Sunday, August 15, 2010

More on Crab Cakes

More on crab cakes: when a picture says it all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ugly Tomatoes

I'm always on the lookout for unusual produce and today I ran across this beast at the farmers market. I was told it was called a Traveling Tomato. A little sleuthing (thanks to Tatiana's TOMATObase) led me to the German name Reisetomate ("Traveling Tomato").

And at the primary supplier of seeds for my garden, Baker Creek Seeds,, I read:
The most novel tomato we have seen, this tomato is like a big bunch of cherry tomatoes all fused together: an amazing trait that had everyone here asking questions about the alien-looking, bumpy tomatoes. Also called “Traveler tomato” (“reise” is German for “travel” or “journey”) for the ability to tear it apart a piece at a time, with no need for a knife. This type of tomato traces its roots to Central America where the native people would carry traveler tomatoes on trips, to eat as they walked. Bright red tomatoes taste--well, rather sour, strong and acid. The perfect tomato for those who love raw lemons, but who cares? They are still far-out and groovy.

And for the acid test (pun intended): it has good tomato flavor and thick skin with disappointingly soft flesh. Definitely high in acid, but all good tomatoes are so blessed in my humble opinion, but not what I would call lemon-like. As Chris said, "I wouldn't kick this tomato out of bed."

Friday, August 13, 2010


For our charcuterie plates, speaking of which note-to-self: must make lamb terrine this morning, various pickles: Kirby cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, West Indian gherkins, poona kheera cucumbers, carrots, dill, cayennes, and garlic.

I doubt you can see it in the photo, but you should note the weight that I'm using to hold the cucumbers under the brine. It's a seal top bag full of brine and I've squeezed all the air out of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Bounty Chef's Tasting

Here are photos from a recent Chef's Tasting, inspired by the produce that we found at the farmers market.

Patata a la Flamenca. A new potato stuffed with shrimp, chorizo, and red pepper. Pimentón sauce on the plate. Conceived as a way to use the fabulous new potatoes and a really cool flattened, thick-fleshed cheese pimiento pepper.

Scallop and Watermelon Seviche. We have a watermelon in house so we can pickle the rind and we had to have a way to use the flesh. This is a start.

Summer Salad. How to showcase fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella without doing the same old insalata caprese? We let the bowls shape the warm mozzarella into disks, marinated them in a pesto made from lemon verbena, and then built the salad on top of the mozzarella. Garnished with cherry and pear tomatoes, fresh corn, tomato dice, and sliced West Indian gherkins.

Arctic Char. We went round and round on what to do with the char. I love char (and any of the salmonids, really) with fresh tomato. I won the argument. Hmm, I sign the paychecks. Any correlation? And once more with the gorgeous new potatoes, because they are new but once a year. Some really garlicky aïoli and a little dill to finish the dish.

Red-Cooked Lamb Shank. This dish could appear at any season, but we just got a lamb in with its tiny shanks just begging to be braised. Full on northern Chinese treatment, braised with soy, rice wine, brown sugar, five spice, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, green onions, and star anise. Quick fried rice for garnish. Fried rice contains chives, egg, country ham, black trumpet mushrooms, and carrots.

Plum Cake. A less is more dish. Plum soup down, half a split polenta cake topped with roasted plums, topped with the other half of the polenta cake, zabaglione, and a half a plum. This was all about showing off these wonderful round plums that taste like prune plums. The grower doesn't even know what kind of plum it is. All I know is that they taste great.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another Gherkin

I have a very curious palate. If it's new to me, I want to taste it. I operate from the point of view that chances are very good that I will like a new food. This is a contrarian position to that of most people whom I encounter: if it's new, they're not eager to try it because they might not like it. And so, I have a very, very tiny list of things that I don't care to eat and an almost infinitesimal list of things that I won't eat.

Take a good look at this joker: another gherkin from Mark Bishop at Master's Touch in Berkeley Springs, WV, this one about the size of a small egg.

The reason I asked you to take a good look at it is because I just added to the list of things that I don't care ever to eat again. It had all three of us who tasted it running as fast as we could for the trashcans to spit it out. Although I am a fan of bitter foods, such as bitter melons, this was so bitter that my mouth still tastes nothing but bitter 30 minutes after having tasted this gherkin. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.

This experience will not tame my restless palate. As soon as I can taste again, I'll be off searching for the next new food experience.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Food for Thought

This morning I saw a copy of Bon Appetit and it struck me that in English we have no direct translation for that term. And I thought it sad that we have no phrase for inviting people to the table and bidding them to dine well. No "bon appetit," no "mangiare bene." This explains a lot, I think, about the relationship with food in WASP-influenced America where food is something to stave off hunger and not something to celebrate. Food for thought. Tutti a tavola e mangiamo bene!