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Freezing The Last Tomatoes

October 23rd, 2007 · 1 Comment

Around the beginning of October, the tomatoes slow-ripen on the vine and stay there, nice and ripe, sitting waiting to be picked. They will sit there a good while (depending on the weather) until one day when I have some time to pick them and do something with them. Of course, if I leave them too long, they will grow bacteria or split open from rain.

I wanted to store them for future use and since I am not fortunate to have a pressure cooker, I decided to freeze them. I chose this method because I know I will be using them within a reasonable amount of time (1-4 months or so). So I looked up online what the proper way is to freeze them. So heres what I did the end of last week, Oct. 17th-18th or so:

Gather any glass jars and tops and sterilize with boiling water or ammonia. Boil Water in a large pot (1/4 – 1/2 way up with water). While bringing to boil, plug up your kitchen sink and turn the faucet to full cold. Fill up sink with cold water. We will be blanching the tomatoes in order to remove their skin. Add 4-6 tomatoes at a time into the boiling water and watch them. As soon as their skin splits open, use a slotted spoon to remove the tomato and toss it into the cold water bath.

Tomatoes Skin Popped Open

After all tomatoes are removed, add the next 4-6 (make sure to keep the rolling boil going). Meawhile turn your attention to peeling the skin off the tomatoes. They should peel off very easily once the skin has split.

Tomatoes Peeled

At this time, cut off any blemishes on the tomato and take off any remaining stem. Toss the finished tomato into a bowl. Keep this process going, draining the water and adding cold water as necessary to keep the water cold.

When your done peeling the tomatoes, stuff them into the jars as necessary and push them down as much as you can. Leave about an inch or a bit more to account for the spreading of the liquid as it turns to ice. I use a similar technique when storing my homemade vegetable stock. So that’s it. Pop the tops on, toss them into your storing freezer, and if you want, add some lemon to the top to stop any bacteria from building. When your ready, like in the middle of January, you will have beautiful ripened tomatoes, already peeled, to make sauce, salsa, add to soup, or whatever your favorite tomato recipe is.

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The Great Outdoors of Long Island – Walks and Hikes – Nassau

October 19th, 2007 · No Comments

Every year that goes by, I find more and more great places to visit on the island. From the sandy beaches of the south shore to the the rocky beaches of the north shore, it goes without being said that Long Island displays a vast diversified lanscape. Yes, Suburbia is knocking down any open spaces that are left, but not all. There are many people fighting to preserve the very reason people move out here in the first place, “to get some peace and quiet (and open spaces).” It’s not upstate, but certainly a great getaway from the New York City madness.

My goal is to make an ongoing list of great places to visit on the island for pure enjoyment and to show my support for these amazing natural places still thriving here. Since I am an avid hiker (from Nassau County!?), I will start there and rattle off a few places to get away from the craziness of say…Old Country Road (or any other major road). This list will be updated as I find more great places to go. I must give credit to a gentleman named Lee McCallister for writing the book “Hiking Long Island,” for without it, I would have gotten lost at trail junctions even more times than usual. No, seriously, this book has opened my eyes to the fascinating places to go for a hike. It is a “must read” (more like a comes-in-handy book) for anyone interested in detailed descriptions of the trails, history and geology, Flora and Fauna and where to find the chickadees that will fly over to you, land on your outstretched hand and eat right off your hand..sooo cool!!! I also saw him give a speech about the Paumanok Trail the night before my big 53 mile hike (on the Paumanok). So without further adoo , adeu, (no idea how to spell that) I present:

Great Places to take a Hike on Long Island

Nassau County Section

Welwyn Preserve
Beautiful Place to go for an afternoon walk in the woods and then onto the north shore beach. Located in Glen Cove, you will come across an abandoned building (which we think was an old school/greenhouse). Other interesting things I noticed: small ponds with loads of frogs and other wildlife, beautiful old growth trees, and loads of berries. Not a huge place but worth the go if you live around there. It has become a whimsical favorite of mine. Heres a cool site that describes Welwyn a bit more.

Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail
Here is the description that the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference gives it. They help to maintain the trails and if you care about preserving our open spaces, you need to join up with them ($20/year goes a long way). Heres their description:

“From steep hills to old fields to quiet wetlands, this 20-mile National Recreation Trail offers surprising diversity. From Cold Spring Harbor, where mountain laurels bloom in June, the trail crosses Long Island to Massapequa Preserve watershed, where dozens of species of birds stop on their fall and spring migrations. Paths for mountain bikers parallel parts of this trail, and a loop in the Plainview area provides a connection with the Walt Whitman Trail.”

I like doing the stretch from Cold Spring Harbor to Jericho Turnpike, basically from the North Shore to Mid Island or vice versa. My girlfriend and I take two cars. Park one at Jericho Turnpike and drive up to Rt. 25A in Cold Spring Harbor and park the other car there.

It starts off real hilly (that’s what i really like). Its one of my favorite places to go. In Cold Spring Harbor, the Greenbelt Trail also links up with a trail that goes right into the Nature Conservancy (another fantastic place on the island). When I get into those hills, I feel like I’ve entered into a different world, a magical land of rolling hills and humongous rhododendrum forests, huge beautiful beech trees. I feel like a visitor in a world of chipmonks. Then, once I cross Rt. 108, it gets a little swampy, but beautiful still. As I walk the terrain flattens out and I pass through Stillwell Woods (a big mountain biking area). Its nice but a bit noisy at times. Then there is a nice open field, a good sunny spot. And a nice walk back to the other lot with, if your lucky, a boat load of wild blackberries.

If you want to keep going, the trail continues, actually, all the way down to Sunrise Highway. Although, after Bethpage State Park, it turns into a paved trail. One day I walked from Plainview to Cold Spring Harbor and had my friend pick me up there. That was a real nice, long hike and really gave me a feel for the area. I used to live in Plainview. There is an entry to the trail on Haypath Rd. and leads right to Bethpage State Park. I wake up really early before work, bike up to the trail, 1/2 mile later in Bethpage State Park, pickup the paved trail amd ride until Sunrise Highway and ride back in half hour to 45min.

And another time I rode my bike from my friends house in Syosset into Plainview and picked up the trail just as before and rode down to Merrick Rd. From there we rode west a bit until we hit Cedar Creek Park. From there, there is an entrance onto the Jones Beach Causeway (right along the Wantaugh Parkway) until we hit Jones Beach (right by the theatre). It’s nice to ride down there and hang on the beach for a while and then bike back (or have someone come pick you up as we did).

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Vegetable Stock/Broth Part 1

October 19th, 2007 · 2 Comments

One of my favorite things to do is make my own stock.  I like to make all kinds of stock, but since I live with my girlfriend and her sister (whom are both vegetarian) I mostly make vegetable stock.  There is a noticable difference in flavors between a vegetable stock and a meat stock, however, they are all great, magnificent, I cannot say enough about making your own stock and storing it for future dishes. 

The uses are just endless.  I use it mostly for soups, sauces, and to cook grains.  Whatever the dish, the underlying complexities, soul serving to the core, comes from the stock (not the stuff you buy, the stuff you make!)  

So when I go over my Mom’s house for Thanksgiving this year, I will ask her for the turkey carcas and boil it up with a bunch of water, bay leaves, onions, garlic, carrot, celery, and whatever else is around for 2-6 hours and store it in the freezer for future use.  Whats that saying “waste not, want not.”

I find it helpful to gather materials for stock as they come.  For example, when I’m out east at a farmers market on Sound Avenue, Ill buy a dozen ears of corn.  As I eat them during the week, I will save every last corn cob in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer.  Then, when the time is right and I have an over abundance of corn cobs packing the freezer, Ill go out and buy the other ingredients for the stock. 

Oh, and make sure you have enough tupperware containers handy because once the stock has cooled, it does not stay long, so you will need to get them into the freezer (or fridge, if your going to use it in the next week or so) Also, put some in large tupperware, and some in smaler tupperware (for smaller application like cooking grains or adding to a sauce).  One night I made a bunch of stock, simmering for hours.  I shut off the heat to let it cool and the next thing I knew, I had awoken at 4 in the morning on the couch and my stock had been sitting there brewing up fun little bacterias Im sure, so I had to throw it out. Doh!

Oh and one more tip before I start listing out recipes; Leave a little room on the top of the tupperware when filling with stock.  That is, if you want our tupperware to survive the expansion of the stock in the freezer.  This is something I only learned recently, as I have had many Tupperware containers fall victim to a brutal split-cracking death.

Basic Vegetable Broth Recipe (quantity ill leave up to you, but more of something usuallywill not hurt the stock, unless its salt)
Onion(s)
Leeks
Garlic Cloves and Garlic Powder
Carrots
Potatoes
Celery (If you can get the top leaves, use them too)
Whole Black Peppercorns
Bay Leaves
Mushrooms
Parsley (and any other herbs you like – dried is better for stock – if using fresh throw in when you shut the heat off at the very end)
Dried Hot Pepper

Other Optional Ingredients: Squash (zucchini that has been taking over your backyard), Sweet Peppers, Parsnip, Turnips, Rutabega, Celery Root, Daikon RadishBroccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatos (not too much or it will be too acidic), any leaft green vegetables (kale, dandelion, collard greens), cabbage, asparagus (save the bottom parts that you would normally throw in the compost pile – put in freezer just like corn cobs), herbs – sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, dill, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, corriander, I can go on and on.

Actually, salt is an iffy topic. I like to add it, but I recently found out that cooking beans with salt will actually strip the skins from the beans. So if you are planning on making a bean soup, you may want to make your stock with no salt. When making the bean soup, I add salt at the very end. I no longer add salt to my stocks for this reason alone (because I make a lot of bean soups).

Chop veggies in half just to open them up and throw em in the pot. You can leave the skin on everything (just wash off first – onions, garlic, etc.) You can roast corn and garlic ahead of time to give it a nice roasty flavor. To extract the most flavor from your stock ingradients, start with cold water. Add enough to cover veggies, but I add more and let it boil down. Bring to boil with cover on and then remove cover. Boil uncovered (low heat) until liquid has reduced by almost half or until taste is good for you. If you are using a pressure cooker, well, I do not have one, but I know if you bring it up to temperature and then shut off the heat, it cooks the stock in 30-45 mins rather than the normal 2-6 hrs.

OK, so your stock is done now. Strain out the veggies into another pot and make sure you save any of them you wish to eat (mushrooms, carrots, any root veggies, mmm theyre real good right out of the stock).

So once you have your vegetable stock, you can do many things with it. I will list some of my favorite things to use it for in Part 2 of this posting to (coming soon).

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Wheatberry Salad

October 16th, 2007 · 1 Comment

I love wheatberry salad.  It usually has some lemon juice and raisins, chopped greens and roasted nuts and maybe a cheese.  In this case this is what I did:

Ingredients:

wheat berries (1 cup)
3 cups water
raisins
dried cranberries
chopped trail mix nuts (pepitas, cashews, almonds, walnuts) – whatever nuts you have
cheese (i used an aged gouda and manchego- goat cheese from spain-one of my favs)
apple (1 or 2)
Handful and a Half of Parsley (Coarsely Chopped)
Kale (4 to 8 leaves – stem cutout – chopped)
One Lemon
Apple Cider Vinegar (1-3 Tablespoons)
Good amount of Salt and Pepper (I like a lot of pepper)
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Olive Oil

Put Wheatberries in Water and let sit for 4 to 6 hours or cook on low heat uncovered for approximately 45 minutes or until soft. Let Cool.

Meanwhile, wash and chop greens and apples. Put in medium mixing bowl with the lemon juice from the lemon (so the apple does not oxidize and turn brown).  Add the vinegar too.  Chop nuts and add them.  Chop the raisins and cranberries and add them.  Cut the cheese into small cubes and add them.  Add salt and pepper to taste, a little cinnamon, grate a pinch of fresh nutmeg, and add some olive oil (2 tablespoons or so).  Toss and serve or refrigetate.  Lasts a few days in fridge, but the greens dont hold texture so long.

In our house, this salad did not last long so I couldn’t get a photo.

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Maggots In My Compost Pile!?

October 16th, 2007 · No Comments

Today, I decided it was finally time to flip my compost pile. Maybe it was that nasty smell that was coming from it or maybe all the squash plants that were growing from it decided to die down enough so I could get close to it.

Anyway, as I dug in my spade, I got a shocking sight of what looked like endless piles of maggots, big ones!

After some reasearch on the net, I found an answer about these suckers.

It is almost certain that the grubs you’re seeing are the larvae of the Black soldier fly, (Hermetia ilucens), which is highly beneficial, carries no disease and will aid the breakdown process in your bin. The link below will take you to a post with a lot more detail. Though the post was originally directed to a person living in Australia, this fly species is common here as well, and the information is as relevant to the US as it is to the Aussies.

Link to the Forum

After finding out they are a purely beneficial fly species, I considered myself lucky I had them in my pile.

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Second Planting of Basil

October 14th, 2007 · No Comments

My basil plants were less than fantastic this year. They just did not perform as usual (it may have to do with the fact that I have relocated this year and are just working in the soil here).

But I was able to learn a couple of things from my basil troubles. I started a second set of Basil plants (lettuce leaf and genovese) in potting soil and left outside in partial shade. When they had their first true leaves, (in the end of August) I transplanted them into different locations. It seemed kind of late to plant basil, but I figured Ill plant 8 plants and Im bound to get some kind of harvest from them. I spaced them out all over the yard in various locations. The ones that did the best had a layer of mulch on them. One had grass clippings and the other had bark mulch and was planted in a pot with a rosemary plant. The ones that did not do so well were planted without any mulch and in full sun. I think the big reason they did not do as well as the others was the lack of consistent water. (so they wilted fast).

What I learned:
Basil (Lettuce Leaf)
1. Give your Basil plants a nice mulch and some friendly neighbors to help keep moisture near the roots.

2. You can start a late summer crop of Basil for a very flavorful fall Basil without worrying about it going to seed so quickly (good late season weather helps too – like we had this year). Right now its mid october, and I have thriving Basil plants that are yet to go to seed.

Side Note: When your basil starts showing signs of going to seed, pinch the tops off to continue the plants concentration of energy into the leaves. You will need to keep up with this every day to every other day. Once the plant needs to go to seed, there’s no stopping it, so keep pinching and keep getting beatiful green shoots.

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Compiling Gardening Calender – October

October 12th, 2007 · No Comments

We are starting to compile a Gardening Calendar. It will be of use to everyone who has that feeling that they are forgetting to do something to nurture their garden at any time of the year.

We are asking you to send in your list of monthly activities in the garden.

For example, this is October and in the garden i will need to:

- put mulch around everything (straw, maybe wood chips)
- pull out tomato plants when they stop producing
- bring in annuals i want to overwinter inside (or take cuttings from).
- plant garlic (after it gets cold)
- pull out all annuals that are no longer producing
- cut back died out folliage from perrenials
- keep up with watering, especially on hot and windy days
- keep harvesting plants as needed
- harvest herbs and use a save and store technique (such as freezing in ice cubes, or drying them out next to a fan)

So send in your October list, and next month send the November list. We want to have a Calendar everyone can refer to for their Long Island home gardening needs.

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October Rain

October 12th, 2007 · No Comments

Well here we are in October 2007 and it has been 70-mid 80 degree weather until yesterday the 11th.

I had to keep up with the heat and winds and water the garden every day, especially the young plants (chinese cabbage, endive, arugula, lettuce – youngins in my garden right now).

Then yesterday it started to rain on and off, some well deserved water showers. But today the heavens opened up from southerly winds blew in the ocean all over everything. The plants really enjoyed it as they were green and seemed to be growing by the minute, stetching their roots and leaves.

Anywaym it was nice to see and write about.

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A Harvest Soup

October 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Ingredients:

For Soup:
Great Northern Beans (soak overnight)
Portabella Mushrooms ( 2 big ones)
Home Made Vegetable Stock
Ginger (inch and a half)
onion (1 Large or 2 medium)
Garlic (5-10 cloves)
Potatos (3 medium)
Carrots (2 big)
Five Spice Powder
Garlic Powder
Corn (Kernels from Cob – 2)
Bay Leaves
Kelp or some Sea Vegetable
Miso Paste
Hot Chile of your choice
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

For Grains:
Ghee or Butter
Whole Grains ( cup barley, brown rice, or wheatberries)

Soak beans overnight, strain out water once or twice.

Throw em in a pot with some water to cover them and them some.

no salt here! beans will shed their skins.

Defrost any vegetable stock from the freezer. Or get some stock ready and warm to add to the pot.

chop up the aromatics – onion, carrots, garlic, ginger. get a hot sauce pan and throw some olive oil in there then the aromatics. throw the carrots in with the beans.

sweat the aromatics for about 2-3 mins just to get them going. dump them into the pot with the beans. add vegetable stock. add bay leaves and kelp, hot chile, some five spice powder and garlic powder. and put the lid on for 10 – 15 mins (low heat).

Heat up some water 3 cups or so.

Heat up a small saucepot. Put some ghee (or butter) in and then your grain. Let it toast for 5 minutes or so (dont burn it or forget about it or misjudge the intensity of the heat) and stir after each minute until nice and toasty. Add in double the amount of water to grain. Put the heat on lowest setting, cover and walk away from it for 50 mins, making sure the heat is producing a slow simmer.

In the meantime, chop the brussel sprouts in half. Peel the potatos, and chop them into bite size pieces. Then, add potatos and brussel sprouts to the pot. Chop the kernels off the corn cobs and put them in too. Simmer another 20 – 30 minutes untill all veggies are cooked through.

5 Minutes before taking off the heat, chop up and add in mushrooms and season to taste, ass salt and pepper, (keep in mind though we will add the miso after we take the soup off the heat – so we can get all the probiotics the miso holds as its little treasures – they will all die in boiling water). Add in more garlic powder and five spice powder. Take out bay leaves and kelp.

Turn off heat for grains (after 50 mins) but dont take the cover off. Wait 5 mins, take the lid off, and fluff with fork.

Taste the soup. Maybe more salt? In this case, take the soup off the heat, let sit for 1 min. Add in miso paste, about one to two tablespoons, depending on your taste. Taste it again. Enough miso flavor? If so, does it need salt? Maybe maybe not, its up to you. But it does need a little of that good olive oil from the stash. Dizzle over each bowl. and serve with love. =)

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Tomato Cucumber Salad

October 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

Tomato Cucumber Salad (2007)

Ripened Tomatos
Cucumbers
Red Onion
Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A Good Wine Vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes (for a bit of heat)
Salt and Pepper
(Optional: Fresh Parsley)

This recipe is all about the raw ingredients. DO NOT, I Repeat, DO NOT use this recipe with chain supermarket store bought tomatos. =)

Mostly Tomatos, about 3:2:1 tomato to cucumber to red onion.

A good amount of oil and vinegar (3:2 oil to vinegar).

Let the salad sit for a half hour or so and keep mixing it about.

You could add whatever else you want in there (mint, basil, oregano – i love parsley, lots of it)

Serve it Up.

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