Summer Fest!

tomatoes-ten-ways

summerfest-badgeYes Yes and YES!  We’re on Week 4 of our Summer Fest and can I tell you how jazzed I am to be featuring tomatoes? I’ve written so much about them before so I won’t tell you how I’m a freak for them, alrighty? For me it’s just not summer without them.

I think the biggest attraction I have with summer tomatoes, heirlooms to be specific, is that there’s not a lot that needs to be done to them. They’re excellent as is and with minimal prep. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them because you certainly can. Here are ten of my favorite things to do with summer tomatoes.

1) Sliced and drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, maybe some shavings of really awesome Pecorino? Hell to the yes.

2) In a Roasted Tomato Bloody Mary.

3) Chopped with garlic, olive oil, basil and shallots for bruschetta.

4) Sliced and SLATHERED with mayo on really good bread. I SAID SLATHERED.

5) Made into a nice chilly sorbet!

6) Pop them in my mouth like there’s no tomorrow (provided they are the lil ones).

7) Grated and tossed with pasta, olive oil and lemon juice for a quick no-cook sauce.

8)  Chopped in a bowl and sprinkled with nuoc mam (this makes my eyes roll back into my head I’m telling you).

9) Heirloom & Fennel Soup that’s raw and chilly and perfect on a hot day.

10) Look at them and weep tears of happiness.

*****************************************************************

This is the last week of Summer Fest and I can’t thank you everyone enough for the participation! I’ve been so inspired with all the amazing ideas for using all these amazing fruits and vegetables that summer brings us. Leave your suggestions in the comments and make sure to check out what our other Summer Fest Hosts have been doing with tomatoes!

• Margaret’s making Quick Tomato Sauce, Ever So Slowly

• White On Rice Couple are doing Tomato Jam and Preserves with an entire cast of cute kids and Sierra, my girlfriend.

• Paige gives us her Curried Carrot & Tomato Soup and I can taste that marvelous combo already

• Jaden and her delicious Caprese Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

• Marilyn’s — wait for it, wait — Upside Down Tomato Bread. I think I just saw Heaven.

• Shauna makes a mouthwatering Smoked Tomato Salsa

Summer Fest Week 2: Fruits From Trees!

This is week two in our amazingly fun Summer Fest! Thanks to everyone who left comments, all your amazing suggestions and tips have been so priceless! For more on how this all works visit my post last week here and remember to leave comments here and on your blog as well as the other hosts. And feel free to grab the Summer Fest icon, I made it for you!

Picture 1One of the world’s greatest rap songs ever written happens to include a micro-ode to summer’s most delightful gems:

“Take a Peach
Take  a Plum
Take A Piece Of Bubble Gum
No Peach
No Plum
No Piece Of…
Supersonic”

–JJ Fad’s Supersonic, 1988.

While I do love bubblegum and Supersonic, I just happen to love peaches and plums a wee bit more. And as part of Summer Fest 2009 we’re talking about stone fruit–all those delicious summer peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, as well as the recent hybrids like angelcots and pluots and all the other ots.

summerfest-badgeI am blessed with a mini-grove of fruit trees planted by Adam’s grandmother back in the late 1950s. The nectarine and apricot trees hang out all year long, keep the giant orange tree company until their summer shift begins. They clock in, put on some leaves, and get to work churning out buds and later fat ripe fruit that I can barely keep up with. When we are up to our eyeballs in stone fruit (I’m sure it’s a ploy to distract us), they quickly sneak off, clock out and take an 11-month break. Heck, they deserve it.

Because of the abundance they produce I’ve been able to indulge in a variety of stone fruit recipes. I’ve made cobblers, cakes, ice creams, sorbets, salsas, marinades, just about anything that I felt was in line with my skill level. Some were successes (cobblers and ice creams) while others were failures (a few salsas just never got the balance right). But if I need to use a large amount of nectarines or apricots I can think of nothing better than cobblers. Or even ice cream which never really lasts that long at my home anyway. And I know what you’re thinking right now, you want to tell me about canning and preserving. Go ahead, I’ll let you. But I’ve never canned a thing in my life and the thought is quite daunting.

Maybe next year?

mattbites_apricots

Like last year I’ve made a few cobblers as well as my pal David’s Apricot Ice Cream. And I love this ice cream. Creamy, rich, with that slight tang (is that what it is?) of the apricots. And just so you know, this ice cream makes amazing milkshakes.

mattbites_apricot_ice_creamDavid says if you’re lucky enough to find a bounty of fresh summer apricots then you must take advantage of them–their season is far too short. Next year I’m inviting you over and you can have as many as you want!

Apricot Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 pound squishy-ripe fresh apricots (10 to 16, depending on size)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 drops almond extract
a few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice open the apricots and remove the pits, then cut each apricot into sixths. Cook the apricot pieces with the water in a covered medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes, and stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Once cool, purée the apricots and any liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste a big spoonful; if there are any small fibers, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove them. Stir in the cream, almond extract, and lemon juice.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Other Summer Fest Posts:

Jaden’s amazing salad recipe with a few of my personal favorite ingredients

Margaret’s Clafoutis, another favorite of mine that is usually gone in about 6 minutes

Todd & Diane’s Peach Cooler which makes me ask “Where’s The Booze?”

Marilyn creates a Ginger Peach Pandowdy and you’ll want to check it out!

Stephanie from Wasabimon’s does a blog swap with Charmian and the result? A Peach Ice Cream Recipe that looks amazing! And the other half of the swap is here!

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Other stone fruit posts from matt:

Peach and Raspberry Cobbler

Cobblerfornia Dreamin’


Yo Party People, Summer Fest Is In The House!

cocktail-summerfest

Well hello there! Do you know what time it is? It’s Summer Fest! And what is Summer Fest, you ask? It’s a 4-week celebration of fresh-from-the-garden food including recipes, growing tips, even tricks for storing and preserving summer’s best.  And I’m very excited to be hosting this year with Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden. If you remember, last year the fest began with Margaret and Deb Puchalla and was such a fun way of “getting” together and talking about food and the bounty of the garden. More than that, it was filled with useful information and was such a great resource to me.  I joined in during a few weeks and was pleased when Margaret asked if I’d be interested in participating again. How fast can one say yes?

Since Margaret is the professional type and spent years in publishing and me, well, I’m just a Career Troublemaker, I’m gonna let her tell you the 411:

HOW OUR CROSS-BLOG SUMMER FEST WORKS:

Summer Fest 2009 is a four-week, cross-blog celebration co-created (alphabetically listed) by A Way to Garden, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple, with guest appearances from Shauna and Daniel Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, Simmer Till Done’s Marilyn Pollack Naron, and Paige Smith Orloff of The Sister Project.  And from you—that’s critical. Your contributions are desired, and needed.

THE 2009 SCHEDULE:

  • Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all.
  • Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES (also known as stone fruits, but we won’t scream if you toss in a berry or another fruit, promise).
  • Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (either or both, your choice).
  • Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?

HOW YOU CAN JOIN IN:

summerfest-badgeSo now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting Tuesday July 28, you can contribute in various ways, big or small. It’s up to you: Contribute a whole post, a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:

Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on Margaret’s blog at A Way To Garden, and then go visit the collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2009 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt Armendariz of Mattbites).

Get in on the fun: Come comment, link to things from your own archives or the archives of your favorite blogs, post entire recipe in comments or on your blog.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a Summer Fest works. Isn’t that grand?

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

small cocktailThe kickoff subject this week is HERBS, and I chuckled just a bit when Margaret said “Any and all” because I pictured her in a ’78 van emblazoned with super graphics and a bubble window while riding along with Cheech and Chong. Of course we’re talking about delicious happy culinary herbs so I’ll put my overactive imagination to rest.

Man, if there’s one thing I can grow it’s herbs. Ok, maybe one doesn’t really grow herbs as much as let them do their things, and that’s fine with me. Of course my tiny herb patch is an embarassment when you look at the garden of my friends Todd & Diane but then again my cooking needs are modest in comparison to those two. I’ll need a sprig or two to finish a dish or a chopped handful to add to an omelette, but where I really believe my herbs shine are in my cocktails.

What? You didn’t think I wasn’t going to bring all this back to booze, did you?

• MINT Well there’s a reason it’s called a Mint Julep in the first place. And you cannot make a Mojito without it.  But my cocktail mint love doesn’t end there. I love springs of mint as garnish with vodka and soda, mixed into daquiries and just about any place where I want a bright dash of unexpected flavor.

• BASIL Ooh child, let me tell you something: basil was meant to be used in cocktails. You can make Basil Mojitos, add it to strawberry puree and vodka, put it in a martini, and it’s fantastic in a bloody mary.

• CILANTRO Ok, so there’s that love/hate thing with it so I don’t use it often. But I do love the long tall springs in a bloody mary or I’ll use it for garnish when it begins to flower. Que purdy.

• DILL Well, maybe I spoke too soon. I only know of one cocktail that uses dill and it’s call — wait for it — The Real Dill. It has tequila, vodka, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, English cucumber and a sprig of dill. It’s kinda nice but not my favorite.

• THYME and bonus points for LEMON THYME Thyme Bellinis, Berry Thyme Margaritas, Cucumber & Thyme Martinis, you catch my drift? I’m in love with Thyme in my drinks. It gives an herbal note without being too strong and seems so perfectly suited for spirits.

• ROSEMARY If there are a million ways to feature rosemary in a cocktail I wouldn’t know it. I’m stuck on one: A Rosemary Salty Dog. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a stellar drink that has spoiled me from an original. Seriously folks, try this:

Ingredients
1 grapefruit wedge and kosher salt
one 1-inch piece of rosemary sprig, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces fresh red grapefruit juice
1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
ice

Method
Moisten the outer rim of a martini glass with the grapefruit wedge and coat lightly with salt. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the 1-inch rosemary sprig with the sugar. Add the grapefruit juice, gin and ice and shake vigorously. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig.

What else what else! Do you have any interesting uses for herbs in your drinks?

SUMMER FEST AROUND THE WEB:

• Want to know how to grow and preserve a year of parsley? Margaret is your gal!

• My good friends Todd & Diane of White On Rice Couple give us a primer on Vietnamese herbs. H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y is all I can say.

• A wonderful twist to traditional pesto using peanuts and basil with my gorgeous friend Jaden of Steamy Kitchen