My stockpile

I'm not a major food preserver. I don't spend full weekends preserving tomatoes or putting up the summer's harvest. But I do a little bit, when it's fun. We split a CSA share with friends this year- so manageable! I don't know how we ever made it through an entire full share before, and we eat a lot of veggies. Even with the split share, we had some extra produce laying around just waiting to be shoved in jars and preserved.

And that's what I did. We decided years ago that while unconventional, tomato jam is an absolute staple for us and thus a priority for canning. I slather it on breakfast sandwiches, lay it out with cheese boards and top our beet and brown rice burgers with it. It's so so good. Lifechanging. A little sweet, a little spicy. Get into it. Grab a bunch of cherry tomatoes, cut them in half and cook them up. One of our friends gave us a ton of grape tomatoes from his garden and they produced the absolute best batch of jam.

I also made a few jars of tomato sauce, splitting a 25 lb box of seconds from Denison Farm with Lesley and Joe, who are our CSA buddies. We spent a few hours chopping up and cooking tomatoes one night after work, and each came away with a few quarts. Splendid!

Of course, I made pickles. I'm not an enthusiast yet, but I sure do like sneaking them in sandwiches. I prefer a crispy pickle, obviously, so I stuck with fridge pickles that didn't have to withstand a 10 minute dip in the hot water bath to become shelf-stable. I gave lacto-fermentation a try too, but wasn't supremely successful. I generally stick with a recipe from Marisa's Food in Jars for Garlic Dill Pickles.

And then! More cucumbers! There are only so many Hendrick's cucumber martinis you can make, so I canned up a few jars of sweet relish. I doubted my judgment on this one, because I've never purchased a jar of relish before in my life. It's never crossed my mind. As it turns out, relish is great! Spread some on sandwiches, (veggie) sausage, crackers. Phew! I used a recipe from the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More. (Pictured above, a jar of pickled accouterments served with Al's martini a few weekends ago in Boston. I cringe at the thought, but consider this a reminder that you can put weird pickled things in your drinks.)

Finally, I canned up a jar of marinated roasted peppers for the fun of it. I have no idea how they will be when we open the jar. They look mushy in there, don't they? I'll report back. I used Marisa's recipe from her new book Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces.

By the by, both of those books are on sale on Amazon for an insane $9 in case you are interested in scoring a killer deal! (Here & here.) Next up, I'm making some peach jam variations using (gasp!) out-of-season peaches I scored for a killer deal at Trader Joe's. Judge away. I will be coating my face with peach puree to spite you.

Tomato jam, it will change your life
My tentative jump on the pickle bandwagon
Strawberry wrangling (I missed strawberry season this year)

Borrowing vegetables

You may have noticed by now, but we didn't sign up for a CSA this year. We just couldn't handle it. After two fantastic years with two fantastic local farms, it was tough to bow out of the farm share universe this summer. But times are busy and we longed for a bit more freedom in our culinary adventures. In the same way that a huge box of fresh veggies can set you free in the kitchen, it can also tie you down if you aren't in the right mindset. Do you know what I mean? We wanted to eat out occasionally and not feel the wrath of the produce from its crisper drawer prison. So we decided to skip it for this year, make more regular appearances at farmers markets and re-evaluate next summer.

But! Someone we knew let us steal their CSA share when they were on vacation. I'd forgotten how incredible it is to pick up a box of produce and see all of these fresh, local, organic crops peek out at you. Melons, peppers, chives, bok choy, lettuce, green beans, spinach, corn, tomatillos and tomatoes! It was a feast! We made veggie tikka masala with the peppers and green beans, roasted other green beans to eat with sliced tomatoes, made fresh salsa, stir fried the bok choy and are freezing the cantaloupe in hopes of making sherbet this week. Stolen veggies!

flowers all the time

I'm on this flower kick. I just have to have beautiful flowers near me whenever possible. I blame it on our engagement, actually. Since we were only engaged for three months before getting married, we wanted to celebrate it as much as possible in the short window that we gave ourselves. To that end, I implemented two celebratory guidelines:

1. Buy fresh flowers every week.
2. Drink champagne often.

Those were two of the best ways I knew to make those exciting months of planning our wedding even more special. Each week, Chris or I would pick up a bouquet of flowers for the apartment. I believe I developed a dependency on them.

See? Those are my beautiful wedding flowers. I loved them so much that I brought them with me in a vase on our little honeymoon trip through Vermont.

I had seen flower CSAs offered through local farms before, but I didn't take the plunge other years because we have been tied up with either vegetable or bakery CSAs for the past several seasons and I thought that maybe flowers would be pushing it.

Then a few weeks ago I stumbled across a tiny flower farm with a brand-new CSA called Flower Scout. You could sign up for as little as a month, so that's what I did. Each week in June, I pick up a new bunch of beautiful flowers. Sigh. This past weekend, a friend cut me some roses from her garden so I spruced up a withering bouquet with them to keep the love going.

I don't know when I became such a flower person, but it's been full steam ahead the past year or so. Our deck and yard are too shaded for most flowers to grow, but we've managed to keep a number of shade plants and some begonias alive, which at least is something.

Flowers everywhere! Flowers all the time!

Tomato town

Tomatoes are everywhere right now. You can find lots of ways to put them up for the winter: can 'em whole (I never do this), make sauce with them (I rarely do this, but remind me to tell you about the roasted tomato sauce/puree I made), freeze 'em whole (did you know you could do that?), make salsa, tomato jam, etc.

But... maybe you don't want to do any of that. Maybe you would rather read a good book outside in the crisp September air. Maybe you would rather hit up a local happy hour, grab Mexican food or go to a movie. Maybe you just don't want to stand over a stove all day processing tomatoes. Ain't no shame. I have the perfect solution for using up your tomato bounty.

Just eat them. Slice them up and eat them. When I was younger I couldn't imagine doing this. I didn't think I liked tomatoes enough. The fresh, local, in-season, juicy tomatoes from your garden, farmers market or CSA are so much better than the ones available in the grocery store during January. These are worthy of turning around your tomato shyness.

We like to borrow a recipe from Chris' family and add minced shallots, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper on top. If there is basil in the house, that goes on there too. For extra fancy occasions, a slice of mozzarella may accompany the tomato. Try it. Go buy a fresh, juicy tomato and see for yourself. (Note: Admittedly, there is a limit to how many of these you can eat. I know, because I've pushed past that limit only to find my mouth and stomach sore from all the acid. That subsides quickly though, but consider this a warning.)

Fresh from the farm: Weeks VIII, IX, X & XI

I know you have been just dying to see our veggies the past month or so. I can't believe I've fallen so far behind! How empty your afternoons at work must be when you can't check in and see a box full of vegetables here on a regular basis. For that, I apologize. I've been working hard, playing hard and busy hanging out by the ocean, running through mud and rocking out to boy bands from my childhood on the weekends. Oddly enough for a blogger, I've also been working at staying away from my computer and phone as much as I can handle it. I'm not always successful, but I'm trying not to be glued to technology.

Without further suspense, here are the veggies from the past five weeks. FIVE WEEKS of PRODUCE, people!

(7/18) Ooh, this sweet corn got grilled right in its husk and turned into a mayo-y, spicy, tangy Mexican Street Corn. We also grilled up the peppers with goat cheese and made kebobs out of the onion. Lettuce went on vegan BLTs and other such sandwiches and sometimes was torn into big salads.

(7/25) Veggiepalooza. Tomatoes! Funky carrots! So many cucumbers!

(8/1) We were out of town on our mini-vacay for this pickup, so Sister generously grabbed and stored our veggies for us in exchange for a melon and a few ears of corn. Fairest trade in the world. Cucumbers were pickled, squash was eaten in ten different ways, swiss chard was sautéed with eggs and peppers were chopped up for salads and sandwiches.

(8/8) I sliced up these little eggplants along with some leftover summer squash, breaded them and baked 'em as part of an easy dinner for my mom and sister. The watermelon served as a perfect summer dessert. Cucumbers continued to be turned into pickles. Tomatillos miraculously became salsa verde one night while I was out and Chris was home. Those carrots were transformed into a favorite carrot slaw recipe with raisins, walnuts and coconut.

(8/15) So many tomatoes! Lots of these went into a batch of delicious tomato jam. It didn't set as firmly as I'd like, but I still can't wait to tear into those jars. Tomato jam has become an unexpected new favorite of mine. I used the same Food in Jars recipe as last year, but this time it was even better because I've now met and learned from Marisa of Food in Jars! More about that soon :)