Enjoy fresh tomatoes in variety of ways
Monday, September 09, 2013 3:37 AM
Sometimes we do things we really don't want to do or go places we really don't want to go, but afterward look back and wonder, then treasure what happened because of something we didn't intend doing.
I got a call asking me to cover a story about a B-25 Bomber flying into Rochester and a local World War II veteran, who would be getting a ride on the plane.
It didn't seem like I had time to go as I had plenty of other things to do that Friday morning. I was not so sure I wanted to go.
But I went. When I arrived at the airport I struggled with the directions I had been given and drove past the airport terminal three times and could not find the plane. Then I rethought the directions and realized the instruction to "drive past" the terminal might mean to "drive past" the road to the terminal and take the left at the end of the road. Sure enough, as I drove toward the promised parking lot, I could see the vintage plane on the tarmac.
I found the veteran and his family members. We chatted, I took photos and then we stood waiting for the plane to prepare for take off. There was a delay; the plane was not quite ready to fly at the time I had been promised. It was a bit worrisome that staff had to turn the propeller on one side to get the engine started. It didn't seem to be possible that it would ever get started. Again, I wondered at the sense in staying, with work to be done back at my job.
As I stood there, I marveled at the sunny, pleasant weather. Gazing off into the distance, I heard my name spoken. I thought I heard something like, "Is that you, Iris?"
I glanced to one side and recognized my cousin, Keith. I hadn't seen him for several years, how many I was not sure. I had missed his mother's funeral two years ago because we were on vacation when she died. But I remembered he had come to my parents' funerals. I had attended his dad's and written a column about driving to Northfield for the funeral.
We started talking and he introduced me to his son, Kurt. They were there to celebrate Kurt's 35th birthday. His wife, knowing his fascination for the World War II era, had purchased a ticket for him to fly the bomber.
As we talked, a pilot got into the plane and started a series of touch-and-go fights. I took photos of it during the process as we kept talking about our families and family memories. Finally, the plane returned and they were ready to take their seven passengers on a half-hour flight.
I moved forward to listen to the particulars about the plane and the museum from Arizona that owns the planes. Then they boarded and the plane took off.
It was time for me to leave, but Keith and I kept chatting. Then I looked up and said, oh the plane is coming back in! We had talked our way through the entire half-hour flight.
Afterward, I felt bemused by the coincidence and thrilled that it had happened.
Later, when I wrote the story, it had become more personal for me. I was grateful I had been given the opportunity, and not just because I had gotten to see my cousin and his son.
Sadly, as our parents have aged and passed on, our meetings with each other ceased. There is no one organizing reunions for us.
This has been a very busy summer for me. At times when there doesn't seem to be any extra time I find myself canning not one, but two batches of dill pickles in an evening. Sometimes I even write a column, but again, there's not much time to do that either. Although I am glad when I end up at our cabin, I haven't spent many weekends there because leaving means other things don't get done.
Tomatoes. I could hardly wait for the sweet cherry tomatoes to ripen. They took their time...but now they are here! Lots and lots of them and are they wonderful! I don't refrigerate them to preserve their natural sweet flavor.
And now the big heritage type tomatoes are ripening. Wedges of these odd-shaped giants with some fresh basil to flavor them is a real treat. While we were up north over the Labor Day weekend, I tried a fresh salsa recipe - another recipe given to me by a farmers market customer.
It called for finely chopped cabbage, which made it more unique. What bemused me was that two of my stepgrandchildren, who rarely eat vegetables or fruit, were obsessed with that salsa.
I've shared a recipe card at the farmers market that offers three ways to prepare tomatoes using basil to flavor them. What one needs to keep in mind about basil is that there are many flavors of basil. Recently I had the opportunity to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant and was amazed at how they used fresh herbs. My son ordered a soup that came with sprigs of Thai basil to flavor the soup. I ordered a "wrap," which was nothing like any wrap I've ever had, but was served with fresh cilantro.
The server explained when she witnessed my astonishment when the "wrap" was set before me how to put the shrimp and vegetable mixture, presented in a giant egg-based folded "wrap" into bib lettuce leaves. It was suggested I might also add a sprig of cilantro into each lettuce leaf, along with the filling.
The result with an interesting dip was amazing. It transformed how I think food should taste.
We grow the large-leafed sweet basil, typically used to create pesto, but we also grow lime basil, Thai basil, purple opal basil, lemon basil and blue spice basil. Some basils have a more compact growth and smaller leaves, but they still are tasty. And basil pairs well with tomatoes.
Try at least one of these ways of serving tomatoes with basil. Then try Julie Gergen's recipe for cabbage salsa that uses fresh cilantro. Enjoy as many fresh tomatoes as you can in as many ways as possible, before frost spoils our fun.
Recipe from Eyota Farmers Market customer-Julie Gergen
4-8 plum tomatoes, diced into small pieces (see note below)
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1/2 green or red cabbage, cut into small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 Jalapeno pepper, diced
2 limes juiced, discard rind
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients. Chill for a few hours.
Serve with chips. Good with fish or shrimp tacos.
* Other meaty tomatoes may be used in this recipe, but remove some of the seeds and juice as you cut them up.
Tomatoes with Basil-3 ways
Recipe No. 1: Easy Tomato Salad with Basil
Cut ripe tomatoes into wedges. Arrange on a serving dish.
Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over them.
Add 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon snipped chives, top with chopped sweet basil and purple ruffles basil.
Refrigerate a half hour, toss and serve.
Recipe No. 2: Tomatoes with Feta and Basil
Similar to No. 1, cut tomatoes into wedges and sprinkle with olive oil. Next, add the chopped basil, then sprinkle with crumbled feta. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe No. 3: Sliced Tomatoes with Basil
1 large, vine-ripened tomato (room temperature)
1 sweet onion
2 tablespoons freshly cut basil leaves, roughly chopped.
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt & coarsely ground black pepper
Cut tomato into one-quarter-inch slices and onion into 1/8 inch thick slices. Arrange on a plate with onion over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with wine vinegar and basil leaves. Season and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving. Feta cheese can also be added. Garnish with purple basil leaves.