Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our First Tomato

Most San Francisco gardeners lament the fact that it never quite gets hot enough to grow a perfect tomato. This could be one advantage that the hotter East Bay has over the city, but I still won't give up my spot in the Mission. Despite the naysayers, we decided to give tomatoes a shot this year. We planted one vine each of two varieties: Roma and Champion.

The roma has been slow to mature with lots of blossoms but very few actual tomatoes. There are a couple of tiny guys on the plant right now, but they are no where near maturity.

The Champion vine seems to be doing slightly better in this climate. It is chock full of fruit, but we probably will not see the half pound beauties that the descriptive tag promises. Instead, it appears that we are growing a whole bunch of cherry sized tomatoes...hmmm...well, maybe they are quite tasty anyway. I harvested the first sample today, but it wouldn't be fair to eat the whole thing (read: mouthfull) before Ben gets home. So, I will wait, and we will divy our tiny tomato amongst the two of us. Heck, I'm just happy that even one ripened!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Classic Dressings - Made At Home

Check out Sheryl's introduction to classic salad dressings and another writer's recipe for blue cheese dressing!

Thousand Island dressing
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick | June 30, 2010

Makes 2 cups

The origins of Thousand Island dressing are disputed. Some tales stem from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; others from Chicago’s Blackstone hotel. The most common version of the story credits Sophia LaLonde, a fisherman’s wife native to the Thousand Island region between New York and Canada. In the first decades of the 20th century, LaLonde reportedly served a mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise, and chopped pickles over a salad for shore lunch. The names Russian dressing and Thousand Island are often used interchangeably. They start with the same ingredients, although foodlore has it that Russian dressing once contained caviar and aspic (jellied consomme). While Thousand Island commonly partners with iceberg, Russian dressing is schmeared on rye as part of the famed Reuben sandwich. Put it on a double stacked burger, and it becomes a condiment not unlike Special Sauce.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1. In a bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, ketchup, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir in the onion, green pepper, capers, and relish.

2. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Ranch dressing

Makes 2 cups

A Santa Barbara couple started their own dude ranch in the 1950s, where visitors could take home a sample of the proprietary sauce. The combination of herbs and spices with mayonnaise and buttermilk became so popular that the consumer products giant Clorox purchased the rights to what is now known as Hidden Valley Ranch.

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of sweet paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper.

2. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

French dressing

Makes 1 cup

In the 1920s, many hotels had their own version of this dressing, often adding ketchup, sugar, and paprika to commonplace oil and vinegar. Kraft made the sauce mainstream in 1938 by offering two bottled versions as a part of its dressings line.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar or other white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. In a bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, honey, ketchup, paprika, salt, and pepper.

2. Slowly whisk in the oil a tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Skirt Steaks & Sloppy Joes

Go from a neat skirt steak to sloppy Joes
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick, Globe Correspondent | June 23, 2010

Summer activities heighten the appetite. If steak is on the menu, you can spend a fortune. Try skirt steak, an affordable cut popular in some Latin cuisines. It’s more fibrous than expensive alternatives, but a quick sear maximizes its tenderness. Cook the steaks in a heavy skillet — cast iron is best — in a well-ventilated kitchen or outside on a hot grill. Give the potatoes a head start in the oven to bake or on a moderately warm spot on the grill because they need more time than the steak. A simple salad rounds out this retro favorite.

Steak, homemade rub, and potatoes turn into sloppy Joes the next day. The sandwich was not named for its unruly appearance but rather for an untidy club in Key West, Fla. Established in 1937, Sloppy Joe’s Bar began the tradition. Customers ribbed former owner Jose Garcia when melted cocktail ice and fresh seafood created a slick and sloppy floor. The sandwich is served on a soft hamburger bun. Using leftover skirt steak, make a flavorful sauce beginning with onions, bell peppers, some of the spice rub, and commercial tomato sauce (choose one that contains tomatoes only, not a marinara). Cut leftover potatoes into wedges, toss them with oil and roast them in a hot oven until crisp on the outside and fluffy in the centers. Two hearty meals fit for hungry hikers or beachcombers.

Spice-rubbed skirt steak with baked potatoes

Serves 4, with leftovers


8 small russet potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Prick the potatoes in several places. Place them on the sheet and bake for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a knife.

3. Reserve 4 potatoes for oven fries.


1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 skirt steaks (6 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. In a small bowl, stir together paprika, sugar, cayenne and black pepper, and cumin. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture for sloppy Joes.

2. Transfer the spice rub to a rimmed baking sheet. Dip each side of the steak into the rub, coating thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt.

3. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Cook the steaks for 3 minutes on each side (if the steaks are thick, cook 1 minute longer on each side). Let the steaks rest for a few minutes.

4. Arrange a steak on each of 4 plates. Reserve 2 steaks for sloppy Joes.

5. Split open 4 potatoes and top with sour cream, chives, salt, and pepper.

Sloppy Joes with oven fries

Serves 4


4 russet potatoes, baked until tender and cut into 6 wedges each
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Set the oven at 500 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a bowl, combine potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Transfer the potatoes to the baking sheet, setting them cut sides down. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through baking, or until potatoes are crisp and golden.


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
1 tablespoon reserved spice rub
1 can (about 14 ounces) tomato sauce
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cooked skirt steaks (6 ounces each), finely chopped
4 hamburger buns, split horizontally

1. In a deep skillet over high heat, heat the oil. Cook onion, garlic, and bell pepper for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until tender.

2. Stir in the spice rub. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, or until the spices release their aromas.

3. Stir in the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the steak, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

5. Place the bottom half of a bun on each of 4 plates. Divide the sloppy Joe mixture among them. Top with the other half of each bun. Garnish with oven fries.