Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Did Your Garden Grow?

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Next year I’m trying the heirloom Black Cherry Tomatoes, although the gold SunSugar seems to be a new favorite.

I just read and loved The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato,” written by Jennifer Weiner for the NYTimes.  After blogging about the importance of special little things in our lives, I was suddenly sorry I hadn’t included cherry tomatoes.  But, to be honest, I liked the piece for its philosophizing about life more than I did for the gardening part.  I know about the pleasures of gardening, but I’m still trying to figure life out.

Another recent Times article which fits right into our blogging is this beautifully photographed “Weeknight Dinner Around the World,” a compilation of 18 families from far and wide at their dinner tables.  It reminds me of the importance of kitchen tables and another recent blog.  Food-wise, I think I’d most like to sit at the table with the Sokohs from Lagos, Nigeria.  I’ve got to try making that suya spice blend and a chicken suya to go with it.   And I’d like to be with the Terzi family from Istanbul too…kofte, lentil soup, pilaf – and that dessert – a rice pudding called sutlac and pumpkin with tahini and walnuts.  Sounds so delish.

We’ve experimented this past year with bringing more folks to our kitchen table with casual little dinner parties we call “Dining Ins.”  In case you’ve forgotten about them – or never knew – here’s our blog.  For our last Dining In we had a lively group of Andy’s cyclist friends and their spouses.  The theme was “Tri Tip, Tomatoes, and Trivia” and focused on fresh-from-the garden tomatoes, green beans and corn and fresh-from-the orchard nectarines.  The “trivia” part of the evening was a spirited match of Trivial Pursuit.

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No one got the correct answer to “WC (Wild Card) – Orange.  Can you?  Answer at the end of this blog

Our final Dining In of the year will be “Pool, Pinball, and Pot.”  You’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we have in mind.  But it does involve food! 🙂

Before turning to our Dining In menu and recipes, I should mention that today’s Andy’s Corner has nothing to do with food and gardening but is weirdly connected to the Trivial Pursuit answer.  A hint: it addresses a little problem with the name of a local cafe, The Basque Boulangerie.

Dining In – Tri Tip, Tomatoes, and Trivia:

Diane and Grandma’s Tomato Tart (see below)
Sara’s Grilled Tri Tip with Asian Chimichurri Sauce (see below)
NYTimes Green Beans with Ginger and Garlic (see below)
Tacolicious’ Corn Tomato Salsa Salad
Ann’s Brown Butter Nectarine Crumble (see below)


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Diane and Grandma’s Tomato Tart

Diane and Grandma's Tomato Tart

Crust (or substitute store-bought puff pastry)

  • 2 1/2 c  flour
  • 3 T semolina flour
  • 1 tsp
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 T chilled solid vegetable shortening (or just add 3 T more butter)


  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 8 oz Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
  • 12 to 14 ripe plum tomatoes, ends trimmed, very thinly sliced into rounds (I usually use tomatoes fresh from the Farmers’ Market  – but not the plum variety.  You’ll need fewer tomatoes if you do that)
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

For tart crust: In a food processor, combine flours and salt. Pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles moist crumbs; do not overwork dough. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 4 tablespoons ice water. Shape into a ball, adding ice water 1 tablespoon at a time (as many as 6 more may be needed) until dough is just past crumbly and holds together.

For two tarts, divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap, and press each with palm of your hand into disks. For one tart, wrap in plastic and shape into one large disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough into two 9-inch disks or one 10-by-16-inch rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and crimp edges 1/2-inch high. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick all over with fork. Place parchment paper or foil on top and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove paper or foil and weights from dough, and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool; do not turn off oven.

For topping: After slicing the tomatoes, spread them out on paper towels and let them stand for a bit to absorb some of their moisture.

Spread mustard thinly over bottom of cooled shell. Scatter evenly with cheese. Arrange tomatoes in even, slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, and season to taste with pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

Asian Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1/2 c cilantro
  • 1/2 c basil (either regular basil or Thai basil)
  • 1/2 c mint
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until the cilantro, basil, and mint are all finely chopped – but not pureed.  This will be prettier if served right away, but the flavor actually improves after keeping it a day or two (refrigerated).

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
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Green Beans with Ginger and Garlic

This comes from Julia Moskin and the New York Times.
  • 2 1/2 lbs green beans (French-style slim haricots verts work especially well), trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup minced fresh ginger (about 6 inches ginger root, peeled)
  • 4 medium-size garlic cloves, minced
Bring a large pot of swell-salted water to a boil, and fill a large bowl with ice water. Working in two batches, boil beans until just tender but still bright green. Start testing after 4 minutes or so, being careful not to overcook. When done, plunge beans into ice water to stop cooking, lift out immediately when cool and drain on towels. (Recipe can be made to this point up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated, wrapped in towels.)When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add half the beans, half the ginger and half the garlic, and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until beans are heated through and ginger and garlic are softened and aromatic. Sprinkle with salt, and remove to a serving dish. Repeat with remaining oil, beans, ginger and garlic. Serve.
Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
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Brown Butter Nectarine Crumble

Brown Butter Nectarine Crumble

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Crumble topping

  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 c whole oats
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 c ground almonds – or 2/3 c almond flour

Nectarine filling

  • 5 nectarines – or about 5 c, sliced (about 1/2″ slices)
  • 1/4 c sugar

Heat a small skillet (not cast iron because it’s too difficult to see the color of the butter) over medium heat; add the butter and bring it to a boil.  Boil the butter over medium heat until the foam begins to subside and the butter smells nutty.  Stir gently to see if there are golden brown flecks at the bottom.  The boiling butter requires constant attention because it will burn quickly.  Expect it to take 5 minutes or so.

When the butter is browned, remove the pan from the heat and pour the browned butter into a medium-sized bowl to cool.

When the browned butter has cooled a little, add the remaining crumble ingredients and mix well.

Butter an 8″x 8″ x 2″ baking pan or an 8″ round pan.

Place the nectarine/sugar mix in the pan and then spread the crumble evenly over the top.  Bake for about 40 minutes – or until you see the nectarine juices bubbling and the crumble has nicely browned.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

And the WC answer to that Trivial Pursuit question is – ta-da – THE BRASSIERE.


  1. I plant a yellow and a red cherry tomato in my herb planters each year and delight in how much pleasure and produce I get from these marvels. Here is it, Oct. 8, and they are still hanging on, hardly any leaves, but fruit still ripening. Amazing. And the kids love to go out and pick them.


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