I grew up in Southern Minnesota in quintessential small town America complete with a band stand in Central Park and surrounded by rich farmland as far as the eye could see. I loved summer as a kid. If I described a typical day it might sound like it came from a page of a sappy novel, I'll save that for my memoirs. This time of year traditionally stirred up melancholy feelings as well. I know, that doesn't make sense. My birthday comes in mid-August, who doesn't love their birthday, and also on it's heels was the Steele County Fair. Our county fair was a highlight of the summer, and it ushered in the best of the season, blue ribbons and all. Along with the culmination of the warm and luscious days of summer there would be a tinge of sadness. A nip in the air during the nights on the Midway reminded me it would soon be Fall, the start of school and no more home grown tomatoes. One of my most favorite things to eat in the world is a piece of "good bread" toasted with a slather of mayo, a thick slab of a juicy tomato and a sprinkling of salt. My Mom taught me about this simple delicacy. Bliss.
All of these feeling came rushing at me this week and the temperatures at night have been dropping and I have been enjoying the farmer's market at it's peak. I can't get enough! Could I possibly get my fill of tomatoes before they're gone?
I met my Aunt and cousin at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market last Saturday and they couldn't believe how much I was buying. "What are you going to do with all of it"? Here is what came out of my shopping spree that day. I put some "food in jars" I didn't actually "can" it, but this will keep for a week or so (if it lasts that long)
Pictured right to left: Bacon Jam, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Basil Almond Pesto, Tomato Jam
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker Bacon Jam)
1 1/2 lbs. of smoked bacon (Trader Joe's Applewood Smoked Bacon is nitrate free and a great price) Cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces
2 medium onions diced
3 cloves of garlic peeled and minced
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's)
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (packed)
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. brewed coffee
Cook bacon until it is crisp tender (about 20 min.) Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to some paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the bacon fat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until translucent (about 6 min.) Add vinegar, sugar, maple syrup and coffee bring to a boil scrapping up and bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. Add bacon and stir to combine.
Cook uncovered for 3 1/2 to 4 hrs until thick and syrupy. ( you can use a slow cooker on high if you don't have time to check on it.) Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times. Put in an air tight container. Will keep up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.
Great on so many things. How about a fried egg sandwich, the "B" in BLT, with a smear of goat cheese, right off the spoon!! Possibilities are endless.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
You don't really need a recipe for this, but I'll give you one.
Tomatoes, Cherry or Romas
Cut in half. Place on a roasting pan. I have a dedicated pan to roasting, but if you don't just use a piece of parchment on a jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast at 225 degrees for about 3 hours.
Let cool. Put in a jar with a bit of extra olive oil.
Variations: add cloves of garlic or fresh thyme on pan.
Great added to pastas or on sandwiches. Put them in a cassarole dish for final minutes of roasting with some feta cheese and slivered basil and you have an outstanding appetizer. Sop up with crusty bread.
Basil Almond Pesto
1 c. almonds
2 c. basil leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic (you can probably put it in whole)
Juice of half a lemon
Zest from one lemon
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Pulse almonds in the food process first until well processed. Add the basil, garlic, lemon and zest. Pulse until pureed. Slowly add olive oil and add salt to taste. Put into a jar and cover with a film of olive oil. cover with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate. Can keep for up to two weeks.
(NY Times Food Section)
1 1/2 lbs. of ripe tomatoes
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 jalapeno (or other pepper) seeded and diced
Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has the consistency of a thick jam, about 1 hr and 15 min. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep one week in refrigerator. Great with eggs, chicken or fish...how about with some soft creamy cheese on top of a cracker.
Ending with one last spoonful. I hope you enjoy every bite of what this summer has to offer.