A Simple Basic Tomato Sauce

Eat Well Edibles Grow Well Recipe

In an ideal world, my kitchen counters would overflow in late summer with vine-ripened tomatoes of all shapes and sizes and colors, picked that morning and still warm from the sun.

Though my thumb is arguably quite green, I am, at present, keeper of a garden routinely ravaged by an impressive array of creatures and forces of nature. Each season my tomato plants are the most spectacular failures. Plans to preserve the tastes of long-faded summer sunshine with jars stacked upon jars of whole tomatoes, tomato chutneys, fiery salsa and a killer homemade tomato sauce are shelved for ‘someday.’

For tomato sauce there is, thankfully, another way. Maybe even a better way.

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Quick Weeknight Sole and Sausage Gumbo

Eat Well Edibles Grow Well Recipe

Once upon a time we made Gulf seafood gumbo for four on a twilit beach in Corpus Christi with only a butane burner and cookware borrowed from a rental kitchen. Grey-blue crests and frothy white caps crashing behind us, visibility at that time of night zero save a flashlight and the dome light of our truck bed, crude sand walls built to prevent the struggling, wind-whipped flames from going out.

The inexplicably successful bowls of steaming hot gumbo were well-earned (and quickly finished) — at that moment, seriously superior to every other gumbo, anywhere, anytime. Forevermore, it will be a meal that instantly transports us back to that night on that beach.

Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday, if you prefer — falls on the last day of February this year. Because it’s a weeknight, I’m sharing a quick-fix version of our New Orleans classic that goes from cutting board to table in just about 30 minutes.

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Cardamom Pear Butter

Eat Well Edibles Grow Well Recipe

As is the case much of the time, the story of this recipe begins with a produce bargain (my shopping vice). Bags of perfectly “imperfect” late season Bartlett pears, their yellow-green skin blushing to red, with juicy-sweet flesh underneath.

I do this every year with both Bartletts and Boscs. And every year, after all possible ways of eating them fresh are exhausted, the final few get to hang out in the spa. Lucky them, luckier us.

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Cream Scones with Fresh Figs, Cardamom and Black Pepper

Eat Well Edibles Grow Well Recipe

Nine years ago this September, my parents and I set off in the early morning hours down the interstate. Minneapolis — grad school + dietetic internship — or bust. Suitcases, boxes, and bags filled with far too many belongings for my new garden-level studio were deftly organized into the two cars by my father, our packing engineer. Thoughtfully, he left enough room for myself, a very large coffee, and a parting gift from my mother: her extra copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Being in the kitchen is more than a passion and reminder of loved ones who helped make it so, but, for me, also a stress reliever. And though my subterranean shoebox boasted nothing beyond the basics — refrigerator, sink, an appropriately tiny gas oven/stove, and literally zero counter space — cooking, along with walks and the best café miel, was my delicious escape from reality. My smart mum, she just knew that Marion Cunningham’s classic would keep me well fed. And sane.

Fannie and I got on instantly, and she remains an anchor cookbook to this day. I have made so many of her recipes, both as printed and as variations on a theme, with honestly not one failure. Or at least not a failure on her part — burning my palm almost to the third degree on a metal skillet handle and destroying its contents was not instructed. The signs of heavy use are plain to see in the cracked spine (apologies, lots of love), spattered pages (decoration), scribbled notes (words of praise), and the occasional small cloud of flour that falls when opened to certain pages (baking pixie dust).

Scone cut-outs_HGN

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Oven-Dried Tomato Slices

Eat Well Edibles Grow Well Recipe

Popping in today with simple summery trick for you.

Of the ten tomato seedlings I raised, only one survived into adulthood — a yellow pear that, like every other tomato planted in this garden over the years, woefully underperformed. Fortunately, the market doth provide. In this instance, it provideth too much, and where ripe tomatoes are concerned, time is of the essence.

Tomatoes with greens, in omelets, on pizza in slices or as homemade sauce, eaten in thick wedges with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. They’re all on heavy rotation, but I wanted to try a new technique: oven-drying. Great to make the most of a windfall of beautiful, ripe summer tomatoes, but also to improve the dull taste of those not quite ripe, or even those purchased out of season that travelled a long, flavor-sapping distance to the supermarket.

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