Tomato

How to Tell if Those San Marzano Tomatoes Are the Real Deal

San Marzano tomatoes have quite the reputation. They’re said to be sweeter, pulpier, and less acidic than other canned plum tomatoes, which is why so many people seek them out for their sauces. Unfortunately, most “San Marzano” tomatoes you’ll find in American grocery stores are frauds.

According to Taste, an insane 95% of tomatoes labeled as “San Marzanos” are fake (yes, even that one). You see, the name doesn’t just describe the type of tomato seed used, but…

This Is the Weekend You Make Grilled Cocktails

Welcome back to Sunday Sustenance! Last week I got completely jittery testing coffee in a blender bottle for you all, so what better way to calm down than the universal solution: ALCOHOL. It’s cocktail week, folks!

Other than Mungo Jerry or Will Smith, what says “Summer Time” more than grilling and cold drinks? We all know that your grill is a source for extracting delicious flavor through searing and heating—but it’s for more than just steaks and chops, and this week’s beverages are here to offer the proof in more ways than one. Head back to the grill with an armful of fruit and vegetables for Grilled Bloody Marys and Pineapple Mai Tais.

For the Grilled Bloody Mary

  • 6 large tomatoes, about 4 pounds. Get the biggest ripe-but-not-squishy tomatoes you can without wasting your money on heirlooms.
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 1 cup of vodka. Black pepper infused is good!
  • 1/4 cup olive juice
  • 1/4 cup horseradish. Fresh is always best, but prepared is just fine.
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Vegans or allergics can opt for Annie’s, bearing in mind that Annie’s does contain wheat and soy ingredients. You could also make your own.
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp Old Bay

Preheat your grill to medium-high, about 425 degrees. Clean and oil the dickens out of your grill. Oiling your tomatoes and lemons will add far too much oil to the mix, and we are not making sauce today—we are getting sauced.

Place the tomatoes and lemons cut side down over direct heat until just charred, flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature in a colander set over a bowl to preserve any liquid that may release in the cooling process. Once…

Eating Trash With Claire: Tomato Skin Salt and Peach Skin Sugar

Photos by Claire Lower

I’m a big fan of repurposing seemingly useless scraps into something surprisingly delicious, which is why I was extremely pleased to stumble upon these recipes for tomato skin salt and peach skin sugar on Food52.

Both tomato skins and peach peels initially seem like a dead-end scrap. They’re flimsy, seemingly lacking in flavor, and kind of weird, texturally speaking. Drying them out and concentrating their flavor for use in a tasty powder seemed like almost too good of a solution, and I knew both of these recipes were something I needed to taste to believe.

This idea is the brain child of Gabrielle Hamilton, and can be found among many other treasures in her cookbook Prune. Tomato skins are one of those scraps I’d never given a second thought to, and I never felt particularly bad about it. They’re such a small part of the tomato,and tossing them didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I now regret every bit of tomato skin I have ever cast aside, so good is this salt.

The process of turning the red skins into a pretty pink salt is an easy one, but first you have to peel them off the tomato, which is also not that hard if you know how to do it. Just take a pairing knife and make a small “x” on the bottom of the fruit, and dunk it in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Once you see the peel start to pull away slightly from the rest…

10 Easy-to-Grow Plants for First-Time Gardeners

Gardening is more than a hobby. The act of cultivating veggies for your dinner table and flowers for your lawn has numerous health benefits. Research has indicated that regular gardeners are less likely to suffer from heart attacks or come down with Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, spending time with your backyard crops is an excellent way to relieve stress. Now that spring has sprung, why not get your hands dirty? If you’re new to the game, here are 10 tough plants that you won’t need a green thumb to take care of.

1. PANSIES

These hardy flowers are tough to kill—in most areas of the United States, pansies are resilient enough to survive winter temperatures. More than 300 varieties of pansies exist, including several that have been specifically bred for really hot or really cold environments.

The ideal time to plant pansies is when the soil temperature is around 50 to 60 degrees (August for the northern parts of the country to October in the southern), but you can also set yours out in the early spring. Fully-grown plants can be purchased at most gardening stores and deposited directly into the ground. If you plan on growing some from seeds, deposit each one in moist soil spaced 7 to 12 inches apart. In colder states, pansies do best in direct sunlight, but if you live in a warm state like Georgia or Texas, give the flowers some shade and strategically plant them so that they can spend three to four hours in the shadows per day and see that they get an inch of water each week.

2. TOMATOES

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According to the National Gardening Association, nearly nine out of 10 American household vegetable gardens have at least one tomato plant. Germinating tomato plants need a constant soil temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and seeds should be planted six to eight weeks before your area’s projected last frost date. Given these requirements, you’ll most likely have to start indoors (or buy tomato plants from your local garden center).

First, you’ll need one container for every two seeds. (While it’s possible to raise all of the seeds in the same pot, this makes the young plants harder to remove when the time comes to transplant them.) Plastic or Styrofoam cups work well; make a couple small holes in the bottom of each one for drainage and fill it with a good potting mix. Then, place the seeds about a quarter of an inch beneath the surface. Mist the dirt with water (make it moist, but not soggy) and maintain a constant 70 to 80-degree room temperature, and within 10 days, the little plants will sprout. They’ll need plenty of sunlight; if possible, put the plants by a south-facing window or, in windowless homes, use artificial grow lights.

As soon as the plants sprout four leaves apiece, move them into bigger containers; pots with a height of 4 to 6 inches will be perfect. Meanwhile, find a nice, sunny section of your garden outside. One week before the last frost date, till the soil until it’s nice and loose. Then, dig a trench about 6 or 8 inches deep. After the last frost date finally arrives and the dirt has warmed, throw in 3 inches of compost. Cover that with some extra soil and then transplant your seedlings there.

Like pansies, tomatoes come in many varieties which offer fruits of every shape and size. Depending on what kind you’re growing, you’ll want to arrange the young plants anywhere from 12 to 48 inches apart. Consult the seed package or a neighborhood gardening store for an exact number. By the way, novice gardeners may want to choose varieties that yield smaller fruits (like cherry tomatoes). If left to their own devices, medium or large fruits may rot prematurely. Preventing this will require tethering your plants to stakes or cages for support. That’s not too difficult, but it is an extra step.

3. BASIL

Tomatoes and basil make for a great combination in spaghetti sauces, and in your garden, the two plants may help each other grow. According to many amateur and professional gardeners, basil serves as a natural bug repellent that drives off unwanted insects that might otherwise eat the herb—or munch on your tomato fruits; some speculate is that planting the two near each other somehow gives the tomatoes a…

Cold Comfort: How to Best Use Your Freezer

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Did you know that you can keep eggs in your freezer? (There’s a trick to it.) Here are some tips on how to freeze foods you probably thought couldn’t be frozen, and how to better freeze the stuff you’re already freezing, preventing waste and saving money in the process.

FRESH VEGETABLES

• Before freezing, chop raw vegetables to the size you are likely to use when cooking. Thawed vegetables are more difficult to chop.

• Vegetables tend to lose color, favor, texture, and even vitamins when they’re frozen, thanks to the activity of enzymes in the veggies. Blanching the vegetables (immersing them in boiling water for a short period of time) before freezing interrupts the activity of the enzymes, and will keep the frozen vegetables fresher longer.

• Blanching times vary from 11⁄2 minutes for peas and 11 minutes for large ears of corn; consult a cookbook for the correct amount of time for the vegetable you want to freeze.

• After blanching, quickly immerse the vegetables in cool water to prevent them from overcooking.

• Leafy greens, tomatoes, and watery vegetables like zucchini and squash can be frozen without blanching. If you plan on making zucchini bread, grate the zucchini before you freeze it.

GROUND MEAT

• Ground meat is suitable for freezing, but the Styrofoam tray covered with plastic wrap that it comes in is not. The container leaves too much air in the package, causing freezer burn.

• Remove ground meat from the container and place it in a plastic freezer bag, taking care to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before placing it in the freezer. Press the bag of meat as flat as you can before freezing—the flatter the meat, the faster it freezes, preserving quality.

• If you want individual servings, lay the unfrozen bag of meat flat on the kitchen counter and press a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon lengthwise against the outside of the bag to create indentations that divide the meat into single-sized squares. Now when you need some but not all of the meat, you can easily snap off as many squares as you need and return the rest to the freezer, instead of having to thaw out the entire bag.

EGGS

• Eggs expand while freezing and should not be frozen in the shell. Instead, beat raw eggs just until the whites and yolks have blended together, then pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. Each compartment of a standard ice cube tray will hold about one egg’s worth of the mixture. When the eggs have frozen, they can be popped out of the ice cube tray and stored in a freezer bag for up to a year.

• Yolks and whites can be separated before freezing if you expect to use them separately. Separated whites will freeze just fine as they are, but separated yolks can become gelatinous over time. To prevent this, beat in 11⁄2 teaspoons of sugar (if you plan to use the yolks in a dessert) or 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt (for other dishes) for every four egg yolks before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

THE CUBIST MOVEMENT

• Fresh herbs and spices can also be frozen in ice cube trays. Fill each compartment about two-thirds full with chopped fresh herbs or spices and cover with your choice of water, chicken or beef stock, olive oil, or melted unsalted butter before freezing. When the cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in freezer bags.

• Two more candidates for ice cube freezing: coffee and leftover wine (for cooking). Coffee cubes can be used to keep iced coffee cold without watering it…