Tag Archives: salt

Tomato Blight? I Think Not.

blight |blīt|nouna plant disease, esp. one caused by fungi such as mildews, rusts, and smuts : the vines suffered blight and disease | [with adj. ] potato blight.informal anything that causes a plant disease or interferes with the healthy growth of a plant.[in sing. ] a thing that spoils or damages something : her remorse could be a blight on that happiness.

Several weeks ago I read online about this season’s tomato blight which was affecting most of the nation, limiting availability and driving up the price. This gave me fair concern, as I am a lover of all things that are tomatoes.

I’m not talking about the red things in the produce department of many groceries stores which try and pass for tomatoes. They are a disgrace. Usually sprayed within an inch of their lives to ward off insects and disease, they are then picked before they even start to think about ripening. (Yes, tomatoes do have thoughts. I am sure of it). Add insult to injury, they spend a considerable amount of time in trucks, planes and trains, many of the tomatoes coming from Canada this year.

Canada? Excuse me, but blight or no blight, the food industry honestly doesn’t have any U.S. sources for tomatoes? Oh please. Nothing against Canada, really. I just don’t want to eat their tomatoes.

This was only one of dozens of tomato stalls!

This was only one of dozens of tomato stalls!

Okay sorry, I got side tracked there for a second. Let’s go back to our tragic tomato’s travels. During their many miles of travel and usually long after, they get thrown into refrigerated storage which makes me all kinds of crazy. Ever see some decent looking tomatoes at the store and think, wow! A real tomato! Only to get it home, slice it up, and realize the delicate flesh has been desecrated to a mealy texture and consistency? Yep, thank the chill factor for that.

So imagine my glee when I arrived at at our local Farmer’s Market this past Saturday. Tomato Central people! Heirloom varietals, cherry, pear and tear drop tomatoes, green, yellow, orange, striped, even purple tomatoes! Organic in nature, never sprayed, never air chilled, all grown locally.

I will eat the small ones just like candy, popping one glorious jewel at a time into my mouth, no cutlery needed. The heirloom tomatoes need nothing more than a sharp knife, a sprinkling of sea salt, some herbs if you wish, a few drops of quality oil or vinegar, and you have a dish to remember long after the season of tomatoes has passed.

I want you... in my belly!

I want you all. In my belly!

I even came across a stall that were selling a hefty amount of ruby gems for $1.00 per pound. Yes, one dollar a pound. Why were they so cheap? Oh, because they were ripe. Seriously, I am not making this up. They weren’t a fancy hybrid, they didn’t have stripes, but they were perfectly red and smelled like a hot, summer day. I brought them home with me, and they will soon be transformed into a refreshing Cold Gazpacho Soup, perfect for a lunch or light supper during this blistering heat we continue to have.

If my recipe is a success (fingers crossed), I’ll post it tomorrow. I just hope you are lucky enough to have a source for some great tomatoes. If not, don’t waste your time or money. Those of you who are growing your own, rock on folks.

May the blight not be with you.

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Asalt Weapon

If you were to ask me what I could never do without in my kitchen, my first response would be my beloved chef knives. But after a few minutes to really ponder this hypothetical question, I change my answer. I cannot live without salt.

Kosher Salt to be exact. I think every cook should have a ramekin of the stuff on hand, along with a matching partner of coarse ground pepper. Keep it close. Use them often. Pepper mill aficionados… chill. I love a good pepper grinder, really I do. But when I’m cooking away, I want instant use of 2 basic and necessary ingredients at the ready. I also have a really small kitchen, and a pepper mill of quality and size is just a disaster waiting to happen, trust me on this one. And, as often as I cook, that little ramekin of pepper gets used and refilled more often than your musty old peppercorns anyway, I will bet.

Now, I will probably get slammed by some folks who are under strict guidance by their physicians to refrain from using salt and follow a ‘low-sodium’ diet, and you have my sympathies. Really you do. Because I cannot envision cooking without it. A little goes a long way, which is why I recommend kosher salt over the conventional blue canister, fine grain product. I actually find myself over-salting food when I use that dredge. Its flavor seems nearly metallic and bitter, where the kosher salt is cleaner, rounder and evenly ‘melts’ into the food as it cooks.

Which gets me to my second salt suggestion. COOK with it. Don’t use it as an afterthought. If you’re going to make burgers, then for the love of Pete, mix some in with the meat, not on top after you pull them off the grill. Cook with salt in stages. If you are making a pasta sauce, when sautéing the vegetables, garlic, onions or what have you, add some salt as you cook them. Hit the pan with some wine, add the tomatoes, and a bit more salt. Simmer for a while, and then tip number 3:

Taste. What. You. Are. Cooking. See if it needs anything. (Like more salt.)

I once cooked with someone in a restaurant who when asked if their sauce was ready for service they replied, “I think so.”

“Does it need anything?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t taste it.”

I think I actually stepped off the line and promptly walked into the walk-in where no one would hear my mind-splitting screams of frustration and rage. I mean come on people, and this goes for the home cooks out there as well. A tremendous amount of time and effort goes into preparing food. You shop for it. You decide what you are going to make with it. You prep and prepare said food. You serve it. And what happens?

“Please pass the salt.”

Oh, and for those of you who are reading this and don’t even taste the food that’s served to you before you create one of the worst mortal sins in the world of food and cover it in salt and/or pepper? Come to my house and I will slap you. Hard.

But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that salt can be your friend, not your enemy. If you buy real food, treat it with love and respect, season as you go, and taste the final product,  your reward will be a delicious, gorgeous meal, regardless of its simplicity. Hell, maybe because of it. And, if you aren’t constantly relying on pre-made/processed foods, but actually preparing and eating fresh, real food, chances are you will never have to be privy to the horrors and disgusts that is better known as ‘Mrs. Dash’.