It's the equinox, the second time this year neither light nor dark has been stifled in favor of the other. We lose a few minutes of daylight each day, and to arrive at the farm when the sun rises is to arrive each day a few minutes later. The extra sleep is mandated by the season, and we appreciate it. When the sun does rise its light is soft and the air is cold, but it is a cold unique to the season, a cold that contains within itself the assurance of future warmth. These are the cold mornings of warm days, conditions that exist in measure as equal as the light and the dark and invigorate because they do not threaten permanence. For those of us who felt diminished during the hottest parts of summer, exposed by the brightness and enervated by the humidity, the gentle daily fluctuation is soothing. It's certainly worth another opening paragraph about the weather.
Here is what's in the share this week:
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
*During college I would often retreat to the home of my friends Mary and George. There, I could spend an autumn day doing schoolwork in the warmth of a household not at all reminiscent of the nearby campus, and I could end the day with a home-cooked meal. On at least one of these occasions I arrived to the sight and smell of tomatoes simmering on each of the stove top's four burners. George, who is an excellent cook, was making tomato sauce and tomato soup in quantities appropriate to freeze for the winter, and I spent the day in the midst of their preparation, in a haze of tomato-based aroma. With this in mind I called George and asked for tips and recipes concerning all things tomato. You're advised to heed his suggestions:
George Ferger's Tomato Soup
The quantities given here are for a 3-quart (medium-sized) saucepan. When I make this soup, I generally do so with the idea of freezing it in pint and/or quart containers for the winter, so I triple the measurements, filling the three pans in stages as I work through the cooking process. On a personal note, I like to save time so I am not fussy about tomato skins. I never skin a tomato I plan to cook. I do however at least slice each tomato open to be sure nothing objectionable is inside (you never know--one summer every 30th or so plum tomato had a moldy growth buried in its core). Most of the time I blend the cooked mixture once it has cooled sufficiently. If you want a coarser texture in a soup, dice everything a bit finer so any bits of skin will be unobtrusive. That will take longer, of course; a second strategy to add texture is to blanch diced vegetables (zucchini or yellow summer squash, bell peppers, etc.) in boiling water for a minute and then drain and add them to the blended tomato mixture. The times mentioned are for fresh organic vegetables. In my experience, they require less cooking time than most store-bought produce. Note: the bulghur acts to thicken the soup mixture. Tomatoes vary in their juiciness so you may need more or less. If the mixture is too thin, just add a bit more bulghur--it cooks in minutes. If the mixture is too thick, just add a bit of water. This can even be done at the blending stage if necessary.
2+ quarts coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 chopped carrots
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt + black pepper to taste
2 heaping Tbsp medium-coarse bulghur
other diced vegetables of one's choosing
1/2 cup each chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley) or 1 tsp each dried
1-3 fresh hot peppers, chopped, or crushed chili flakes to taste, or cayenne or tabasco, or a jar of salsa (if desired)
Saute the onions and carrots over medium heat in the olive oil for a few minutes, then turn down the heat and stir in the garlic. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir frequently. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about another 20 minutes. (Total cooking time should be less than an hour.)
George's Tomato Sauce
This recipe is similar to the one in The Victory Garden Cookbook (Fall Freezer Tomato Sauce). Like the soup recipe above, feel free to either make the sauce smooth or coarse in texture. The same methods as above apply.
2 1/2+ quarts chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped carrot
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cans organic tomato paste (6 oz. can)
1 tsp each of these dried herbs: thyme, oregano, basil. And powdered bay leaf is fabulous if you can get it. If you use fresh herbs instead of dried, throw them in by the handful.
1 tsp salt + black pepper to taste
1-3 hot fresh peppers, chopped, if desired, or a jar of salsa (I like the medium hot), or cayenne or tabasco to taste. Some people may want to cut back on the herbs mentioned if you want the sauce spicy.
Saute the onions and carrots in the oil for a few minutes, then stir in the garlic. Turn heat to low and stir in the tomatoes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add herbs / salt / pepper / spices and stir. Drop the tomato paste in the center of the simmering mixture and blend it with a fork, then stir everything well. After it has all simmered slowly for a total of 45 minutes or so, turn off and let cool before blending and placing in freezer containers. If you like, add diced vegetables for variety and texture, stirring them into blended mixture after it has cooled a bit. Bell peppers and summer squash don't need to be cooked before freezing. Cut green beans (for example) will need blanching from 1-3 minutes, depending on their size.
*I have an inordinate affection for parsley. I eat it like a main course, but maybe you don't, and maybe you're wondering to do with it. Try this dip from Epicurious, it's easy:
Chick-Pea, Garlic, and Parsley Dip
a 19-oz. can of chick peas, rinsed and drained (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed to paste with 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, washed and spun dry
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
In food processor blend all ingredients except oil until smooth. With motor running add oil in slow stream. Season dip with salt.
*Pumpkins are available for sale at the farm stand. They are divided into three categories of size, and they're priced to sell. What you see is what's available--when they're gone they're gone, so consider us for all your pumpkin-related needs, and don't wait to celebrate the coming of autumn and "harvest season".
*You probably remember Krapp's Last Tape. It is good equinox literature, although in the play it's vernal:
Hm...Memorable...what? (He peers closer.) Equinox. Memorable equinox. (He raises his head, stares blankly front. Puzzled.) Memorable equinox? (Pause. He shrugs his shoulders, peers again at ledger, reads.)