Monday, August 23, 2010

Weather and roasted tomatoes

© 2010 Joshua Stark

The strange weather in Northern California has brought some strange gardening.  For example, I don't think we've seen one day over 105 this year, and although the National Weather Service says Sacramento has had eight days over 100, I only remember one hot weekend.

Our days have been in the 80's mostly, with a smattering of 90's.  This is not 'normal' - Sacramento usually sees 22 days over 100 degrees in a Summer.

This is my excuse for four-foot corn plants and tomatoes that get a pale orange color when ripe, and the ten or so green beans we harvested from a dozen plants put in the ground.

And this week will continue a strange weather year, starting with temps at around 100 for two days, and then dropping down into the mid 80's... what are we supposed to do with this?

This morning, my daughter Phoebe and I had decided to pull the green-but-not-producing bean plants, along with the old corn stalks, and start planting greens for Fall.  Hank's pak choy and other assorted greens are looking quite lovely, and I think we could get a couple of harvests of young pak choy in, as well as start maybe some garlic and cabbages.

But when we looked into the green beans, we saw flowers!  And, one tiny bean, which I picked for Phoebe.  So, the beans stay, getting a makeshift prop-up from some camphor tree limbs I cut last week.  Hopefully with this week's hot snap, we'll see more beans.

The tomatoes, though not the prettiest, have been producing just fine the past few weeks, and I've started looking for recipes for them beyond just eating them off the plant.

I'm no fan of tomatoes (gasp!), which my wife finds funny, because I'm no fan of eggs (gasp!) or zucchinis (gasp!), either, but I grow them at home in great quantities.  I'll eat them, and I love them all as valuable ingredients, don't get me wrong, but I don't much care for them in their purer states.  This fact, coupled with my plethora of tomatoes this year, is the reason for the searching online.

Because I'm no fan of tomatoes (ga... oh, never mind), what I found was new to me, but may not be so to you all.  I found oven roasted, oven dried, or slow roasted tomatoes, and what I've found I very much like. 

The recipe I used this time, though there were many good-looking ones, was adapted from Julie Biuso's, because it had the shortest cooking time at one hour, and with the expected high temperatures, I'd like to keep the oven off.  I say 'adapted', because I didn't use small tomatoes, I used big tomatoes (an heirloom variety about the size of a better boy) and canning tomatoes (an heirloom that bears a striking resemblance to romas, only longer).  I put some basil on some, cut some tomatoes thicker and others thinner, and then taste-tested.

One of my reasons for not fancying tomatoes is the acid - it's too much for me - so after each bite, I would swish some baking soda water around in my mouth, which seemed to do the trick.

My favorite is the thicker slice with some basil on it:

It could have used some more cooking time, for sure - next time I'll try 90 minutes, instead of one hour.  In the meantime, consider my version of an easy cooking method that yields a divine tomato:
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Black Pepper
Fresh basil
Olive oil

Lay out sliced tomatoes, sprinkle chopped fresh basil, salt, and black pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cook 'til done.  Look for curled, slightly blackened edges, and a thicker, not-quite-fruit-leathery texture.  Enjoy.

If you have any suggestions, ways to garden in the weird weather or ideas to make those oven-roasted tomatoes even snappier, please let me know.

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