Friday, August 21, 2009

A Week of BLTs, and the Gardener Has a Duh Moment

Kurt and I have been working our way through fresh tomatoes with a daily BLT for lunch. We've been wondering just how long we'll have to go before we become tired of them. Each day we bite into the salty bacon, juicy tomato, crispy lettuce slathered in mayo and grin. We then say to each other "nope, not yet!"

Them yeller ones on the right, ma'am, are quite done.

In other news, I realized that the reason some of my tomatoes were not getting red is because they are YELLOW tomatoes. Sheesh. Who let me be a gardener?

Have a great weekend - may it be filled with BLTs, ripe tomatoes and brilliant sunshine!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drying Herbs in the Humid Midwest (the Lazy Alline Way)

As a native Californian I continue to be puzzled by humidity here in the Midwest. As green fuzz grows on my counter tops and when just-baked crunchy cookies left out to cool overnight become mush by morning, I am reminded again and again that I live in a truly damp climate.

I am becoming resigned to humidity; I pretend that it is what gives me my dewey complexion and keeps me looking youthful. But I have to learn the lesson again and again and again.

Take drying herbs for example. In any NORMAL climate one can simply tie the herbs in a bunch and hang them up to air dry. Not so here. First they become limp, then just turn black. Not exactly the appetizing condiment I was going for.

In desperation I turned to my oven's pilot light. No, not in a Sylvia Plath sort of way. I'm using it for my herbs, not for my head.

By layering fresh herbs and clean tea-towels on a baking sheet and placing them in the oven for a day or two, the herbs dry beautifully.

Drying herbs on tea towels: tarragon, parsley and oregano.

I find that muslin or woven towels work better than terry cloth. And I have to put a note on the oven to remind myself to remove the baking sheet before pre-heating the oven for actual baking. Take each leaf off of the stem and lay them individually on the towel (that is on the baking sheet). When each layer is filled, cover with another towel layer and repeat the process. I did not need to change the towels at all - the moisture seemed to be sucked up into the atmosphere.

I just dried oregano, tarragon, basil and parsley in this way. After two days they were bone dry, and I was able to put them into little herb jars happily labeled "2009." I'm especially excited for this winter, when I can pull out a jar of my own fresh herbs and gloat.