fresh tomato, basil and bread soup

A tomato grown in New Jersey just tastes like a Jersey tomato. ~ tomato grower David Shepherd

What’s so special about a Jersey tomato? I’m not sure. I’m now on my second season of Jersey tomatoes, and I have to admit when I first tasted one late last summer, a memory revived with a tiny shock.

It reminded me of another lifetime ago; maybe the time I tasted my first garden tomato from my friend Jeanne’s grandfather’s backyard, or when I lived in the very southern part of Florida where tomatoes were abundant and at their prime in December, when I’d last cut into a heavy, ripe tomato that was still warm from the sun, deeply red all the way through. There was that taste of TOMATO that I can’t find the exact words to describe – somehow sweetly meaty and delicately tart, fruity and savory all at once. That flavor has nothing to do with the greenhouse-grown tomatoes I buy – we all do – all year round, that look red and perfect and lovely but taste like … not much.

Could be it’s marketing and hype at work  -  yes, the term  “The Jersey Tomato” has been trademarked – and also the fact that my attempts at growing tomatoes tend to end badly.

The cute and beautifully colored cherry tomatoes I cultivated by the back deck became snacks for hungry squirrels, and the fancy heirlooms I planted in a raised bed produced more sprawling foliage than fruit. It’s been a while since I’ve had a super-fresh, home grown tomato that actually made me pause. [Read more...]

israeli farro salad

I have a friend from Tel Aviv, a talented pottery artist who now lives in St Louis. When I first met them, she and her husband taught me a few things about what to do when you have people over. It goes like this:

Put some chairs around a table inside a charming screened porch that overlooks a lovingly tended garden of native plants, trees and bird feeders, complete with a creek running through it. At the same time let the kids outside to explore amongst themselves.

Next open a bottle of wine, maybe some chilled rosé, and set out some glasses so everyone can help themselves. Finally, put some fresh pita bread and a bowl of salad on the table, composed basically of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, fresh herbs and some olive oil.  Commence talking and sipping while enjoying this perfect snack, one I think is about thousand miles away from the usual chips and salsa.

[Read more...]

pressed roasted vegetable sandwich

roasted vegetable sandwich

The lazy days of summer – are you feeling them yet? The calendar says it’s officially here, but we’re just as busy as ever in my house, with certain things even causing stress, making me count the days until we can leave town for some much needed down time on our favorite beach.

My style of vacation cooking is pretty simple; the only tool I bring along to our rental cottage is my favorite chef’s knife, since the kitchen there is supplied with the major essential – a lobster pot.

pressed roasted vegetable sandwich [Read more...]