The hundred-degree heatwave came and went, knocking the stuffing out of my heirloom tomato plants, crisping the leaves and leaving the tips of the vines to make one last, green gasp before the inevitable first frost. The night temperatures have been so high this summer that there were only a few weeks when the tomatoes were even setting fruit, so the yield was already lower than usual. Completing the depressing trifecta was Mr. Pogo O. Possum who enjoyed selecting the largest, nearly-ripe specimens only to toss them to the ground after a few bites like some crepuscular Caligula. That’s Pogo eluding the paparazzi below. Despite everything, I managed to get two quarts of roasted Brandywine and Hillbilly tomatoes into the freezer for the winter. The soup will be that much more special.
The heat also affected the eggplants, which surprised me a bit given their Indian ancestry. Perhaps a few centuries in Italy have rendered them a bit more persnickety when it comes to high temperatures. The fruit that had set became misshapen and stayed small, despite abundant water, so I cut them all off the plant, did some creative paring, and made a lovely pasta alla Norma with enough sauce left over to stash some in the freezer. The recipe is typical of Italian food in that it is deceptively simple, but exceptionally delicious when made with heirloom produce from the garden.
I follow Mark Bittman’s recipe at the Times, but I recognize it’s behind a paywall. Because it’s such a classic recipe, it should be easy enough to find a few renditions online and tweak them to your taste
The Romano beans are still producing in large enough numbers to toss them in a quick weeknight dish. This is tofu “fried” in the convection oven with a little sesame oil and corn starch, steamed beans, jasmine rice, and a lovely ginger sauce that evolved from, of all things, the marinade for a slider recipe from the Post a few years back. This recipe is a great place to start for a well-balanced, zippy sauce that you can try on all kinds of vegetables and fine tune to your taste in the future. It will be monumentally better than anything you can buy pre-bottled, too.
I’ll end with this enigmatic-looking photo. After more than two decades of faithful service, my salad spinner has moved on to the recycling bin. I wash all kinds of things in it, so it gets almost daily use when I’m home cooking. That’s a lot of spinning, to wear through the base of the bowl, and I’ve continued to use it since it began leaking a while back. I mentioned the incipient demise online before I left facebook and was inundated with offers of unused spinners from friends and relatives. I will admit to being surprised. One, what the heck are you all eating out there? And two, I am not taking a salad spinner from someone I care about. Y’all need the encouragement.
I picked up a “new” salad spinner at a neighbor’s moving sale for a dollar. It’s not German made like my old one, so I don’t know if it will make it another twenty-five years, but at least it didn’t end up in the landfill. Poor salad spinners. The Rodney Dangerfields of the kitchen. All those little gadgets, longing to be used. It could be the next Pixar film. Go have some salad!