tomato red

It's a good day when I get to make the summer's first batch of roasted tomato sauce. It means the days are sunny and the tomatoes are plentiful and my birthday is right around the corner! Besides having thick colorful tomato slices at every meal, I love making tomato sauce with our garden tomatoes so much that I plan to have 30 quarts minimum in my freezer before we pull out the last vine in the fall. Until then, a mass of tomatoes will be a common sight in my kitchen, and to me, it's the prettiest sight ever. Here's my roasted tomato sauce recipe.

My grandfather was a tomato grower, and if you'd like to know a little bit about my childhood and the time I spent with my beloved grandad, visit this post.


I use every tomato variety for tomato sauce; any color, any size, any variety.

I held back a few varieties for a tomato tasting. We rated them all a 10.

There's nothing prettier than a blanket of tomatoes. Don't you agree?


I sliced them in half, added olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh garlic,
basil and leeks (because I didn't have an onion).




Three large pans made 6 quarts of tomato sauce.
This is my sauce recipe.

I use an odd assortment of recycled containers that hold 2 or 4 cups and can go in the freezer. 
My goal is to make 5 or 6 more batches and have enough tomato sauce for the entire year.

I picked enough green beans and tripled this fabulous recipe, also for the freezer.
It was really good. I used bacon for the topping instead of the prepared fried onions..


I just finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I see it was published back in 2015 and I'm just getting around to reading it! Loved it and recommend it. Hannah also wrote The Great Alone which got mixed reviews but I loved that one too. Presently I'm waiting for The Four Winds to be available from my library waitlist, also by the same author. I'm now halfway through The Forest of Vanishing Stars  by Kristin Harmel, which just came out this month and it's also pretty good. I borrow from the library using the Libby app and I often have a long wait so I have no idea why I was so lucky to read it the first month it was published! Do you any must-read book recommendations? I always love a good book recommendation.


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travel projects, plum jam, birthdays and old letters

 


I went to Maui last week to visit my BFF of 58 years. We both celebrate our birthdays in July and this was a big one. We celebrated our birthday dinner with 8 friends at Mama's Fish House. It was a super fun night; no surprise as we always have a blast when we get together.  I brought a bag of old pictures and letters with me so we popped some Champagne and giggled over the hairstyles and clothes, but when we got around to the letters, we could only get through a few. They made us cry! The two girls who wrote them and read them so long ago are different people today and we got too emotional going back in time. I packed them away for another day. Maybe.

I choose my travel knits carefully and decided on the Alpine Hat, a free pattern from Blue Sky. I used leftover Woolstok neutrals from my stash and a newly purchased bundle of mini skeins in cool colors. I made a hat on the flight to Maui, a second hat while in Maui, and the third hat on the flight home. This is the first three of 8 hats I hope to make for Christmas gifts. Links:


Before I left for my vacation I made two batches of plum jam. My neighbor has a giant plum tree in her front yard and every year she sends out an email when the tree is laden with fruit. It's a beautiful sight and it's so big, you can literally pick boxfuls and not make a dent. If you've never made jam, this if the time to dispel the notion that making homemade jam with all that fresh fruit is somehow healthy. Nope, it's loaded with sugar and there's no getting around it! Because I make this every year, I don't follow a recipe but use equal amounts of chopped fruit and sugar, squeeze in the juice of a few lemons, then boil and stir until it hits 220F on a candy thermometer. For the first batch I used about half tart fruit and half fully ripe fruit and that batch was the best. The second batch was almost all fully ripe fruit. I'm hardly a jam expert, but it seems to me that plum jam likes a good mix of ripe and unripe. Ill try to remember that next year. Are you making any fruit jams this summer?




Pickles again--whole garlic dills this time.

Even though I was only gone for 5 days, I came home to a garden full of changes. The large tomato slicers are in and we now pick every day and soon I'll be making batches of tomato sauce. We've been harvesting squash and cucumbers all along, and now the peppers are ready too. I'll pick the first poblanos tomorrow and stuff them for tomorrow night's dinner. Perhaps the most exciting thing is that my new dahlia bed is blooming. We rototilled an unused patch of dirt on our side yard. Over the 35 years we've lived here that hidden patch had been an herb garden, an artichoke patch, a biennial flower garden, then we just left it alone for years. Last spring I planted 40 dahlia tubers and most of them have come up and most of those are blooming. Gorgeous!









The perennial flower border is looking spectacular. The shasta daisies are at their best and the zinnias are just starting to bloom.  I planted the entire Queen Lime series and am getting very excited to see what I'll get. I'll make a post when they are at their best. Zinnias and tomatoes are the stars of my mid and late summer garden.



Zinnia, Queen Lime Red

Zinnia, Queen Lime

And lastly, a very special little someone also has a July birthday. The kids gave him a big 4th birthday party in our backyard last weekend. He was so excited and had a smile on his face and a giggle in his voice all day. About a dozen of his friends came with their parents, and with siblings and family friends we ended up with 50 people! My son had set up 5 elaborate water features with slides and pools and sprinklers; the day was hot and everyone had a blast. Grammy and Papa were delighted to see him play with his friends and to finally meet all the children he talks about. Darling boy. Grammy and Papa wish you the best that life can offer.



I had to make him a new school sweater as a birthday present of course. I'll get him to model it when the weather cools and tell you all about it. It's a fabulous pattern to have in one's library.



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harvesting summer herbs and a trip to Carmel



Herb butters are perfect for finishing sauces, making croutons, scrambled eggs--the list is endless. Now is the time to make them to capture maximum flavor and potency. They freeze well and are delightful to pull out in the middle of winter to bring summery goodness to the table any time of the year. Herb butters are easy to make, they are gorgeous and freeze well, so make a few extra to enjoy during the holidays.

Pictured above, clockwise from top, chives and their pretty lavender flowers, common green sage and the princely purple sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and dill. In the middle are the peppery nasturtium flowers and below the lemon and garlic is thyme.

Here's how to make herb butter: Harvest unsprayed herbs and gently swirl them in a large bowl of cool water to remove dirt and dust. Gently shake off water and place on cotton towels and fully dry in a shaded, indoor location. Stem and finely chop herbs. Mix room temperature butter with chopped herbs. I add approximately 4 tablespoons herbs per 1/4 pound butter. Mix well, refrigerate, and when cold, roll into logs. Optional; press herb sprigs into the finished logs or roll in cracked pepper. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. To freeze, wrap butters three times; first in plastic wrap, then foil, then freezer paper. That may seem like a little bit of overkill, but if well-wrapped they will keep in the freezer for 6 months.  

I made 7 herb butters:
rosemary and garlic
thyme with lemon (juice and zest)
nasturtium flower with cracked pepper
oregano with toasted crushed pine nuts
sage with marjoram (I made three of these to make sure I had enough for Thanksgiving)
chives with chive flowers
dill and garlic





Happy Birthday America! If you live in the USA, I wish you a safe and happy Independence Day weekend. What will you be doing? Going to a bar-be-que I'll bet. We are too! I thought about bringing a few flavored butters as a hostess gift but instead will bring a box of candy and a garden bouquet to be on the safe side. Here are two bouquets I made yesterday.

Coral gladiolus, shasta daisies, red zinnias and dahlias for the living room.

Yellow gladioli, yellow zinnia, and shasta daisies for the kitchen




We just got back from a quick 2-night trip to Cambria and Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was so refreshing to smell sea air! It was our first getaway since pre-pandemic and it was uplifting to be out and about and be with friends. We have been lucky with weather and neither the San Francisco Bay Area where we live, nor the Central California Coast that we visited, was plagued with the hot weather the rest of the west received. It's been mild here and really just lovely. 

While in Cambria I somehow always manage to walk by this treehouse-like structure that's on a small side street, but this was the first time I ventured to climb inside. It's on private property so I don't know what I was thinking. Feeling bold I guess! It was much bigger than I thought it would be and not near as scary. No goblins or spiders inside. It even looked kind of cozy. I took pictures to show my son as he always has a project up his sleeve and has imagined building a treehouse for Carter. You don't even need a tree! It's cool, isn't it?






For dinner that night we ate at Indigo Moon. Highly recommended! After leaving Cambria, and after visiting Ball and Skein and making a yarn purchase of course, we drove south on Highway 1 to Carmel. It has beautiful coastal views all the way, and just after San Simeon but before Big Sur, there is a beach where the elephant seals hang out. If you've never seen an elephant seal, they are the craziest looking animals on earth. My husband and I always get a kick out of stopping to stare. This time we were rewarded and witnessed either a good fight or a mating ritual, we couldn't tell for sure. They are of course protected and you can't go near them, but you really wouldn't want to. The males can weight up to 5,000 pounds and are not very friendly.




Once in Big Sur we tried to stop at Nepenthe for lunch but were totally turned off by the crowds, and it was a weekday, not even a weekend, ugh. You may know that is where Kaffe Fassett grew up and his family still owns the restaurant. We left disappointed but could not ignore our hungry tummies and drove on a little further and found a tiny, uncrowded restaurant for our lovely outdoor lunch. Uncrowded anything is a much better choice than crowds any day of the week. 

Happily, Carmel was not very crowded and we got in some good shopping before our wonderful dinner at Anton and Michel. But before dinner we were invited for drinks by a friend of a friend who has a little cottage in downtown Carmel. I've often walked by the cute story-book houses and wondered what they looked like inside, so it was a super treat to be invited inside one.  It was no disappointment and was not hard for me to imagine living in a fairy tale cottage of my own in the prettiest beach town in California. Sigh.



The first thing we do when we arrive back from a trip, no matter how short, is run out and see how the garden did. Ahh, it's good to be home, but I must rush off. I have a rare mani/pedi appointment and then I'm picking up Carter from nursery school to spend a night or two with us. His request: "Pick me up before nap time"! I got a good chuckle out of that, but will do!

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summery things to love

A few of my favorite things about summer: Fresh flowers in random rooms. Just picked vegetables on every menu. Pesto on everything. Knitting to baseball, except right now I'm on my laptop while I'm watching baseball, but usually I'm knitting. And what about those Giants anyway? If you are a baseball fan, can you just imagine how exciting it is to be a Giants fan these days!


But this is a garden post, so I'll get on with that! The cucumbers are coming in and I was able to pick enough of them to make my first jar of pickles. I really only grow cucumbers for one reason and that is to make Dan Koshansky's amazing refrigerator pickles all summer long. They are delicious, crispy, easy, and fail proof and you can make them as garlicky or as dilly as you like. If you haven't made them yet, let this be the year you give them a try. You can use this recipe with purchased cucumbers too; choose a smallish, thin-skinned variety. I grow my own warty cucumbers for pickling but I often spot pickling cucumbers at my farmer's market. If you come across fresh, warty, smallish, thin skinned cucumbers, that's what you're looking for, buy some and make your own! Dan's recipe works equally well for cucumber spears, slices, rounds or whole. It's also great for pickled green beans. For green beans, snap off the stem end, blanch in boiling water for one minute, shock in ice water for one minute, then proceed with recipe.


I finished a knit last week and I love it. I wore it last night and received some nice compliments. It's cropped and perfect with high waisted trousers. Details and modeled pics coming soon.


In the meantime, here are some pictures from the garden.





Dilly Beans with Garlic.


Fonda by Caitlyn Hunter

This beauty needs a few more weeks of warm weather.






Shasta Daisy





A new tomato variety for me, Blue Cream Berries. Still deciding if I'll plant them again.


Our first tiny harvest of pattypan summer squash...

...tuned into a nice little lunch.
Toss thickly cut squash and halved cherry tomatoes with 1 tsp. olive oil,
salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp. each of fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese. 

Lightly cover with foil and bake in hot oven until vegetables soften. My toaster oven took a half hour.
Top with grated cheese, I have a mix of mozzarella and cheddar here, and broil until bubbly. 

I served it with a poached egg and Everything Bagel Seasoning.
Have you tried bagel seasoning yet?
We seem to put it on everything and love this one.


Have I told you about my good hearted neighbor who brings over the most gorgeous, fresh eggs every week? She knows that Carter loves eggs so she also brought over a daddy, mommy, and baby egg family. They were so dang cute they were hard for me to cook, but cook I did, poached eggs on toast for us. Carter had the daddy egg, Papa had the mommy egg and Grammy had the baby egg. Fair enough.



The roses are gearing up for their second bloom.


Purple basil in the foreground.





If you'd like to make a comment, please click here or scroll down. I reply to each comment and my response will appear directly below your comment. If you would like a personal reply, please know that I use the Blogger platform and they do not give me your contact information when you comment. If you would like a personal reply you can contact me using the contact form on the right side at the very end of my website. If you would like to receive Knitionary posts by email, please subscribe here.

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