Tomato Farro

Last night I made Smitten Kitchen’s One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes. I won’t post the recipe as the only change I made was replacing the fresh basil with a dollop of pesto, as earlier in the week I’d transformed all my basil into pesto. I also halved the recipe since it was just me, and I still have half of it leftover. It was really good – I’ll make this again.

I served this with a salad. Because I love salad!

I’m not going to be able to do long posts all the time, and if start expecting to, I’ll never keep up with this, but I was thinking this was going to be really short since I wasn’t actually posting a recipe, so who wants to see some cats???

Well, first you’ll have to read about something seemingly unrelated. Or “seamingly” unrelated, hahaha. When I started looking for places to live this last time around, I knew I was going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff, and honestly, I love getting rid of stuff, especially at this juncture in my life, but there is some stuff that would be a struggle to live without, like, oh, most of my immense amount of kitchen stuff. (But as mentioned in a previous post, I really lucked out as far as my kitchen is concerned!) One thing I was a little nervous about possibly having to get rid of was my sewing machine. I’m not a huge sewer, because I’m not good at anything that requires complicated patterns (or any patterns, really) or more than the very basic straight stitching, but as you can see from the several sewing tutorials I have on here, I do occasionally sew simple things. If I were a normal person and just had a modern sewing machine I could stash in a closet when I wasn’t using it, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but after destroying about 5 such sewing machines in a lifetime, I bought an antique 1949 Singer a while back, which totally changed what happens when I sew (soooooo much less cussing and anger!). In addition to actually WORKING, unlike all the machines I’ve broken in the past, it’s a showpiece because it’s so beautiful, and it sits in a special table and all that jazz. Which is great and all but that means it takes up space that I was sure was going to be at a premium. I was stressing out about this a bit, even though I’ve really only used the sewing machine maybe 6 or 7 times since I got to California three years ago.

As it turns out, I have plenty of space for the sewing machine. I still didn’t expect to be inspired to USE it any time soon, though, because I am ridiculously busy. But I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the bag I was using at the wildlife hospitals. A couple years ago I made myself a handbag to use on “normal” days, and a separate bag to carry on “wildlife” days, stashing in the latter things I only need at the hospitals, like my set of hospital keys, a notebook, name tags, raptor gloves, training whistle, etc. I just transfer my wallet from bag to bag depending on the day. But I was starting to find the wildlife bag too small, the more involved I get and the more things I’m doing, and things weren’t as organized as I’d like, so I decided to make myself a new, improved bag this week. Since it had been a while since I’ve sewn anything, I had forgotten how SUPER INVOLVED Gomez gets when I sew!

Like, he’s got to roll around on the fabric while I’m trying to cut it. Super unsafe! So annoying! But also adorable! HE IS VERY HANDSOME.

He also enjoys sitting on my lap – or on my shoulders – when I’m at the sewing machine. Anyway, as soon as I managed to clear Mezzie off the cutting mat, THIS one showed up in his place:

I swear, that bag took twice as long to make as it should have! If you are curious, here’s the final product:

I pinned one of my nametags onto it because it was always stabbing me when I had it tossed into the bottom of the old bag, but I just realized I pinned it right over the peacock’s eyes. Oops!

My other bag was made using an owl print, quilting weight fabric, and since I wanted something heavier this time, I tried to find owl upholstery fabric that wasn’t overly cutesy, but didn’t find anything I liked, so I went with this peacock fabric. It’s not as heavy as I was hoping either, though, so I’ll use this for a little while and see whether or not I like it or if I need to try again. I did put owls on the inside though!

I’ll be headed to one of the hospitals this afternoon (well, actually I’ll be at both of them at one point today, god I’m busy), so we’ll see how it does when put to the test!

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Green Salsa Tomato Burritos

I bought some green tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday, mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought green tomatoes before. I figured I’d fry them up somehow, but when I was surveying the kitchen for burrito filling ideas (at the suggestion of Smucky), I came across the green tomatoes and thought I could incorporate them somehow. Aided by a recipe I found online, I decided to make a salsa with them, and it was pretty tasty, so I shall share.

A green tomato.

Green Tomato Salsa
Lightly adapted from http://moderncomfortfood.com/2010/09/green-tomato-salsa-verde/

2 medium green tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 small or 1/2 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar because my brown sugar is easier to get to than my white sugar)
pinch or two of cumin seeds
pinch of salt
splash of olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Place all of the ingredients except the lime juice and cilantro in a medium saucepan with a little bit of water (2-3 tablespoons). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Use a slotted spoon to move the mixture to a food processor.

Add the lime juice and cilantro and pulse until it’s as smooth or as chunky as you like. Let cool. Serve with tortilla chips or enjoy in a burrito as described below.

Green Tomato Salsa Burritos
Makes enough filling for 4-6 burritos depending on size

1 cup TVP
scant 1 cup vegan “beef” broth
1 packet Goya seasoning with corinader and annatto (optional)
1 cup cooked rice (I especially like rice cooked in broth for this recipe)
fresh cooked corn from 1 ear
1 recipe Green Tomato Salsa (see above)
flour tortillas

Heat the broth to a boil and whisk in the Goya seasoning if using. Pour the broth over the TVP, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes to rehydrate.

Assemble the burritos by putting down a line of rice, then topping it with the TVP mixture, corn, and plenty of salsa.

Roll them up. Burritos are not the easiest things to photograph, but trust me, this was tasty.

So, what else have I been up to? Raccoons, mostly. It’s the height of baby season and we are inundated. This little tyke arrived one day a few weeks ago and only had one ear! This was a birth defect.

Some of you may remember the the story of Emmy, who acted as a surrogate mother for some of our babies last year. We weren’t able to give any of our babies to her this year as she had a full litter of her own to take care of. A couple of weeks ago she moved the whole brood from her usual nest box to another one in a nearby tree. These pictures were taken two weeks ago when the babies were exactly eight weeks old. It was a very hot day and Emmy is trying to get some air by sleeping in outside. One of her babies woke up and got curious about the outside world. These are pictures of this brave little one venturing outside the nest box on his own for possibly the very first time.

“I’m going to do it!”

“Eh, that’s probably enough for today.”

“I’ll just hang here for a while.”

In other news, I’m SO GLAD it’s farmers market season. I don’t know how I survive without it. The only annoying part of the farmers market is bringing home my heavy basket of produce and being hassled by my cats, who LOVE chewing on anything green. Gomez’s face is NOT supposed to be in my food, but I was really charmed by the pattern of these garlic scapes sitting in my basket.

I’ve been continuing to go to parks whenever I’m able, though not as often as I’d like. The other day at Burke Lake Park I saw this luna moth. It was huge – at least 4″ wide.

An isolated picnic table at Burke Lake Park:
<img src="http://ineluctable.org/ieatfood/green_tomato_salsa/I%20think%20I'll%20eat%20lunch%20at%20this%20table%20some%20day.jpg".

And here are some pictures I took along Marumsco Creek, which runs between Occoquan Bay NWR and Veterans Memorial Park.

Mostly I saw a lot of different kinds of turtles. This is a painted turtle:

Eastern black snake.

This frog was my favorite.

An infrared shot of the creek.

I very narrowly missed getting drenched in a storm – the first fat raindrops fell from the sky when I was about 100 feet from my car and by the time my camera and I were safely inside, it was pouring. You could say I started hurrying back when the sky turned ominous, which is true, but the rather Renae form of hurrying that involves stopping and taking lots of pictures.

Finally, happy Bloomsday to all you literature lovers and Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers, especially my own, who is pictured here helping my mother brush his dog’s teeth. Good oral hygiene is important for everyone!

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Sicilian Baked Tomatoes and Onions

Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen is probably my favorite cookbook to turn to when I want something simple but amazing, when I have fresh produce that I want to showcase. I love tofu and seitan as much as the next vegan – don’t get me wrong – but there is something very refreshing about a vegan cookbook with not a single mention of either one: it’s all “naturally vegan” recipes from the Mediterranean. When I needed to use up two tomatoes I got at the farmers market on Saturday, I thought immediately of the baked tomato recipes from this book. There are two baked tomato recipes; I made the Sicilian. I was in a quandary because I wanted to share the recipe, but didn’t want to alter its simplicity to make it enough my own. But then I found that it’s on food.com, so I guess I’ll go ahead and post it. But not without urging you strongly to check out this cookbook. It’s really good. As the author suggests in the book, I made the baked onions at the same time. The two recipes are nearly identical, so I’ve just combined them.

Sicilian Baked Tomatoes and Onions
slightly adapted from Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

2 large tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions, peeled
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp smoked salt, or other flaked, kosher, or sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the onions.

Place onions in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside until cool enough to touch.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, and use your finger to poke all the seeds out. Drain them as well as possible.

I also cored mine.

When the onions are cool enough to touch, cut them in half.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Put the tomatoes and onions into a baking dish into which they just fit.

Fill the holes of the tomatoes up with the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle some more on top. Also sprinkle the onions with the bread crumb mixture.

Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and onions.

Bake for an hour and a half (yes, really!). Let sit for a few minutes, or allow to come to room temperature, before eating.

Donna Klein suggest serving both of them together over rice or couscous (quinoa would also be good), which I’ve done before and it’s great. Tonight, though I was also having white beans and a salad, so I just served them on their own. The beans are pressure-cooked Great Northern beans, with sauted spring onions, a lot of garlic, imitation bacon bits, and sage, and a generous addition of Bryanna’s bacon salt.

This is the sort of thing I like eating when I want to feel particularly healthy! I served it all with Italian wine, and while it was cooking read some of a funny and very enjoyable Italian book.

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Japanese-Chinese Tofu and Tomato Stir Fry

I had a fresh block of tofu that I made yesterday and knew I probably wouldn’t be able to use it any other night this week, so I whipped out The Book of Tofu, figuring if the answer to “what’s for dinner?” wasn’t there, it wasn’t anywhere. The Book of Tofu is rather Japanese-centric, so the Chinese recipes it contains are mostly Japanese twists on Chinese recipes, which is why you’ll find sake in an otherwise rather Chinese meal below. I changed the recipe up, though, making it more authentically Chinese, so I probably should have swapped the sake out for shaoxing wine, but what the heck. It turned out well, it was quick and easy, combined flavors I love, and I’ll definitely make it again. But like my Japanese-type American-style Pickles, I seem to be making sort-of cross-culture foods lately. Which is a-okay with me.

Tofu and Tomato Stir Fry
Adapted from Fanchie-dofu in The Book of Tofu by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

12 oz fresh tofu, preferably homemade
1 1/2 medium tomatoes, chopped into wedges
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbsp fermented black beans
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sake, shaoxing wine, or sherry
2 Tbsp tomato sauce
2-3 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
1 cup frozen peas or edamame
1 Tbsp cornstarch

In a small bowl, combine the fermented black beans (you can rinse these first to make them less salty, but I prefer not to), soy sauce, and wine.

Chop the tofu into 3/4″ squares.

Mince or press the garlic, slice the onions, and chop the tomatoes into wedges (make them thicker than I show here because mine cooked down too quickly).

When ready to cook the meal, heat some oil (I used peanut) in a hot wok. When hot, add the onions and stir fry for a minute.

Add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds.

Add the tomato wedges and stir fry for a minute or two.

Add the fermented black beans, soy sauce, and wine. If you can’t find or don’t have fermented black beans, you can just omit them and maybe add a little bit of vegan “beef” boullion, which is a totally different flavor but will give the dish a similar flavor boost. Try to find fermented black beans, though, because they are really, really good.

Stir in the tomato sauce and chili garlic sauce, adjusting for the amount of heat you like. I used about 2 tablespoons and Mark added hot sauce to his plate and I regretted not adding a little more. We both really like heat, though.

Gently stir in the tofu …

… and the peas or edamame. I think edamame would have been awesome here, and I sometimes have frozen edamame on hand but was sad to discover I didn’t have any tonight.

Allow to simmer for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into 2 tablespoons cold water:

Stir the cornstarch mixture into the wok and stir for a minute or two until mixture thickens and becomes a bit glossy.

Serve with brown rice.

Every ingredient in this dish is a favorite of mine, so this was a no-brainer!

In other news, I GOT IN THE POOL yesterday. The water was a bit cold upon first contact but I was determined to go swimming, and it wasn’t at all bad after the initial shock. Despite this happy news, the forecast for this week is yet more cooler temperatures and even more thunderstorms. I can’t believe it! It’s supposed to be in the SIXTIES on Wednesday. What kind of horrible summer is this? Also, I have a busy week ahead of me and then Saturday morning Mark and I leave for our annual Beach Week with his family in Charleston, South Carolina, which I am looking forward to (the beach there is really nice and I also love Mark’s family). There’s no internet at the beach, so you may not hear from me for a couple of weeks, but don’t be alarmed. I’m just relaxing and probably taking a million pictures I’ll later subject you to, some of which may involve food. Mark’s family contains several vegetarians and is extremely accomodating of vegans.

I took Brachtune in for a check-up in anticipation of leaving her alone for a week, to make myself feel better, and the vet called Friday to tell me that according to all the tests they ran she’s doing “amazing”. Which didn’t surprise me at all because Brachtune has been acting nothing at all like a 17-year old cat who probably has cancer: she’s been acting like a little ole hunk of purring love.

Also, tomorrow (Tuesday) is BLOOMSDAY! So read some of Ulysses (I’ve downloaded it to my phone for free!!), drink a lot of beer or whiskey, and act real pretentious!

Here’s Pig checking out his copy of Ulysses during Bloomsday 2004: the centennial!

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Tomatoes à la Provençale

Yesterday Mark brought home two lovely tomatoes, given to him by a co-worker. I suspect they will be the last tomatoes anyone around here will be trying to get rid of! I figured I’d better do something with them before Mark made his famous Tomato Surprise, and I decided on Tomatoes à la Provençale from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. I strayed slightly from her recipe, mostly because I didn’t have fresh basil or parsley. What I do have is a rambling shiso plant, so I made the unlikely substitution of shiso for basil and parsley. I’m guessing most of you are much more likely to have basil and parsley, so I’ll give you the original ingredients.

Tomatoes à la Provençale

6 large firm ripe tomatoes (about 8 ounces each)
regular salt
1/2 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup soft white bread crumbs (for 2 tomatoes, I tore up one slice of sourdough bread)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (for 2 tomatoes, I chopped up 3 shiso leaves and added about 1/2 tsp dried parsley)
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil (I used 1/2 tsp dry for 2 tomatoes)
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallots or white parts of scallions
2 cloved garlic, finely chopped
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

(Note: I’m going to stray a bit from my usual protocol and just transcribe the original text, but since I can’t keep my mouth shut, I’ll add my additional thoughts in italics. I just wanted to make it clear which words are the author’s and which are mine.)

Slice off and discard 1/4 inch from the top and bottom of each tomato. The original recipe says to then cut each tomato in half crosswise, however, the brilliant Renae, who is more accustomed to making up than following recipes, managed to miss that line and instead went right onto the next step of scooping out the seeds. I cored each tomato, then dug out a little bit (I saved the bits other than the core for the soup I was also making). With a finger or the handle of a small spoon, scoop out the seeds.

Sprinkle the insides with a little regular salt and turn them upside down to drain on paper towels for about 15 minutes.

I also didn’t cut off an entire 1/4″ from the top nor especially the bottom; I just made sure they’d each sit upright.

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Lightly oil a shallow baking dish large enough to comfortably hold the tomato halves in a single layer. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry bread crumbs, soft bread crumbs, parsley, basil, the crazy addition of shiso if so inclined, shallots, and garlic. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Add half of the olive oil and toss well to thoroughly combine.

My sourdough slice, torn up.

Fill each tomato half (or, if you are a dummy and can’t read directions, each whole tomato) with about 2 tablespoons of the bread crumb mixture, patting it in and letting it mound up slightly in the center.
Arrange the tomato halves in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle evenly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender but not limp or mushy. Serve warm. Or let cool and refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 3 hours and serve chilled, sprinkled with the optional parsley if desired.

These were good; Smark really liked his. He seemed quite disappointed I didn’t make the recipe up. The shiso actually worked quite well, and they worked fine as whole tomatoes instead of halves.

I served it with the Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice from the same book, but I’m not going to bother writing it up because honestly I liked my lentil soup better.

I did, however, use one of my own home-grown, fresh bay leaves for the first time, though! I’ve had the bay leaf plant for several years now, which is nothing short of amazing in terms of plant life in my hands. It’s been particularly happy now that it’s living right next to that crazy shiso plant, and is now big enough that I don’t feel bad robbing it of a leaf here and there.

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a few photos

My homemade chili oil:

My tempeh-making luck ran out and I ended up with another bad batch this weekend. I’m not sure why. The only thing I can think of is that the Ziploc bag was too full and the soybeans therefore layered too deeply. I didn’t weigh the soybeans; I just guessed at the 8 ounces I was going for, but possibly it was more than that and therefore too much. At any rate, here is what tempeh looks like when it doesn’t turn out. It didn’t smell that great either.

I want you to know that I am very careful about the food I buy and I would never, ever buy anything made of wheat flour that had been breached.

Here are two of my tomato plants. The one on the left is Roma and the one on the right is San Marzano. (Mark’s hot peppers are in the background.)

I grow them in Earth Boxes, which my mother-in-law turned me on to and which are great. In fact, here’s the San Marzano plant I put in a regular container:

It’s not nearly as big and healthy. Unfortunately, the Earth Box isn’t doing wonders for the two heirloom varieties I have, Mr Stripy (which I totally bought just because I wanted to grow Tigger Tomatoes) and Brandywine. Those plants don’t look as healthy.

While I was outside photographing the tomatoes, I scanned the yard for anything colorful I could photograph. The only color I could find in the entire yard was this tiger lily. Everything else is green, green, green.

Well, unless you count my tiny little tomato blossom:

Or the incredibly tiny flowers on Tigger’s catnip:

Much of our backyard looks like this:

As you can imagine, we have a lot of problems with pandas! And ninjas.

The cats can’t stand it when we’re outside without them. They sit forlornly at the door and meow piteously.

They often hang out on the patio with us, on leashes, but it was about to starting raining again, so instead of bringing them out, I went back inside and began pondering dinner…in which I hope to feature:

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Big Mark’s Bad-Ass Tomato Surprise

Mark is back with a tutorial! Mark requested a leftover tempeh burger for dinner tonight, but I had already had one for lunch, so we’re having separate dinners tonight. This means I get to have Indian food, of which Mark is not that fond, and you get a new tutorial featuring Mark’s cooking! Not depicted is Mark figuring out how to turn on and apply a tempeh burger to the George Foreman grill, but here is his side dish (really more dessert as he’d already wolfed down the burger), “Bad-Ass Tomato Surprise”.

First, assemble the ingredients. Mise en place and all that stuff:

That’s a French press, a can of spotted dick, a lighter, some ginger, one tomato, and an orange tabby.

Remove the sticker from the tomato:

Choose a knife. Mark’s been trained to use the bread knife on tomatoes.

Slice the top off the tomato:

Slice the tomato in half:

Salt the tomato. Mark says the quantity of salt to use is “an ungodly amount”, because “salt is freakin’ sweet”.

Add a bit of freshly ground pepper:

Enjoy your tomato surprise!

If you are nice, share with your cat:

Put away the French press, spotted dick, lighter, and ginger. They’re taking up the cat’s lounging area.

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