Friday, July 18, 2014

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds

The following is derived from a post originally at The Sustainable Food Center:
Every heirloom tomato you buy at the Farmers' Market comes with a fairy-tale prize inside: generation after generation of tomato plants, neatly packed away within each one! Heirloom tomatoes are treasured for their flavor and variety, and, like the keys to a kingdom, their seeds are shared and passed down from grower to grower like the priceless inheritance they are. With just a little effort and knowledge, you'll be starting your own tomato dynasty soon enough. Read on for the basics of what you need to know to start saving seeds right now! (hint: now is the time--once tomatoes go out of season, you'll have to wait another year)

  1. Harvest seeds: Cut the tomato in half. Use your finger or a knife to scoop out the seeds and juice from their cavities, or squeeze the tomato over a glass jar. Use a small jar, such as a jelly jar, if you are only saving seed from one or two tomatoes. Once the seeds and all their juice is in the jar, add no more than 25% water and slosh it around.
  2. Let them sit: Place the jar somewhere warm for two or three days, stirring occasionally.
  3. Check for readiness: After a few days (depending on the weather), a mold should form on the top. This method mimics the rotting of the tomato in nature or the actions of the digestive system of an animal and breaks down the clear gel coating around the seeds, which prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato. Once the mold covers the entire top of the liquid and the seeds have begun to sink, the gel coating has been broken down and they are ready for cleaning.
  4. Separate: You know seeds are ready for their final cleaning when most of them have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Add water to fill the jar and slosh it around. Let it settle for a moment. Carefully pour the water out of the jar. The mold, pulp, and immature seeds should sink and stay in the jar.
  5. Clean: Repeat this decanting process two to five times until you have only clean seeds and clean water. Pour out as much water as you can without losing the seeds or pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Dry: Pat dry through the strainer and then scoop the seeds out onto a small plate (like the lid from a yogurt container). Allow to dry without intense heat.
  7. Store: When they are very dry, store the seeds in a moisture-proof container in a cool, dry place. It is very important to label the container with variety and date. Tomato seeds can last for ten years or more if stored in a cool, dry spot.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Love

The following post is reposted from The Sustainable Food Center, in Austin Texas.  Please visit this wonderful site/blog as it is a wealth of information about food:  growing it and preparing it!
I adore heirloom tomatoes and get excited when I start to see them in the local farmer's market and at our beloved Central Market store.  They are what tomatoes are "supposed" to taste like.
I grew up in the midwest with a garden in my back yard that always had a bountiful supply of tomatoes, among other things, all summer long.  I didn't realize that a lot of people didn't grow vegetables and eat fresh things until I got a bit older.  How sad!
When I saw the photograph contained in this article I just had to share.  A follow-up to this post will be information on how to save the heirloom tomato seeds.

What's so special about heirloom tomatoes? In a world where flavor and color are sacrificed for uniform, homogenous tomatoes bred for their ability to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping, locally-grown, proudly diverse, and shockingly flavorful tomatoes are a precious rarity. And they're worth the wait. We are willing to forgo fresh tomatoes (often sad, forgettable rounds of pale pink on a sandwich or in a salad) all year for the pleasures of a sun-ripened, carefully-tended real tomato, either tart or a little sweet, dripping with juice and full of character and complexity. Farmers have their favorite varieties, and they'll tell you all about them. Here's a list of some of our favorites we've spied recently at SFC Farmers' Markets--now is the time to visit, try them all, and choose your favorites!
  • Black Krim - Dark reddish-purple, juicy heirloom tomato from the Black Sea area in Russia. Tangy, rich, and sweet. 
  • Brandywine - A big, beefsteak, "pink" tomato, dating back to 1885, Brandywines are fantastically sweet with a mild acidity. 
  • Cherokee Purple - An old Cherokee heirloom with a deep, dusky red hue; sweet, dense, and juicy.
  • Green Zebra - Bright chartreuese with darker green stripes, these tomatoes are rich and sweet with a tangy zing.
  • San Marzano - An Italian heirloom, first grown in the volcanic soils under Mt. Vesuvius, San Marzanos are a "paste" tomato, best for making sauce. 
  • Sungold - Actually a hybrid and not an heirloom, we included them here because their thin skins mean you probably won't find them in the grocery store--and because we love them so. These small, bright tangerine-colored cherry tomatoes are explosively sweet and flavorful--we guarantee you can't eat just one! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yummy Sugar Free Tart Frozen Yogurt

I fell in love with tart frozen yogurt many years ago when I had my first bite of tart gelato in Italy.  This is not exactly gelato, but it is extremely tasty.  Since I'm watching my sugar intake I took a recipe I found online and modified it.  The following recipe is the original, and includes my modifications just in case you prefer not to use sugar substitute.
Tangy and creamy Tart Frozen Yogurt 
    8 ounces (1 cup) 2% plain greek yogurt
    8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
    5 3/8 ounces (5/8 cup) lowfat buttermilk
    4 1/8 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
    2 5/8 ounces (3/8 cup) granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon vodka
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    pinch of salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.*
2. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once done churning, transfer to an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on top of the frozen yogurt, under the lid of the container.
Take frozen yogurt out of freezer 10-20 minutes before serving, allowing it to soften at room temperature until scoopable. Makes about 1 quart
My modifications:
*I added 1 tsp vanilla to 16 oz plain whole milk yogurt.  Beware of "low fat" yogurt if your concern in sugar, as the low fat varieties that are flavored have more carbohydrates.
*buttermilk was made from adding 1 T lemon juice to milk and allowed to stand for 5 minutes.
*sugar was substituted with same amount of combo (erythritol, stevia, splenda).  I need to 
mention that, if I were strictly using stevia or Splenda, I would reduce the amount as I find it quite a lot sweeter in amounts equal to sugar.  Erythritol is my favorite:  more closely resembles sugar and about 70% as sweet as sugar.  Hard to find in stores, but you can get it on amazon.  Link here.

(for the 2nd batch I bought some at the grocery store!)

Why vodka?  At first, I thought it was to help keep the frozen yogurt a bit softer.
I am not convinced it matters.

Sugar substitute added.

This is a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I have had the base in the freezer for several hours 
prior to adding the ice cream ingredients.

The ice cream maker ran for 20 minutes...
After it finished blending I put the frozen yogurt (still in the blending base) back in the freezer for an hour before serving.
Here is my first batch!  Yum!

I served it with slices of a fresh peach.

In the second batch I mashed about 1/4 cup fresh blackberries and used the zest of a Meyer lemon and about 2 tablespoon of the juice, added right at the end of the blending.

This, too, is absolutely delicious.  It still has that tart yogurt taste, but the fruit and zest 
give it a little "zing"!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Creme Fraiche Mustard Sauce for Fish

My husband wanted a "mustard' flavor fish sauce, so he googled it and got one by Ina Garten on the Food Network. You can view the original recipe here.   I made some adjustments because I didn't have whole grain mustard.  I am not a 'sauce' person, but more of a purest when it comes to fish.

I am cooking for 2, and had one large piece of Halibut.  So, the ingredients I used were 4 oz of Creme Fraiche, 3T Dijon Country Mustard, 2 shallots (from the garden) minced, and 2 t capers.  Kosher salt and pepper.  I know this is way more than I need, so next time, I will make a smaller batch.  I kept thinking of what else I could use it on, it was that good.

Here's my lovely piece of Halibut, in a glass pan that has been sprayed with olive oil.  I sprinkled salt and pepper on the bottom of the pan, before adding the fish.

Slather the top of the fish with the sauce and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  It was absolutely delicious.  Flavorful and tender.  I wanted to lick my plate. I served it with steamed asparagus and a green salad, with broccoli slaw, celery and watermelon in a Mango Chipolte dressing.  Alot of good flavors going on here!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Goat cheese & sesame asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and I was lucky enough to get a freshly picked bunch at the farmers market the other day before it was all gone. 

Gorgeous long bright green stalks just picked the day before that I knew would be wonderful paired with the fresh goat cheese that I bought at the first market stall that I visited.


Asparagus - 1 small bunch
Shallots - 2 tablespoons sliced
Goat cheese - 2 to 3 tablespoons crumbled
Toasted sesame seeds - 1 tablespoon
White wine - 2 tablespoons
Grape seed or olive oil - 2 tablespoons


Wash and dry the asparagus and trim off any tough woody bottom stems.  In a non stick skillet heat 2 the grape seed (or olive oil) and add the shallots and asparagus.  Sauté for a couple of minutes until the shallots being to wilt a little.  Add the white wine and cook uncovered for 30 seconds.  Cover the pan and let the asparagus steam in the white wine for a few minutes until they’re crisp tender.  Remove the lid and add the sesame seeds and the goat cheese.  Toss to combine, season with salt and pepper and serve!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

white chocolate strawberry mousse

Several years ago in a restaurant whose name I can’t remember I had a wonderful white chocolate strawberry mousse for dessert.  It was so good that I remember savoring every bite and thinking I’ve got to figure out a way to make this.  I learned how to make an easy eggless chocolate mousse years ago when I was in culinary school and I eventually adapted the recipe to create a version using white chocolate.   I thought the white chocolate version would make a great base for a strawberry version.  This white chocolate strawberry mousse won rave reviews from my husband and was even better than the one that I had in that restaurant so many years ago.  I served it over strawberry shortcake but it’s delicious served on it’s own in a pretty glass garnished with some fresh strawberries.

Use fresh strawberries at the peak of ripeness for best results. 

1 cup fresh ripe strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
12 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped (or you can use white chocolate chips)
1 1/4 cup of whipping cream


Combine the white chocolate, 2 tbls of the sugar and 1/4 cup of the whipping cream in a saucepan.  Over low heat, cook the mixture (stirring often) until the white chocolate has melted.   White chocolate has a tendency to lump so strain the mixture through a sieve into a mixing bowl and set aside to cool to lukewarm/room temperature stirring occasionally.

Wash and dry the strawberries.  Cut the stems off and put them in a blender with 1 tbls of the sugar to puree them until the mixture is smooth. 

Put the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and whip with a wire whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to overwhip! 

Fold half the whipped cream into the strawberry/white chocolate mixture until well combined.  Fold the remaining half in, transfer the mixture to a refrigerator safe bowl and chill the mousse until it’s set, about 6 hours or overnight. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fresh Fruit Crisp

I have come to love a fresh fruit crisp for dessert on the weekends.  There's cobbler, with a crust, and then there is crisp with an oatmeal topping, which is crispy and delicious.  I used a deep dish pie pan, and kinda eye balled it on the amount of fruit to cut up.  So, say about 3 cups of strawberries (more), raspberries and blueberries.  Set aside.  I used a baking spray in the pan first.

The crisp consists of 3 cups of oatmeal, 1 cup of flour, 2t salt, 2 cups of brown sugar, 1t baking soda, 1 cup melted butter (2 sticks).  Mix altogether, and then scoop about 1/4 of it into the bottom of the pie pan.  Then spoon the fruit over that.  Top with the remaining crisp topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the fruit bubbles

Cooked and out of the oven

I served it with Trader Joes Vanilla Ice Cream!  It will be excellent for breakfast in the morning, with a good cup of coffee!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

This all started with finding a recipe on Pinterest for an apple pie, using Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls as the crust.  Intriguing?  Yes, I thought so too.  And why not?  It sounded delicious.  How hard could it be?
In searching for just the right recipe, I scanned the comments about what other people did, and one said to cut the rolls in half, before rolling them out, so I did.
I rolled them out with a glass, to the thickness that pie crust would be
I used 3 Granny Smith apples and 1 Honey Crisp.  Using a vegetable peeler, I peeled the apples.

This is the really hilarious part, because the directions said to stretch the dough to fill in the holes, and my pie crust looked like hodge podge patchwork, instead of their lovely photo.  See here

I cut up all of the apples, and tossed them with about a 1/4 c of sugar, and 2T flour

I piled all of the apples into the pie shell, and realized that there were too many, it was too high, and out of control.  But, I didn't want to start over.  I should have used a deep dish pie pan.  I made a Crisp topping with 3/4 C flour, 1-1/2 T baking powder, 1/3 C butter, sliced, 1 C brown sugar, 1 C cooking oats. 

Pie was too high, and I was worried about it spilling all over the bottom of the oven, so I put this baking sheet under it.  Big mistake, because it didn't cook all the way though, like it should have. 

The edges of the crust were a bit crispy, and in some areas black, I pulled those off before serving

My dinner guests loved the pie.  I am my worst critic.  I would make this again, in a deep dish pie pan, and I would mix the Crisp topping in with the apples, and put in first, and then bake for 30-40 minutes.  Then I would top it with the cinnamon rolls and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the rolls looked done.  Then I would frost the cinnamon rolls.  Yummy delicious.  We'll see when try #2 happens.