In A Post-Produce Frame of Mind

Words cannot express just how much I HATE tomatoes right now. They smell funny. They leave a rash on my arms. Their …pollen-y leafy green junk gets everywhere. And they have slick little seeds. And I don’t want to eat them anymore. No. Not no mo!

Yes, okay, this is my annual plaint. Locked in winter, we all long for the freshness of tomatoes on our tongues. By March, I am planting tiny seeds thinking that there could be nothing finer than the rich flavor of a pear tomato, bursting sour-ripe on my tongue. And then the season turns, and I get my wish. And I get my wish. And I wish, wish, wish. And then I wish them gone.

The closer it gets to October, the more loosely does this land seem to be gripped in eternal summer, and the more foreign tomato production seems. I want to already have done with all of this fruiting and producing. I want to have put it all up and put it away, and for it to be all a misty, fond memory. I do not want rock-hard pears staring me in the face. I do not want overripened melons, disturbingly large zucchini, and out of control cucumbers inviting bizarre shape comparisons. And I want NO. MORE. TOMATOES. It’s not like all of my whinging is going to do me any good. I was told rather succinctly that if I could come up with something to take the place of the dreaded and derided fruits, I should speak right up and suggest it. But actually: you can’t grow bread. And really? That’s all I want.

Maybe next year we should grow wheat. Hmmmm.

A sad little PS to my story of the scary corn? Silly Sibling (this as opposed to Sullen Sibling and the Littles — does sound like a hair band, doesn’t it?) will now no longer take anything from the garden because she, too, found a worm in the corn. Our Earthmother has managed to produce two complete wusses. But the real irony is that I shucked the last corn, and it was flawless and perfect — no worms, no must, not even any undeveloped kernels. And I promptly chucked it into the freezer. Speaking of which, it’s time to price some of those things. Between the dried veggies and the abundance of salmon, we suddenly have four inches of freezer space. And if we keep making lovely loaves of cinnamon raisin bread… we’ll have none. I hate the idea of the American Obsession With Having Enough For the Apocalypse, but we do need a little more storage for the food we put up. This weekend, all the canning jars go into the garage, and do all the dried stuff, so we may as well shift the salmon into below-storage, too.

The aubergine onslaught has been slowing… finally… We’re to the point where we’re past the one MASSIVE fruit per plant, and have been getting quite a few medium sized bits. I hate eggplant, of course, but I found out my niece made and ate an entire pan of eggplant parmesan — made with Japanese eggplant, mind you, not Italian — and I decided I wanted to give it a shot. Eggplant parmesan sans eggs is very possible; frankly, the eggs never have added to the flavor, to my mind. The cheese issue has been solved nicely with a mozzarella substitute that everyone will eat, however, I haven’t found a parmesan substitute. So, as a recipe in progress, this is just

Aubergine d’Mozzarella:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • salt
  • 1-2 cups unflavored soymilk
  • 2-3 cups yellow cornmeal
  • Olive oil
  • 5 oz. mozzarella – real or imagined
  • 4 cups puttanesca sauce (you do realize puttanesca is a derivation of ‘puttana,’ which means ‘the way a whore would make it?’ my kind of Italian cooking!!)
  • 2 tsp. freshly crushed garlic – or more or less
  • sprig chopped rosemary, basil, to taste
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 400°

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1/4″ rounds. Salt both sides and set aside for 1-2 hours. This leaches away the bitterness. (Some people say this is unnecessary nowadays, as all eggplants are bioengineered to be less bitter. Try telling that to an organic, non-genetically-modified eggplant, okay?)

Rinse salted eggplant slices and set aside to dry on paper towels. They’ll have lost their firmness, and hopefully, their bitterness. Rinse them and wring them a bit, then lay them on a pan. Fill a shallow bowl with milk (or I’ve known people to use creamy salad dressing), and another with yellow cornmeal. Dip eggplant slices into milk and then cornmeal. (Do it again if you want your breading thicker.) Most recipes suggest you deepfry the breaded slices about 1-2 minutes on both sides and set aside on a nest of paper towels. You could do that, or you can bake them on a heavily oiled pan for ten minutes on each side.

Remove the crisped veg from the pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with sauce, and replace a layer of the breaded slices. Sprinkle lightly with chopped herbs, onion, garlic and olives, and cover with shredded cheese. Cover the mozzarella with sauce and repeat the layers ad infinitum, until you run out. At the last layer, anoint with the chopped herbs, sauce, mozzarella and place it in the oven for 30 minutes. *Note: Let it set for at least 5 minutes before serving. As with all aubergine dishes, the longer it sits, the more the flavors mingle. It’ll be even better the next day.

Be aware that with salting the eggplant, you will still have residual salt… so resist the urge to salt a bite before you’ve tasted it.

This re-orientation of one of my old recipes gave me a great urge to make this tonight, but as the mercury currently stands at 87° F… well, this is the weather when we set the slow-cooker outside, all I’m saying!

2 Replies to “In A Post-Produce Frame of Mind”

  1. It’s those edges of the season which bother you so, I think. It’s been chilly & it’s getting darker, so you’re done with the garden. Now, when it gets towards the holiday season, you’ll really wish we’d canned more – more chutneys, more mincemeats, all of those things which rely so heavily upon green tomatoes.

    That’s the truly great thing about getting ye olde super-massive humongoliscious deep-freeze: we can skip the bits you don’t like for a while – until it gets truly cold – and then the house can smell all yummy as we go ahead and do all of our canning. The freeze can take all the tomatoes we can throw at it, so that they can wait for US to be ready for THEM.

    We live in a condo. We drive hybrid vehicles. We can have a deep-freeze and not be gluttonous consumers. Truly.

    And the Apocalypse? We’d be better off canning. We’d be EVEN better off dehydrating THEN canning. None of this freezer gunk for crazy-paranoia, nope. Those’re the ones who’ll kick off first – with their SUV’s which can only go so far without a major fix of fuel. Yup….

  2. I’d love to dehydrate, then can, but the stupid #(%&&^!? tomatoes keep going all fuzzy and weird. I really need to double check the cleanliness of the dehydrator; I’ve never had that happen.

    And may I just add that there are far too many spiders in the garage, anyway? Is that telling us something about the winter, too?

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