cafe mama's kitchen

inconvenient eating

verdant, electric, flawed: green tomatoes

I am running, I am running, and as I jog around corners and sprint up hills, on streets, on sidewalks, I see the sunflowers and the grape vines and the tomatoes. The vines, the indeterminate heavy shoots and curly tendrils and uncanny-fragrant leaves, are so verdant and electric I wonder if the city has been laced with some miracle drug, a concoction that makes everything grow and grow and GROW! But if so, the drug is flawed, still in the testing phase, surely. Because everything is green.

green tomatoes

I brush past the tomato leaves on purpose -- not that I can help it, the vines spread from front yard cages to parking strip garden boxes, catching my legs with giggles of scent as I hurry by -- to drink in the heady balm, the promise of ripeness, shade of the night and the moon and the sun, tomatoes.

This year, this chilly summer with only an August streak of sunny weeks, all the tomatoes are green, still green on Woodward Street and behind the high school and through alleys and in my front yard. If I see red, it is a blush, a promise, a surprise. It is a hot summer evening; last year I would have been headed home to blanch, peel, chop, push tomatoes into their jars, pint by bloody pint.

green tomatoes

And so, we wait, hope and fear equal seedy lumps in our collective throats. We watch the squash and pumpkin vines wind enthusiastically, whiten with mildew, fruits caring little for the fate of their parent, still plumping, still coloring. We watch grape vines grown thicker than briars, darkening with whispers, fig-purple when we want them sweet-black. We watch the sunflowers choke one another in manic hilarity, gulping up sun and bowing, yellow petals dripping, drooping, courtesy with a guffaw held in. There will be kale and chard for months, miles; apples pinkly, spittled and scarred, fill the trees like birds in flutter; fig trees, long accustomed to ripening wetly, open a thousand hands in greeting. How.

We'll be busy this fall, but it won't be as we expected, we'll be cornmeal-battering and adopting the pickling habits of our Southern countrywomen, chow chow, tomato relish, sweet, savory, sour, saponaceous. You'll need an aioli. Here.

aioli recipe

one. Procure several cloves of garlic. More than seems ladylike. More than seems rational. Say, ten. Sluff off their skins. With a paring knife, slice off the little bits of root on the end.

two. Plunk them into a mortar, sprinkle with just your fingertips' full of good clunky sea salt, take your pestle, and mash, mash, mash.

three. When they are smooth and near-liquid, crack an egg. You could use two, but I pick a big one. It will have to be from nice chickens, your own, a friend's, a farmer you trust. Separate out the white and save it for something else; for this, you'll need the yolk. Slide it in, mash around.

four. Choose your oil. The classic is the best, deepest extra virgin olive oil you know; if it's strong, too strong, get sunflower oil, too. Half and half works. Bit by bit, drip oil into the mixture, grinding your pestle in your mortar all the while. A cup, a cup and a half, keep going until you like the texture. Taste frequently. Lick fingertips with glee.

five. Salt may be needed; a little herbs (thyme, tarragon, marjoram) might spark your fancy; it's ready. Fry something quickly; serve with aioli; be bountiful.

august 26 . 2010 . comments

blog comments powered by Disqus