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François' tomatoes, and a few summer recipes

We may as well talk about tomatoes since there isn’t much going on in terms of local mushrooms. What a crappy season so far. I mean we’ve had a few good harvests but we are not meeting the demand at the market, and with a trickle for the restaurant menu, I haven’t started putting up. When you consider that I typically process 2 tons of mushrooms for our year (to supply the restaurant and make our products), I will have to get started soon enough.. Pretty frightening. Fingers crossed.
  

So anyway, back to the tomatoes. Anyone who knows us (or follows me) has heard of François’ famous tomatoes. They are an old heirloom variety whose name eludes us, from seeds passed down generations in Pasquale’s, (one of his Italian mushroom pickers) family. His great grandfather brought them over here like a century ago. François kept the seeds from the tastiest of his specimens and started them this winter, moving them into a greenhouse in the spring, and he lovingly tends to them every day with water and suckering, tying them up (they are 9ft tall!) and etc. He has planted some in the garden too and distributed seeds to other gardeners as well, in hopes to keep the variety alive.


Greenhouse vs field, the taste test is on..
Proud green thumb  

I can’t tell you how important his tomatoes are to him, and hence what an exciting time it is in our household now that they are finally becoming ready. He lays them out on the counter in order that they will be eaten and for different uses.. Woe and behold if I take too many to the restaurant or if I chop up the one that was meant for a sandwich, or yikes, slice it ‘the wrong’ way - Watch out for the St-Roch tomato police!

The first dish was of course Fried Green Tomatoes, which has become an annual ritual since we started making them (http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/blog-journalessays/2009/10/7/fried-green-tomatoes-finally.html), François just adores them. And besides, what else are you going to do with green tomatoes. Now that they are ripening, we are eating them in salads and salsa, with pasta and fish. They are meaty, not many seeds buy juicy, sweet and tomatoey, with a bit of tart. I like some acidity but François expects them to be succulent sweet and is banking on the garden ones.

He apparently has tomato tarts and pizza on the agenda, as he has ordered his dough (from me)..

At the restaurant – 1st entree of the moment: Fried green tomato with ripe and smoked tomato, corn, cucumber salsa, sea spinach and sea asparagus, crinkleroot lovage yogurt dressing, smoked eel, bee balm

As the harvest really explodes later this summer/fall, I will be canning, smoking, making ratatouille and ketchup, etc..

François' tomato pie, yum!

But it’s not all about tomatoes or even the wild edibles, with the corn and beans, peas, favas, zuchinni and peppers, garlic, kohlrabi.. Lettuces, herbs, Plums, melons and peaches.. Not to mention the wild blueberries! And it will only get better in the month ahead, alongside the mushrooms. September is the best month of the year for food!

Some other summer hits:

A vegetable stew thickened with bread: ribolita - panzanella meets ratatouille, just a different delicious way to use the garden bounty or what’s hanging out in your fridge. Stew onions with celery/leek, peppers, add zucchini and whatever other veg you like (corn, beans..) Herbs and spices, A bit of white wine and stock or just tomatoes with their juice. At the end, throw in some croutons or dry bread, season and serve on salad with a good oil, aged vinegar and cheese shavings. Good as is or as an accompaniment to sausage, chicken or steak.  At the restaurant, I was serving it with confit rabbit.

Fleur d’ail (Scapes) as a vegetable and as a condiment

In July when it’s scape time, we put them up for the year, alongside the wild stuff, a raw, green garlicky pesto. But it’s a beautiful time and a 2-3 week window (one for picking one, 2-3 for storing), when you can eat the scape as a vegetable, like an asparagus or green bean. It takes a 5 min. Boil. It is tender when it loses its bright green, sorry. Mildly garlicky, delish. Here the raw pesto is tempered into the hot potato mash, and the cooked scapes are a garnish. Alongside chanterelles which are in season at the same time. Just missing the corn, which would be perfect now.

Vichyssoise (Stinging nettle)

Like a Parmentier or any puree/ green soup thickened with potato (so less cream). With stinging nettle and sea parsley, this soup is delicious, but it could be/is with many greens. I make a seasonal green soup with what is abundant, always good. Not only delicious, but nutritious.  Served cold on a hot day or hot the rest of the time. Just a basic soup with onion, leek, celery, a touch of wine or vinegar, stock, herbs and spices, potato.  Add wild greens. Finish with cream, milk. Tweak with salt, pepper, spice, acid, maple syrup.

Add a little garnish like this: cucumber, radish, lovage, sumac to lighten it up, or it could always be another to make it more hearty like bacon or smoked duck.

Mushrooms or not, it’s time to be hitting the market (and/or garden) and cooking up a storm!

Lobster mushroom and lobster bisque risotto with beach peas, sea spinach and sea scallop First significant harvest of Lobsters to put up

 

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