Entries in tomatoes (5)


Tomato Supports

Mr. Ramon asked me the other day what would be the one vegetable I would choose if I could only choose one for the rest of my life. I said tomato. Oh how I love a proper tomato out of the garden - warm from the sun. I have offered to show Mr. Ramon the delights of a tomato sandwich. Just soft white bread, real mayo and warm thick tomato slices with a little salt and pepper. I am just about drooling thinking of it. For right now I will have to buy my tomatoes at the farmers market. Ours are just starting to produce and I am eagerly awaiting their arrival.

Last year we did not have the best supports, using traditional tomato cages that ended up being to small for our plants. We had limbs that were not well supported - it was a sad disaster.

This year we decided to put in 6 tomato plants in one bed. We knew we needed strong supports and I was really eyeing the colored tomato cages at the local nursery. But my budget was pretty non existent. We thought about wire fencing, regular silver cages and PVC. We eventually found a system we thought met our needs .

I call this system "string support. It is inexpensive and has worked for us this year. Basically you create alternating string supports on each side of your tomato stalks as they grow - keeping them standing upward. 

You need:

  • 2 8ft -10ft thick bamboo poles per row of tomatoes
  • 1 roll of hemp or other thick natural twine 
  • scissors 
  • rubber mallet or hammer 

Begin by planting your tomato plants in rows the suggested space apart. We planted 3 in each row and 2 rows. We have a fence at one end so only needed 1 bamboo pole per row. 

At the end of the rows of tomatoes pound in one bamboo pole deep enough that it can take the tension of the string and the weight of the tomato plants as they grow. 

Next stretch out your twine a bit. We want to support the lower part of the plant to start. Tie to one of the bamboo poles close to the bottom of the plants - where it will support the first set of branches. Take the twine and pull it tight to the bamboo pole at the other end. Wrap it around the pole and pull it tight then tie it. 

You second row of twine should be just a few inches higher on the other side of the plant. When out plants were this high we added about 4 strings - 2 on each side alternating sides to create a tension support. 

About each week as plants grow - continue to run tight alternation strings to support the plants. You will have to move the growing branches up and through the web of twine here and there. 

We now have tomoato plants over 5 feet tall and they are all very well supported with this system.

I would love to hear if you try this method and how it works for you . 


Canning Tomato Sauce

We were really excited to grow tomatoes this summer. We bought 5 varieties, two of them were paste tomatoes. I wanted to can my own basic tomato sauce. This last year we stopped using canned tomato products after reading this article on the 7 Foods Experts Won't Eat. Mr. Ramon and I have already cut out canned foods like soups, beans etc. When I read this we switched to tetra pack tomatoes as jarred varieties are soooo expensive.

Our tomatoes had s slow start due to the long cold spring. This past month and a half have been super sunny and we have had some really good yields. That allowed me to can up my first tomato sauce.

It all starts with fresh ripe tomatoes. Here are some of the San Marzano I used for this sauce. Beautiful!

A quick wash and remove the stems. There are many ways to go about sauce and I am lucky to have a Vita Mix Blender that I can use to puree them, skin and all. Without this option you would want to quick blanch them in hot water and toss into an ice bath to slip the skins off. I also leave the seeds in as they will be pureed as well. You could remove the seeds if you want. 

Once I have them blended super smooth I put them in a large stock pot to cook down to my desired thickness. I left this sauce a little thin knowing I can always thicken it when I use in in my recipes. 

While it simmers away I sterilized my jars and got my water bath ready to process them once filled. 

I added some lemon juice to each jar, filled with the hot tomato sauce and processed for 35 minutes. Here are the gorgeous jars once done. I hope to get enough tomatoes to make up a couple more batches. 

Tomato Sauce

Wash, trim and remove stems from your tomatoes. 

If you have a high powered blender you can belnd your tomatoes with then skins and seed intact until smooth. 

If you want to remove the skins: drip each tomato into boiling water for 30-60 seconds until skins split. Immediately put tomatoes into ice water. Remove skins with your hands. 

If you want to remove the seeds, slice in half and scoop out with a spoon. 

If you are not pureeing in a blender, you will need to simmer tomatoes until soft then puree with a hand blender, blender or food processor until smooth. 

Place your pureed tomatoes into a saucepan or stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let simmer until you reach the desired consistency. 

Using sterilized jars, add 2 teaspoons per quart or 1 tablespoon per pint of lemon juice in the bottom of each jar. Fill with hot tomato sauce up to 1/2 ince from rim. Place hot lid and rings on and tighten. Water bath process for 35 minutes. 


Here I am!

I bet you thought I disappeared. Me too. Summer is coming to an end here in Seattle and there has been a mad scramble of weddings, BBQs and events. While I have loved seeing my friends and celebrating with everyone for so many reasons, I think that the end of summer has me down. I have a lot of things coming up as we transition into early fall - pickling, readying the garden for winter, last ditch yard efforts, basement cleaning and the such. I will be sure to share it all with you. 

The neighborhood my store sits in had a block party with yummy food trucks. Mr. Ramon brought these delicious items back to me for lunch. I can't remember the name of the food truck but the food was divine - some little pork taco type snacks and some type of warm sugar sprinkled donut. Mr. Ramon know just how to make me happy. 

We have been eating a lot of zucchini. I love it and am not even close to sick of it yet. One night I just sauteed one of our sweet onions from the garden in butter and olive oil then added the sliced yellow zebra zucchini and cremini mushrooms, some thyme, salt pepper until just soft. Sprinkled some parmesan on it and yum! Eating from the garden tastes so good. 

While we wait and hope that our larger tomato varieties both paste and slicing ripen before the weather turns. We have had many cherry tomatoes and they are sweet like candy. Perfect for a quick salad.

On Labor Day Mr. Ramon and I had the day off so we went to Whidbey Island again with the dogs. We took our friend Kalin and her two dogs and let them all run on the beach for a few hours. It was such a gorgeous day. It really made me wish summer would never leave. 


I hope you are enjoying the end of summer. What fun things are you doing to make these days last? 


Tomato Summer Squash Gratin

When planting our first garden together this summer I knew that squash would be easy to grow and provide us with some actual "eating from the garden" satisfaction. I also know that squash can overrun a garden and leave you with piles and piles to work through. 

We decided to plant several summer squash and a early winter squash. We put in Spineless Beauty Zucchini, Yellow Zebra Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck Squash - all organic starts from our local nursery. We have had a nice steady flow of squash this summer and have enjoyed them grilled, in bread and raw in salads. 

I was super excited to grow my own tomatoes but knew I needed to be ready for disappointment if summer just didn't bring enough heat. But the good news is - I can get beautiful local, organic tomatoes at our neighborhood co-op. 

I think the idea of a summer gratin sounds delish. Actually the idea of anything gratin sounds good to me. To "gratin" something means to top it with a browned crust of breadrumbs, grated cheese, and/or butter. In this case I want to take care how I prepare the veges as these two items can get soupy and mushy when cooked due to their high moisture content. But once you have a good technique in place you have a wonderful summer dish that is good fresh out of the over or room temperature. 

Summer Vegetable Gratin 

  • 1lb of summer squash sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1lb of zucchini sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 4 large tomatoes sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 onions sliced thin 
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs fresh or dried
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Toss sliced summer squash and zucchini with 1 tablespoon of salt and place in colander to drain. Drain for about 1 hour. Arrange squash and zucchini on a folded kitchen towel or several papertowels, cover with another towel or more papertowels and press to remove any additional liquid. 

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Oil a 13x9 baking dish. 

Arrange tomato slices on a kitchen towel or several paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt and let stand 30 minutes. 

Preheat a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and sautee your onions on medium low heat until they are soft and brown - about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

Place another towel or paper towels on top of tomatoes and press to remove liquid. 

In a small bowl combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture.

First layer the zucchini and summer squash in the bottom of the 13x9 baking dish. Spread the onions over the squash evenly. Next layer the tomoaotes over the onions overlapping as necessary. Drizzle the rest of the oil mixture over the tomatoes. Bake until tomatoes are brown on the edges and vegetables are soft. About 45 minutes.

In a bowl mix the bread crumbs, shallots, parmesan and salt/pepper to taste. Turn oven broiler on. Sprinkle bread crumb cheese mixture over vegetables and put under broiler until topping is brown and crispy. Remove from oven and let sit 10-15 minutes before serving. 

We enjoyed this with a yummy roast chicken on the patio with some good friends. It was a perfect summer meal!


What's for lunch - Butter Bean Salad

We had a little bit of a late start to this week after a long weekend. I spent the weekend down in Portland at a Nosework trial with my little girl Mischa. Mr. Ramon was single dad for the weekend with the other two pups and a visiting pup as well. 

Needed to pull something together quick that would pass the taste test of Mr. Ramon. Another mediterranian inspired salad is what I went for. What makes this one so good is the fresh oregano and a hint of cumin. I think it tastes better the next day. After all the flavors have melded together.

Butter Bean Salad

This makes 4 large servings

  • 1 13oz can butter beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 cup english cucumber chopped 
  • 4 roma tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix first 6 ingredients into a bowl. In a second small bowl whisk the olive oil, lime juice and seasonings. Pour over the salad and mix. 

I sent this to work with Mr. Ramon the next day. Added a little bit of feta on top and sent him with toasted pita chips on the side. Enjoy!