These tart and lemony tasting tomatoes, about twice as large as a cherry tomatoes, are an early favorite that tide me over until the red tomatoes (Rutger's) ripen in the garden. These tomatoes make a dandy fresh salsa and a savory,sweet-salty "confit" or "confiture" that is delicious on morning toast. And, they are great torn up fresh over olive-oil drizzled, cooked pasta. Pass the parmesan, please!
One of my favorite summer salads is tabbouleh. Nearly all the fresh ingredients needed to make this whole meal salad grow in one of the gardens here at the cottage - scallions, tomatoes, spearmint, parsley. If you don't have a garden, the local farmer's market or grocery store will supply you with the needed essentials.
You will need a cooked grain such as millet or bulgar wheat. The grain should not be soupy when cooked but dry and fluffy like rice. Follow the directions on the package of whatever grain you purchase to get the results you want. Bulgar wheat is more traditional for this dish, but I use what I have on hand, and when I'm out of bulgar, I use millet. Both work wonderfully.
Tabbouleh Salad Serves 4 to 6
2 cups cooked grain, chilled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup chopped scallions
1/3 cup chopped, fresh spearmint
3/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 cup canned or cooked, rinsed and drained garbanzo beans
2 large or 4 medium yellow (or red) tomatoes (or as many cherry or grape tomatoes as you want).
Add the lemon juice to the grain and stir it in. Pour in the olive oil. Add the salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir in the chopped onion, parsley, and mint. Add the garbanzo beans and chopped tomatoes. Chill for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Add more salt to taste, if needed.
This salad is hearty, cool, and refreshing on those hot summer days or nights when you want something substantial and filling that won't weigh you down but don't want to heat up the kitchen. Serve it for lunch or dinner. It also goes well as a side dish to barbecued kabobs or grilled vegetables or meats, especially those of a Middle Eastern origin.
I sometimes grow bulb fennel in my Kitchen Garden. The ferny fronds with their mild anise scent and flavor work well with fish, chicken, stuffings, and pasta dishes, and may be used with spearmint for a tummy-soothing herbal tea. The fennel bulbs may be used fresh, thinly sliced in salads with oranges, romain, onion, and a sweet vinagrette, or used to flavor a creamy sauce for cooked pasta.
For winter use I like to can leftover anise bulbs as an ingredient on pickled condiment plates when guests come for dinner. Pickled fennel makes an interesting addition to toasted or grilled sandwiches with a melted, mild swiss cheese or provolone.
My grandmother, would often serve a side dish abundant with a variety of pickled vegetables - her version of an antipasto platter, I think. There would be pickled green beans, bread and butter pickles, wee sweet gherkins, dill pickles, pickled peppers, cauliflower, and carrots. While she didn't grow or preserve fennel I like to carry on her "pickled platter" tradition and add in some pickled fennel bulbs.
When fennel bulbs get too large they become tougher and pickling makes them more palatable. Use the tender, smaller bulbs for fennel cream, fresh in salads, or sauteing in a variety of dishes. There are several types of fennel. There is a green fennel and one that has purple foliage, but neither grow bulbs. They are grown for their fronds and flavorful seeds. The seeds are used to spice Italian sausage, pizza and hearty pasta sauces. Then there is the bulb variety that grows an edible bulb between the ground surface and the fronds. The bulb is composed of the thickened layers at the frond bases in a leek-like manner. This type of fennel may be used for its bulb, its fronds, and its seeds. It is easy to grow and thrives in the sun in most soils, including the alkaline. clay soil here at the cottage.
Pickled Fennel Makes approximate one quart or two pints
3 to 4 large fennel bulbs, washed well and sliced (as with leeks dirt is easily trapped between the bulb's layers so watch for this as you slice the bulb)
4 approximately half-inch wide by inch long slices of orange zest (may also use lime or lemon zest for flavor variation)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp almond or vanilla extract
3 TBS pickling salt
3 cups white or cider vinegar
1/4 tsp whole black pepper (optional)
Make the brine by bringing the sugar, extract, and salt to a boil. Turn heat to low and add the citrus zest, pepper (if used), and sliced fennel. Keep the brine hot but do not re-boil. Ladle the fenn into sterile, hot quart or pint jars to the shoulder with a slotted spoon. Ladle on the brine, including the zest and a few pepper berries in each jar leaving 1/4-inch headroom from top of jar. Insert a clean butter knife around the inside edge of the jar all the way around to dislodge air bubbles.
If needed, add a bit more brine to maintain 1/4-inch headroom. Close the jar with a hot lid and band. Don't crank the band down too tight in order to allow air to escape and create the vacuum seal during the boiling water bath or steam processing. Place the sealed jar/s into a boiling water bath or steam canner for 15 minutes. Add one minute processing time for each thousand feet above sea level. When processing time is up carefully remove the jar/s from the canner and allow to cool on a clean towel on the counter. Test your lid/s to be sure the seal is complete before storing the canned fennel in a cool, dark cupboard or pantry until needed. Properly canned foods will keep for a year or longer.
If you are new to canning refer to the Ball Guide to Preserving or the Rodale "Stocking Up" series of books for instructions on safe canning of foods. You may also check out the USDA site on-line for safe canning instructions and techniques.
Wash and sterilize as many pint canning jars as you need to. Keep them hot in the canner until needed. Let the lids rest in hot, boiled water (not still boiling) until needed.
For each pint jar you will need about 2 cups of rinsed, de-stemmed, ripe black berries.
Make a medium syrup :
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
Boil the syrup and let it simmer, but keep it hot.
Into as many clean and sterile, hot pint jars, as needed, place the rinsed blackberries to just above the shoulder of each jar. Pour on the hot, medium syrup to 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Use a knife around the inside edge of the jar to dislodge any bubbles. Top off again with syrup, if needed, to within 1/4-inch of the top of the jar. Add a hot lid and a band and screw down, but not completely tight. Process in a waterbath or steam canner for 15 minutes (adding one minute for each 1,000 feet you live above sea level).
Canned black berries may be added to yogurt for your own tastier version of "fruit-at-the-bottom", used in pies or tarts, and in a variety of ways in recipes needing blackberries.
Juicy, ripe, blackberries stain my fingers. You shoud see my face!