The Best Heirloom Tomato Salad Ever!

It’s been a long, cold and generally miserable winter here in New Jersey.  But the worst is behind us and after a brief Spring, we’re heading full throttle into Summer.  And I can’t wait!

The Critters Buffet!

All I can think about right now is planting my vegetable garden.  I’m still a bit of a novice in the vegetable gardening department but I’m persistent if nothing else.  Trouble is we live right next door to a woods.  Very pretty and tranquil, but home to a variety of very hungry critters who enjoy popping over to my house for the all-you-can eat buffet that I diligently lay out for them every year. But this year I think I’ve finally figured out the fencing, so I’m hoping for a bumper crop.

On the menu this year?  Heirloom tomatoes and as many kinds as I can fit into the fairly small space I have crammed my garden into.

Do you want to grow your own tomatoes but not sure how?  Click here for some good information.  For staking tomato plants, I use these stacking tomato ladders.  Completely hassle-free.

That's not me. It's the advert, which is not a product placement, but a highly recommended suggestion.

Last year I found the most incredible tomato salad dressing.  It’s so good, that often my beloved and I would make a platter of tomatoes, douse them in the dressing and with a hunk of really good artisanal bread, we called this dinner.  This recipe today comes from one of my favorite recipe sources, the Food52 Blog, from the writers of the The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

So, without further ado I give you:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Capers and Golden Balsamic Vinegar

(Recipe Source:  Food52 Blog)

SERVES 4 TO 6

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

1 small clove garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon salt-cured capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons golden balsamic or sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (whole)

Freshly ground pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large plate or small platter. Put the garlic on a cutting board, pour the salt over the garlic and chop together until the garlic is cut into very small pieces and the salt begins to dissolve slightly. Put the capers in a small bowl and mash lightly with a fork. Add the garlic mixture and stir together. Add the vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Pour over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the thyme and pepper.

[Note: I’ve only ever used Sherry Vinegar for this recipe and I can tell you it doesn’t disappoint.  But this year I’m promising myself to try it with the Golden Balsamic……mmmmmmmm]

From this harvest.....


To Dinner!


The Quest for a Better Life

Jacob A. Riis (b. 1849 – d.1914) was a social reformer, journalist and photographer who documented life in the slums of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century.   His photos are incredible, and show with a gritty raw honesty, the abject filth and poverty that residents of the city’s tenements and streets dealt with everyday.  By today’s standards of Western living, it’s unimaginable, how people survived in such crowded and dirty conditions.  But survive they did.  Raising families, working in sweatshops, battling to put food on the table, with either determination or resignation.

Many of the area’s residents were immigrants who came through New York’s Ellis Island with dreams of a better life in America.  For the immigrants who found themselves trapped in slum-life and this cycle of grinding poverty, I wonder if they ever questioned their decision to emigrate?

On perusing Riis’s book, “How The Other Half Lives”, I was particularly moved by the photos of  the women and children.  What a terribly hard-knock life it must have been for these Can-Do Women and their families.  Here is a selection of some of Riis’s photos which I think speak for themselves.

 

Family at home in one room tenement, 1910

Old Mrs Benoir, and Indian woman, in her Hudson Street attic

 

 

Family making artificial flowers

In the home of an Italian rag-picker, Jersey Street

 

If you’d like to know more about  Jacob Riis and his work, click here for an excellent anthology including photo galleries by National Public Radio. And,  if you are ever in New York City, I highly recommend a visit to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, to get a feel for what life must have been like for the area’s residents at the time Riis took these photographs.

What are your immediate thoughts when you look at these photos?  Did any of your family come through New York’s Ellis Island?

 

Can-Do Equality

Today I’d like to spotlight an amazing little cookbook that I found on e-Bay several months ago.  It’s called “The Working Couple’s Cookbook”, by Peggy Treadwell, published in 1971.  Aside from having incredible 1970’s graphical illustrations by Craig Torlucci, the book is even more interesting, in that it was published right in the heart of the Second Wave of the American Women’s Movement which was primarily concerned with gender inequities in law and culture, and the sexist structure which was deeply entrenched in the society of that time.   At the heart of the feminist consciousness of this era,  was Betty Frieden’s 1963 tome, The Feminine Mystique, which questioned  women’s traditional roles as subservient housewives and plotted a new course for women as equal contributing members of a gender-neutral society.

Indeed this little cookbook seeks to provide practical ways for women to realize this goal of gender-equality in the home, and the back cover sets the tone:

The introduction of the book, seems to clearly suggest an acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships as a normal state, which is apparently a radical concept by today’s politics, but is entirely appropriate when you consider the the milestones of the Gay Liberation Movement during the the same era.  The struggle for gay and lesbian rights, women’s rights and civil rights as a whole were inextricably linked during the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  And so this little book does its bit for the cause by pointing out that:

“…the “his” and “hers” divisions of culinary duties are, of course, interchangeable and could easily be desginated his and his or hers and hers.”

I love the thought of "cooperative meal preparation"

And now for an actual recipe.  Be sure to read this right through.  It says a lot about the times; our need for convenience, but most importantly, equality.

Fantastic illustration don't you think ?

It sounds almost exotic.....

I love #4.

It still seems like the "Hers" instructions are more than the "His"

What kind of household did you grow up in ? Was there an equal division of household duties ? Is there now ?

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