Week 11 Overview

Here we are, just short of halfway through the Bloomsbury Farm CSA season and I might die of heat exhaustion soon, but it’s okay cause I’ll go out eating tomatoes, ya know?

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In the basket:
cherry tomatoes
slicer tomatoes
yardlong beans
hemp leaves!
mint
sunflowers
sprouts
purple potatoes
squash

extra: cute okras from Lauren and from our garden, slicer tomatoes (Early Girls!) from our garden

The plan:
1. Toasted millet risotto with roasted squash, shelled yardlong beans, pecorino and herbs
2. More purple potato gnocchi, get the recipe by becoming a patron
3. Hemp leaf pizza, also get all my pizza secrets by becoming a patron
4. Cuban style black beans with rice, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions and crispy roasted okra (maybe raw okra salad later in the week, too. Here’s my gal Jess Benefield’s recipe: Slice fresh okra into very thin rounds, and season with shoyu dashi. Drizzle with some nice olive oil and finish with katsuobushi.)
5. Greek stuffed tomatoes- YEMISTA! MY YAYA’S RECIPE! Instructions coming soon and it includes the mint.
6. You guys, I really don’t know about the sprouts. I don’t know.

Basic Chicken Stock

This probably should have been the first post on my website. Hell, it probably should have been the first post on my blog. Yeah, I used to have a blog and I probably couldn’t have told you much about chicken stock when I started it in 2011, but now I really think that chicken stock is where all conversations about cooking should begin. ACTUALLY you have to make chicken first to then make chicken stock. That’s where the conversation will begin in my cookbook. Stay tuned.

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You’re probably familiar with my opinions on stock & broth if you’ve listened to the episode of Pantry Raid titled “Stock & Broth.” It’s available wherever you podcast, but I right there I linked it to iTunes/Apple podcasts. It’s a touchy subject, to say the least. Everyone has a different opinion about how stock differs from broth as well as about how to make it. All your big questions about stock vs. broth are answered to the best of my ability in the episode, so give it a listen. YES THIS IS A PLOY TO GET YOU TO LISTEN TO MY PODCAST. Not sorry. Anyway, I’m going to tell you how I make what I call stock because the process basically a ritual in my kitchen because I refuse to be without stock in my fridge or (more likely) freezer.

When I am down to rice and dry beans, it’s chicken stock that saves the day. When I am too anxious to cook anything else for fear of failure, I make chicken stock. When I walk down the aisles of a grocery store and see “chicken stock,” or as I like to call it “road kill water” for sale at more than $3/quart (but also at any price), I laugh. Because I know chicken stock is the one thing that will never fail me, that will always turn out right, a totally priceless but insanely cheap jar of gold patiently waiting for me in my freezer.

Chicken stock waits for me in the freezer in two ways. First, the obvious: I keep it in jars that range from 8oz to 1 quart so it doesn’t go bad. Second, I have a stock bag. One day soon it’s going to be two large stasher bags, but right at this moment it’s a gallon-sized freezer safe ziplock. In that ziplock I keep: chicken bones, any raw chicken spines or feet that come my way, onion peels, the ends of carrots, celery that has gone limp, mushroom stalks, the tough outer layers of leeks and parmesan rinds. When it’s close to full, it’s time to make stock.

Listen, this is kind of a frustrating subject as well as a hotly debated one. There’s no “right way” to make stock. There’s no “correct” ratio for how much stuff::how much water for perfect stock. Use more than you think is right and then if it turns to solid jello in your fridge, you can cut it with some water when you use it. Normally I’d say I have at least a whole large chicken’s worth of bones to a 6-7 quart pot, a whole carrot’s worth of stumps, two whole ribs celery, and at least two or three onion skins. I’ll throw in whatever else I have- in the photo above, some wild mushrooms that were dying in my fridge, leeks, white peppercorns and a few bay leaves. I like to add a cap full of apple cider vinegar, too. I think it helps the bones break down, though I have absolutely not concrete evidence to prove it.

To add to frustration- no, no, let’s stop thinking of it that way. The lack of rules in stock-making is FREEDOM, not frustration. YOU GET TO MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS. WHAT. POWER. Stock is done when YOU say it’s done. You can cook stock for four hours or up to 48, when the bones are fully clean and white. As long as you can visibly tell see melting happening in the grizzly bits that formerly held joints together, you’re making progress. The more they melt away, the richer your stock will be. Most of the time I think it’s nice to give the bones a head start. Other times I throw everything in all at once.

I don’t strain my stock until it’s lukewarm because BURNS. And I don’t fret too much about tiny specs that get through my strainer. They’ll settle at the bottom of your storage container and stay there when you pour it out carefully. I let it come all the way down to room temp before sending it to the fridge or freezer and OH THIS IS SO IMPORTANT: jars destined for the freezer only get filled up 3/4 of the way or they’ll burst.

And that’s it. That’s how you make a pot of anything (soup, beans, risotto, etc.) 8,000 times better for basically no money. Here are the only “rules,” which still read a lot more like reminders-

1. Use about a whole large chicken’s worth of bones to make stock in a 6-7 quart pot. Never use cooked spines.
2. Cook a minimum of four hours at a low temperature on the stovetop, adding more water as needed, or covered in the oven. 200 degrees overnight is kind of a magic number.
3. Use filtered water and kosher salt, very little kosher salt.

Six ingredient tomato pie

Write it on my tombstone, friends: summer tastes like tomatoes and mayonnaise.
I can’t make it through a summer without a tomato mayo pie. I won’t. You shouldn’t either.

For those of you who just saw the word “mayonnaise” and cringed, take a chill pill. For starters, one slice of pie contains one Tablespoon of mayonnaise and it’s a necessary binder to keep the cheesy filling from breaking. I recommend you make your own with olive oil so that the pie takes on a super luscious baked salad vibe. If that’s a little much for you, HEARD. Reach for Duke’s, Blue Plate or kewpie. But the homemade mayo is really what changes this pie from good to great. Meet me halfway by mixing a little mustard and miso into store-bought mayo.

To make your own mayo, beat one large egg yolk with a generous Tablespoon of rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons dijon mustard. Keep beating while you slowly stream in 3/4 cup olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar, 2 Tablespoons miso, then salt to taste. You’ll have 1/2 cup mayo left over after you make the tomato pie, so maybe plan to make elote or chicken salad later in the week?

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Tomato Pie
makes one 9” pie, serves six to eight

your favorite pie crust
very high quality heirloom tomatoes- 5 or 6 medium to large ones + a couple cherry tomatoes to fill in holes
1/2 cup mayo (see note above)
1/2 cup shredded pecorino
1/2 cup shredded aged cheddar
1/2 cup chopped green onion (green and light green parts only)
optional: something to glaze the crust like cream or a beaten egg yolk

1. Cut tomatoes into thick slices- at least 1/3” and up to 1/2”. Place them on a rack over a baking sheet and salt both sides like you’re going to eat them on a tomato sandwich. Let sit four hours to overnight. Don’t skip this step or your pie won’t set!
2. Preheat oven to 425. Make sure your pie crust is very cold and the outer edge is glazed before you start filling it.
3. Pat tomatoes dry and mix mayo with cheeses and green onions.
4. Working quickly, spread half the cheese mixture on the bottom of the pie, top with tomatoes and really squeeze them in there! Repeat.
5. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 400. Bake another 25-30 minutes, or until the outer edge is golden brown and the filling looks mostly set.
6. Cool completely before slicing.

Semi-homemade pico de gallo

I know I’m always telling you that there’s not shame in composting food you didn’t get around to cooking. Allow me backtrack on that statement: there is MUCH SHAME in letting tomatoes sit around until they go bad. I don’t care how many tomatoes you have, you gotta eat them. No excuses.

However, should you find yourself with so many tomatoes that tomato mayo sandwiches are your main food group and you still have tomatoes to spare, make some pico de gallo. It will buy you an extra week with your tomatoes and you’ll go through it faster than you think.

All you need is:
Tomatoes
onion
a little store bought/restaurant leftover salsa or a couple dashes hot sauce such as Cholula*
splash of lemon or lime juice
pinch of salt

The ratio isn’t important. Aim for more slightly more tomatoes than onions and throw in whatever else you have like chopped chiles or cucumbers. Mix in green onions or cilantro before serving if you want.

* This is the semi-homemade part. When I said “semi-homemade with Sandra Lee style pico de gallo” last week, many of you assumed I was talking about a vodka bloody mary. You made me LOL, but I was talking about actual pico de gallo made with all the tiny sides of salsa I have leftover from frequenting the taco truck in my neighborhood.

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Don’t feel like you can only eat it on chips!

Lately I’ve been using my pico de gallo on nachos with creamy black beans, yogurt, cotija cheese and pickled jalapeños- a summertime favorite on the porch alongside a very cold beer.

This weekend I made a quick salad from big pieces of heirloom tomatoes, mangos and pickled yellow raisins, then tossed it with pico de gallo, green onions and cotija cheese.

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