The Art of Soup and Bread

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 3, 2014

This is my latest story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published just when another round of freezing weather hit us. Soup will save you, bread will keep you happy.

 

Minestrone and Focaccia

This is my Chickpea Minestrone and Sweet-Onion Whole-Wheat Focaccia from the story. The secret to this soup is adding the Parmesan rind to enrich the flavor. Of course, this soup tastes best the day after it’s made. With all those fresh vegetables, it’ll fill you up and satisfy. Plus it fills the kitchen with wonderful aromas. Make it vegetarian if you want. That’s just as delicious.

 

 

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This is one of my favorite breads from the story. It’s Buttermilk Bread, a recipe I adapted from Judith and Evan Jones’ Bread Book. Making bread and soup is a wonderful way to spend a chilly afternoon.

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Above is what it looks like sliced. Creamy and silky. Add a little whole wheat flour if you wish.

 

Read more here:

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Update

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on July 14, 2013

Finally getting to be summer. It’s so beautiful these days. All the flowers are starting to bloom.

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The garlic is ready to pick, we just have to let the soil dry out for another day. It’s been so awfully wet.

Garlic for harvest

 

I trimmed all yellowing and dead leaves from the lower half of the tomato plants. It was a little more than garden housekeeping, it was to keep them healthy. Green tomatoes are starting to get fat!

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I’m using some in a dish I am making tonight for friends, from my new book Tomatoes. Green Tomato and Pork Tenderloin Biscuit Pie. I’m practicing to make it because it’s one of the dishes including in my cooking classes and it will be served at my Tomato Dinner at Legume Restaurant.

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You make it in a big black skillet. Which is waiting for me to get started.

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I also made the first batch of Grandma Rubin’s Dill Pickles, ready for the Pickling class for Slow Food Pittsburgh that I do every year.

Here they are in the crock, all covered up and brining.

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Here’s my latest column, all about blueberries and other delicious things to cook and eat.

Blueberry Days

More Garden Stories!

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

Just trying to catch up with my blogging and posting!

Here are some other Miriam’s Garden columns published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It’s such a honor to write for the PG and my column is now in it’s 6th year! My garden is in it’s 17th year, which is even more amazing. And guess what, we don’t have the 17-year cicadias yet. That’s next year. This year we have my new book, and traveling around and promoting it has been wonderful. Nice to meet people and sign books, have them taste Heirloom Tomato Jam. I’ve gotten great response and rewarding reviews! Makes me love tomatoes even more.

Here is my book in the shop at the Tryon Palace, a historical site in beautiful New Bern, North Carolina, a little town on a big river. New Bern is also and the home of Pepsi Cola.

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I also toured the Tryon Palace Kitchen Gardens with Janet Loader, who graciously showed me around. Look at these artichokes! I can’t grow them in Pennsylvania.

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Learn more about all this in this story, about the beginning of my garden and some serious garden envy.

Please click on this link: First Glimpse of the Garden

My next story is about onions, the phases of the moon and some words of wisdom from an Old Yankee Farmer. It also contains yet another amazing illustration from my good friend Dan Marsula. He always makes me look good!

It also features a fabulous recipe that I got from the Mario, the chef at the Vegetable Restaurant in Eataly. When I’m in NYC I often go there for a wonderful meal. This was one of the best things ever: Farro with Asparagus and Pea Puree. Excepting, of course, a vine-ripened Tomato!

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To read the story and get the recipe, please click on this link: On the Dark Side of the Moon

A New Miriam’s Garden Story

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

Love that Lettuce!

Love that Lettuce

 

Adore those salads. And home-grown lettuce is something to celebrate. Here is my latest Miriam’s Garden column which runs in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This story is all about Salads and a little lettuce history with help from Southern Exposure Seeds and Lynn Coulter, author of Gardening with Heirloom Seeds.

It includes a recipe for this wonderful salad from Louisa Shafia’s great book “The New Persian Kitchen,”  which was published by Ten-Speed Press.

 

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This is Rhubarb, Radish and Strawberry Salad. It was sweet, tart and amazing. The rhubarb, radishes and lettuce came from my garden. Be sure to use full-flavored organic strawberries here. They’re all in season right now! A picture of our rhubarb is below.

Rhubarb

You’ll find Louisa’s recipe and more in the link below.

Studiously Savoring These Salad Days

 

 

Great Gardens!

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

It’s mid-June and things are really happening in my garden. Just about everything is planted and thriving.

This San Marzano Tomato looks really lush, especially because it took some frost damage last month. Now it’s got a flower!

Tall Tomato

This overhead shot shows how fabulous our salads have been, all that lettuce and dill. The beets are still babies though.

Beets overhead

Shrouded in mystery here are the new plantings of summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. Covering them will protect them from the squash bug and the two types of cucumber beetles: striped and spotted. They love to destroy our crops. Plant early, plant late and cover is our coping method.

Garden under wraps

 

The garlic has scapes! I need to cut them off so the bulbs can fatten. I also want to get in there and do some weeding. You have to be careful no to disturb the garlic however.

Great Garlic

And soon there will be peas. They have thin pods which will swell with sweet June peas, one of the best reasons for having a garden. Besides Tomatoes, of course.

Peas a plenty

 

And potatoes. Here is Ricky the cat guarding them, or looking for a cool, shady spot to nap. He always has a slightly worried look.

 

Ricky Guarding the Garden

 

 

 

Starting tomatoes from seed

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on April 14, 2013

A few days back, I started my tomatoes and basil. It’s early for me, others would consider it late. But often I don’t start them until May. I’m trying to get a jump on things this year. So I was outside, filling pots with soil and pressing in tiny seeds.

Planting tomatoes

Don’t forget the tags! You’ll never remember what these are.

Tagged

 

Planting Basil

I also tried something new. I put a special heat pad under the little pots of seeds and soil to get them to germinate more quickly and keep them warm. It worked out great. They popped up in days. Now I have tiny little basil and tomato seedlings.

Sweet Juliet Sprouts

See how they turn towards the sun. Every, several times, I’ll turn them so they grow straight and strong. And I’ll pull out many of the little babies, leaving only 2 plants to a pot. Only the strong survive, plus, I’m trying not to plant too much this year. It’s hard though to snip off the leaves or pull out the tiny plants. Just be brave.

Babies!

I used plastic pots this year, not peat pots. Peat pots tend to dry out more quickly than plastic and you have to leave space between the pots so air can circulate. Otherwise they mildew. The plastic pots save space. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to peat pots. The plastic ones can be reused until they fall apart but they need to be cleaned with hot water and bleach each year before using.

These will grow strong and stout. In about mid-to the end of May, they’ll go in the ground. The garden’s waiting. So am I.

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Cabbage in a Whole New Way

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 18, 2013

What’s new about cabbage? Not too much, or is there?

That’s what I thought as I shredded half a head to make coleslaw to accompany our St. Paddy’s Day dinner of boiled corned beef, carrots and potatoes. Usually for slaw I make an oil-and-vinegar dressing or use a recipe adapted from Lolis Eric Elie’s wonderful book, “Smokestack Lightning.” His recipe dresses the slaw with a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar.

This particular head of cabbage was very sweet and firm. New crop instead of the older heads that are “hot” when you take a bite. I started to think about how you go about making sauerkraut. First you rub the shredded cabbage with salt and then you bruise it. I decided to use that as a guide, to soften the cabbage a little and get more flavor into the shreds.

I took a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and rubbed the shredded cabbage — like massaging kale for a salad. Seasoning it before adding the dressing should work better and get it to start wilting earlier. I then added chopped sweet white onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a milder white wine vinegar and tasted it. A little sharp. I knew that letting the slaw stand would help to mellow the vinegar bite which my husband dislikes. But I didn’t want it to be bland.

Balance, I thought, adding just a couple teaspoons of sugar. But still, it needed something else.

What goes well with cabbage?  Caraway! I’d read in Melissa Clark’s column in the Times something about caraway imparting sweetness to vegetables.  I put about 1/2 teaspoon into a mortar and bruised it with the pestle (or is it the other way around?) I can never remember. Caraway doesn’t really break up; it’s awfully hard and dense, but I think beating it up brings out something, or it tones my arms.

I added the caraway to the bowl of slaw.

A new favorite was born.

Incidentally, the other half of the cabbage went into the corned beef liquid to simmer with the carrots, potatoes and onions. My husband’s request. We’re having the rest of this wonderful meal tonight.

 

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Is Spring Coming?

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 14, 2013

 

Aren’t the crocus cold? 

IMG_1856Yesterday we had all the weather possible, except spring and of course, summer. It snowed, it showered, it iced and it pebbled styrofoam-type stuff. The wind blew hard at times and for only a very few minutes the sun shone. When is it going to be spring?

Snowdrops

The birds believe it’s gonna happen and the buds, see the crocus and the snowdrops, above. The critters and the frogs believe it too.

Each year my husband and I have an unofficial contest: Who will be the first to hear the frogs croaking in our pond on their search for mates?

This year, he was the lucky one. I remember years back taking the portable phone outside to let him hear the joyous cacophony. Those frogs are noisy! He must have been visiting the museums of New York City.

And they’re not just noisy, they’re private. We can hear them clearly from the house, but if you try to walk over to the pond, even carefully, they hear or see you and the frogs scatter and  hide. So it’s neat that we got this shot.

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In some years, after they have mated and the pond is full of egg sacks it freezes over. Even then some seem to survive, to go back into the woods and then find their way to the pond once again.

In a few weeks or less they’ll be gone and we’ll be listening to a new sound.

The tiller. Turning up the soil in the garden.

Soon it will look like this. Early spring with peas and potatoes planted. So much to do!

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Crispy-Crumbed Baked Tomatoes with Pecans and Parmesan

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on February 26, 2013

I have to wait a few more weeks before I can start my  tomato plants, but tomatoes are always on my mind.

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Here is just a little tomato taste from my new book, Tomatoes: A Savor The South tm Cookbook. It’s coming out March 4, which a wise person reminded me is a very hopeful date. March forth.

Beauty crumb tom

Since the season hasn’t yet started, the best tomatoes for this recipe are Romas, the most reliable and flavorful supermarket tomato. Their flavor deepens as they bake and they can stand up to the heat of the oven.

Start by making fresh bread crumbs, mincing garlic and chopping scallions and pecans for the topping.

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The tomatoes are halved; lengthwise for Romas, crosswise if using a round tomato. Arrange in a baking pan just large enough to hold them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush them with melted butter.

brushing

Bake in a hot oven until they are heated and start to look juicy on top, about 20 minutes. Smaller tomatoes will take less time. After baking they’ll look like this.

After baking crumb tom Meanwhile finish the topping.

Crumbed tom, in skillet

Add the scallions and garlic to the melted butter remaining in the saucepan and saute until tender. Then add the fresh crumbs and cook  until browned and crisp. Because they’ll keep cooking in the hot pan, scrape them into a bowl. Stir in the pecans and grated fresh Parmesan and some salt. Spoon the mixture atop each tomato, not worrying if it looks like a little too much topping or falls into the pan.

Return to the oven and bake until the topping is crisp and the tomatoes are tender.

beauty, maybe crumb tom

I like these tomatoes hot or cold, and they can accompany anything, roast chicken, grilled salmon, or be the star of the plate. Leftovers the next day are just as good  and I often have them for lunch.

Crispy-Crumbed Baked Tomatoes with Pecans and Parmesan

Makes 8 side-dish servings

8 medium, firm-but-ripe tomatoes, such as Arkansas Traveler or Rutgers, or large Roma tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved crosswise

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (from about 3 slices crusty country-style bread)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Arrange the  tomatoes cut-side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper in a cup; sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Brush a little butter over the cut side of each tomato, leaving some in the skillet. Bake the tomatoes, uncovered, until they are hot, and begin to soften, and look juicy on top, 20–25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Add the scallions and garlic to the butter remaining in the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the scallions are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until lightly golden and crisp, 3–5 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Mix in the Parmesan, pecans, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Spoon some of the crumb mixture atop each tomato half. Bake until the crumbs are browned and heated, 10 to 12 more minutes. Serve the tomatoes hot.

From TOMATOES: a Savor the South™ cookbook by Miriam Rubin. Copyright © 2013 by Miriam Rubin.  Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press. www.uncpress.unc.edu

Deliciously Disgusting

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on February 26, 2013

I heard a great panel discussion on Disgusting Food at the recent Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in NYC.

Read the story here, published  in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Forks Blog: Creepy Snacks

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I did not eat them. My neighbor Wendy said she did.