Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tomato Days of Summer

I was in NJ for one last week of the summer and got lots of great recipes from my aunts. With eighteen people, some vegetarians, some picky eaters, and some serious carnivores, meals were a mishmash, but a yummy mishmash. Here is my aunt Margo's addicting tomato and black bean salad.

Tomato and Black Bean Salad

2 TBSP mayonnaise

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teas. salt

3 cups tomatoes, diced

2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup sweet corn, cooked and cut off the cob or frozen cooked

1 cup very coarsely chopped arugula

1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil

Whisk together mayonnaise and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl.

Add garlic and salt and let sit while you prep everything else.

Add remaining ingredients and chill at least one hour. Serve.

Note: this is excellent the next day added to a green salad.

One compromise we made was to base meals in vegetarian dishes but have a small side of meat to satisfy the meat-eaters. It's such a nice way to get a little bite but not overwhelm the meal with 12 ounces of steak. We made lamb chops smothered in herbs. They were tiny - not more than 3 or 4 ounces each, but it was the perfect complement to basil pesto and fresh corn.

Herb-smothered Lamb Chops

Preheat oven to 350.

Dice 1 TBSP each basil, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Put in a small bowl and add 1 teas. cilantro salt. Stir well.

Put 6 lamb chops in a 1 to 2 inch deep baking pan and cover with the herbs.

Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil.

Bake approximately 1/2 hour, until cooked to your liking.

Sweet corn

The quickest way (and most environmental, as it uses very little water) to cook fresh corn on the cob is to steam it. It only needs 10 minutes at the most in the steam, and it will be perfect. Another way is to put the corn into boiling water and cover it. As soon as it returns to a boil, take the corn out.

When we got home, we had our first ripe tomato from the garden. Since we only have three total tomatoes, this one is really valuable! And, it is so good. Sweet, packed full of flavor, juicy but not mushy. It sat on our counter for a few days between my uncle picking it and us returning, and it still made my hands smell like a tomato. I am so sorry we don't have more coming, because this really is what a home garden is all about, in my opinion.


Cooking the Seasons said...

I just ran into one of the reasons that eating local and seasonal is so important on a global scale. As I said, I´m in Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca. It´s a fertile region, with semitropical coastland and cool, high, wet mountains. Corn grows everywhere, and most amazing to me is to see corn planted in stages - it grows all year long here, so next to a field of drying stalks is one with busting cobs, and next to that is a bright green patch of half-grown new plants. Papaya, banana, mango, avocado, and mango trees grow in every back yard as well as in great fields, and peanuts are plentiful. There´s actually too much sun to grow tomatoes well, but they get underplanted in the corn fields, along with squash and beans. Now for the crazy part. There are great sections of fields that are covered over with shade makers and doused with precious water (Oaxaca is in its third year of serious drought) to grow arugula. Arugula is not part of a Mexican diet, there´s not even a word for it, and all of the arugula is shipped to Chicago. Here´s the really crazy part: arugula is a cold weather green - it grows wonderfully in Chicago, and Somerville, from early to late spring and from early to late fall. But in the middle of summer, it gets high prices in Illinois and Oaxacan farmers certainly need every extra income they can find. So here´s my plea, again: grow your own arugula, or get it from your local farmers, and dry up the market for Mexican out-of-season arugula.

maamypatom said...

I am in agreement with you, but you do bring up a complex economic issue--Oaxacan farmers need the income. What do you think should replace the arugula to keep the farmers on the land? is there something requiring less water and not needing to be transported that would help the local economy?