processor to grind them up after roasting and throw in some fresh basil if you got it hanging around. I know I’ve got tons left over.
The process is the same regardless of size. Clean the tomatoes and place them in a large zip top baggie. Add a drizzle or two of Magic Oil, seal the bag and shake it gently. Lay the tomatoes out on a baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher Salt. Place in a 250˚ oven and check after 1 hour to get a feel for how they are doing. This is a low temperature, ovens vary and tomatoes come in so many shapes and sizes that it is difficult to give you exacts.
When I roast cherry tomatoes, it usually takes 2 to 3 hours to get them deflated in the middle and golden brown around the edges. If my Dad is coming over, I roast them a little longer. He likes them chewy – but he also likes sun-dried. It is not necessary to flip them during cooking, however if you want them golden brown on both sides, you may turn them half way through. Truth is that this recipe is so easy; sometimes I flip them just so I feel like I’m doing something. Either way, they’re delicious.
Now onto those cukes. Holy John Holmes, Batman, there are more of these things than little ol’ me could possibly take on. What could I with all of them? I guess the best place to start would be with shrinkage. You know what salt does to a slug? Well is kinda does the same thing to a cucumber. Cucumbers are made up of mostly water. And when you grow them in the garden, the skin is so soft that you really don’t even need to peel them. Unless you wanted to make cucumber salad, then you would definitely need to peel them. I have got a great base for a cucumber salad, so go grab your peeler.
I say base, because there are several different recipes to make different flavors for cucumbers, but they all start the same way. I’m gonna give you guys some of my regulars.
Slicing and dicing. I hate to say this, but a Mandoline slicer is really the best tool for the job. Even while I am writing this, my 5 stitches battle-scar in the palm of my hand is itching. I consider myself pretty qualified to play around with kitchen gadgets and a Mandoline still took me down once. NEVER underestimate it and ALWAYS use the safety. I always discourage clients away from them. But, for this recipe, if you happen to have one, use it for this. If you don’t, ignore the above paragraph and let’s go get your really sharp knife.
The idea is to slice the cucumber very thinly. There are several options; anyone who has an old fashioned box grater – lovingly referred to around here as a “knuckle buster” – can use the side with one diagonal blade and just run the cucumber up and down the sides until you get close to the end. Be careful with your fingers! You can also use a veggie peeler and run it crossways for perfect thin little slices. If you are like me and have more than you can handle, you may want to pull out the old food processor. There is a blade for slicing and the cucumbers get processed in a blink of an eye.
Now you need a colander. Place all the sliced cucumbers into a colander and toss them with a spoonful of salt. Doesn’t have to be an exact measurement, you’re doing this by eye. All that matters is that the salt gets mixed in well. Place the cucumber filled colander over a large bowl and wait 20 minutes. You will be shocked at just how much water the salt draws out of the cucumber.
Rinse the cucumbers VERY WELL under cold running water. The cucumber slices will look wilted and deflated, believe it or not, this is good. Now you have a perfect base.
It just so happens that I also have a great deal of jalapeno peppers left in my garden, which as I have come to grow them, have substituted for chilies in my favorite cucumber salad.
Drain the cucumbers and give ‘em a little squeeze, just to make sure. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD
Add the juice of 1 lime (or lemon if that’s what you got)
Jalapeno Pepper – sliced very thin (remove the seeds if you would like to limit the heat of that Jalapenos)
Top off with a little bit of white vinegar. Just enough to cover.
Let the mixture sit covered, in the fridge, overnight.
This salad is super spicy. Now we need something to cool you off a bit.
COOL CUCUMBER SALAD
After you have drained another batch of wilted cukes and given them a last little squeeze, place them in a bowl and add:
Juice of one Lemon
1 SMALL Clove of Garlic – crushed fine
1 Bunch Fresh Mint – Chopped Fine (optional)
Heaping spoonful of Yogurt – you can sub with sour cream
Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight
Now on to my Mother’s favorite:
REGINA’S CUCUMBER SALAD
Same batch of wilted, squeezed cukes
1 SMALL Red Onion – thinly sliced
Small Bunch Dill - chopped fine
1 SMALL Clove Garlic – chopped fine
White Vinegar to top off
Cover and refrigerate overnight
One thing that I will tell you about cucumber salads is when you use a dairy base like sour cream or yogurt there will always be a little water that collects at the surface. Its fine, pour it off or just mix it in.