Monday, August 31, 2009

A Cool Summer's Bounty

It hasn't been all green food around here. Oh no, in fact most days lately it the color is red. We planted a dozen or so tomato plants this year. While, the summer was a little cool for tomatoes, it seems, we still have been enjoying ours quite a bit. We planted mainly Roma so we could freeze or can them for the winter. We also have a couple beautiful and tasty heirloom tomato plants which are wonderful for slicing and eating in sandwiches. So far, no canning nor freezing has taken place where the tomatoes are concerned. The squirrels* are one reason and as luck would have it, I get about the right amount of ripe tomatoes a day to cook them up in all sorts of different dishes. Kinda perfect for living in the now, but I know I'll be sad when winter comes and we don't have any tomatoes stored in the larder from our garden. I admit I do like enjoying them in the moment and I love cutting up tomatoes and cooking them down over a couple of hours. It has such a relaxing effect. Maybe I have a little Italian blood in me, but I feel transformed when making tomato sauce. There is just something about the way tomatoes smell as you pick them from the vine, the way they start out so hardy and then reduce over the course of heat and time into something that is much more than chunks of tomatoes...something which can be backdrop to a dish or the star of the show. I will miss my daily ritual of picking tomatoes with the kids and watching them (the tomatoes, not the kids) break down and turn into some creamy base for the next dish.
Creamy Curried Potatoes and Peas from Healthy Cooking for Kids by Shelly Null is a classic favorite in our house. I don't know why I don't make it more often, but I'm always looking for new things to try so sometimes our old faves are made too infrequently. This dish reminds me of Parker when he was Josie's age. It makes me smile and a little sad and longing for the quiet simple life of being the mom to one sweet little boy instead of three fun-filled energetic sweet kids. It also reminds me of a time when my mom was still alive and enjoying being a grandma for the first and only time. Isn't it amazing what is all wrapped up in a simple dish of food? Here I've added carrots and brown rice to this simple, but satisfying classic.
This early cool weather has me appreciating even more the last of the summer bounty. The watermelon from the Market at the Square, the sweet corn from our CSA share, and fresh salsa (tomatoes, black beans, corn, sweet pepper and hot, summer squash, onions, lime juice, and love) made with friends.We've been enjoying the salsa we made midweek in Kit and Emily's lovely new kitchen (oh, how it makes me want to get moving on our remodel!!!) Emily and Kit's beautiful old home was the inspiration we (meaning me, since Rob just went along with what I wanted) needed a few years ago to move out of our suburban type neighborhood with our newish house (we bought it when it was 2 years old) and make the plunge into our current 100+ year old house. I think it was the best move we've even made, but we are still learning what it means to be owners of This Old House. Our wonderful neighbors and Emily and Kit continue to be our inspiration as we feel our way through with little skills and even less money. Ah, well, back to the food...Rob makes the best, yes the best, refried beans on the planet. This time we soaked the last of our pinto beans, cooked them, and a couple days later Rob made them into refried beans (I'll have him tell you his secret sometime) to put in these amazing burritos. The whole wheat wrap contains brown rice, pinto beans, salsa, collards (one of the best parts!!), and avocado. This makes me hungry just thing about them! We could eat burritos ever day, but they don't photograph well (so sorry that all the pictures are from my iPhone other camera at the moment). The garlicky collards on the side was the perfect touch.You all know, we are far from raw around here, but I was putting our fruit away after our "weekly" grocery shopping and it hit me how much raw (organic, of course) fruit we eat. I try to have this tray brimming with fruit and it is down at kid level so they can come by and pick something at any time (which is usually several times a day). This week, you can see bananas (I used to freeze sliced bananas for smoothies, but since our blender is no longer and the kids go through them so fast, bananas never make it to the freezer anymore), nectarines, plums, peaches, apples, and dried figs in the baggies next to the other fruit. That day, we also had green and red grapes in the refrigerator and a huge watermelon on the floor and berries from the Market at the Square, but the berries were eaten before I could put the food away. All this fruit lasts us until about midweek when I do a mini-run to the co-op for fruit and greens or use what we've stored in the freezer. This is our fruit without a blender...when we were making smoothies daily, this would last us even less time.Who needs sweets with all this fruit around? Well, for the latest Vegan Meetup (only the second one I've been able to attend and we hosted at our house again), I baked the Chocolate Sin-nammon Cake from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan because when vegans get together they love to have baked goods. The kids realize this and look forward to the yummy desserts a little too much because they miss the rest of the wonderful potluck food which they would normally go crazy for like stuffed shells and barbecue seitan sandwiches. Baked goods are pretty rare in our house because even vegan baked goods are not the healthiest thing to consume, but we've had a lot of birthday parties and events where vegan goodies were available and for Dema, who hasn't figured out self regulation just yet and seems to be effected by sweets much more than the other two, it can border on obsession. I'm sure he'll figure it out. I don't keep a lot of sugar on hand so I couldn't make the frosting in Dreena's book, but I did find in the back depths of a cabinet a long forgotten Cherrybrook frosting mix from a few years ago (I'm pretty sure it moved with us to this house). It called for an insane amount of Earth Balance, but I guess it is frosting. Parker loved spreading the icing on the cake for me (you can't see it, but there are two cakes with a little frosting in the middle), but we had to wait until people were about to arrive since the frosting (even after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours) wanted to melt. The cake was great, but I would make my own frosting next time and we have signs are oven is on the outs. I think the kitchen remodel gods are trying to tell us something. Too bad they aren't providing the money.
*One of the many thieving squirrels. This one is on top of our cross section holding our clothes line. Often I find them eating our tomatoes on our front porch table. Relaxing, kicking back on our table, eating our tomatoes. Since moving to our wonderful house on the park with the tall trees., I have a different view of squirrels.

No comments: