Sunday, October 31, 2010


We got home from a perfectly lovely morning and early afternoon at Tom's Cove Park on Assateague Island. It's migration season and we wanted to see the spectacle of thousands and snow geese, Canada geese and ducks, and cormorants making their way to their winter homes. Although we didn't happen to get there on a peak fly day, we did see some pretty spectacular displays of huge flocks of snow geese stark white against the green background of forest and the beautiful blue sky, hearing the geese honking all at one time as they rose and took to the skies. I love to take photographs and I got some wonderful shots of various birds. I'll use them for my note card collections.
When we got back, I had to deal with all the crops I picked yesterday afternoon. I had give or take, 7 pounds of green tomatoes, 1 -1/2 pounds of jalapenos, 3/4 of a pound of poblano peppers, 9 eggplants and hand full of fresh parsley from the herb garden. What to do, what to do????? Naturally the first thing I did was go on line to find recipes for green tomatoes. I already knew that I wanted to make a green tomato sauce, so I looked for those recipes. Couldn't really find anything that grabbed me, so I just used my intuition. It's really a very simple recipe, below.

Green tomatoes are very tart so it' s hard to decide what to do with them. I do like to dice them into a fresh salad. They are crispy and refreshing. And of course, there are Fried Green Tomatoes and I'll do some of those too. I once had Fried Green Tomatoes layered with Crab Remoulade at a local restaurant. It was delicious so I tried to make them at home. Not quite the same but they were yummy. The Sunset Grill in Ocean City still serves them as an appetizer, but they are quite filling enough for a meal for me.


1 med/large Vidalia or other sweet onion
6 cloves garlic
3 - 4 pounds of green tomatoes, diced fairly small (aids in cooking a little faster)
1 Tbs. ground coriander (adds a little sweetness)
1/4 c. dried cilantro leaves
1 T salt (I like to use sea salt)
1/2 c packed parsley leaves

Dice the onions roughly, and saute over low/ medium heat until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic for 1 minute of cooking, and add the diced tomatoes and dried cilantro. Fresh cilantro would taste very different, so I can't say whether it would make a good substitute for the dried. Simmer the whole pot until most of the liquid is cooked away and the mixture is pretty thick. Add the ground coriander nearer to the end. Did you know that Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant? They taste very different from each other, but both do add a certain sweetness to a dish.

Let the pot cool for a little while. Now add half the mixture to a blender with 1/2 of the parsley. Blend until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Blend the other half of the tomatoes and parsley. Mix both batches together. This is a LOT of green sauce. I put about 1 c. into freezer bags and froze it.

What on earth would you use this strange sauce for? It's very aromatic and tart. I let my huband taste it. He liked it a lot. I said "Do you know what this would taste really good on?" He said "Tuna". I could hardly believe it because that is exactly what I was going to say to him. A piece of sesame seared Tuna. It would be wonderful spooned on top of a burrito, a quesadilla or on a taco. This sauce may not be for everyone, but it's a good way to use up a lot of green tomatoes if you have them. This time of year, the green ones don't often get a chance to turn red before the frost gets them. They should sell green tomatoes in the grocery.

The eggplants were really pretty. I almost hate to cut them up but they got sliced into thick slices, heavily salted and left in a covered bowl to let out all their liquid. This process helps them to stay firm when they cook. Eggplant can get kind of mushy when you cook it, so doing this keeps the texture, well, chewy, for lack of a better word. I haven't had a chance to do anything else with them tonight. I just drained all the liquid from the bowl after letting them sit overnight, and put them into a large plastic bag for tomorrow night when I will bread and freeze half of them for Eggplant Parmesan, and the other half will marinate in herbs and spices to saute for vegetarian panini sandwiches with sauteed mushrooms and red peppers with provolone cheese on top. It occurs to me that I might use some of this green tomato sauce on the panini!!

We will likely give away most of the jalapenos. We can only eat so many fresh ones and I've already pickled a huge basket of them.

The poblano peppers are sweet and yummy so I'll use all of them for omelets, and fresh in salads.

So with all this late harvest, the next chore we did on Saturday was to plant more veggies. My husband started more peas, beans, spinach and swiss chard in the greenhouse. I planted 50 cabbage seeds in the bed along the fence in the back, and he planted mustard greens in one of the former potato beds, and something called upland cress in the other one. I'll let you know what it's like if any of it grows.

There are still eggplants in the garden. They'll keep growing until the frost. And there are still plenty of green tomatoes out there too that I'll try to get before the first frost sets in. Until then, I need to get creative!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We never expected to have so many pears this year. Last year we were lucky to get just a few. I heard from a farmer at the open air market just the other day, that it was a good year for pears. I have no idea why, but I had more pears than I could possibly handle as a novice pear grower. Unfortunately a lot of them went into the compost heap, but just as many or more were given away and eaten. The fruit isn't particularly attractive when it's home grown. These are Comice pears, the same variety that you would find in gift baskets from Harry & David. They say they use Comice pears because they are one of the most attractive, flavorful and well textured variety of pears. (Comice is pronounced kuh-mees).

I generally would never peel a pear to eat it, but the home grown ones are not that attractive. They have too many blemishes for me, so I peeled them. The flesh however, is fantastically sweet, crisp and delicious! I like my pears a little on the crispy side, too, so these were just the way I like them.

Like I said, I'd never had to deal with so many of them before, so I couldn't get them all processed before some of them went bad. I didn't weigh them, but a guess is that I had 20+ pounds of pears when all was said and done. And of course, my kitchen was full of fruit flies. I tried everything to get rid of them, but I think that's impossible at this time of year. I covered the bowls containing the pears with towels so the flies couldn't get in, but whenever I reached inside, a few flew out. I used my small vacuum cleaner and sucked up a bunch of the little devils. I used the fly swatter, which is totally useless because it has little holes in it which seem to always save the little buggers. I snuck up on each one of them with my bottle of Windex in one hand and a paper towel in the other. A tiny little squirt and they either got away (unbelievable!!!) or I got a direct hit and wiped them up with my paper towel. My kitchen windows and cupboards were shiny clean with the constant onslaught of Windex. (I was careful not to spray on food or utensils). I even hung up one of those sticky fly catcher things. They don't go near it. I finally put out a small dish of white wine. Overnight, they bellied up to the bar a fell into the little bowl in a drunken stupor! Tons of them gone in a blaze of alcoholic bliss, but alas, they were not gone for good. I'm still dealing with them.

I digress - this blog is not about how to get rid of fruit flies.

Ever hear of Bananas Foster. This is my version of Pears Foster - with no liqueur in it. Of course you could add the liqueur if you like at the end. Coring a pear can be a lot easier if you use a little melon baller to get rid of the middle. Cut the pear in half from top to bottom, and use the melon baller to remove the middle.

3 pears- not too ripe, peeled and sliced
2 T butter
1 T lemon juice
1 t cinnamon
1-2 T brown sugar
1 t coconut or vanilla extract
1 t almond extract (optional)
1/4 c. shredded coconut (optional)
1 shot of Cream De Cacao (optional)

Saute the pears in the lemon juice and butter until they are slightly softened, or as soft as you like. I like mine with a little bite left. When the pears are done to your liking, add the brown sugar and the cinnamon and cook until it gets slightly thickened. Then add the extracts and the coconut. Put in the liqueur if you're using it an let it cook out for minute or so. You could even ignite it for show if you like! It's done! Serve with chopped pecans or walnuts sprinkled on top or put some warm pears on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If there are any leftovers it's yummy cold right out the refrigerator

I also made some diced pears sauteed in a little butter with just the cinnamon, lemon and sugar (just a couple of tablespoons of the sugar in a whole pot full of pears). We ate it cold with some chopped pecans on it. Try it with a little vanilla yogurt drizzled on top.

A lot of the pears got peeled, cored and sliced, coated with Fruit Fresh (which is just citric acid to keep them from turning brown or just use lemon juice, but this makes them a little wet for freezing), and I froze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet to keep them from freezing into a giant lump. Then I just put them in bags and back in the freezer. I'll use these to make more of the Pears Foster, and I think I'll even make a Pear Pie. They taste remarkably the same as apples when you add the cinnamon so I think they will make a lovely pie or tart.

Hmmm, maybe some pear jam with rosemary or lavender!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Our first Soup Night was a good one. There were about 12 of us which gave us a chance for quality time with our friends. My Chicken Noodle Soup turned out extra good.We also had Baked Brie with Cherries, Anti Pasta, Cream Cheese with Pear Chutney, and Guacamole. I always put out a veggie tray and cheese and crackers too, along with french bread and butter to have with the soup. My husband made a fire outside in the fire pit and we all spent a good amount of time out there. It was a lovely evening!

Set up for a Soup Night is fairly simple. I try to make it so that I don't have to do anything once my guests arrive. I usually just push the table in the kitchen up against the windows and put all the food on it. I use another table for the ice bucket and wine glasses, water glasses and put out a cork screw and a bottle opener. This way it's very easy for everyone to help themselves to whatever they need for their cocktails or beverages. On the other side is a table where I keep my small appliances. I moved them into the pantry and used the table for the guacamole and the anti pasta. I set up the soup bowls, flatware, napkins, a big bowl of noodles and a soup ladle next to the soup pot that's being kept warm on the stove. And of course I put out mass quantities of candles. Candle light makes everyone look better!

My chicken soup turned out extra good. I've taken to using chicken stock instead of water to make the soup. It makes a much richer broth. My secret for chicken soup is really my Mom's secret; a dash of nutmeg. It gives the soup a depth of flavor that you can't get without it. I strain everything out of the broth and add fresh celery and carrots to cook until tender. The ones used to make the broth are cooked "to death". Too mushy to serve, so they get thrown out and the fresh goes in. Everyone has their own recipe for Chicken Soup. Mine is pretty straight forward - simmer chicken with vegetables, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf, nutmeg. Strain it when it's done and add the fresh veggies, and re-season as needed. I'll even add some chicken bouillon if necessary, but if you use the stock to simmer everything, it's unlikely your soup will need more flavor.

Baked Brie with Cherries

1 wheel or wedge of Brie, depending on much you need.
1 sheet of puff pastry - thawed
3/4 c cherry pie filling, or apricot jam, or orange marmalade. Use your favorite flavor jam (not jelly)
Optional: chopped pecans or walnuts

Flour your table a little and roll the puff pastry gently out to fit around your piece of brie. Cut it size if necessary. Set the brie on the pastry and top the cheese with your fruit filling and nuts if you are using them. Then wrap the pastry around the cheese. Make sure you close the top securely so your filling doesn't come boiling out. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. You can use little extra bits of pastry to make a decoration on top if you like. Note: you may need 2 sheets of pastry if you are wrapping a large wheel of cheese.

Bake the brie about an hour or more before company comes. If it's too hot when you serve it, not only can people burn their mouth, but the cheese and fruit filling will be too liquid. Letting it cool will give it a chance to firm up a little.

Anti Pasti

Salad dressing
1/2 lb chunk of hard salami
1/2 chunk of provolone cheese
1 can of artichokes, drained and cut into halves or quarters depending on their size.
1 can black olives.
1/2 of a jar of roasted red peppers

Cut the salami and cheese into chunks about the size of the olives you have. Slice the red peppers into thin strips. Put all of this into a large bowl.

Use your favorite Italian dressing on this or make your own. Here's how I made mine.

Balsamic Dijon Salad Dressing
3 cloves garlic - pressed in a garlic press
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 t. dried onions
2 T Dijon mustard
1 t salt
1 t cracked black pepper

Put all into a blender of "magic bullet" and whiz for a minute. You can also just use a whisk to make the salad dressing. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Put the salad into a pretty glass bowl if you have one. It's so good looking it deserves a bowl so you can see the whole salad.

Optional: add some fresh oregano or basil to your dressing. Use any flavorings you like in a dressing. There is no right or wrong way as far as what you like.

This Anti Pasta was really good and so easy to make. It took all of 15 minutes to prepare. I would recommend this for any gathering! It's easy to increase the recipe by simply doubling it. You can add pepperoncinis if you like them. You can use any kind of olives - kalamatas are good in here too, but be careful of pits! There are all kinds of recipes for Anti Pasta. Try finding one on line that you like and keep it handy for your next party!

My veggie tray needs no recipe. I put some sugar snap peas on it that I blanched for about 1 minuted and them rinsed immediately in cold water. I also did the same with some broccoli florets. Blanching them first makes them bright green so they are very pretty, and it takes away the raw flavor without taking away the crispness. Use your favorite ranch dressing for dip or make your own. I just used a few tablespoons of mayonnaise and added enough lemon juice to thin it down. Then I just added a little garlic powder and some dill. Use anything you like!

A friend had given me a jar of Pear Chutney she made. It was a savory chutney rather than a sweet one. A little tart, but it had raisins in it. I wanted to use it, but didn't think it would be good on the brie, so I used in on a bar of low fat cream cheese. It was delicious!

Another friend was kind enough to bring a bowl of tapioca pudding! It had been years since I'd had any! It was creamy and delicious.

Yet another friend brought a bottle of Dogfish Head Wine/Beer. It was ....... interesting. To me it tasted like fruity beer. I'm not a beer lover, but it wasn't bad. It's worth a try if you see a bottle.

November Soup night looks like it might be two soups. Lentil with Smoked Sausage and small pot of potato and corn chowder with shrimp.