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

Beets

Root vegetables are ideal for roasting. Beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic—all take on a range of flavors missing from a raw or boiled preparation. The hidden sugars rise to the surface and caramelize, and the oven’s enclosed, indirect heat intensifies flavors. High-temperature roasting seals the surface, leaving the interior soft and moist, while low heat deters mushiness. Either way, the result is delicious.

Most root vegetables can be roasted in the same way: Cut them into pieces, coat them with some oil so that they cook rapidly and don’t stick to the pan, and spread them evenly and turn them occasionally for consistent cooking. Even beets and garlic can be roasted in this way. But I like to wrap these vegetables whole in foil, let this bonus layer and their natural skins seal in their juices and flavor, and then remove the skins and cut them down to size at the end.
Learn to roast beets and make Roasted Beet and Cheese Salad

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

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Month wouldn’t be complete without talking bread. Here I share my favorite recipe. We call it Sourdough Cabin Bread because it makes my little Montana log cabin smell so good, but my young nephew has dubbed it “Auntie Julie’s Special Bread.” And it is special—whether you’re a new or experienced bread maker, you’ll likely be surprised by how easy it is to make these loaves. The techniques and tricks have two purposes: reduce effort and build flavor.

There’s a reason behind every technique given here. Using weights, instead of cups, improves accuracy. Mixing by hand, instead of with an electric mixer, prevents overmixing. Folding, rather than kneading, reduces your effort while enhancing the bread’s texture. A long fermentation allows the dough to feed, release gas, and develop flavor. The bowl in the oven captures steam and creates a crisp crust. The results are delicious, beautiful loaves that slice smoothly for sandwiches and other uses.
Learn to make Sourdough Cabin Bread and Gorgeous Grilled Cheese