In which in spite of my poor track record of growing things, I have a dozen thriving tomato plants!
My record with green things what grow is suspect at best. I start off with the best intentions and then something happens; I forget to water the garden (yeah…those days with 100% humidity in Philly can be like walking around in a bowl of chowder and nothing but sipping water s getting done!), I don’t weed often enough (or the opposite…weeding errthing including my viable plants), or, at my last house, my gardener, in his zest for pruning, would pull everything and then tell me “I thought I smelled mint!”
Other than a few herbs and a plant the seemed to thrive from my Lil napping in it, I would dream about veggies and fruits growing and head to the market for what I wanted.
But our new home…come on!
Look at this space (and my ham of a teen)!
This city girl, having grown up with asphalt and in a tight row home with the tiniest of garden, is loving this idea of open spaces and a lush area to relax and just be. Over the winter we would make some plans about what we wanted the space to look like and then we would sorta plot, sorta plan, talk about how we wanted the space to be. Once the weather broke in Philly, my friends were all talking about their gardens, the Farmers Markets in the area seemed to always have inexpensive flowers and Lowes seemed to see me coming with the sales that were so sweet, it made me like this:
One thing that gave me pause was planting directly into the ground of our property. I really feel like I remember a conversation with the seller of our home about soil contamination so I had it my head that we had to do container gardening and raised beds. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing about either but instead of not doing anything (my usual) I asked my friend Erica about raised beds, planting directly into the soil and options. She helped ease my mind, encouraged me every time I would get frustrated and now, I am watching my garden grow.
Gardeners are a great group of people. My neighbors at the library were doing experiments and have gifted me with a dozen plants to add to my garden. One of my library moms was teaching her toddler a lesson on planting and selling and sold me a plant to add to my collection. Erica gifted me with some tomatoes from her father which are supposed to bloom by July 4th!
What’s a family to do with so many tomatoes? Because
I am corny, no, I like gimmicks, no because I can, the idea of a tomato bucket list came to be. Between my library system, the Free Library of Philly and all of the used book stores in between, I have access to an amazing collection of cookbooks. Cookbooks that have delicious and DOABLE recipes.
The Bee and The Librarian have been very amenable to home cooked meals and very supportive of using less salt (let’s pour some out for salt) and experimenting with spices. This summer we are going to create recipes using all of the tomatoes we have planted.
This seems like an easy one but we have discovered that we can GRILL a pizza. You read that right. GRILL a pizza!
My friend Stephanie used to always talk about grilling pizzas and one evening it was just too hot to turn on the oven and our favorite spot was closed so we ran to the market, grabbed some things and our grill skills have leveled up. We have been making personal pizzas so that The Bee wouldn’t get any dairy contamination on hers but as we do more and more homemade recipes, eventually we would like to make our own crust (at least once) and the pan that I got from AC Moore will be a nice way to make sire nothing slips through the grill.
2. Marinara/Tomato Sauce
When The Bee first earned that her South Philly friends call “sauce” “gravy” that was all she talked about for days. I was more interested in learning HOW to make a perfect sauce. I am no snob BUT the store bought sauces we usually buy seem to be full of sugar and salt (oh salt…!). My tastebuds seems to be changing and I want a little more savory instead of sweet. Katie Wells, The Wellness Mama, has a recipe in her cookbook that I would like to try. Hers call for cans of tomatoes but I feel like substituting fresh maters would be a pleasing substitute.
3. Tomato Soup
I’ve made this before using a recipe from Freddy Prince Jr’s cookbook Back in the Kitchen and it’s been a crowd pleaser! Again, we used cans of tomatoes (nothing wrong with that) but I would like to put the fresh veggies to work. I found a second book, Soup for Syria, which has some beautifully photographed soup. Now, I know I mentioned tat Philly gets hot but firing up the slow the cooker before my work day and knowing that some yumminess will be waiting for me is worth a bowl of savory goodness. Carla Hall’s Cooking with Love has a chowder recipe that she made for her nephew. If no one else in the house is willing, I m the soup lady!
Y’all…after yes of trying to encourage The Bee to eat veggies, she has started LOVING salads. Right now it’s just a green salad but she has been sneaking peeks into my bowl when I add additional ingredients. As I prep my food, she’ll take a look at what I am doing and ask just what can go into the bowl. Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food has a few salads that I want to try. The Cobb Salad, a Caprese Salad and a pico de gallo to go with some chips!
5. Grilled Cheese
Yes, yes, yes…I am watching my diet but a gal can indulge every so often! Making some substitutions to some of the ingredients means that I can totes treat myself.
A grilled cheese or creating something from the New York Sandwich book at home once in a while will be a luxurious way to entertain when the family comes over next. These books are fun to just flip through. The Grilled Cheese Kitchen offers more than grilled cheeses and The New York Sandwich books makes me want to visit The Big Apple.
6. Vegan meals
Every so often I think about following a vegan diet. Then I grab some bacon and continue my life but vegan keeps popping in my mind. A meatless Monday, being educated with my meatless choices. Isa Does It has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while and I open it, take a peek and then run away. With greens literally at my doorstep, there is no excuse to not TRY something! Isa has a Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne that combines pasta (yah!), broccoli (double yah) and sun dried tomatoes, which, let’s face it, is probs gonna be what happens to a few of my tomatoes because I know I will pick a few and then forget where I put them.
Don’t judge me.
7. One pot meals.
A few months ago The Librarian and I attended a cooking class at the Free Library of Philadelphia (go and get you some if you are in the area. It’s a educational date night!) We made a one pot meal called Shashuka and it was filling, rich, an amazing aroma and easy to reproduce at home.
I have not made this meal since but now that we have so many varieties of tomatoes, I have no excuse. The Bee was not a fan but she’ll come around (or no…more for me!).
I may add to this list as I add to the arsenal but this is a start. The prospect of a house filled with delicious aromas, sharing a good meal with family and friends and knowing that *I* grew a thing is making me ready to run into the kitchen and create!
Tell me…what’s your favorite tomato recipe? Let me know so I can add it to the list!
r’s note: Affiliate like are used in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. However, all thoughts and ideas are my own and these books are ah-maze-balls!