Tag Archives: tomato

A Last Taste of Summer: Caprese Salad

This summer, I had the joy of watching the little seeds and starts I plopped into my little edible garden stretch and blossom. As a new vegetable gardener, I expected that not everything would go as planned. A “cabbage” grew up to be a giant Brussels sprout that took over a corner of the garden, shading out a few things planted a little to closely. Some purple radishes never really plumped past a skinny root, carrot seeds never quite figured out that summer had come. I had squash blossoms aplenty, but little in the way of actual squash.

But oh, the tomatoes. A couple plants snaked their way through the garden, bloomed and were produced prolifically. Also on the garden’s plus side were basil, sage and lettuce that added fresh flourishes to summer meals.

And with some of the little that remains, I recently made my favorite summer meal.

Caprese salad is a somewhat new-found taste. Though I may have had it before, the first time I remember it clearly  was eating it at a North Kitsap fire station. I’d been invited to a meal there, and among the other great dishes was caprese salad. (Side note: I learned from being a crime and public safety reporter was that firefighters make some darn fine meals, so if you ever see a chance for such a meal, jump at it.) Though wary at first, from the first bite I was in love. The combination of basil, tomatoes, olive oil and Balsamic vinegar was a simply beautiful bit of summer in my mouth.

So, in honor of the waning days of summer, this is what I made. I drizzled olive oil and dropped 12-year-old Balsamic and shook some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper over it all.

Jumping on the Bandwagon and Starting My Own Garden

Beefeater tomatoes
Beefeater tomatoes

I have officially joined the home gardening/community garden craze. I am apparently one of 75 million this year, according to garden columnist Ann Lovejoy.

This weekend was all about the outdoors, notably, getting my vegetable and herb garden set. As I explore cooking good food, the more I crave fresh herbs and produce.

In addition to joining a CSA this year, I took to filling beds and pots with a variety of fruit, herbs and veggies.

This isn’t the first time I’ve plopped some vegetables into the dirt. A few years back, I had a bed full of mass twisting tomato vines that killed everything else in their paths that produced masses of basketball-sized tomatoes. Seriously, basketball. OK, like kiddie basketball. It was a year of plenty of rain and the poor things never did ripen, despite my attempt to hang them in the house after nearly half of them exploded.

Thai Basil
Thai Basil

I also have rosemary, thyme and a few other edibles scattered around the flower garden.

This year, we built a raised bed to help drainage, and we dragged out all the pots that had been stacking up in the shed. I got all my starts in this weekend, even though the work was nearly undone by one 40-pound mutt (named Suki) who apparently thought digging out holes in the bed and scattering the pots all over the patio was world-class fun. If she wasn’t so darn cute, I might offer her up here. So, we salvaged what we could and surrounded the place with kennel wire. We’ll see today if the garden holds.

Sequoia Strawberry
Sequoia Strawberry

I still haven’t gone all the way, tearing out a majority of my yard for food, like some Kitsap gardeners. But it’s a start. So far I’ve got two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, thai basil, sweet basil, oregano, greens, strawberries (LOTS of strawberries), sweet peas, an artichoke, some asparagus, garlic, and some white radishes with purple centers. It’s pretty ambitious, but if only half survive, I’ll be happy.

Have any of you started a new food garden or joined together with others in a community garden? Share what you’re growing and how it’s going in the comments.

Tomato Soup with Garbanzo and Sausage

Tomato soup with sausage and garbanzo beans

With the cool damp weather settling in, a little bone-warming soup was in order this weekend. This will probably be the first in a string of warm comfort as I play around in the kitchen. This weekend, I managed not one but two.

The inspiration for the first, a hearty tomato soup, came from two places on Saturday.

I checked in on the Orangette , a food blog by Seattleite Molly Wizenburg that’s usually as fun to read as the recipes are to try. She too caught the soup bug and offered an adaptation of a simple, chunky tomato soup .

I had already determined to try it when I went to eat at Amy’s on the Bay in Port Orchard, and the soup du jour just happened to be a hearty, peppery tomato soup, with garbanzo beans and Italian sausage.

After the light bulbs dimmed out, I went home and tried it, and below is the adaptation of the Orangette adaptation of a comfort soup worthy of a rainy day. For personal taste, I doubled the amount of garlic (I could almost eat the stuff raw), I used Italian parsley stems instead of cilantro because I have some weird aversion to cilantro, and used a whole roasted jalapeño to cut down on some of the spice, but save on the flavor. I also added more pepper to approximate

I also added some garbanzo beans and, while I thought about adding regular pork ground Italian sausage, but I’ve been eating such rich food lately that I’m starting to feel like I’m well on my way to being a Thanksgiving Day parade float. So I went with a turkey sausage instead. I also threw in a little kale for some added texture and vitamins.

Tomato Soup with Sausage and Garbanzo beans

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch Italian parsley stems, cut into ½-inch lengths
1 roasted jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup garbanzo beans
2 cups water
splash of white wine – optional
2 turkey sausages (I used Jenny-O), casings removed
1 1/2 cups coarsley chopped kale

Sour cream, for serving

In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic over medium-low heat until onions are transluscent. Stir in salt, pepper, parsley and jalapeno and saute about 1 minute. Strain tomatoes and add juice to the saucepan. Seed tomatoes, chop into large pieces and stir into pan. Add two cups of water and a splash of wine, stir and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add in garbanzo beans and simmer for about 10-15 minutes more.

In a nonstick skillet, brown and break up sausage. Add in kale and cook until bright green and slightly wilted. Add to soup and stir.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a hunk of crusty bread.

In retrospect, I should have either a) turned up the heat on the sausage and browned it longer or b) just used ground pork Italian sausage. The way I made it, the sausage came out a touch rubbery and didn’t break up into the finer bits I had eaten in the Amy’s soup. I also highly recommend adding the sour cream.