Thursday, October 02, 2014

Easy Peasy Tomato Preserving

Sometime near the end of the summer the tomato plants that you thought would keep you in fruit all season prove you wrong by ripening all at the same time. If you are like me you planted just enough to see you through the summer and not enough to can (because you hate canning tomatoes). What to do? The easiest possible solution I have found is to roast them. I cut them in half and put them on a baking sheet (the jellyroll kind with sides), with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and herbs. Cherry and grape tomatoes I leave whole. Into the oven they go on low heat, like 325° for an hour or two, then turn off the oven until they are cool. If this sounds like a pitiful recipe, it is. The timing depends on how cooked you want them and how big they are. The herbs can be anything you have in the garden - this year I used thyme and oregano. I divide the bounty into freezer bags, then stack the bags flat in the freezer until I want them.

They are a great addition to soups. You can make a simple pasta sauce by chopping them up a bit, then adding them to sauteed garlic and onions. Just add pasta. They are ready for bruschetta  just as they are, warm or room temperature. You can even add them to winter salads or hummus just as they are.

Ready for the oven

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Playing Tourist in Boston

Yesterday Shana and I took advantage of the fine weather to play tourist in Boston. We wanted to go into town for the day and had no specific goal except for my desire to eat at the Union Oyster House, so we bought tickets for a guided Freedom Trail tour and went for a little walk around town after a coffee and a circular trip around Chinatown. I have no bump of direction to speak of so I let Shana get us from our car to Boston Common, only to find out that she does not have a bump of direction or a marked ability to read a map. Together we are a disaster on foot! I am capable of reading a map, however, so once I took over we were able to find our way. We stopped at Brattle Bookstore for a look around,  mainly because I am incapable of walking past without going in, but I restrained myself from purchasing anything. Shana was getting sneezy from the dust, so I was probably spared from purchasing only because I did not stay long enough to activate my book lust.

There are a lot of  Freedom Trail tours you can choose from in a full range from basic to deluxe, including a very good phone app to accompany a self guided tour and a guided private family tour.  Even the Duck Tours follow the Freedom Trail. You really don't need a tour at all, or you can just stop at randome places along it, because the Trail is obvious and the markers informative. We chose a guided tour with a fair sized group led by a history teacher kitted out in a complete Redcoat uniform. This tour is operated by Lessons on Liberty, and our guide was Michael Szolka, who seems to specialize in poking a hole in the common tropes of American History. He has taught history in High school and college for many years and has a great style - very conversational and I think every tour you take with him might be a little different.

The Freedom Trail in Boston is marked on the sidewalks with either a painted red stripe or more usually with a red brick stripe on the sidewalk. It's very easy to follow and I highly recommend it. Our tour did not stop at every feature, but stopped at several for an interesting  in depth talk about some of the history we did not know, including some of the things happening outside of our country that affected the Revolutionary War and the outcome. It was great to have someone with a comprehensive grasp of the history of the time with us. Even though the group was rather large I felt like we all got a great tour. The lectures in the Granary Burial Ground were especially informative and interesting.
Demonstrators in the Park

Granary Burial Ground
After the tour we stopped at the Green Dragon Tavern for a pint, then around the corner for a meal at the Union Oyster House, America's oldest restaurant. Union Oyster House is well worth a stop, even if you are disinclined to eat oysters. The clam chowder is stellar, and all of the seafood dishes are perfectly cooked. It's fun to walk around the restaurant and check out the art, memorabilia and decor, including a plaque in John F. Kennedy's favorite booth.

Deluxe pigeon perches

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall on Cape Cod

Looks like fall is really here. I am seeing posts from my friends telling about walks on the beach with their dogs, traffic is light again (at least during the week), and the nights are cool.

Shana is experimenting with putting up reserves and relishes. Turns out that with a  flat surface stove you can't do water bath canning because of the risk of uneven heat (apparently the heat cycles up and down to maintain temperature) or damage to the stove top. Overheating can cause the stovetop to break, which would make your batch cost $1,000 by the time you repaired or replaced the stove. This would not be acceptable, so it's out to the deck to can on the ever handy Coleman stove. This strategy seems to work fine, since seasonal produce is available now and the weather is good enough for outdoor cooking. She is sticking to relishes and pickles with jam being also under consideration. We will not be experimenting with any produce likely to harbor botulism.

I'm enjoying the chance to visit beaches that are normally unavailable, and taking advantage of the light traffic to pull over anytime I see something that catches my eye without fear of being rear ended. Old cemeteries are a favorite, and there are a lot here of all sizes. So pretty and so peaceful. A lot of them don't have vehicle access, so I just pull over on the side of the road. This is not always a good idea in season when the roads are full of people who do not know where they are going.

I don't think we will have good fall color here on the Cape. We have had a very dry season which will likely give us a lot of boring brown leaves. Looks like we will be taking some fall day trips to enjoy fall color (and hit the farm stands for cider!) Shana has suggested apple picking, but this is really not an option that appeals much to me. Anything that creates work in the name of entertainment is suspect. We'll see. Crisp New Hampshire weather might make me reconsider.

Monday, September 01, 2014

My Annual Labor Day Post

I often have to remind people what Unions have done for them: the 40 hour week, OSHA, uneployment insurance and so much else. Here's my yearly union song - a playlist of Old School union songs.

By the way, the power of Labor has recently been demonstrated by the workers and customers of the local Market Basket grocery chain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

National Dog Day

At my house it may seem that every day is Dog Day, but this town opens their pool for a dog party before they close for the season:

Richard, does this make up for the chicken video?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Out on the Water

Today the weather was perfect, and my kayaking friends were available for a kayaking afternoon. At last we took our new kayaks out for a spin. Shana and I have had them for a couple of months but were a little nervous about loading them up and actually going for a paddle. We wanted to get out with a couple of experienced paddlers for our first time out so we would be prevented from looking too stupid.

We went down to Mashpee Neck and put in there. From there we were able to take a paddle through a marsh where we could enjoy a bit of nature and a bit of peeking at the backsides of the summer houses of the 1% , then out to Thatch Island where Sue, Shana and I had a nice walk on the beach and Sue and Dea were able to have a little swim. In contrast with the crowded public beaches, the beach on the south side of Thatch Island was deserted and beautiful. Shana was in love! The water was reasonably warm today, but the air temperature was pleasant; it was a perfect day to be out on the water. I was pleased to note that my new kayak and paddle were comfortable to use, and my flotation jacket was very suitable for the sport. I kept my old iPhone to use as a kayak camera that I could upload from later because I already have a waterproof case for it. I didn't take my new one with me because I was not sure about my waterproof storage, but the things I carried in there were just fine. Since I was overturned in a matter of minutes the last time I kayaked I did not want to take any camera that was not protected out with me. We had a great time, topped off with a delicious fried fish dinner from Cooke's Seafood before we went our separate ways. Shana and I will definitely go back there to kayak, especially after Labor Day when parking is less of a problem. There are just a few pictures here, as usual I will upload more to my Flickr gallery.

What I learned today: 1. put your paddles in the car so you don't have to go back to get them. 2. quick dry clothing is really only effective if you have quick dry underwear. 3. take a snack bar or something out with you because if you don't you will be starving. 4. We know how to load up and put in well enough to enjoy a kayaking afternoon. This is valuable information because Cape Cod is a kayaking paradise. There are dozens of nice places to paddle accessible to us with a very short drive. The place where we went today is probably about 15 minutes from our house. Now that we feel confident about our skills we can go out any afternoon for a couple of hours without thinking twice about it.

 Holiday knitting is proceeding slowly. I have run into a classic problem of the pattern I want to use and the yarn I want to use not matching up. I'll know better in about 37 rows (!) if it's possible to make the yarn bend to my will. Something tells me I will do better to scale the pattern a bit to use the needle size the yarn wants instead of knitting on when I know I will not be happy with the fabric the needles that will get me gauge will make. Hard lessons, and ones I seem to have to learn afresh every single year. I'm hard headed. I should really look for a pattern that suits the gauge this yarn wants to be knit to.

And Just for you, Richard, a chicken video borrowed from Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff!

Friday, August 15, 2014

At the Mashpee B&B

We recently had the pleasure of having a house guest at our little house. Shana's aunt came to visit for a week for a change of scene and a little rest. Shana misses her family, so any who can come to visit are more than welcome.  It gave me an opportunity to show off my garden, and gave us an excuse to go back to Newport and tour another "cottage".

This time we visited Doris Duke's Rough Point. It's a smaller house than The Breakers (but every house is) and more interesting because Ms. Duke's art collection was more interesting to me, and her house less of a crazy golden mishmash. It was occupied by Ms. Duke until her death in 1993, and remains furnished as it was at that time, making it less of a stiff museum and more of a family home tour. We also explored the grounds while we were there - the flower gardens are very pretty and rather informal within a formal structure. I got loads of ideas for my own gardens which will necessarily be of more modest dimensions but which will feature many of the same plants in similarly constituted beds. Sadly, I will have to do without the manicured gigantic boxwood hedges, finding myself without a proper staff.

On the way home we stopped in Providence to have a meal at an Italian restaurant in the Federal Hill neighborhood. We had hoped to stop at a grocer in the area to purchase some pasta & other Italian delicacies but got delayed by a much needed coffee stop in Newport. Also our GPS took us to Providence by way of the outer planets. Shana and I had been planning a trip for dinner; I'm glad we made it during the summer because we were able to eat outdoors in a plaza which not only had a lot of restaurants but also featured live entertainment. We ate delicious dishes while enjoying a singer who makes his living sounding like Frank Sinatra. This was even better than it sounds.

 In addition to our trip to Rhode Island we made the beach rounds and cooked up some lobsters at home while we had company.