Year of the Tomato

The Setup

The spring didn’t look good for tomatoes. In spite of the new greenhouse digs, the right germination temperature could not be reached. So much for starting beefy heirlooms. I was forced to buy, late, little Better Boys and Romas and didn’t expect much but now but the babies are overtopping 5-foot trellises. It is indeed the Year of the Tomato che’z yinn.

I’m long used to dodging honeybees, especially in the white clover but the insidious colony collapse disorder seems to have wiped them out everywhere. This may spell disaster for monoculture farming but the yard garden simply reverts back to natives large and tiny. Sweat bees, flies and ants cover the blooming dill, cilantro and wildflowers. A bumblebee arrives each day to tend to the tomato blossoms, sometimes accompanied by a hornet that slurps the remains of squished cabbage worms (my bad). Complementing the insectoid parts of the ecosystem there is Carmen (Warning! Giant photo of spider/Photo of giant spider!). About 3-4 years ago, a spider we hadn’t seen before spun a huge wheel in the garage near the side door. She was so imposing it was impossible not to name her; and her descendents, who appear each summer since, are known by the same: “There’s a Carmen in the corner of the canopy,” etc. The reading I’ve done on neoscona arabesca indicate a population boom of the critters in our region. My hypothesis to explain this phenomenon points to the decline of the previously-booming Asian ladybeetles. At any rate, the Carmens show zero interest in crawling into our beds and we gladly reciprocate the favor. The tomato forest shelters several.

eggplant garden side view beanstalk deck wildflowers08 rain barrel
I began shooting pictures with my camera phone two weeks ago but these aren’t it. Ironically, the tomato shots are stuck in there until I can learn how to get them out. Also the latest growth of the pole beans suggest that the “Jack & the Beanstalk” story is merely a slight exaggeration.

The Recipe

I first made baba ganoush because it was fun to say the name but it quickly became a late-summer favorite. It can be used as a dip a la hummus but we most often eat it on pasta. Where the tomatoes come in is that you need the acid from them to counter the richness of the roasted eggplant. Plus the colors are amazing.

BTW, you do not need to measure ingredients scientifically nor required to abandon the plan if you don’t have every secondary ingredient on hand. Use your judgment. It will probably be great anyway, just different.

Baba Ganoush

    A couple good-sized eggplant
    At least 3 cloves garlic*
    1/2 c. plain yogurt OR sour cream
    1/4 c. each: tahini OR peanut butter, dry sherry, lemon juice, parsley
    1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
    1/8 t. cayenne pepper, or to taste
    salt and pepper
    2-3 medium tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut eggplant lengthwise, season with salt and pepper; roast with cut sides upright on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven until tender, approximately 45 minutes but this depends on the size of your eggplant. It is done when a fork slides easily into the middles.

When done, allow the eggplant to cool just until you can handle it. Then, scoop the eggplant out of their skins into a blender or food processor, add all the other ingredients EXCEPT additional salt and tomatoes, and blend the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.

If you want to use the baba ganoush as a dip, chill it first, taste and then decide if you want to stir the tomatoes into it. Otherwise, throw it on top of some pasta–I recommend a whole-wheat spaghetti–and toss the diced tomatoes on top. It is fine to re-heat it if you like, but not necessary for the flavor.
*Usually I roast a head of garlic at the same time. I wrap it in foil and check it in 20-30 minutes. In fact, in an effort to minimize how much the oven runs in the summer I try to roast as much as possible at the same time: tomatoes for soup, corn and red bell pepper for succotash, an onion or two for whatever.