A Lunch That's Short On Time, Long on Flavor - Savor the ultimate Summer Treat, a Tomato Sandwich  

Posted by Dave in , , , ,

Its Saturday, a workday like any other, and yet the kids and I still have to eat even when we are busy. We also have to feed our souls. Here is the ultimate solution to the busy summer lunch - a tomato sandwich.

Now it is not even worth beginning without fresh tomatoes straight from the garden, so warm and full of sunlight that they are about to burst. Choose one that is almost too ripe, so soft that it start to split just from the pressure of picking it. Be careful it doesn't fall off the vine as you reach for it. At this point of the season, the variety of the tomato hardly matters - Brandywine, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, a Lemonboy or Cherokee Purple, even those unidentified generic 'tomato' plants you picked up down at the local WallyWorld and planted amongst the weeds off the back deck. What matters here is the ripeness and your awareness and appreciation of the imminent end of summer.

Pick your bread. It should be soft and absorbent to pick up all the juices that are welling out of that perfect tomato. A good choice is my Daily Bread, or even some of that store bought white stuff. This might be the only real use for that stuff. Don't try to get all fancy and use a crusty artisan bread here, don't even toast it. It has just got to be soft.

Butter just one slice, preferably with Homemade Butter, but again, since the tomato is the star, you might cheat a little and still get a good result, but only if you have to. This is to be the top of your sandwich. You may add a bit of mayo here too if you like, and sometimes I do, especially if I have recent made it and have a little left, but its not absolutely necessary.

Now lay your bottom slice of bread on a plate close to your cutting board and prepare to slice that beautiful fruit. Use the sharpest knife you have, with smooth serrations if necessary, and try to preserve that precious juice. Try not to smash your tomato as most of the flavor is in the juice not the flesh as some folks may seem to think. Let them think it and keep the juice for yourself, summer is too short to argue. If you lose precious juices onto your cutting board carefully pour them onto you bread before arranging you slices of tomato. Afix the top slice and enjoy. Savor. Mop up any excess juice with more bread, and wash the works down with cold milk, Fresh Farm Milk.


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Morning Thoughts  

Posted by Dave

Dawn is that magical time daylight meets, overlaps the truths of the night.. Before they are bleached out in the harsh light of day. When your night time thoughts, beliefs and ponderings are still alive and colorful. When disbelief can be suspended and truth is still personal and not imposed upon you. When prejudice and habit have yet to awaken.

I generally get up before the sun, and it is in that time that I reflect and collect myself and prepare for the day. It is in that time that I often feel the clearest in my direction and in my life, before the world's obligations begin to take precedence.

Two months ago, I would never have believed we would be leaving our mountain and starting a new journey. In all my travels, both literally and figuratively, I have always sought a home base. For a while, this mountain has been my center of operations, but I now believe it has simply been main camp, and it is time to strike out again.

To that end, I am repacking my Backpack Bistro, double checking my bugout pack, and heading out. I will be posting on our progress, and soon we will be back to our focus on wholesome food that can be prepared anywhere and will appeal to nearly everyone - well at least my family, and, I hope, yours.

Thank you for the emails, and please don't hesitate to hit the comments. Watch for the real opening of our store soon, along with information and sources to help you build your Backpack Bistro as well fortify your home base. Oh, and my book, "The Indigenous Gourmet Walks Through the Seasons" is close, but still holding out on me. When I get it just right I will post some excerpts and maybe some sort of a bonus for those of you who subscribed to me early and have stuck it out while I have been finding my way in this new (to me) electronic world.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a farm to find and a fresh, natural food supply to re establish.

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Last Night as I was Sleeping - by Antonio Machado  

Posted by Dave

Written in 1903 by Antonio Machado. Translated and recited Robert Bly.

Seriously, Nothing Flows Uphill (and we are at the bottom)  

Posted by Dave in

As often happens in life, we have suffered a series of setbacks here, and have been unable to post. Rampant development is rapidly destroying much of the rural countryside in western PA, and it seems we are the latest folks to be "developed out". Without going to great detail, in the last short while we have seen clear cut logging next door, a newly senile landlord with no respect for personal privacy and who hates children and folks who have no practical knowledge of, say gravity, building a series of water control ditches which will catch little or no water and send said imaginary water into places where water is undesirable. (In fact the only place where there really might be water, it is going to be directed into my foundation.) My garden, my pasture, my house and my home are for all intents and purposes destroyed. Since I have been on a long term lease, (operative term lease) we are probably going to be removing to another site for our homesteading lifestyle. Until then I will blog when I can, and in the meantime, at least we will get back to the backpack style of cooking. Remember, my original premise was that anyone can cook a good meal for themselves and their family anywhere they happen to find themselves. New posts with this in mind soon, I promise.

In the meantime, I have taken a town job with a great local chef who still cooks real food rather than reheating pre-made meals from a factory. Check him out here www.chefdato.com/ or stop by if you are in the area. You won't regret it, I promise.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to pack.

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Eat a Peach, But Wear Your Helmet  

Posted by Dave in

I woke up dreaming of peaches. Again. My part of Pennsylvania is really only blessed with peaches, good peaches, only but rarely. since time immemorial we have spent the spring watching for and protecting against the frost that nearly always comes after it has been just warm enough to bring out the peach blossoms. By this time of the year especially at my elevation, we pine for that elusive perfect peach. We are fortunate, however, to be just to the west of a great fruit growing area.

Chambersburg Peaches have always been the standard for us, the peach we admired and wanted to grow. About this time every year, the highways around here begin to have makeshift signs advertising the local produce - but not local peaches. The signs brag about having brought back Chambersburg Peaches. Although technically within the 100 miles many of the Local Eating Challenges, these were for much of my childhood, considered almost an imported food. More accessible than the fabled Georgia peach, they were also in better shape having been picked riper and shipped from a shorter distance.

The area around Chambersburg is of a warmer climate, influenced by the not so distant Chesapeake Bay and sheltered from the cold winter winds by the very mountains I call home. Many of the old orchards seem to have gone now, but still the fame and legend of Chambersburg Peaches mean late summer to me.

Every year my family would buy a bushel basket of peaches, especially Chambersburg Peaches, and my Mother would prepare and can them in quart mason jars. These would line the shelves in the basement along with quarts of tomatoes from the garden, and pints of beets, green and yellow beans, pickles both sweet and dill, relishes, piccalilli, chow chow, various jams and jellies, and a lot of other things that escape my memory now and yet sustained us through bleak winter and reminded us of the need to garden in the spring as they slowly disappeared.

Those jars represented a form of security to us, although I admit I didn't much think about it as a kid. In fact, I used to sneak the occasional jar to eat, though unless we were low on something mom never really cared as long as it wasn't wasted. As I got older, I even came to use them as a form of currency.

It was a time when gas was cheap and country boys would get together to race whatever jalopies the had cobbled together. Often we would help some town kid with a better budget than ours, and we would secretly be reverse engineering the fancy parts they had so that we could go faster. Physics was second nature to us, as we couldn't help but explore how and why things worked. Our homemade cars with their homemade parts were often the winners over the shinier models.

Still, machines break. Often an exuberant Friday evening would result in a Saturday morning engine change. In those day we could get a used engine from a junkyard, add all our "performance" parts, and stuff it into our cars. Now what does this have to do with peaches you are asking. Well hang in there.

Lifting a 500 pound engine requires either machinery or a hand full of good friends, a chain and a locust fence post. Even friends need motivation for that kind of work, especially early on a Saturday morning. To alleviate that, I would pass the word that I was making PEACH PIES for anyone who came to help. Early Saturday afternoons, my folks would come home to discover a gaggle of greasy farm boys each eating his very own peach pie made from peaches I had copped from Mom's stash in the basement. I also discovered that rolling pie crust is a great way to get grease from under your fingernails.

Nowadays, I refuse to use the "all vegetable shortening" I used then since I have figured out some of that science (hint don't eat anything hydrogenated, heck it just sounds scary). I now use an all butter pastry recipe, and although I am still experimenting with it, I give it here as it is at least decent. Give it a shot and let me know how it works or how you improved it. Hit the comments!

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On Finding a Peach Left For My Morning Delivery  

Posted by Dave in

As dawn pushes the mist
I behold a golden orb.
A perfect peach, a blushing beauty,
Swollen with pride.
A gift from an unseen friend,
to break the fast of an early traveler.
The milk of human kindness runs golden down my shirt.

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Blackberry Shortcake  

Posted by Dave in

This recipe really works for almost any soft, fresh or well drained canned fruit. It also can work with thawed and drained frozen fruit. Try it to use up those peaches going soft on the table or a can of pineapple for a treat in the deep winter too.

  • 1 Cup Self Rising Flour
  • 6 TBS Butter (about 3/4 stick if you are using store bought)
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold milk
  • Vanilla (optional)
  • 1 - 2 cups Blackberries (or other drained fruit)
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the butter and pour in to a 8 or 9 inch cake pan. Swirl the butter around the cake pan to cover the bottom, set aside, but keep warm.

Combine the flour, sugar and about half of the milk in a large mixing bowl, and stir until well combined. Then add the remaining milk and stir until smooth. Add the vanilla now if you want. It is not necessary, but does add a bit of a treat. Pour the batter into the center of the cake pan with the melted butter, but DO NOT stir or mix. The butter will be forced up and around the batter and some will even run over the top (yum).

Carefully place the berries on top of the batter, covering evenly, but DO NOT stir or mix.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden. (Do the toothpick test to see if it comes out clean).
The fruit will have been covered as the cake rose, and will have created a filling for this moist and buttery treat.

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Zucchini Bread – World’s Simplest  

Posted by Dave in ,

This recipe is so simple and it can be adapted and modified to your liking. Not only is it a great way to use up all the summer zukes (they epitomize the feast or famine cliché, don’t they?), it can be made with just a spoon and a couple of bowls and a box grater, so it is great for kids just learning to bake.

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Mix in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle baking soda over the mixture and mix in.

Add the flour, a cup at a time.

Divide the batter equally between 2 buttered 5 by 9 inch loaf pans and bake for about an hour or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes or so , then flip onto wire racks and allow to cool thoroughly before cutting.

Makes 2 loaves.

  • A bit of cinnamon or nutmeg can be added when you add the flour. Also try chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins or other dried fruit.
  • You could use a food processor to speed grating the Zuke, that way you can make a bunch of them and freeze for the long winter ahead.
  • Mix any leftover grated Zucchini with a little flour and eqq maybe a little Parmesan and fry in a skillet till golden for nice breakfast or side dish treat

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