tomatoes

because: caramelized onions

I felt productive this weekend, mainly because I roasted more tomatoes and had the inspired plan to caramelize onions in the oven at the same time. It worked brilliantly, beautifully. I know this because I couldn't stop eating them this morning. They are velvety, jammy, savory and sweet. We planted onions this spring and ended up with a lot of them come harvest time. I'm pretty happy about this. However, there were a few that didn't cure well that had begun to go a bit mushy. I decided that since I had the oven on at 275° for the next five hours anyway, I may as well put some onions in. I sliced the good parts of five or so of such onions thickly and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil in a pyrex dish. Nothing makes me tear up like these homegrown onions (not quite true, but they are certainly tear inducing). I think I stirred them twice over the course of the evening, and by the end of the cooking time they were very soft and lightly browned. I turned off the oven and left them to stew overnight. In the morning they were perfect. I added a touch of thyme-infused sea salt, and ended up snacking on a few spoonfuls before breakfast.

Because I wanted to eat more caramelized onions and because I was pretty hungry, I concocted a salad which made use of a few generous forkfuls.

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September Salad with beets, caramelized onions and pecans

I didn't measure anything because I wasn't planning on writing about it, but it turned out so good that you will have to accept my approximations until I make it again, and adjust it to taste. I thought about dressing the salad, but I'm glad that I didn't because the oil from the onions coated everything nicely.

⋅ ~ 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed, kneaded til bright green and cut into ribbons ⋅ several handfuls diced cooked beets (I used cold beets but warm would probably be lovely as well) ⋅ several forkfuls caramelized onion (and I do mean full) ⋅ soft cheese, crumbled (I used fromage frais, but a creamy feta would also be nice, such as Doric Macedonian Feta - Elise I silently thank you every time I find myself in possession of a bucket of the stuff) ⋅ a smallish handful of pecans, hand crushed and toasted over medium heat = Assemble and eat.

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chaos sorted, tomatoes roasted

Ah September, I love this month! We've got our garden back in hand and are getting it ready for a cool, rainy winter. We learned a lot about gardens this summer, namely to not alternate rows of chard and kale because the kale shades out and stunts the chard, that a little goes a long way in the seed-scattering department, and that roasted tomatoes are a lifesaver. Having to toss moldering heirloom tomatoes for not having dealt with them quick enough is depressing. Luckily I came across Alana Chernila's roasted tomato recipe in time to save most of them. There was a little more to it, but in essence it came down to this: halve and core the tomatoes (I quartered some of the big ones) and lay them out on a parchment -lined baking sheet. Toss on some peeled garlic cloves, a touch of sea salt and black pepper, some fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and slow-roast for 5 hours in a 275° oven. I roasted mine in the evening so just left them in the oven (which I turned off) overnight to cool. Once they have cooled, scoop the tomatoes and liquid into a freezer bag and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to a few days. To make a lovely sauce, dice and sauté a yellow onion, add thawed tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes.

The past few weeks have involved intense sorting. This book came into our lives and has inspired a world of good, but also a lot of work and chaos in the process. For several weeks, it was tense (or I was) and I kept my head down, plowing along in my quest to create order. Needless to say it was not a great time for personal relationships as the thought of someone seeing our house with stuff strewn all over was horrific. I am fairly strongly affected by my external environment, so living in a mess, even a temporary one, caused great unhappiness. At this point I feel the need to point out that the process was dragged out because everyday tasks and obligations kept interfering- we did not spend several weeks locked in our house sorting through piles of belongings. I can happily say that the free-pile on our front lawn is dwindling and our house feels (and looks) so much better.

The next challenge I am facing is also the best: to relax. Due to the topics mentioned above (garden, house, chaos!), and also my job which can be stressful for me as it isn't well suited to my personality, I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately. Not to say that there aren't still plenty of tasks to check off on the kitchen chalkboard, there are, but they are in the realm of reasonable. I set up a mini studio for myself and am really looking forward to time spent quietly dabbling with paints. In anticipation of this glorious reprieve, I also brought home a small armful of books from the library. Friends! I'm sorry for being lame this last month, but it's better now, I promise. Let's find a misty forest to walk in, and maybe even some chanterelles, and drink tea and draw and giggle. Please, soon.

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Monday

It is near impossible to continue having a rotten afternoon when watching six otters dipping and diving, frolicking and feasting. They are so graceful, sleek and lithe, and were eating noisily and playfully turning cartwheels in the ocean.  Also, I am blessed with the most wonderful friends. The kind who send luminous postcards and beautiful shirts by snail mail, out of the blue. 

Sunday was just right: I gained several precious inches of soil back from the buttercups, and planted tomatoes, Jer made crêpes,and the day slipped by in a peaceful, puttering way. We had a nice visit with Jer's parents, and I made a friend who is as fond of peppermint tea as I am (A substantial garden bed full? The minimum. Let it take over the yard!)

Past bedtime, I remembered the garden, the garden looking thirsty in the midday sun. All the little plants we are tending and gentling along. There was no choice but to go water it. With the exception of the slugs, which had lurked their way out for an evening salad crawl, the nighttime garden is a magical place (and I'm sure the slugs would beg to differ). The first quarter moon was bright in the soft indigo sky, and everything was quiet and shadowy and new.