Fresh Green Tomatoes

As the growing season slows, the primary complaint I hear is “but my tomatoes are still hard and green!” The lament is loudest in northwest Montana, where our growing season is about 90 days. Tomatoes need 50–100 days to mature, so it’s easy to see why so many green fruits remain on our vines as the first frost approaches. My solution, as I explained last week, is to let most remaining tomatoes ripen indoors. But I always set some green tomatoes aside to eat fresh.

What comes to mind when you think of eating a green tomato? For many, it’s a plate of breaded and fried slices. Although Fried Green Tomatoes aren’t as Southern as you might think, they are delicious, easy to make, and suitable just about any time of day. Your mind may also turn to a Mexican salsa verde. The traditional recipes—and to my palate, the tastiest versions—are made with tomatillos, but green tomatoes are suitable stand-ins.
Learn to make Fried Green Tomatoes and Fresh Green Tomato Salsa

Refrigerator Pickles

I don’t advocate small-batch canning, but I am a fan of quick and easy pickling that fills your refrigerator one jar at a time. If your only experience with pickling is opening a store-bought jar, then refrigerator vinegar pickles will convert you to homemade. Even if you grew up in a household that put up shelves of pickled vegetables every summer, like I did, refrigerator pickles have surprising benefits.

The disadvantage of refrigerator pickles—that they aren’t sealed in heated jars and thus shelf stable—can be an advantage in freshness and crispness. Small-space gardeners or CSA members can put up a jar at a time as produce ripens. Even expansive gardeners can use fridge pickles to test new flavor combinations. Cucumbers are ideal refrigerator pickles, because they soften so quickly when heated. You should still only use pickling cucumbers; the thick-skinned slicing cucumbers you find in grocery stores and even lemon cucumbers are really only useful as fresh pickles. After years of pasteurizing summer squash, I’ve switched from the canner to the fridge to keep the pickles’ crunch.
Learn to make Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles and Cumin-Spiced Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles

Yogurt Dips

Homemade cheese and yogurt are delicious not just on their own but also when featured or even a footnote in other recipes. Bring a tray of homemade dips, cheese, and sourdough bread to a potluck or party (or house concert), and guests immediately compliment your tasty contribution. Then when someone asks what’s in the dip, say, “homemade yogurt”; eyes brighten, jaws drop, and people dig back into the bowl. At least, that’s my experience.

I’ve long been a fan of tzatziki, and it’s among my favorite ways to showcase homemade yogurt. A tangy fresh batch makes the dip pop—so much so that I cut back on the lemon juice. Although traditionally made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, draining a cow’s milk yogurt until it’s thick works beautifully. Just a tablespoon or two of the same thickened yogurt gives a surprising creaminess to other dips, especially ones featuring beans.
Learn to make Tzatziki and Asian White Bean Dip

Freezer and Storage Soups

One of my off-season joys is making an easy meal that tastes as though it took time and effort to create. Soup is among the easiest—and I’m not talking poured out of a can.

Sure, there can be a lot of time-consuming dicing and mincing for freshly made soup. By planning ahead, I eliminate nearly all of that effort at mealtime. I also ensure the produce carries all the flavor my garden can generate; with a little extra effort at harvest time, there’s no need to buy a mealy tomato or flavorless broccoli.

This week, I offer you two soup recipes that I can make on a moment’s notice because their ingredients are staples in my house in winter. They’re staples because during harvest, I dry-store potatoes, dry-store or freeze onions and garlic, dehydrate smoked chilies and herbs, and freeze cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and Vegetable Stock. Hopefully this list of links and the recipes that follow will inspire you to take similar steps as you grow or buy local food in the next few months.
Learn to make Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup and Italian Broccoli–Pasta Soup