I'm tired of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes

Here are some recipes that use them

Okay listen, yes, I am someone who occasionally writes about food (very occasionally, from time to time). One might think that my obligation, then, is to love the perfectly ripe july and august tomatoes that I get from my CSA.

And like, don’t get me wrong, they’re good and all, but honestly???? What can one do with a whole giant tomato (and do NOT say just…. eat it, I have like five of them.) Honestly, what can one do with a single pint of cherry tomatoes (salad is not an option)? I like tomatoes, but I just… what can I say…

Making tomatoes into sauce is way too much work, and imo not worth the effort (also I never really eat tomato sauce). I like a BLT as much as the next person (perhaps even more), but I can only grate my mouth to shreds so many times before I want something else (“so many times” i.e. once a week).

Here are a few things that I have been doing with ALL the tomatoes that I have been getting. The first recipe is from last summer, the later ones are from this summer, although I’ve been making that quinoa salad for years. It’s a solid lunchbox lunch.


Linguine with Tomato-Almond Pesto [Pesto Trapenese]
Adapted from Gourmet

Roasting the tomatoes is a great enhancement. Maybe if you have plum tomatoes you can just use those, but I have so many freakin beefsteak tomatoes from my CSA these days. (Actually this is a fib, we just got romas and you know? I roasted them anyway, they are roasting right now. It’s just better, idk).

What I do: preheat the oven to 300, slice the tomatoes into wedges (quarters if they’re smaller, sixths if they’re larger, chase your bliss). Break up but don’t peel 4 cloves of garlic. Put everything on a sheet tray, sprinkle with salt (a large pinch, like a three finger pinch?), pour over a bit of olive oil, making sure that the garlic is WELL OILED and salted. Stick in the oven, bake for one hour.

At a later point, make the pesto:

Smitten Kitchen lady says to chop the almonds, take them out of the food processor, do the basil, and then add them back, to which I say: why? Seems like a lot of work.

  • 3/4 cup (85 grams) slivered almonds

  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves

  • 1 to 2 large garlic cloves

  • Several sprinkles of sea salt

  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered

  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) grated Pecorino or Parmesan

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup (60 to 80 ml) olive oil

  • 1 pound (455 grams) linguine

In a large skillet, sauté the almonds in a little olive oil until toasted. Let cool, then blend them in a food processor or blender until they are in coarse pieces. (“The size of orzo,” the original recipe suggests.) Scoop them out of the processor and set them aside.

Put the basil, garlic and a few pinches of sea salt into the food processor and chop. Add the almonds back to the food processor (keeping them separate will keep them from getting too finely chopped as you get the basil and garlic to the right texture) with the tomatoes, cheese and olive oil and whirl briefly. Season it with freshly ground black pepper.

Cook your linguine until it is al dente and could use another minute of cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot linguine with the pesto and mix quickly so that it drinks the sauce up a bit. Add more pasta water if needed.


This summer here’s what I am doing with my perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes:

Tomato egg stir fry

  • Eggs

  • Tomatoes

  • Shaoshing wing

  • White pepper

  • Salt

  • Cooking oil

  • Rice, already cooked

Slice 2 big or 3 less big tomatoes into thin wedges.

Get your wok quite hot. Whisk three or four eggs in a bowl. Add oil to wok. Add eggs to wok. Scramble them until they are not quite done (35 seconds?). Remove them to a bowl. Add the tomatoes to the wok. Add a teaspoon ish of shaoxing wine to the tomatoes, as well as a lot of white pepper and a bit of salt. Cook tomatoes on high heat until they’re, well, cooked, and the juices are thick. Add the eggs back in. Stir fry for a few more seconds until everything is combined.

Serve with rice, I like to have it with sweetened soy sauce, but I haven’t shared a recipe for that (and probably won’t, as it uses some hard to find ingredients). You could also add more salt while cooking, or serve with a bit of soy sauce on top.


Summer quinoa salad

  • 3/4 cup quinoa cooked with 1 1/4 cup water (genuinely unsure why I chose this quantity, but I did)

  • Just over a pint of cherry tomatoes, or as many as you need to use up

  • Some garlic cloves with skin on

  • frozen corn, (or fresh but who cares), as much as you like, why are you measuring frozen corn, just eyeball it, good lord

  • 1/4 cup Cilantro, as much as you like

  • 1 bunch of tuscan kale

  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts (pumpkin seeds or pine nuts work well, I will often use walnuts too)

Dressing:

Mustard (I like dijon)

Olive oil, a bit of mayonnaise, and a lot lemon juice

Pepper, salt, pepper flakes if you like that sort of thing

Alternately: I’m using the Kewpie yuzu kosho dressing mixed with olive oil and some rice vinegar. If you have yuzu kosho add some to the dressing, it tastes nice with tomatoes. If you don’t, whatever, just make a creamy sort of dressing, the recipe this is based on used like, buttermilk or something.

To make the salad:

Put oven at 275, slice tomatoes in half, toss the tomatoes with a few garlic cloves (skin on) with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on a sheet pan with parchment paper, flip the tomatoes so they’re cut side up, roast all together for an hour or so.

While that happens: Cook quinoa. Idk, do it. Cool.

Cut kale into ribbons. I do this by rolling it into a little tube and then slicing it. Briefly fry the frozen corn. If your nuts aren’t toasted yet, do that. Chop some cilantro.

Make dressing: if you’re feeling ambitious use an immersion blender or like, a mortar and pestle to smoosh up the roasted garlic, then mix in the dressing ingredients. Toss together with the stuff that you’ve already prepared. Tada, a salad. Lasts in the fridge a couple days, good for lunch.

Party foods, or practical make-ahead food

(it's buns, if you're having a party, just make buns)

It was just noah’s birthday, and we had a few people over. Recently, whenever people come by, I make buns. I’m terrible at filling buns, but good at all the other parts, so I guess I just have to keep filling buns until I’m good at that too. Buns impress people. Someone sees that you made buns and they’re like “wow, you made buns?” or “These are good!” but like, with a tone that suggests surprise. I’ve found that a great trick for getting people to come visit you in an inconvenient location during a pandemic is to offer them something that they’d need to travel for anyways (eg. buns)

The buns I usually make are the char siu baked buns from the woks of life, which have a milk bread and are full of meat (they also make a great breakfast, I’ll usually eat them for like, three or four days after I first make them). I’ve not shared that recipe because I make it with no alterations, and also it’s got too many steps to put in the newsletter. Also I try to cater to my active readers, who are mostly vegan. For these buns, I was having by someone with a dairy allergy and a vegan, so the char siu was out. I had a few odds and ends from the CSA lingering in the refrigerator, as well as some tech meat, so I made hoppang instead, based more or less on this recipe, but with a few necessary modifications.

First, I don’t have Korean curry powder, and second, one of my guests is vegan, so the two primary flavors were an issue. Whoops. To make up for this I used a quarter of an S&B curry block (not the entire package, just 1/4) that I melted in a bit of boiling water, and a tablespoon and a half of hoisin in place of the oyster sauce. The thing that makes most buns taste like buns is, it seems, oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is in everything, including in the original recipe for these buns.

Veg and (tech) meat HoPpang

1 12 oz package of tech meat (I used impossible beef(?))

2 generous cups of finely sliced cabbage (I didn’t measure, but it could have been 2 cups, it also could have been more)

3 leeks, white and light green parts only (this is to make up for the onion and scallion in the original recipe, I keep getting leeks from the CSA) NB: for something like this a good way to clean the leeks is the slice them and then soak the slices to get the dirt off.

1/2 cup or so thinly sliced carrot

Seasoning

1 square (again, 1/4 of a curry block not the whole thing) melted in 1 tbs (or so) boiling water (don’t stress if it isn’t all the way melted) This amount of curry gave it a noticable but not strong curry flavor, if you really wanted curry buns I’d use one and a half or possibly two blocks. Two might be too much though.

Pepper, lots

1 1/2 tbs hoisin (you could use oyster sauce, or vegetarian oyster sauce, something I keep hearing exists but have never located)

I didn’t find that this needed salt, because curry blocks have salt already, so resist the urge to put salt on the (fake) meat when first cooking it

Cook

Fry the meat in cooking oil (I used scallion oil, you can use whatever), just get it browned a bit. Add the vegetables and the seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are just tender. Taste for seasoning. Let cool. It’s easier to fill your buns if the mix is cooler.

Make the bread (the original source also says that you can use Pilsbury biscuits rolled thin? So you could try that too I guess) (This makes 16 BIG buns)

  • 5 Cups All Purpose Flour

  • 2 Cups Warm Water

  • 4 Tbsp Sugar

  • 2 Tbsp Butter (vegan butter)

  • 4 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast

  • 2 tsp Baking Powder

  • 2 tsp Salt

Add everything together. If you have a stand mixer, knead for about 5 minutes. If you find it to be VERY sticky, which I did, add some more flour.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for ten minutes. (This is a yeasted dough, but it doesn’t have a rise.) Divide into 16 roughly equal sized balls. I make all the dough balls and cover them with a damp towel.

Fill the buns:

Roll out the dough, leaving the center a bit thicker, and the sides more thin. I typically go for something a bit bigger than my palm.

Holding the dough in your non dominant hand, put the thicker bit in an opening between your thumb and forefinger and dent it down. Put the filling in the middle (I used a 2 tbs cookie scoop) and seal it. I’m shit at closing dumplings, but these are the most forgiving that I have made because there is so much dough. Pinch it closed, and then make a claw with your hand and wiggle the dough ball around to close the bottom real good and get it nice and round.

Put on parchment squares (important!) and steam on high for 15 minutes. I steamed the first 8 and then made the second 8 while the steamer was going. This recipe looks a lot harder than it is, I think. I found these to be really very easy (easier than other buns I have made) in part because there is no rise on the dough, but a lot of yeast, so I found it to be really buoyant and elastic. It’s also a great starter bun because there’s no rise, so it really comes together so quickly. Also, I had no issues with the filling leaking out, which I’ve had with all my other buns. Anyway, if you’re having a party, make buns!

Glowing reviews from friends included “where did you buy these, they don’t taste like they’re Southern Chinese?! Most of the buns you get in Chinatown are southern!” and “These are good buns.” These lasted for at least a second day, but would probably last longer. Also steamed buns are great to freeze and resteam.

They were still very good the next day, when I microwaved the leftovers for a minute, and then stuck them in my bag and took them to a wrestling show in bed stuy to eat during intermission. Buns are a terrific food to carry around in your bag and just snack on. Microwave a single bun covered in a damp towel for 30 seconds and you’re good to go, buns are typically good at room temperature and terrible cold.

The show last night was a lot of fun, but the highlight was for sure the match between Mane Event (shown above) and the Sea Stars (sisters from Rhode Island). Mane Event are huge local favorites, and when the Sea Stars were isolating Midas (shown above holding the hula hoop) in the ring the audience was screaming “we want Lyon! we want Lyon!”

There was a little girl seated across the aisle from us who REALLY wanted Lyon, who loved Lyon more than almost anything, who was also adorably bloodthirsty, and at the end when Mane Event had locked in their submission finishes was screaming “TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP!” at the Sea Stars. I think that this would have been the match of the night for me anyway, but the little kid who wanted Lyon in the ring really made the whole thing that much better.

CSA recipes (or seasonal cooking)

What I'm doing with my CSA share

For whatever reason, writing my newsletter in the summer feels like absolute drudgery. I dislike summer cooking generally, and writing about cooking in the summer reminds me of how grumpy I get cooking in the summer (and also sometimes eating in the summer, to be honest.) In the summer what I want to eat and what Noah is willing to eat diverges significantly. I want to eat a lot of Japanese food. There’s a lot of terrific Japanese summertime dishes. Noah really hates Japanese food (Noah, reading my newsletter: “I don’t hate Japanese food, I just….”) and so we have to compromise. It’s terrible.

We have a CSA again, it’s especially cool because it’s the Red Hook Farms CSA, so it’s grown like, 150 yards from our house, maybe? I can watch my dinner grow when I’m out walking the dog, when the dog makes it that far, which is not often.

CSA years are always kind of hilarious, because you immediately wind up with too much of the things you don’t know what to do with, and the recipes CSAs always send out are like “make collard rolls” which, ew. no. Here are some things that I have made recently with my CSA share, if you have a CSA share you are probably getting these vegetables also, so hopefully these recipes will be useful to you.

Here are some recipes to use your CSA vegetables, and there are no collard rolls.

Garlic Scapes

This year I have finally done something good with garlic scapes! I made a version of this stir fry, using more carrots and no pork, and using a lot more ginger than the recipe calls for, in addition to using gochugaru instead of whole peppers (just because I didn’t feel like getting my peppers down). If you have a CSA, and you get garlic scapes… try this out! I have made the garlic scape compound butter, but like, I don’t get the point of that, it’s never that great. This, however, really good! It also says in the headnotes that you should treat scapes like asparagus, and find the point at which they snap and only use the part above that. I’d never done that before, and uhhh, it makes a difference.

Collards

Collards are slowly growing on me, but unfortunately they do need to be cooked for Too Long in order to be good. This Too Long cooking is exponentially Too Longer if you use ham hocks to make the stock first, and then cook it in that. This week I’m going to be making this vegetarian collard recipe from Divas Can Cook. I know already from reading the recipe that I will add at least a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar at the end of cooking, and that I will use gochugaru or my silk chili instead of regular chili flakes (I just don’t like them, idk why), and probably some vinegar hot sauce as well. I think collards need lots of vinegar.

I have also made this recipe for collards braised in coconut milk before, it’s quite good also. It goes nicely with a lot of dishes that could be described as “Asian” or “Indian inspired.” It would probably go well with like, a jerk tofu or seitan also. It’s a vague but pleasant flavor palette that goes well with a lot of things, but isn’t “southern” like the usual collard braise.

Lettuce

lol. This is a funny joke. idk put it on a BLT or something. Make a salad? I mean, I won’t be making a salad, but you could. My lettuce will sit in the bottom of the refrigerator until next week, when I will put it in the trash. If you have iceberg or romaine lettuce you can make stir fried lettuce, but if you have the “nice” lettuce that my CSA gave to me, well, there’s nothing for it, this is going to wilt for a week.

Kale

I love kale, I’ll do lots of things with kale. One of the things I will do with kale is pesto it, especially if it gets to be the end of the week and it looks not so hot. Personally I think that blanching kale for just a few seconds (seriously, not even 30) softens it and improves the dish. If you get any other various herbs (I keep getting various herbs) they’d probably be good tossed in too. Kale pesto feels more like you’re eating a vegetable for dinner than regular pesto, which I like, because I feel like I’ve done a good job.

Peaches and apples

I make this galette once or twice a week in the season. I make twice the frangipane and enough dough for two galettes, and then all I have to do is slice the fruit. It’s great with apples, it’s great with peaches. It’s just good. The frangipane at the bottom keeps it from getting soggy, and adds a bit more flavor. I’m gonna be honest, I measured this wrong the last time I made it, the dough was way too wet, and you know what? It was still really good. Calling something “foolproof” always feels dopey to me, but my dough was like, QUITE wet, and it was still really good at the end. Sprinkling the crust with sugar and the butter wash really do make a difference, you can skip that and it will still be fine, but it’s much better with it.

Scallions

I make this a lot. It’s great. Really fast, really easy, doesn’t make your house too hot. Steamed tofu with scallions, ginger and cilantro. You can also do it with fish if you prefer. Use soft tofu, not firm or, god firbid, extra firm. If you are able to find fresh tofu, it will taste spectacular, but if you can’t (and I have to travel for fresh tofu so almost never get to eat it) it is also very good with the normal stuff.

I will also make a little sauce with scallions, soy sauce, a bit of shaoshing, a pinch of sugar, and white pepper to put on a fried egg to eat with rice for breakfast. Fry the scallions in the leftover egg oil, add the liquids and sugar, cook for a split second to melt the sugar. Pour over egg, put white pepper on top.

Fennel

This is definitely cheating. I hate fennel. But I also want to feel good about myself and like I “use” the fennel. I don’t use the fennel, not really. Here’s what I do:

Buy some salmon (and a few oranges and lemons and an avocado, oh and a red onion). Enough for however many of you there are eating.

Make a bed of herbs (get this… fennel fronds, you’ve done it, you have used the fennel. You could even mandonline the fennel and toss that down there) and thinly slice a lemon.

Skin the salmon (skinning raw salmon is really hard. I dislike it, you can NOT do this, but it won’t get so much of the flavor. It’s really up to you.)

Salt and pepper on the salmon. Make a little glaze with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the zest of an orange and a lemon. Slather that on the fish.

Put fish in oven for 50 minutes or so at 225.

While fish is baking:

Thinly slice a half a red onion. Put it in a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Let it sit.

Supreme a few oranges (3 is a good number if they are small and there are two of you.)

Make a salad dressing: some orange juice (squeeze it from the leftover goop from supremeing it), some olive oil, some salt and some pepper. Maybe some mustard, but I just really like mustard in dressing.

When fish is done:

Put onion and orange on plate. Add avocado. Sprinkle some salt on there. Add the fish, pour the dressing. Dinner is served.

Those are my ~seasonal~ recipes for you. Enjoy.

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