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!