Wonder Plants Won’t Quit
I know I’ve been going on about tomatoes a lot lately, but I am just fascinated with these grafted plants. With night temperatures plunging into the 30s and frost on the roof, I thought for sure the tomatoes would be goners. Well, the ungrafted plants have indeed collapsed and any tomatoes left on those vines are squashy and nasty. However, the grafted vines are still plump and sturdy, the foliage is still healthy looking, and wonder of wonders, the tomatoes remain firm and plump.
They even taste good! Today at lunch a friend and I enjoyed a salad with fresh basil and Indigo Rose and Black Sea Man tomatoes that was utterly delicious. She said “Wow, they taste like REAL tomatoes!” and indeed they do; sweet-tart, lively and richly flavorful. I’m really curious to see when they will finally give up the ghost.
Basil In Bloom
I brought two big pots of basil indoors a month ago and put them in a sunny window, where they are booming with new growth. I’ve cut these particular basil plants back for pesto four times now and they are still coming back strong. Right now, they are over two feet high, bushy and blooming, and the florets smell lovely, soft and sweet.
I also picked a handful of tiny wild strawberries and splashed them with a little balsamic dressing. I am always amazed at how they pack so much favor into such an itty bitty package. Even just a few add sparkle to a salad and taste dreamy with vanilla ice cream, and it’s such a treat to find them in chilly November.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I decided to try my hand at a few herb pestos. The sage-based pesto is marvelous and I plan to spread it under the skin of our turkey before roasting (this is fabulous with basil pesto). Here it is:
1/4 cup raw almonds
3 large cloves red skinned garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sage leaves, rinsed, dried, stemmed
1/2 cup grated asiago cheese
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
In a food processor, grind almonds to a medium paste. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and grind to a fine paste. Add sage 1/4 cup at a time, grinding each addition well. Blend in cheese, adding olive oil as needed to make paste smooth. Spoon into glass jars, top with olive oil and refrigerate, tightly sealed. Makes about 1 cup.
Roast Turkey With Sage Pesto
1 turkey (any size)
1 cup sage pesto
2 teaspoons virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rinse turkey and pat dry. With a sharp boning knife, slash skin at base of breast on both sides. With a turkey baster, blow air into skin and loosen it, then pat pesto under the skin to cover bird. Rub turkey skin lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff turkey with whatever you want (or stick in a quartered onion and an orange, sliced). Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook until juices run clear and internal temperature of the leg reaches 170 degrees (about 15 minutes per pound). Baste with pan juices two or three times each hour to glaze the skin. When done, tent with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before carving.
Here’s an even easier way that’s totally delicious:
Lemon Rosemary Turkey
1 14-16 pound turkey
1 organic lemon, rind grated, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups rosemary sprigs
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rub turkey with cut lemons. Mix salt with lemon rind, set aside. Loosely stuff turkey with rosemary an lemons and rub skin with salt mixture. Bake breast side up at 425 degrees F for 2 hours or until internal temperature of the leg reaches 170 degrees. When done, tent with foil and let stand for up to an hour before carving to make meat more evenly moist. Serves about 20.
I’m not wild about stuffing, but I love bread pudding and often make savory versions to serve with roasted birds. Here’s a particularly pleasing one:
Apple Herb Bread Pudding
4 cups day-old wholegrain bread, cubed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon thyme, stemmed and minced
1 teaspoon sage leaves, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup onion, chopped
2 ripe apples, cored and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Place bread in a baking dish. In a large pan, heat oil, garlic, paprika, thyme, sage and salt over medium high heat until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add onion, apple, and celery and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Combine eggs and milk, add to onion mixture and let stand 10 minutes. Pour over bread and mix well. Let stand 30 minutes (or overnight), then top with nuts and bake at 350 degrees F. until set (45-50 minutes). Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
I’m also having great luck with the grafted tomatoes! While we don’t get quite as cold as you do (so far we’ve gotten down to the high 40s in LA) I still have been concerned about the cold night time temps. I keep thinking it’s just too cold but my grafted plants have tons of flowers and are setting fruit so I’m letting them do their thing. It will be exciting to have homegrown tomatoes into the holidays. While they may not be quite as tasty as they would be in August, they’ll still be better than anything we could buy in the store. I am sold on grafted tomatoes and can’t wait to get next year’s started!
If you can bring your tomatoes plants indoors, I am sure you’ll be picking lovely tomatoes all winter. My outdoor plants finally got frosted, but the indoor ones are fine!