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Kitchen Garden Journal


It's one of the ironies of our farming life that at a certain point in the season we have to leave the farm behind and drive far away in order to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Of course we crammed as many veggies into a cooler as possible before heading off to Maine this weekend and the tomato tart pictured here is at the top of our priority list when we meet up with our friends on Isle au Haut.

Enjoy your week. We fully intend to...

P.S. Many many thanks to our fabulous crew for keeping the show going while we're gone!

Whole Peeled Tomatoes

Here's the recipe.

Eggplant with Thai Basil

3 Asian Eggplants (the long, skinny kind)

¼ cup canola or other frying oil

3 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine

Two to five Thai chilies, cut in fairly large pieces

2 Tbsp natural sugar (Palm sugar or turbinado)

¼ cup soy sauce, or a 4:1 mixture of fish sauce and dark soy sauce

1 bunch thai basil, leaves stripped and left whole

Cut the eggplants diagonally into 1 inch segments. In a wide skillet or wok, heat the oil and fry the eggplant slices, turning occasionally, over medium-high heat until golden brown on the outside and creamy-molten on the inside. Add more oil if the eggplant soaks it all up. 

When done, remove pan from heat and transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel lined plate. Discard all but 2 Tbsp of the oil. Return pan to heat and fry garlic until sticky and not quite brown. Add sugar, soy sauce and chilies and stir quickly to dissolve sugar. (You may want to add a few drops of water to prevent sugar from burning.) Add eggplants pieces back to the pan along with the basil leaves. Stir to coat and wilt the basil, about 30 seconds. Serve hot with jasmine rice.

Note: this technique works well with chichen, pork, tofu, etc. either alone or in combination with the eggplant. A variation I find particularly tasty is to brown ½ lb of ground pork in the pan first, then use the rendered fat to fry the eggplant. Continue the recipe as above, adding back the pork and eggplant together in the final step. 

I will always remember this recipe because I cooked it the day we brought our daughter, Lily home from the hospital. It was the first of many meals I ate one handed, that little 5 pound lump clutched in my left forearm. 

In the Sweaty Kitchen

Why is it that the moment for canning and preserving always falls on really really hot days? Everyone with childhood memories of canning remembers two things: the smell and the heat. For many, sadly, the trauma of the heat curtails nostalgic longing for the intoxicating aromas of jam and tomatoes.

Lately, the humidity has been awful and, of course, I seized my opportunity for canning on a particularly disgusting evening. I set out to repeat the most delicious product of last year’s repeated bouts of sweaty, tomato-vapored kitchen delirium: sugo.

Sugo means “sauce” in Italian. Jars of pre-made tomato sauce like Prego are called sugo pronto, ready sauce. My sugo isn’t really a heat-and-serve thing that you just dump on boiled spaghetti, but it does save a lot of time later when making richly flavored sauces.

Sugo is basically tomato puree that also includes onions, carrots, red peppers, celery and herbs.  It’s like tomato puree and vegetable stock all rolled into one. I usually add it to meat sauces for pasta, but it’s great for other things like vegetable soups, dried beans, beef stew, and Spanish rice. It has a distinct sweetness from the onions and peppers and aromatic depth from the carrots and celery. You can feel all the warmth of summer on those cold winter nights.

And, most importantly perhaps, it’s a great way to use up some of the piles of partially rotting but perfectly usable tomatoes, onions and peppers that inevitably accumulate around the farm this time of year.

The method is very similar to my recipe for tomato puree. Basically, what you do is coarsely chunk up all the tomatoes and toss them in a big pot and bring it to a boil. Then, toss in coarsely chopped pieces of all the other vegetables and stew them in the tomato liquid until they’re soft. I also threw in a big bundle of basil and celery leaves that I took out before pureeing . (I also removed the celery so it wouldn’t make the sauce a yucky color: never puree red and green together, it looks like puke. If you have very light colored celery hearts, go ahead and puree them, too.)

So, for Christmas I asked for a mechanized solution to making this and here’s the verdict: the Kitchen Aid food mill attachment is really messy. I have never made such a mess of my clothes while canning; it even shot hot tomato water in my eye. (WTF!) Will I go back to the hand crank method? Hard to say. It was quicker and less physically exhausting, but not by much.

Anyway, if you want to make this—and I encourage you to do so—you can follow the procedure for tomato puree. You’ll find all the little tips and tricks I’ve learned in that post from last year. 

So happy canning, and please, take a shower.


Greek Style Braised Okra

Wow. I had never cooked okra this way until recently, despite the fact that for years some of our most dedicated okra customers have been Greek, and this is the way they make it. Most people associate okra with food from the Southern US (fried okra, gumbo, etc.), but it is a very popular food in most of the world other than Northern Europe and the northern US. It is widely consumed in Africa (where it originated), South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and Japan.

¼ cup olive oil

2 large onions, finely sliced

1 pint tomato puree, plus a little water, if necessary

Scant pinch each of cumin, coriander and cinnamon (optional) 

1 generous pound of okra, stem removed but left whole

Salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a tall-shouldered wide skillet with a lid. (I used a straight-sided 14” skillet). It’s a lot of oil, but don’t skimp. You want it to be swimming in oil by the end.

Add the onions and saute gently over medium heat until very soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomato puree, spices and okra and mix well. The okra should be packed into the pan and the liquid should not quite cover the okra. Add a little extra water if necessary. Bring to a simmer, cover and stew over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve warm, with rice, or at room temperature with bread as part of a spread of meze. It’s also great cold, just fished out of the leftover container and eaten with the fingers.

Is it slimy? Yeah, but in the best way possible.


We have been picking artichokes for a couple of weeks now and they have been really popular with our chefs and market customers alike. 

We get lots of comments like, “did you grow these?” Yes, we grew them. Normally artichokes are planted as a perennial and they send up their flower buds the spring after planting. But they don't survive the winter here so we grow the Imperial Star variety, which produces flowers the first year so it can be grown as an annual. 

But it’s still surprising. We’ve had mixed results with them in the past, but this year we put them in a good spot and they are doing really well. What’s most surprising is how great they taste. Fresh, tender and sweet with no chokes. Simply trim, cook and enjoy.

Artichokes contain compounds the effect the taste of other foods. When you eat them, take a sip of water and it tastes like someone put sugar in it. Take a sip of your wine and it tastes terrible. So, when serving artichokes, choose your beverages wisely.

Here’s a simple way of preparing them:

Broiled Artichokes


Olive oil

Lemon juice

Salt & pepper

Trim the artichokes down to the heart. Start by peeling off all of the tough green petals. Then peel a few more. Less is more. Now trim the stem to 1 inch and peel the tough skin from it. Next, cut the top third of the artichoke off and slice it in half lengthwise. If the choke part is hairy, scrape it out with a spoon. Put the trimmed artichokes in a bath of acidulated water to retard the browning caused by oxidation.

Blanch the artichokes in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with olive oil and lemon juice. Spread them out on a baking sheet, drizzle with some more oil, coarse sea salt and pepper, and broil until slightly charred. 

The Squeeze

I need to be frank with you. This time of year it is simply insane to be a farmer. 

The tomatoes are heavy on the vine. The beans are begging to be picked. Orders are pouring in. The markets are incredibly busy and exhausting. Out in the field, the ragweed is as tall as a man. The crew is tired. The tractor is on strike.

There are 25 things on our weekly to-do list and 15 of them will still be there next week. 

No, I’m lying. We stopped even writing a to-do list because it’s too depressing.

But I can’t worry about that. I have to put the blinders on, start prepping land and planting all the fall crops. For me, it’s basically springtime all over again. Plant the spinach, plant the beets, plant the turnips. Never mind that it’s 100 degrees and they probably won’t even germinate.

I wake up in a panic at 3 a.m. with visions of our neighbors’ gorgeous, weed-free fields of corn and squash and wonder why I even bother.

But let’s be real here. This feeling only lasts about 6 weeks all year. And this is probably the least stressful summer I’ve had as a farmer. But this time of year on the farm is kind of like the opposite of sex and pizza. 

Even when it’s good, it’s still pretty bad.

Tags: musings