I’ve finally had to face it. The forecast has been calling for temperatures in the lower forties this week and I’ve been noticing a suspicious number of buildings boarding up along the Homer Spit. A whole family of Spruce Grouse has taken up residence along the trail through the woods and employees at my lodge are dwindling down to a hearty few, who remain with us late into the season. It’s the end of summer and I still have a greenhouse full of green tomatoes.
It’s been kind of a rough summer for my tomatoes. They were started in Palmer, brought to Anchorage, driven to Homer in a hot van, took a breezy boat ride over to my lodge, and then they were transplanted into large tubs in the greenhouse. Just as they are coming into their full potential, the first fall frost is knocking at the door.
There’s always a little wager I make this time of year with my garden. Do I throw in the towel now and call it good, or do I try to eke out a few more weeks of gardening through cajoling and the use of plastic row-cover? Some autumns, we can have that beautiful golden rebound after the first light frosts and keep going for a while. This fall, I am thinking not. I’ll wrap things up this week.
I’ll pick all the tomatoes while they are still green, before any frost can damage them, and use them in sauté dishes or chopped on top of eggs in the morning. Cookbook author Paula Deen came to visit me last summer. As she might describe herself, she was a hoot. She loved fishing off the dock for greenling, cod, and little halibut and scouring the low tides for sea stars and other aquatic treasures. She makes a sweet green tomato pie with raisins and nutmeg I want to try. And, I have an idea for a savory Southern rendition of a tartine, a kind of French open-faced sandwich, with green tomato smothered in herbs and soft cheese.
What I do with the tomatoes picked today, however, is make a green tomato salsa. I start by pan-roasting a couple of serrano peppers and a few cloves of garlic, unpeeled, in a dry pan. It takes about 10 minutes to get the peppers and garlic soft. Serranos are a good choice for me because they are hot peppers but not the hottest. Two peppers are just about right for my recipe.
I add in a large handful of chopped green tomato. As the tomatoes begin to heat and caramelize, they exude moisture that makes them glisten. The kitchen is filled with the smell of chilies and garlic. I squeeze the garlic pulp out from the peel and pull the stems from the chilies.
I pour the contents of my pan into a blender and give it a few spins, then into a bowl. I add a little salt and diced onion. To cut the sharp raw flavor, I rinse the minced onion well under cold water first and shake off any moisture. The juice of a lime and a handful of cilantro add that acidic green note I love. I want to make fish tacos with my newly crafted salsa but we only have some smoked pink salmon in the kitchen that looks, well, kind of pale. I go for a chicken taco instead.
I heat a few small corn tortillas, stuff them with an herby collection of greens dressed in more lime and salt, add in a few julienned red peppers and green onion, and the strips of chicken breast. The salsa is spread over everything.
I realize an entire summer’s effort has gone into my little tacos. They are delicious.
- 2 serrano peppers
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 cups coarse-chopped green tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- Juice of one lime
- ½ yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 1 cup coarse-chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat the peppers and garlic in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes (adjust the heat up or down as you might need to). Add in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft and glistening, about 10 more minutes. Squeeze out the pulp of the garlic and discard the skin. Pull the stems off of the chilies. Place the tomatoes, peppers and garlic into a blender. Pulse several times to purée the mixture (it can be as chunky or smooth as you like). Turn the mixture into a bowl.
- Rinse the onion under cold water and remove any excess moisture (I shake the onion in a small strainer a few times). Add the salt, lime juice, onion, and the cilantro to the tomato purée.
- Makes about two cups green tomato salsa.