It’s tomato time, the time of the year when the genuine, vine-ripened flavor of just-picked tomatoes is exploding all over the place. In fact, if you are reading this on the Saturday that it posts, and you are within driving distance of St Paul, MN, you still have time to pick a tomato and come enter Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest.
I just happen to be judging this contest, on Sunday.
That’s right- Tomato lover that I am, I get to sample many, many tomatoes, and then try to pick the stand outs. Will there be intrigue, competition, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat?
Of course, but mostly, there will be one very happy Judge, fork in one hand, salt shaker in the other, swooshing and sniffing mouthfuls of ripe tomato as if they were fine wine.
If you are in the area, come see how it goes, at Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest, which starts at 2 on August 31st, at Freddies Tiki Hut, 1820 Rice Street in St Paul, MN. Of course, you don’t have to bring a tomato to have a good time. It’s a Tiki Hut with tomatoes, how could you not?
In anticipation of the event, I have been enjoying the heck out of my own tomatoes. This week the yellow pears and Santa Sweets have been delivering bowls full of tomatoey goodness. Enough, in fact, that I decided to make a roasted tomato pizza.
So, I cranked the oven to 425 and drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil. Too lazy to even halve them, I just wanted the heat to sear and concentrate all that tomato tangy-sweetness.
A few garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a tomato topping was ready. I have a few versions of pizza crust that you can use to make this, or you can use your own.
From there, all you need is some caramelized onions a handful of fresh basil and a hot oven (or grill!)
So if I see you at the contest, please say hello. If not, don’t forget to seize the waning moments of Summer and eat those full-on flavorful Summer tomatoes.
Roasted Tomato Pizza with Basil
2 large onions, slivered
extra virgin olive oil
4 cups whole pear shaped cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 10-12 inch pizza crusts, ready to bake
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1. Caramelize the onions- heat the olive oil over medium high in a large saute pan, then add the onions. Stir until they start to sizzle and stick a little, then lower to medium. Stir often for about 20 minutes, reducing the heat as the onions soften. It’s best to give them 40 minutes more, at least, to fully caramelize, but if you want to stop as soon as they are golden brown, they should be pretty sweet. Sprinkle with a little salt.
2. Preheat to oven to 425 F. On a sheet pan or roaster, place the tomatoes and drizzle with oil, add the garlic and a pinch of salt and toss. Roast for about 30, until the tomatoes are exploded and blackened a bit. Scrape the hot tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl.
3. Prep your pizza crust for topping- cover with onions, then tomatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes. When the pizza is golden brown and crisp, serve, topped with fresh basil and a sprinkle of salt at the last minutes.
I love a big stinky melon. Yes, that musk melon that you can smell before you even get to the farmstand, it’s calling my name. It’s time to revel in melons, when the sun has bestowed full on sugary ripeness to all those fat fruits that have been baking in it since spring. Throw in some perfectly ripened peaches, bursting with juice, and you have yourself a real celebration of the end of summer.
It’s the best time of year to simply grill some corn and throw together a fruit salad, leaving your kitchen blessedly cool. But is your fruit salad getting a little boring? I know, it’s all about the great fruit, but does yogurt, or mayo, or some other creamy dressing seem to have lost it’s zing?
I was feeling a little need for something new, so I opted for a different kind of creamy: creamy coconut milk. Whisking in a little peanut butter gives it some nutty weight, and balancing some spicy, tart and sweet in the dressing really complements the fruit. A handful of Thai Basil for an herbal kick, and I had a whole new way to enjoy fruit.
It’s pretty mild, you can add a few chiles, or more Sriracha, if you want a little kick. But I sure loved my big fat melon with a new taste sensation.
Keep it simple, enjoy the end of Summer, and dig in!
Thai-Inspired Melon-Peach Salad with Thai Basil
1/2 large cantaloupe
2 large peach
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup peanut butter, creamy
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 pinch salt
1 handful Thai Basil
Slice the fruit. In a small bowl or cup, whisk the coconut milk and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in lime, palm sugar, ginger, Sriracha and salt. Sliver some basil for the salad, garnish with more sprigs.
Have you seen those articles on how to get more clicks by writing an attention-grabbing headline? Something about getting rich quick, cute kittens, or celebrity sideboob, and you can pull millions of easily distracted eyes to your site.
Well, now that your eyes are here, I will share my miracle cure story. YES I SAID MIRACLE CURE. You see, after a day spent staring at the computer, working hard on my writing and editing (and only occasionally clicking on links to videos-silly kitten! That’s a duck!) I had a couple of glasses of wine with a lovely dinner and went to bed.
JUST A COUPLE. I swear. People over 40 will understand this.
And woke up with a headache. The kind that sits in your eye cavity, as if your eyes have grown overnight, and now uncomfortably squeezed by your skull. Lying in bed, contemplating taking ibuprofen, I decided to re-test an experiment I did when I was developing juices for my book, Juice It!
Back then, I had been researching the healing qualities of fresh juices, and found that celery has something in it that actually stops inflammation and swelling in your brain. It’s a flavonoid called luteolin. Celery is also high in calcium, which is good for headaches. Natural healers recommend celery as a first response to headaches and migraines. Ginger is another anti-inflammatory food, so adding a knob of it to your juice is also helpful.
Because Magnesium and Calcium are also good for headaches, leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard can be good for a curative drink. Many headaches are also exacerbated by dehydration, so drinking lots of water and juice is going to help.
But the day that all this really meant something to me, a year ago, I was about to have a full on migraine. I’ve only had a few in my life, and I had come to know the warning signs. I was seeing strobe-light rainbow flashes on the periphery of my vision, called “migraine haloes.” Nobody really knows why migraines come, or why they announce themselves with strobe lights, but they do.
So I had put together this recipe that was meant to cure hangovers. I put on dark sunglasses, and made the juice. (even low light hurts, with a migraine.)
The recipe Hangover Fix, featured in Juice It!, is made from celery, spinach and oranges. That day, I drank the whole batch, went to bed, and woke up, migraine free.
So, for the benefit of science, today I am trying the celery juice on its own, to see if it works. Maybe I need the spinach and oranges, but I will let you know.
Okay, I just drank an entire bunch of celery in one glass.
(Now I am taking a nap for 30 minutes, zzzzzz)
Now I am up, and it’s a MIRACLE, almost. The headache is 90% gone, and has moved from behind the eyes to the area behind my forehead. It’s definitely one that I could try to ignore all day. But in the interest of science, I am going back to the juicer.
Round two, spinach, ginger, cucumber, two lemons, a couple of apples.
Okay, give me a little time to drink this, and I will report back……
30 minutes later, my headache is gone. (MIRACLE CURE)
Final analysis: Celery alone is not enough. It’s helpful, but you might as well add the leafy greens, ginger, lemon, and other stuff, just to cover all the headache helpers and make it taste better.
So here you go, you don’t have to click on a link to a pharmacy that sells blue pills, and I am not offering any celebrity nip-slip photos, but I think I have a good way to treat a headache without taking a pill.
This makes alot, you can drink half today, half tomorrow, if you cover it and refrigerate.
1 bunch celery
5 ounces spinach (one bag salad or five cups leaves)
2 inch knob of ginger
2 lemons, cut off the peels
2 small apples
Juice, drink, lie down in a dark room.
Contemplate giving up wine, caffeine and chocolate. Wake up glad that you don’t have to. Here is a bonus kitten picture, of my adorable cat Sunshine.
Last week I did a fun appearance on Twin Cities Live, where I made some summery sweet corn dishes. At one point in the show, I said that the sweet corn right now is so fresh and sweet that you can just eat it raw. The show’s host was surprised. Of course, most people cook their sweet corn.
In fact, they probably overcook it. So why not go the other way?
The first time I really appreciated raw sweet corn, I was on a long bike ride with a friend, and we came upon a farmstand selling corn alongside the road. We pulled up and looked longingly at the corn, hungry and thirsty, baking in the sun. My friend grabbed a bag of the amazingly fresh corn, pulled out two ears, and stuffed the rest into her pack. We then stripped the husks and tore into those fat, juicy raw ears of corn.
It was like candy.
So, it has always been in my mind that sweet corn is absolutely good raw. Of course, it is pretty great boiled, grilled, sauteed, and just about any way that you want to cook it. As long as you don’t overcook it.
Corn in the Midwest is like a religious experience. The corn is the sacrament of Summer, to be prepared and revered for the fleeting experience it is. In fact, it’s almost not a vegetable, it a treat.
Which is lovely, I love it when people just love a food for its own qualities, and ignore the fact that it is good for you. In fact, most people think of corn as not really that good for you.
But in fact, sweet corn has really high levels of the lutein and zeaxanthin that protect your eyes from macular degeneration. Corn is a great source of protective antioxidants and carotenoids. It also contains some special fiber that beneficial bacteria in your gut just LOVE. But let’s not talk it up to the kids, right?
In this salad, I used a handful of fresh mint, and a big chunk of one of the preserved lemons that I talked about in a past post. If you don’t have those, you can just use more lemon juice. The tanginess of the lemony dressing plays with the super sweet, tender-crisp corn in a way that will bring your palate to life.
So get into the quintessence of August with some pure, sweet, corn. It’s fleeting, don’t let it get away.
Minty Raw Corn Salad with Avocado Green Goddess
Makes about 6 cups
3 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob
3 small tomatoes
1 medium pattypan squash, cut in thin wedges
1/2 cup fresh mint, slivered
1 large scallion, slivered
1 clove garlic
1/4 preserved lemon, pulp and peel
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable stock
salt to taste- the preserved lemon is salty, you may need only a pinch
1. Toss the salad ingredients in a bowl. In a food processor, mince the garlic and preserved lemon to mince. Add the avocado, process, scrape down to make a smooth puree. Add the oil and lemon juice and process, and whip in the vegetable stock to make pourable. Salt to taste. Arrange the salad and drizzle the dressing over it. Toss just before serving.
Just in case you have not gotten to take a look at my book, Juice It!, here is a virtual flip through the pages. I love the photography by Antonin Achilleos and the design, all done by the talented people at Chronicle books.
In Minnesota, we plant our tomatoes, then we wait. It’s been a hard year in the garden, but the tomato plants seemed to really like the fact that it rained for the entire month of June, and a good part of July. The ten thousand lakes and creeks and rivers all jumped their banks and tried to claim new territory, but all the while, my tomatoes just soaked it up and grew like crazy.
So the harvest has started, with my Santa Sweets jumping out in front and giving me a steady supply of sweet grape tomatoes. A few Otto’s Lebanese arrived, and recently the little yellow pear tomatoes ripened. Everything is a little battered, from all that rain, and some of the plants are producing only tomatoes with blossom end rot.
If anyone really knows what to do about that, let me know. I’ve read lots of articles about it, recommending everything from vigilant timed watering, adding calcium to the soil, and never planting in the same soil twice. I guess I can’t be that vigilant. I just trim the black part and eat what I can.
So I wanted to do something a little different from the standard, simple tomato salad. Yes, a plate of sliced tomatoes with nothing but olive oil and vinegar, and a handful of fresh basil is heavenly. Minimalism at its best. But after the first twenty or so of these babies, it may be time to branch out. So I cast my eye upon the other side of the garden, when the purple Thai basil and the aggressive garlic chives were flourishing, and inspiration struck.
Why not display my lovely tomatoes with a bit of Thai flair? No need to throw the model of the tomato basil salad out the window, just spice it up a bit. Thai salads, called Laab or Larb, are often cooked, brothy affairs that look to the Western eye rather like soup. But the Thai use of piles of fresh herbs and cooling, bright fresh vegetables is perfectly in keeping with my salad.
Of course, this salad could become more of a main with a few slabs of marinated tofu or tempeh, or served over some cooled short grain brown rice to soak up the dressing.
For me, it’s all about showing off my precious tomatoes, still warm from the sun.
Thai Tomato Salad
This amount of dressing will cover a plate full of tomatoes. Double it if you want to season some rice, too.
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1-2 teaspoons Red Curry Paste
2 teaspoons soy sauce ( I used GF tamari)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons julienned fresh ginger
1/2 cup fresh Thai Basil
1 large jalapeno, seeded and slivered
assorted tomatoes, sliced
roasted cashews, to taste
In a cup, whisk the palm sugar with the lime juice to dissolve. It may be chunky but will eventually melt in. Whisk in the paste, soy sauce and oil, and half of the ginger.
Arrange tomatoes, basil, ginger, and jalapenos on plates, drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with cashews. Eat.
Green tea is one of the most super of the superfoods. But sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle, as we guzzle our coffee lattes and green juices. Green tea is a form of green juice, in a way. The unfermented tea leaves we refer to as “green” seem to hold the promise of a long and healthy life.
Most of us have heard that green tea is a healthy drink, but to many experts, it is THE healthy drink. Loaded with antioxidant flavonoids called catechins, green tea is a potent cell protector. It’s been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, even aid memory. A Harvard study found that one cup a day was associated with a 44% drop in risk of heart attack. Drinking green tea is associated with lower incidence of several kinds of cancer.
Drinking green tea also protects your teeth, as long as you drink it without a bunch of sweetener. It steps in and protects your bones.It’s also a useful tool for weight loss, as part of a balanced plan.
But did you know that when you brew your green tea, you are leaving behind lots of healthy compounds in the discarded leaves?
That’s where Matcha comes in.
Matcha tea is an ancient Japanese tea made by quickly steaming just picked green tea leaves, drying, then grinding. The resulting powder does not dissolve, like instant tea, but is traditionally whipped with hot water to make a tea emulsion. While the slightly sludgy effect may seem odd to the average soda consumer, it is a great way to really taste your tea.
Matcha is the preferred tea for the Japanese Tea Ceremony, where the bright green powder is whipped in a special cup with a bamboo whisk. If you are ever able to attend a traditional Chado ceremony, it is a beautiful experience.
But if you are looking for a tasty and completely American way to enjoy matcha, try my cold matcha smoothie.
It’s wildly delicious, energizing, and gives you all the health benefits of green tea in a super-cooling shake form.
Matcha Latte Smoothie
Makes 2 Cups
1 large frozen banana
1 large ripe kiwi
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or your milk of choice
1 tablespoon matcha powder (if you are caffeine sensitive, start with a teaspoon or two)
4 large ice cubes
Blitz in the blender and drink while frothy and icy.
Zucchini season is here! Do you know what you are going to do with the next giant cucurbita pepo that gets dropped off on your doorstep? Well, if you need some fresh ideas on what to do with the bountiful summer squashes piled up at the local Farmer’s Market or appearing like magic under the wide leaves in your garden, look no further. Amanda Paa’s new book Smitten With Squash (The Northern Plate, Minnesota Historical Society Press $17.95) has lots of great recipes to help you truly celebrate the bounty.
In fact, this book will stay in use far beyond the hot summer months, since it is evenly divided between summer squash and all the lush winter squashes that we will still be eating through Spring.
Do you know your way around a Pattypan, Kabocha, Red Kuri or Zephyr? If not, You will love the informative introductions to all things squash. History, lore and of course, info on selecting, storing and cooking are all conveniently organized for you. The book is structured around each variety of squash, so if you find yourself with a hunk of Hubbard or a basket of Pattypans, you can just go to that section and browse for a recipe.
Then, of course, there are the recipes. Amanda has a lovely way with a dish, and there are lots of tasty and creative uses for all your squashes. If you are pressed for time, she includes some quick weeknight hits, and if you have a few more minutes, you can make a galette or gratin. Nothing takes hours of work, and everything is full of interesting flavors and textures. You can enjoy your squashes at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then polish off one for dessert, all with fresh new flavors to keep it interesting.
For the Gluten-avoiders in our midst, Amanda has made all the recipes with an option to use gluten-free flours. The recipes do an amazing job of straddling the divide between “regular” and gluten-free recipes, making them a perfect solution for the cook who wants to keep everyone happy. Nobody will know or care that these dishes are GF.
I have to hand it to her, Amanda Paa has brought her passion for this vegetable to your kitchen. Tacos, Pastas, Noodles made from Zucchini, and even Baba Ghanouj and Hummus enriched with squash will tempt your palate. I was immediately drawn to the Kabocha “Frites” with Spicy Sriracha Dip, but will have to wait for the Kabochas to come to market. Muffins, cakes, even a pudding will keep your sweet tooth happy,as you get all the healthy benefits of squash.
Buy Smitten With Squash here.
So, I made the Garam Masala Dusted Pattypans with Tahini Sauce. It was fun to focus in on those sweet little squashes, the ones that only appear briefly in Summer, so that you have to get them while you can. I found some lovely ones at the Farmer’s Market and at the Coop, so now is the time.
I loved this recipe, the roasted squashes are like roasted new potatoes, with spiced, sealed exteriors, but very juicy inside. Adding the garbanzos to the roast made the familiar beans wonderfully chewy and nutty. A garlicky drizzle of tahini sauce made it into a meal.
Delicious! I, too, am smitten. Smitten with Smitten with Squash!
Garam Masala–Dusted Pattypans and Chickpeas with Tahini Sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/3 cup tahini
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 pounds baby pattypan squash (about 1–2 inches in diameter)
1 medium to large red bell pepper, cut into half-inch squares
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and dried with a towel
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
cilantro or parsley for garnish
Greek yogurt for garnish
To make sauce, place salt, garlic, and cilantro into bowl of food processor and process for 20 seconds. (The salt helps keep the garlic from sticking to the blade.) Add remaining ingredients and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, then process for another 30 seconds. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If pattypans are wider than an inch in diameter, halve them. Place in a bowl with red pepper and chickpeas, then drizzle in olive oil and spices. Stir to fully coat and spread onto a large parchment paper–lined baking sheet or divide between two pans if one seems crowded. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until squash pierces easily with a fork.
To serve, mound vegetables on a plate and drizzle with tahini sauce. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and a bit of Greek yogurt.