Heirloom Tomato Salad + Garden Lessons: Diversity

Summer reaches its peak when the markets begin to fill with tomatoes. Our garden tomatoes are still green, as each cultivar fills in with new blossoms and sets fruit. At the market were we go there’s a farm stand that each week displays an array of tomato cultivars with a rainbow of yellow, orange, purple, pink, green, red, tie-dye, and multiple shades of colors, shapes of cherry, grape, elongated, round, boat and even deformed, flavors high in acid and sweetness, and nuances I never knew existed. All different, all beautiful, all tomatoes. 

tomatobasilsalad

This year we planted five different tomato cultivars: cosmonaut, speckled roma, black cherry, cherokee purple, and pink Berkeley tie-dye, to create a microsystem of diversity and insure a harvest for different uses. The speckled roma to make sauce, the cherry tomatoes to sprinkle in salads or make a quick pasta pomodoro, the cherokee purple and cosmonaut to slice in big slabs and eat simply adorned with a sprinkle of salt. Next to them we planted a couple of miniature red and yellow pepper plants, a few purple, globe, genovese, and lemon basil plants to impart flavor {or so I read}, and marigolds to ward off pests. Purslane made its home sharing space underneath the tomatoes helping break the hardpan, clay Colorado soil, while growing deep roots and releasing nutrients from the sublayer. 

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Vegan Quinoa Salad, For A Family Gathering in the Berkshires

When a four-year-old girl tells you “Your mushrooms are stinky,” you worry about the welcome your dish will have at the family gathering.

Earlier this summer we visited with relatives in Massachusetts for the yearly family reunion in the green and lush Berkshires. The area is crowded with lakes, ponds, creeks, twisty roads walled by towering trees, and a lot of history I’m just discovering. A different kind of summer, a contrast to the dry, bug-free Colorado.Big Pond MA Continue reading Vegan Quinoa Salad, For A Family Gathering in the Berkshires

The Economics of Pesto

“What is that green sauce you put on the pasta?” my mother asked.
I was the first in my family to try the international, obscure sauce named Pesto.
“I saw it in a food magazine, it said it was Italian and that people who know about food really like it,” I told my mother.

My first pesto was a lesson on the important of ingredients.

The basil variety sold in Colombia is strong, hard to find and randomly used. The recipe, if I recall well, asked to substitute part of the basil with parsley, I decided to skip the basil, because really what was the need?

I used lime juice instead of lemon because in Colombia, and most Spanish speaking countries,  a “limon” is the green, citrus readily available to use in guacamole, and “lima” is either the capital of Peru or a citrus fruit no one uses.

Pine nuts? no idea what those were so I used almonds. And the parmesan cheese came in an envelope sold near the pasta, close to the corn oil. Done! I thought, this will be the best, most international sauce my mother has ever tasted.

The green pasta sat in the refrigerator until it was trash day.

I parted ways with the sauce after a taste of its bitter, rancid offerings, until my first year in culinary school Continue reading The Economics of Pesto

A New Gardener + Vegetable Slaw

I’m not a gardener. I have never planted a tulip. Not once. I have a 99 percent orchid killing success rate. The 1 percent gracing the living room window has been the only one to last two years. The only one to escape the macabre touch of my dark digits. I do OK with indoor plants. A couple of palms for clean air {or so I heard} and a few bamboos for good luck, and just because they are pretty. Last year, I tended to our first vegetable garden. We bought baby plants, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, chives, rosemary and purple beets. We followed the rule, “Don’t plant anything until after mother’s day.”
We finished the raised beds the weekend after mother’s day and planted all of our findings. Yes, raised beds. No weeding please. My lack of skill can only take plants we can actually eat.
It was all nice and dandy until one day. That one day. The day that started it all.
Continue reading A New Gardener + Vegetable Slaw