Tomato-Tomato-Tomato

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It occurs to me that I have yet to share much of my 2016 garden with you. If you follow @goodgriefcook on instagram then you have gotten some snippets. I love instagram. It is such a happy place with the best photography of people, places and food. Right now home-grown tomatoes are trending.

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home-grown tomatoes with red onion jam

Back to my garden. It has been the most bountiful, yet. Each year seems to be better and better. It helps to rotate crops and purchase plants and seeds from reputable places. The last two years I have been a huge fan of the Burpee company because every single seed and plant purchased from them seem to flourish in my little plot of heaven. More good news is that I haven’t needed to use any herbicides or pesticides on my plants. It seems hungry birds make a meal of most of the bugs. We encourage birds to hang around in our yard by providing  suet in the winter and a few nesting boxes scattered around the garden area.

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One thing I really do need to learn is how to properly plant a variety of plants and seeds that don’t ripen all at once. Feast or famine? Right now we are feasting on tomatoes including two varieties (salsa and yellow pear) that self seeded from last year. I love those surprise plants and all the others that inspired today’s recipes.

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Toasted Fennel Tomato Jam is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I featured it around this time last year as inspired by my son’s love for the caprese salad. If you really want to add some life to your favorite Italian mozzarella or burrata make the jam.  Happily, I used up a 4 pound mix of tomatoes in this batch and it is as good as ever.

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My latest original recipe is a Tomato Bread made with tomato juice and a mix of soy and bread flour. Back when I attended the National Festival of Breads I was gifted a bag of  soy flour, so I thought I might give it a try. The bread makes a great sandwich with a mild tomato taste and slight sweetness from molasses.

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photo by Caitlin Keys Pemberton

Finally, and at at the suggestion of my daughter, together we whipped up this tomato pie recipe from Epicurious.com. We used gruyere cheese instead of cheddar and filled it with  sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes and a smaller Brandywine variety. From the crisp buttery crust to the spicy cheese topping this tomato pie is a tasty one. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of gardening from my neck of the woods. You say tomato and I say delicious especially if it is home-grown.

Tomato Bread

1 (1/4 oz.) package Red Star Active Dry Yeast

1 ¾ cups tomato juice, warmed to about 115F.

1-tablespoon molasses

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried basil

1-tablespoon olive oil

1-cup Bob’s Red Mill soy flour

3 ½ to 4 cups King Arthur Flour bread flour

Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, sprinkle yeast over warm tomato juice; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in molasses, salt, basil, oil and soy flour. Slowly add bread flour until it comes together and pulls away from sides of the bowl. Switch to dough hook attachment. Knead dough on speed level 2 for 5 to 7 minutes. Shape the dough and place in prepared loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place, about 90 minutes, or until it rises ½-inch above the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 325F. Slash top of bread, if desired. Bake bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until instant read thermometer inserted in center registers 200-205F. Turn out on cooling rack and cool completely.

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By the way, I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies that I have mentioned here. As always I am just sharing my favorite quality products with you. It’s like a good neighbor who suggests her favorite restaurant or a tomato plant variety to try.

 

Remember Them & Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

spirited fresh tomato cakeI woke up this morning knowing what I needed to write about today. I came to realize that I have never been alone in this grief process because so many moms before me have gone through it. I recall an old high school chum named Jeff who died at age 17 of leukemia. Jeff was funny and smart and a strong competitive swimmer. He loved my friend, Donna. I remember visiting him in the hospital to say good-bye and feeling so sad for him and for her. I don’t remember his mom, but I can’t imagine what she was going through. I am glad I remember him. Jeff, you have not been forgotten.

I love you Betty

I love you Betty

And then there is Betty. Betty is the mother of 5 kids including one of my best friends, Carol. I’ve known Betty for 30 years. We have a lot in common. We both love to garden, we loved playing BUNCO together for a good 10 years and we both love Carol to the moon and back. We also both lost a son.

We will always remember Robert & William

We will always remember Robert & William

Betty is now 93 years old and on a recent visit back to my old hometown I stopped by to check in on her. Betty affirmed what I already knew: a mom never stops grieving the loss of a child. It has been 56 years since she lost her oldest child, Robert. We never really talked (or did we just mostly cry) about it until this visit. And then she showed me an old photo of Robert, so handsome displaying a fish he had just caught…and in the same frame….right next to her son…was mine. My heart melted. We decided our boys were good together probably catching fish off the banks of heaven.

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

Remember that old-fashioned tomato cake recipe made with that processed canned soup? Pitch that and make this especially if you have an abundance of vine ripened garden tomatoes either in your back yard or from the local market. With a hint of spice it’s the perfect cake for a snack or with a cup of coffee for breakfast. No one will ever know there are tomatoes in the mix let alone a bit of spirit.

what 10 ounces of tomatoes look like

what 10 ounces of tomatoes look like

I cannot bake without the use of a scale. It takes so much guesswork out of this scientific process and thus less room for mistakes. We all measure differently when it comes to measuring cups and spoons and I am not certain that there is even a standard among those vessels in the manufacturing process. Use a meaty tomato for this cake or cut out the seeds before processing. This year I grew Burpee’s “salsa” tomatoes, which have very few seeds.

you would never know there are tomatoes in the cake

you would never know there are tomatoes in the cake

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

10 ounces ripe plum tomatoes, cored (see photo)

¼ cup gold rum

½ cup chopped dried cherries

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

1 cup all purpose flour

¾ cup almond meal flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with no-stick baking spray or grease and flour. Process tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth (measure 1 cup of tomato puree). Toss cherries and rum together in a small bowl. In medium bowl, whisk flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt and spices together. In a large bowl, with electric mixer beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg; blend well. Slowly, beat in tomato puree; mixture will look curdled. Add flour mixture blending just until moistened (I usually fold the flour mixture in by hand). Stir in cherries and rum and almonds; blend well. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting on rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 

what light and fluffy butter and sugar looks like

what light and fluffy butter and sugar looks like