Oddities and Obsessions

Diary of a Tomato Junkie

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by Editors

heirloommaniactagI admit it. I’m a tomato junkie. But not just any tomato. Heirlooms. And how this came to be I’m not completely sure. It’s not like I grew up on a farm. And I know it’s not because I have romantic notions of plucking tomatoes off vines in some hazy late summer yellow-lit garden. But when summer rolls around the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, my body goes into automatic mode and my thirst for heirlooms sends me into a frenzy–all rational sense gone. I’m not afraid to admit it: I am an Heirloomaniac.

Thursday, 4:17pm

I’m racing down the 405 with precious cargo on the seat next to me. Four boxes of heirlooms are belted in and I must tell myself to wait. Wait until tomorrow when they’ve all been photographed and my job is over. But….. I…… I just can’t wait. I reach over and grab a Marvel Stripe. Chomp. At 64 miles an hour. Juice explodes and I’m a mess. I don’t care*. I’m glad I made it home safely.

Friday, 7:26am

I woke up early and tinkered around the studio. Had a few new surfaces to use and decided to shoot film, medium format. A few polaroid backs were stacked on the prop table waiting to be loaded, but I couldn’t stop glancing over at the boxes. Yes, the boxes. Boxes of Marvel Stripes, Beefsteaks and Yellow Pineapples were ripening before my very eyes, their sugary acidic insides ticking away. I had to move fast.

Stretching Past My Comfort Zone

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by Fredrica Duke

sttropezA few years ago my friend Janet said to me “I’m saying yes, yes to everything.”

I thought, wow, Kimberly just said the same thing to me a few months before. She said, “Fredde, I’m saying yes to everything, every single new opportunity, it’s yes.” I didn’t want to be left behind — I prefer no – so I tried to get out of my comfort zone and sometimes, but not all the time, I was going to say “Yes!”

So what did I do? Nothing. Pretty much nothing. But I did say yes when Janet asked if I wanted to join her writing workshop in St. Tropez. That also meant getting to St. Tropez, which was a whole big schlep. My husband and I were planning a trip anyway so we arranged it around this workshop. I headed out alone to Paris, so I could acclimate to the time change. Two days and several croissants later I found my way to the train station. I had been thinking I should buy that ticket ahead of time, but Janet said it would be no problem getting one. Guess what? I was right and was stuck at the station for hours waiting for the next train. Still, I flowed with it, lost a favorite jacket carting my luggage in and out of bathrooms while I waited. But I finally made it, several hours late — and I might finally be over my romantic fantasy about train travel.

Getting to Know Your Friends...One Tomato at a Time

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by Annie Stein

bumpercropYears ago, before my second child was born and I traded in my paycheck as a freelance fashion stylist to change diapers, drive carpool and be the soccer snack provider, I used to joke that the only way I got to hang out with my friends was to work with them. So I hired my friends as assistants when I could. On a more serious note, I also said, back then, that the best way to find out who someone is, is to work with them. I'm now adding to that: Want to know who someone is behind the dinner party chatter, or as an English friend used to say, "What's that when it's at home?" Share a garden.

Last fall, at a lunch for my best friend Glynis, in town from her home in London with her husband Michael, the girl talk went from comfy Prada platform shoes to bumper crops. Glynis, obviously in love with the expression, which did indeed sound fabulous and a bit mysterious in her proper English accent, took delight in repeating the words bumper crop as she shared a picture on her iPhone of the largest tomatoes I have ever seen.

"Mark has had bumper crop, here look, isn't it fantastic," so taken was she about our mutual friend Laura Geller's husband, Mark's, tomato growing talent. Mark is known to us all as an entrepreneur, a rakish risk taker, a stylish man about town, a typical A type-er on the go. He has opened restaurants, managed his wife Laura's jewelry empire and invested in copper mines.

Mr. Greenjeans? Not in the profile at all. "Look, he's a bloody farmer" Glynis added with unabashed respect... and total surprise in our friend Mark and the tricks he has up his sleeve! "Hmmmm, let me look at that," said I, reaching for the iPhone with the picture of what looked to me to be a small red pumpkin.

Tomato Garlic Mash Schmeer

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by Editors

monestoms10-15  medium size tomatoes (Early Girls or even plump Romas will do) - thinly sliced
1 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil thinly sliced
1 bulb garlic - cloves mashed
2 medium onions thinly sliced
1 cup minced kalamatas
Juice 1 lemon and zest 1/2 lemon
1 heaping  teaspoon smoked paprika
1.5 teaspoons salt
3/4  cup  sake or dry white wine

Olive oil

This is best cooked in a 12-inch nonstick fry pan but a smaller one will do.

1. Heat under medium heat a good amount olive oil to thickly coat pan. Add tomatoes and onions.

2. Turn heat down after 10 minutes to low and add all ingredients but sake; cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. After one hour remove cover and add sake - taste and add more salt if necessary and turn heat to medium - cook until all sake has evaporated and turn heat down to low and cook about 5 minutes stirring to keep mixture from sticking.

4. Serve in bowl - schmeer on thick sliced bread or if you can control yourself, refrigerate leftovers and serve as a sandwich spread  

Paul Mones @ 2013

Matcha Dusted Pancakes

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by Alexis Siemons

matchapancakeThe bright, vegetal flavor of matcha is reminiscent of the satisfyingly rich, bitter notes of pure dark chocolate. Both of which are an acquired taste. Over time, my taste buds began to crave the grassy notes of the finley milled Japanese green tea powder.

Considering that it's an expensive treat, I've kept it out of my cookies, cake and bread batters (which often require a bit too much then I'd like to spare) and have reserved it for a vanilla rose marshmallow latte, salad dressing & orange blossom tapioca.

As the snow fell like confectioners sugar from the sky yesterday (dusting the ground with glittering flakes), I was inspired to make my way to the stove and whip up a batch of whole wheat pancakes for lunch. I quickly realized that I was out of syrup and thought that a touch of powdered sugar would do the trick.

And then the jar of matcha whispered my name. Just like that I found myself sprinkling delicate sugar from one hand and matcha with the other onto the warm pancake (some powder melting into the pancake to deeply flavor the whole wheat and other bits lingering on top for color).

Tomatoes: The Fruits and Labors of My Love

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by Joseph Erdos

jetomsI think just about everyone loves tomatoes. Every time I mention to someone that I grow tomatoes in my garden they immediately turn a little green with envy. Tomatoes are really a labor of love. Some years the bounty is great and in others you're lucky to pick just a few. Last year there was the blight and this summer it's blossom end rot due to the extreme variations in heat. Luckily my tomatoes haven't been affected by that but since I am growing them organically, I do often find a critter who has made a home inside one of my prized possessions. I guess that just shows I'm not the only one who loves them.

This year I'm growing heirlooms for the first time. I collected seeds from my favorite specimens last year to grow this crop. All plants were babied from seed. They all seem to be doing well, but heirlooms have their own peculiarities including odd shapes, split skins, and areas with russeting or blemishes. Nut I would rather tend to them than grow the supermarket hybrids, which tend to look more like plastic. Though I do like a beefsteak tomato now and then. I don't even bother growing plum tomatoes because I can't get them any better than the canned San Marzano variety from Italy, where the weather and terroir is optimal for growing them. But so far my soil has given me a pretty nice colorful collection.

Celebrity Stalker

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by Fredrica Duke

postcard-chicagoHave you ever met a famous person and felt let down?  I have.

Years ago, I was obsessed with an actor in a series of television commercials.  Obsessed.  I stopped what I was doing to watch his overly aired ad.  I was in love.  He not only had charisma, but attitude.  Not hot like Johnny Depp or anything, but he possessed that je ne sais quoi.

I just HAD to meet him.  There had been a lot of publicity about him and I knew one thing — he lived in Chicago.  Well, I just happened to be in that very city.  So, I made a few phone calls.  I was an actor in commercials, he was an actor in commercials.  I knew people.  Those people knew his people.  Someone pulled some strings.

A man from a huge ad agency would be picking me up at my hotel.  My actor lived outside the city.  A 45-minute drive.   Some really nice person I didn’t even know was willing to make the introduction.

I’m beyond excited.  I got all geared up, couldn’t sleep the night before.  I never cared much about how I looked, yet I dressed my best.  Put on a little makeup.  I was ready early, waiting for the car in front of the hotel, over-the-top excited.  It would be magic when I met my crush live and in person.  We would run into each other’s arms and he would insist on living with me for rest of his life.  I’m talking non-stop to this random ad agency dude the whole ride out about my deep infatuation.  He’s humoring me, pretending to be in rapt attention.

Fifty Shades of Pink

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

cowpartsThe little bell on the glass door jingled and I became breathless with anticipation.  He looked up just for a second and then turned back, took a large knife off the rack, and started slicing into the beef tenderloin

“Lady, how much you want?” he asked the woman standing in front of him.  Her ruby red lips pursed as she held up her thumb and forefinger with three inches between them.

“This much.”

“Here?” He held the knife two inches in and the woman started to scream.

THIS much!!!” she said, slapping her palm on the counter and shaking her measurement fingers at him again.

He smirked, cut accordingly, tore off a piece of thick, shiny paper, and wrapped the beef tightly.  I could watch him tear butcher paper all day.

“Thank you ma’m.  Next!  Number 68.”

I walked down the display counter, sliding my finger along the cold glass.  So many cuts, so many choices.  What would it be today?  Prime Rib?  Oxtail?  Duck Breasts?  I feel no limitations exist for my fantasies within these walls.

CASEYMANIA: Gnocchi American (Idol) Style

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by Eduardo Santiago

welcome.jpgThis past January, something hot and sexy began creeping its way through the chilly winter snows in Idyllwild, California. Locals were struck with the highly contagious Caseymania, which is like Beatlemania but without the screaming hysterical teenage girls. Well, not in Idyllwild, at least. But to inhabitants of this tiny mountain town, it was close to the same thing.

The median age of the town’s 4,000 inhabitants is 47.2, so hysterical screaming might have been at a minimum, but instead, this all-American town offered up enduring and low-key pride. Casey Abrams is the town’s boy, they own him, they love him and they support him. Even now that he’s been “voted off”, their hope springs eternal.

casey_abrams.jpg“He gets to tour, bound to make upwards of a hundred-fifty thou,” you hear an old-timer say with the cantankerous certainty of a gold prospector. Poor Casey never stood a chance. He had three big strikes against him in the TV-blurred minds of the American Idol voters (them being tweenage girls).

Strike 1: He’s funny-looking.
Strike 2: He’s a ginger.
Strike 3: He’s undeniably talented.

Puff Pastry Tomato Tarts

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by Cathy Pollak

puff-pastry-tomato-tartsThese! Are they not gorgeous? I think they kind of scream summer in their own not-so-subtle way. They are certainly eye-catching on a platter together.

There is something about puff pastry. It has this way of making everything so darn cute, elegant and fancy all at the same time. If you have never used it, please give it a try. It's so easy to make something beautiful with it. No skills necessary.

I saw this container of colored tomatoes at Costco and had to get them. This was definitely the perfect dish to show off the diversity of their colors. However, using all red tomatoes will be as equally striking. You decide which to use.

Remember, tomatoes are one of the top food sources for daily doses of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium and fiber. So eat up!!

Filled with goat cheese and herbs, there couldn't be a better appetizer. However, these make a great side dish too.


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