Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CSA 20: Tomato Ice Cream (aka Epic Fail)

People have made various comments to me about my cooking: “you must be a great cook!” or “wow you know so much about cooking!” Comments of that nature. The best is “you must eat so well!”

The truth is… plenty of my cooking attempts result in epic fails. I just don’t generally share the fails. Tomato ice cream for example: ick. Which is not to say I’m giving up on tomato ice cream; But my first attempt, was, well in a word: bad. Perhaps one could even say very bad. When I leave ¾ of my ice cream untouched, you know it’s pretty darn bad.

As I was making it two popular clich├ęs were rolling around in my head: Necessity is the mother of all invention and ice cream makes everything better. I had over a dozen tomatoes and one day left until a new batch of vegetables, and surely more tomato. I needed a way to make tomato better… and I had a brand new ice cream machine just begging for experimentation.

Tomato ice cream certainly works on a basic level – it looked delicious and was a nice creamy texture. But it failed in the most important of areas – taste. The first and most major problem was entirely my fault and preventable. I should have peeled the tomatoes. And the sad thing is I knew that. I thought it through; I planned to peel the tomatoes. And then I got lazy. And you know what kids? Laziness rarely pays off. I simply de-gooked the tomato and put it in the food processor, skins and all. The skins were also the second problem, in that they only ended up chopping to about ½ centimeter bits, and therefore made for a weird texture within the otherwise smooth ice cream.

I used my recipe for strawberry ice cream, simply substituting tomato for the strawberries and omitting the vanilla. I also added an extra tablespoon of sweetener, to make up for the less sweet tomato in comparison to super sweet berries. For sweetener I used half sugar and half Xylitol, but certainly only sugar would work (or if your intestines can take it, only Xylitol would be fine. Alternately I’m sure other sugar substitutes would be fine as well). And while I keep calling it “ice cream” I actually did not use any cream, but rather skim milk* and yogurt, for a fat free treat.

I will be trying it again (why not? I still have at least 8 tomatoes, and I haven’t even seen this week’s veggie haul yet) but with some tweaks to the recipe. Certainly I’ll first and foremost peel my tomatoes. I’ll try using whole milk next time too, to add a bit of tasty creamy fat to it. And I’m thinking some apple sauce might do the trick of cutting the acid flavor better then just straight sugar/sweetener.

Strawberry Ice Cream
6-9 frozen strawberries, chopped
¾ cups (combined total) of plain fat free yogurt and skim milk
3 tablespoons sugar (or sugar substitute)
A few drops vanilla extract

Mix ingredients well so all the sweetener is dissolved. Add to ice cream machine and follow the directions for your machine. Enjoy.

*In the interest of full disclosure – I use the ultra pasteurized, extra protein skim, the stuff marketed as tasting like whole milk. Skim Plus is one brand, Hood Smart Balance is another, but I’m sure local markets vary. Extra milk solids/proteins are added to the skimmed milk making it slightly thicker and creamier tasting. It has higher calories then regular skim milk, as well as more protein, but remains fat free.

CSA 19: Tomato, tomato, tomato

Aka: A Tomato (or Two) a Day, is the CSA Way
Or perhaps an alternate title, No Tomato Left Behind
Or maybe, Attack of the Organic Tomatoes
Or the most fitting, You Say Tomato, I Say Please for the Love of All That’s Holy No More Tomato!

I thought the zucchini’s were bad in July. Oh geez, how I long for the days when I was obligated to eat 5 zucchinis a week, now that I’m faced with 8 full sized tomatoes and a pint of cherry tomatoes a week (that's just an average - last week I got 14 - that's right 14 tomatoes in one week!) My two tomato a day habit is wearing on my patience (I probably wouldn’t mind so much if I didn’t despise tomato seeds and tomato gook, which means the cutting of a tomato involves a lot of work, wet messy work, to remove these bits… my dish rag, left in the sink for day, damp, actually sprouted – SPROUTED. Can you imagine my surprise coming home from work, glancing in the sink and seeing something growing?) Its been weeks now that I've been getting at minimum 5 or 6 full size red tomatoes and a pint of golden cherry tomatoes.

I have made tomato sauce, tomato & beans, sauteed tomato, tomato and chard, tomato salad (more then once my lunch has consisted of various cut tomatoes and some cheese) and tomato salsa. All of which were lovely meals individually, but collectively they are bit much.

I’ve spoken before about how I often wonder about the origins of recipes, how the very first incarnation of certain food combinations came about. The more I entrench myself in eating locally and seasonally the more I come to realize many of the modern recipes we have and love probably have less to do with certain foods going well together and more to do with certain foods being seasonal together. Tomatoes and peppers for example. Sure who doesn’t love a tomato sauce with some bell pepper cooked into it? Or a lovely tomato and pepper salsa? Or even just a big salad full of greens, fresh tomato and chopped bell pepper? But phooey to the idea that these recipes started due to their deliciousness. These combinations came about because tomatoes and peppers ripen at the same time. After all rhubarb would probably taste wonderful with peaches or apples, but who ever heard of peach & rhubarb pie? No one. Because strawberries and rhubarb ripen together, a full month or two after peach season is over and 3 months before apples make an appearance.

Tomato and Chard, with pork
1 pint cherry tomato, halved
6 chard leaves, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 [boneless] pork chop, cubed
Olive oil, butter,
Salt & pepper

 Melt the butter in the oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes (be careful to not let it burn).  Add the chard and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until it wilts and brightens in color.  Add the tomato and the pork and season with the salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the pork is cooked through.  Enjoy as is or over rice (or any grain).

Salsa
1 large tomato
½ pint cherry tomatoes
1 [sweet] pepper (either bell, or long)
1 hot pepper
½ onion or 3 shallots
Handful of cilantro or parsley (or a mix)
Salt

Wash and prepare the veggies (pull the outer layers off the onions; remove the stems from the peppers and tomatoes, etc).  Put everything in a food processor and pulse about 4x for about 5 seconds each time.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week 15: The Non-Tomato Story

This is not the tomato blog.  I have written it, but this is not it.  The tomato blog is not a very happy piece.  And I didn't want to come across as ungrateful for the recent bounty of nutritious, delicious tomatoes.  So I took a break from tomatoes.  There had been so many that I found I'd been neglecting some of my other vegetables.

Today, for the first time in the 15 weeks its been going on, I picked up my own vegetables.  I was confident I could make it out of work on time, and I did, and I took the express bus, which is twice the price of the subway, but twice as fast as well.  I made it to my car by 6:48 and to APEC by 7:00.

I did get more tomatoes.  Six more, plus a pint of golden cherry tomatoes.  But I also got 2 kinds of peppers, chard, arugula, dill and a spaghetti squash.  But more then just that, I had vegetables left.  I still had some beet greens, half a bunch of chard, parsley, garlic and shallots (not to mention potatoes and roasted beets).  This made for a lot of greens, in addition to a lot of tomatoes.  And I'm not sick of greens.

I didn't make anything new or special, I just used what I had on hand to make something familiar.  I decided on greens pie. Mid-way through I realized my filo dough had pretty much dried out and I could only eek out 2 pies.  I figured I could use the remainder as empanada filling... but that was just me being optimistic - the reality is I diced up a tomato and mixed it with the remaining sauteed greens and feta as lunch. At least its better then yesterday's lunch with was just a cut up tomato and some diced shallot.

In a day or two, perhaps I'll make up a big pot of slow cooked tomato sauce to enjoy with my spaghetti squash.  While its not particularly exotic, and I am in general a squash fan, I don't know that I've ever had spaghetti squash - I'm looking forward to it.