What To Do With Too Much Produce

Right now I have way too much of

  • tomatoes
  • bush beans (green and purple)
  • pole beans (green and purple)
  • basil, sweet (I haven’t even begun to guess what to do with the purple and the Thai)
  • oregano
I also had left over macaroni which had been tossed with peas, blush peppers, kalamata, shallots and black pepper.
So I boiled up some basic lentils until they were mostly done, and then tossed in large diced tomatoes, large diced beans, salt, zatar and black pepper.
Once done, toss with the left over pasta.
Why do I keep saying toss?
Anyway, this was brilliant tasty, and Friday vegan for the win.
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Everyone Should Have Fire Potions Handy

One downside with participating in a community garden and having a plot in that garden is that when produce comes in, produce comes in. Suddenly your house is full of bush beans, pole beans, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, bell peppers and hot peppers, and I mean full, all at the same time. I am a culinary spell caster who neither grew up in, nor received his training, nor has spent very much time at all for that matter, in what gardening people call “Zone 9a” but that is where I find myself at the moment. So rather than this avalanche of product happening in July or August, it has been happening for about the past month. I have literally sat at my laptop munching a cucumber I just pulled out of my garden while reading tweets from friends complaining about snow. This is deeply confusing if you aren’t actually a Southerner.

I am also not a seasoned (ha ha) green thumb. My Mom kept gardens when I was a kid, but as with most things I now enjoy, at the time I found it boring. So in some regards, I am winging it during this, my first season. Thankfully I am tag-teaming on my plot with another couple who have at least one year’s experience already in the bag.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, my habanero hot peppers are coming in long since full grown, but are not changing color from dark green to anything close to orange. Recently I gave up and harvested a big bunch of them (about 40) that seemed to be about as big as one could expect them to get, but which were still quite green.

I also have piles of tomatoes. Sadly, not piles of Roma tomatoes just yet, they seem to be taking their time coming in, but piles of grape, cherry, some Roma and some of the more generic round ones I don’t know the particulars on. So in an effort to get some stuff used up, I decided to make a batch of arrabbiata.

Let me just say in passing that gutting grape and cherry tomatoes is incredibly tedious. People think spell casting is all glamorous fireballs and healing effects and illusions. Nobody stops to think about the finger grinding, brain numbing work of preparing physical components. Chefs get the glory, wait staff get the tips, but the morning vegetable crew does all the real work. Believe.

So, here’s what went into the whirling typhoon of mystical combining stuff:

  • fresh oregano (from my garden)
  • fresh sweet basil (from my garden)
  • olive oil
  • 3 habanero peppers, including seeds (from the garden)
  • roughly 40 assorted tomatoes, cored and seeded (from the garden)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
I started with 3 peppers thinking this was conservative and I could add more to bump up the heat.
What I ended up doing was adding two cans of tomato paste in an effort to cool the results down, and we still had to eat dinner with handkerchiefs in hand when served over pasta without cheese (dairy buffers this kind of heat).
That being said, a dollop of it over roast beef, stuck under the broiler on slices of sourdough made for a truly sensational lunch.
Today I will be adding another 30 or so tomatoes to continue tempering the heat. I also plan to take all the peppers that have stems and string them to dry, since I now know that using them up is going to take FOREVER.
Meanwhile, if any orcs attack, I’m just going to spoon this stuff into clay jars and throw it.

Paella — but you can call me Goulash

When I was a kid, a family friend once entered the room with a bowl of some sort of food.  When I asked what it was he gave me a sinister look and declared “Goulash…”.  I’ve since looked up goulash, but whenever I see a mixture of stuff that is tomato-rich, I think of him.

I think this (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-paella-recipe.html) was one of the first vegan recipes I made from this book.  It is good enough to repeat and I think the presence of the cashews makes a nice crunch and adds a good flavor.  This was the amusing recipe I was thinking of that lists spices in the directions that aren’t in the ingredients list and the ingredients were very out of order.  I have fixed that below.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2t chili powder
  • 12 oz. (300g) brown rice (1 cup)
  • 3 cups (800ml) of vegetable stock
  • 6 fl.oz. (150ml) dry white wine (or substitute with 1 tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 can (454g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2t tarragon
  • 1t basil
  • 1t oregano
  • 1T tomato puree
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 8 oz. (200g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 oz. (50g) mange tout [1] topped and tailed
  • 4 oz. (100g) frozen peas
  • 2 oz. (50g) broken cashew nuts (about 1/2 cup)

In a large, heavy saucepan saute the onion in 4T olive oil.  Add chili powder and the rice and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, wine, tomatoes, tarragon, basil, oregano, tomato puree, . Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, mange tout and cook for another 30 minutes until the rice is cooked. Add peas, cashew nuts, salt and pepper. Heat through until peas are ready and serve.

[1] The other fun I had was “mange tout”.  Being silly I wondered “what’s a mangy toot?”  It’s unripened pea pods for the not French among us.