Category Archives: Farmers Market

Damnit, It Is Tomato Season

Red ones. Yellow ones. Green striped ones. Heirloom ones. Purple ones. Pink ones. Hybrid ones. It is tomato season. They are in abundance. The farmers’ markets  and grocery stores are loaded with them. They are local. They are beautiful. They are ripe, juicy and delicious. It is September and they, tomatoes, are at the height of perfection right now.

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I can hardly escape them. Around my house, I haul in 2-3 ripe, juicy and flavorful tomatoes from the garden everyday. I was graced with 8 pounds of these beauties in CSA share from Waltham Fields Community Farm – even more when I ventured into the fields for pick-your-own vegetables. I also never tire of them. I will gobble down tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day. Even with all the tomatoes around my house, I will happily order myself a caprese salad or other fresh tomato delights off a menu.

Which leads me to ask, why do I have to keep suffering through tasteless, dull, unripe and foamy tomatoes like this when dining out.

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These look like they came from a distant land, were picked before they were ripe and shipped here on a truck. YUCK! If I want that, I will eat fresh tomatoes in January.  I do not eat fresh tomatoes in January, because I do not want that, ever.

Today, I will keep it short and leave you with some tomato porn. However, I will take the opportunity to call out a few of the egregious restaurant violators that I have visited recently.  I am sure there are others and I am missing alot (I don’t get out much)

I am especially disheartened by these particular examples of restaurants who lay claims to ‘fine-dining’ or tout their farm/garden-to-table credentials on their menus. If you guys are not supporting our local farmers and getting the best produce, picked at its peak of ripeness from purveyors practically in your own backyard, then who is?

In the meantime, take note, here is what a tomato on your plate should look like. Find a farmer to give you one and if you can’t find a farmer, grow your own.

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Root to Top Cooking : Fennel Fronds

IMG_20140705_121415 Ushering in the first weeks of the summer, my vegetable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) starts mid-June.  The first pick up of the season marks a little celebration in my heart over the respite from hitting the market for veggies.  Between my CSA share and my backyard garden, the next several months will be flush with fresh vegetables.  So many, in fact, that I will also spend many summer days trying out new preservation techniques.

Of course, like my garden right now, these early pick ups contain many types of greens – lettuce, collards, kale, asian greens and scallions.  There are also beets, khorabi, radishes and fennel.  I don’t know how the farm does it, but the fennel is enormous with one bulb, minus the stalks and fronds, weighing in at 1 pound.  I feel compelled to tell you, this farm employs organic practices with minimal chemical inputs, so these are not chemically enhanced fennel plants.

One thing I noticed was many people were tearing off the fennel stalks and fronds and leaving them in the provided compost bucket.   While part of me says ‘Yay’ to composing, the other part of me cringes to see so much edible part of the plant go to waste even if it is the compost pile.  Yes, those tops are edible.! As are the tops of carrots, beets, radishes, turnips and kohlrabi.

There are many uses of fennel fronds.  I put them in salad. Use them as any other herb for dishes. They are delicious stuffed into a whole fish that is baked, poached or grilled. However, with the size of the fennel I was receiving, it was time to find ways to use lots of fronds all at once rather than just as a sprinkle here and there.  So, I looked into other uses of fennel fronds.  Fennel pesto seemed like an ideal way to use the abundance of fronds and even preserve some in the freezer for later in the year when I will  be wanting more fennel.

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This recipe is kind of inspired by the many  ideas I saw on the web and can easily be adjusted according to what’s on hand.  For example, if you don’t have cashews or want a bit more nuttiness, use walnuts instead.  I also considered blending this with chickpeas instead of nuts for a fennel hummus.   For last week’s fennel, here’s what I did.  Maybe this week will try something new!

Fennel Frond Pesto:

Ingredients:
Stalks and fronds from 1 fennel bulb
1 cup cashew pieces
2-3 garlic scapes (adjust according to preference)
1/2 cup pitted olives (optional)
1-1/2t kosher salt
1t ground pepper
1t smoked paprika
1/4 cup olive oil (if not using olives, increase to 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (not distilled vinegar)

Instructions:

Step 1: Strip the fronds from the stalks and separate. Roughly chop the stalks to fit in the food processor. Note: Stalks may be saved for candied fennel stalks or used in this recipe.

Step 2: In a food processor, pulse the cashews, fennel stalks and garlic scapes until coarsely chopped.

Step 3: Add the fennel fronds, salt, pepper, paprika and olives to the bowl.

Step 4: With the food processor running, drizzle the olive oil and vinegar through the feed tube.

For a chunkier pesto, reserve an 1/8 of a cup of cashews and add during step 4.  For this recipe, I had about 3 cups of loosely packed fronds and a cup or coarsely chopped stalks.  Adjust the amount of olive according to the amount of fennel frond and stalks available.