Food ‘n Flix – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…35 pounds of them~

28 10 2012

Our Food ‘n Flix hostess this month is Elizabeth of The Law Student’s Cookbook, and she chose The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes for our October viewing pleasure!  Great choice!!  And ever so timely!

Farmers’ Market…9:30 on a lazy Saturday morning…  I live in the farming region of Northern California.  Lives of farmers pretty much revolve around the seasons.  Sure enough…the Farmers’ Market reflects the change of seasons.  There is virtually no summer stone fruit left in the market.  Melons and summer squash are diminishing.  The bins of fresh corn have been replaced with jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  This particular day finds me searching for tomatoes for canning.  My supply is running low, and any summer-canned tomato will make a better tasting tomato in just about anything mid-winter.  Sure enough…I spy a crate of freshly picked Roma tomatoes.  I bought enough two weeks ago to can one batch, and they came out really well.  I ask how much a crate weighs.  They’re selling for $1/pound.   The stall manager looks at me with a discerning eye… “You want the whole box?”  I answer in the affirmative.  “20 bucks for the box.  It weighs about 25 pounds.”  Not a moment’s hesitation, “Sold,” I reply pulling out a picture of Andrew Jackson.  My husband reaches down to take possession of the box…and gives me one of those, “this doesn’t weigh any 25 pounds….” looks.   Sure enough.  When we get home, we weigh it….SCORE!!  35 pounds!  Oh wait…THIRTY five POUNDS???  Of TOMATOES???  I suddenly hear Harry Chapin singing in my inner ear about thirty thousand pounds…of bananas…and roll up my sleeves.

This is typical of things at our house.  Whatever comes your way, step up and take your at-bats (sorry…I’m in SF Giants country-anywhere, north of The Grapevine- and baseball analogies soak in).  I had to break up my great canning caper because I ran out of 1) sealing rings; 2) jars.  The pantry is getting pretty with tomatoes and pickles…among the other goodies.

By the end of the box, I was feeling seriously attacked by tomatoes.  I ended up canning the last of the tomatoes after work, and finished around 11:00 p.m.  Ugh!  It’s worth it though… Look at those gorgeous jars packed tightly with meaty tomatoes!!

Killer Canned Tomato Halves

Equipment needed:  Canning jars, sealing rings, sealing lids; jar lifter; water bath canning kettle; 2 more saucepans.  Nice to have: Silicone potholder mitts, lid rack, lid magnet.
Ingredients needed:  Tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, tomato juice or water.

10# tomatoes, peeled
salt (non iodized, for canning)
1/2 cup Lemon juice  (7 Tbsps. total)

Wash and sterilize 7 pint jars.
Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to each jar as you fill it.
Fill each jar with whole or halved tomatoes
Add hot water or hot tomato juice to 1/4 inch from the top.
Wipe jar edge and apply 2 piece seal and ring.

Process in water bath canner for 35 minutes after water returns to a boil. (Fill the canning kettle rack while it’s suspended over the water.  Bring the water to a boil before you drop the filled jars down into the kettle and start the timing.)
Lift jars, remove to draft free area to cool.  When jars are completely cool, remove rings and wipe jars clean (tomato juice will likely leak during processing and is very sweet, and dries so that it is very difficult to open the jars after a period of time).

One really nice thing about this particular variety (as well as this farmer’s crop) is they are thick walled, meaty tomatoes, and they packed well.  A lot of the time, there is a certain amount of air in the walls and seed pockets of the tomatoes themselves, and when they’re “raw-packed” (not cooked before the canning process) you’ll see a quantity of clear liquid at the bottom of the jars and the tomatoes look like they weren’t well packed.  That didn’t happen with these.  Nor did they need much water added to the jars to top them up.  I packed the halves in as tightly as I could, and added maybe up to 2 Tablespoons of water to the jars.  These tomatoes will even be good for home-made salsa in the middle of winter when there aren’t any decent tomatoes to be found.  I’m so glad we slayed these Killer Tomatoes!

Julie & Julia is our November flick… Oooh…that will be FUN!!!


I♥CC: MJ-Everything’s Better with Yogurt-Carrot Salad~

27 10 2012

The challenge before us this week at I♥CC is to get to know yogurt a little better…think outside the carton, so to speak…  With the theme, Everything’s Better with Yogurt we were asked to “incorporate yogurt into your dish this week.”  No problem.  I’ve had my eye on a recipe for a couple weeks.

This week I’m cooking from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  The recipe for Yogurt with Carrot and Golden Raisins is on page 109.  It’s got a short ingredient list…yogurt, carrot, golden raisins, a bit of oil and a few spices.  And it goes together just about that fast.

Okay, I admit…I made the jump to a carrot-raisin salad with a yogurt dressing…not so  much.  But, once we both got our brains to accept and evaluate what our tongues were trying to tell us, we found it quite interesting and intriguing.  Every new dish brings a new application of familiar spices and other ingredients, opening us to whole new flavor profiles.  This particular dish is served at the end of a meal…kind of a cross between a salad and a dessert.  I’d be inclined to serve this alongside my first hot curry.  It would be a good thing to have handy.   I didn’t find it particularly sweet as in dessert. A traditional carrot-raisin salad done this way has some merit too.  Hmmm….

Next week ought to be most interesting!  With the theme of Indian Tea Party we’re invited to brew some tea and bring a snack for sharing!  Virtually, anyway…  See you then!

I♥CC: Lentil Love a la Jaffrey – Green Lentils with Lemon Slices~

17 10 2012

We’re having a bit of a Lentil Love-in at I♥CC this week.  It will be most interesting to see the different preparations we come up with… Who will use green?  Who will brave the black?  Is anyone ready for red?  My childhood memories of lentils are minimal.  I don’t recall my parents selecting lentils over pinto beans, butter beans or navy beans.  That was my legume education until I reached the 8th grade.   At that time USDA started subsidizing the school lunch programs with commodities.  Apparently we got a LOT of lentils.   I’ll give the ladies credit…they substituted those lentils for every meat form they could manage.

For my dish this week, I selected Madhur Jaffrey’s Green Lentils with Lemon Slice, page 88 from her Foolproof Indian Cookery.  There’s some serious irony here… I burned 2 pans of lentils earlier this week trying this recipe.  Go figure.  The first pan had just begun to scorch…and the timer had just gone off.  It was early, so I started another pan. That one I walked away from for a few minutes too long and before I even got a lid on it they’d burned.  We had fajitas that night.   This time, I was so careful, I was a little too cautious and had too much liquid at the end of the cooking time.  By comparison…I’ll take the extra liquid!

When the lentils are fully cooked they are dressed with salt and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro, by any other name), and a hot oil mixture of brown mustard seeds, hot chiles and garlic.  Lemon slices are stirred in just before serving.  Oh my…the aromas that pop out with Indian cuisine! This meal resulted in my 3rd and 4th Indian recipes.  I’m working through this!!  As an accompaniment, I chose Rice with Mushrooms and Mustard Seeds from Ms. Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking,page 102.  I’m going to resist the temptation to tell you about this one, other than TRY IT!!!

Although not a particularly colorful plate, it was sure tasty!  I confess to being somewhat leery of some of the flavor profiles…still.  I’ll get there…I’m working up to it!  LOL!  From my vast elementary school experience, lentils have little flavor on their own, but accept seasonings amazingly well.  The overall flavor profile was rather subdued…and the lemon slices brought a brightness in that virtually made the dish.  The lentils rate a solid medium, but the rice scored high.  I may have discovered what I’m missing in my Mexican rice…  And what an experience toasting mustard seeds in hot oil is!! Prepare for SPATTER! One cookbook has now been anointed with rice bran oil. Oh well.  *Ü*  I’m sure it won’t be the last time that happens!!

Come back at visit us next week when we take on “Battle Yogurt”…better known around I♥CC as “Everything’s Better with Yogurt.”  I’ll have to think about that one…

I♥CC: Madhur Jaffrey-Spice Bazaar-Tandoori Style Chicken

12 10 2012

We’re in the 2nd week of cooking with Madhur Jaffrey at I♥CC.  This week our theme is “Spice Bazaar.”   That’s for sure!  The cuisine of India is filled with spices…cinnamon, fennugreek, coriander, mustard, star anise…and that’s only the start!  Garam masala is totally foreign to me, but I dutifully ground the ingredients (this time I selected a pre-mixed blend while I await my spice order!) and sifted them, bottled them and I’m using them.  The aroma is enchanting!  Still…I’m really in foreign (no pun intended) territory with this cuisine, so I’m doing my best to select recipes that get us there a little bit at a time…this week I selected Jaffrey’s Tandoori Style Chicken.

One thing I quickly discovered is that not all recipes can be made “same day” in my world without some serious forethought.  I’m not good about forethought.  It took 2 weeks for me to time this with our active-with-diminishing-energy lifestyle.  The chicken marinates at least 8 hours, but overnight would work.  You begin with a salt and lemon short rub and soak, followed by a long bath in yogurt mixed blended with onion, ginger, chile pepper and seasonings…including the enchanting garam masala.  After a long autumn nap in the yogurt mixture, the chicken was baked at a high temp in the upper third of the oven.  Okay…

I seriously think my oven ran overly hot on this one.  I cooked the meat just to the minimum time listed in the recipe…but the juices and marinade were pretty dried and caramelized by that point.   This recipe leads in to Ms. Jaffrey’s recipe for Chicken Tikka.  I was hoping to get to take that extra step…but not with this particular batch.  Maybe next time.  And there will be a next time!

Tasting notes~ This didn’t rate overly high on my scale.  I was anticipating more flavor…although what flavors that were there were rather nice.  I think I need to try this again and keep a careful eye on the cooking time.  It felt like it had some potential….but then…the breast looked underdone.  A couple extra minutes to try to brown it up a little…and it was dry.   I’ll try it again…because I’m really intrigued by Chicken Tikka!  I didn’t photo the finished plate because it was pretty WHITE.  The chicken was light, the steamed basmati rice was white…too much white with no contrast makes not a pretty picture!  LOL!