Tomato Time

This is what I wait for all year: sweet, ripe, explosively delicious homegrown tomatoes! There’s nothing that compares. This season I planted three varieties: Italian Heirloom, Campar, and Burpee Beefsteak. My friend Rob Bryn’s mother, Roberta gave me the beefsteak. They’re doing the best. The plants are three feet tall and the huge tomatoes are just turning color now. She ordered them from QVC because the company name is Roberta’s. The good karma is working.

Burpee Beefsteak

I always plant at least one heirloom.They are the “pure-breeds” of their kind. Also known as heritage tomatoes, these fruits are more delicate to grow but the reward is worth the work. They are sweeter and richer in flavor than hybrids. The variety needs to be “bred” by one pollinator for 50 years! I’m not a hybrid hater though, they too are tasty but are way easier to grow than the high-class tomato varieties. The cross-pollination makes hybrids more resistant to diseases.

Campars, one precious Italian Heirloom and my cat Fivey who just celebrated his 6th birthday!!

Campars, one precious Italian Heirloom and my cat Fivey who just celebrated his 6th birthday!! .JPG

This has been my best growing season for tomatoes since living here in Rockaway, but I did have some blossom-end rot. Nothing too significant. Blossom-end rot happens when you have inconsistent watering – too much water at once as we did last month. Or it can happen from a calcium imbalance.  My latest batch of tomatoes show no signs of rot and look as though they will qualify for the ultimate designation “glorified tomatoes”.

I use tomatoes in everything. Therefore, it would be difficult for me to pick one recipe to share with you. I will say homegrown tomatoes are best seasoned simply. Enjoy the fruit for what it is. I like to make an effortless tomato salad with shaved red onions, sea salt, fresh pepper and a high quality olive oil (my go-to is Colavita).

Tomatoes should sit on your counter at room temperature. I was shocked to realize so many people still put tomatoes in the refrigerator. I know this because I look into my friend’s fridges, to see what they eat. My friend Katie Honan does this too. In fact, it’s an Italian thing. Most of us will look in your refrigerator and then comment, “Oh you got the Romano on sale!” or “Can I try some of that pasta salad?”, or “Looks like you need to go food shopping.” Things along those lines.

Already, I have a little tomato anxiety. They’re so good now and our growing season is so short. I don’t want to go back to store-bought tomatoes which are plucked while green and ripened on a truck somewhere on I-95 North. They end up in the supermarket, never reaching their full potential. This pains me (sad emoji face here).

But let’s not go down the rabbit whole of tomato doom. Let’s live in the present and enjoy the abundance of homegrown tomatoes here and now.

Off the Beach and on the Path – A Garden Walking Tour.

A garden is a reflection of its caretaker and their unique creativity. I love seeing someone’s personal expression reflected in this way. This week I’m taking you on a garden walking tour, stopping at quirky, beautiful gardens worthy of praise in Rockaway Beach.

Holland Ave

Holland Ave. btw 91st and 92nd – The Psychedelic Garden Wall. This is the perfect backdrop for a selfie! The mural is above and beyond – “wow factor”! Many people feel they don’t have the space for a garden but this design proves that anyone can make a garden with a little ingenuity. A vertical garden is an ideal solution for a small space. Since the area for soil is minimal, it’s best to use drought tolerant plants here. Petunias work perfectly.

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92nd, beach block – Frog World Oasis. Themed gardens are endearing. Peak behind the beautiful mansory and a world of frogs emerge. The toads are scattered about appropriately in a rock garden, mimicking amphibians natural habitat. Pops of color are integrated using containers, potted with gerbera daisies. Why does this gardener love frogs?! This is garden creativity at its best.

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Across the street from Frog World Oasis, take a peek at the retaining wall planters. My friend Walter Meyer of Local Office Landscape Architecture designed these sloping beds for the homeowners after Hurricane Sandy. They serve as a storm barrier and a beautiful space to garden. You can’t beat that.

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98th St., near the Blvd. – Proton Apple Garden. Words of encouragement are painted on seashells in a mini curbside art installation. “Be like a proton, always positive.” Another sign offers you to grab a free apple from the basket. This made me smile and I did take a delicious crab apple, eating it on the spot! The apples come from a tree in front of the house with a well maintained lawn, enhanced with flowers. This is a must visit especially if you’re hungry and need a snack. Shout out to all of 98th St., this block has several gardens and the houses are very well maintained.

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91 St., bay side – Wooden Sculpture Garden. Driftwood and large rocks are the main structural features of this masculine garden. A tree stump sculpture mimicking a person with a tin hat is the focal point. This mostly shaded garden has a some Foamflowers. (Tiarella). These perennials are attractive, sprouting feathered tall blooms in the spring and the leaves turn burnt orange in the fall! Make sure to stroll down the whole block, there are many inventive gardens here. Nice job B91!

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90th St. bay side – Butterfly Garden. This is as good as it gets – pathways, a bird bath,  many varieties of flowers and plants such as butterfly bushes, black-eyed susan, sweet alyssum, hostas, elephant ear and more. It’s organized, with not a weed in sight, and obviously cared for by an experienced gardener.

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89th St., bay side – Opposites Attract. Two special gardens here, very different from each other but delightful in their own ways. First a modern potted garden. A metal plant holder with horizontal lines is front and center. The space is small but used so well with mulch, upcycled and terracotta pots; stones and driftwood.  The yellow door of the home gives a pop of color this minimalist garden is screaming for.

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Next door is a traditional garden, overflowing with gorgeous flowers –  limelight hydrangeas, cascading trumpet vines, hearty Impatiens, all surrounding a perfectly green lawn. Yes, a lawn in Rockaway Beach exists!Keep on walking because there are so many creative front yards in Rockaway Beach to see. Thank you to all the gardeners who beautify our community by sharing with us their creations.

A garden is a reflection of its caretaker and their unique creativity. I love seeing someone’s personal expression reflected in this way. This week I’m taking you on a garden walking tour, stopping at quirky, beautiful gardens worthy of praise in Rockaway Beach.

Previously published in The Wave.

 

tagged in gardening, rockaway

No Dill-emma Here

My Dill from the Beach 91st Street Community Garden

A few weeks ago I wrote about the abundance of kale in my garden. Well, the dill I planted is also growing wild now. It’s called dill “weed” for a reason. And the plant bolts in the heat, so it makes sense with the heat wave last week that my herb plant is three feet tall!

The lemony, sweet and bitter flavor of dill is most pungent when it begins to flower. Snip the feathered leaves for immediate use. Wait until the flowers mature and snip those off at the stem. Put the flower heads in a clear plastic bag in a dry location. In one day or sooner, you’ll see black dill seeds,which you can store and use year-round.

The whole dill plant is edible, so make sure to use all parts including the stems which are perfect for pickling.

For Easter I made a dill cream sauce for a pan-seared salmon and that was a crowd pleaser. Dill is great with most fish. Overnight pickles seasoned with dill and garlic; sauteed carrots with dill; tomato salad with red onion, dill, and feta; potato salad and roasted chicken with dill are a few dishes I’m thinking of off the top of my head — all delicious and seasonally appropriate. If I’m feeling ambitious, I can try okroshka — a staple Russian soup served cold. It’s made with vegetables, dill, boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, kvass (a non-alcoholic fermented beverage) and a protein. There’s no dill-ema when it comes to meal choices here.

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This week I decided to make potato salad which I served with veggie hot dogs and coleslaw. My husband gave it rave reviews! It was loaded with dill for a lot of punch. It’s my own recipe that I’ve made countless times. Usually I don’t measure but I made it a point this time so I can share the recipe with you. I hope you give it a try, enjoy.

garnish for a fancier presentation

Paula’s Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 bag red potatoes
1/2 large onion
5 oz. mayonnaise (use Hellman’s and don’t get the low-fat, it tastes bad!)
1 tablespoon mustard
¼ cup white vinegar
5 long sprigs of dill and some for garnish.
4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Quarter the potatoes (leave the skin on) and bring to a boil until soft.  Drain and let them cool for five minutes. Dice the onions and garlic. Chop the dill. In a large bowl add all ingredients. Thoroughly mix so the potatoes are covered well. Refrigerate and let the potato salad sit for 20 minutes before serving.

follow me on instagram – @theglorifedtomato for all things summer gardening.

tagged in recipe

Summer – Happening Now

Last weekend really felt like summer. The ocean water is warm. The weather outside is over 80 degrees and there are hordes of DFD’s and locals alike swarming the boardwalk to experience all Rockaway has to offer.

Seeing as how it was so summery, I packed as much summer fun in as possible. My sister Natalie and my nieces and nephew stayed over for the weekend. Both days we hit the beach! My friend Dave took the kids out on his foam board. They had a blast. The kids made surfing look easy. They have no fear! The kiddies have inspired me to get up on a surfboard this summer.

The FDNY beat the Garda at The Thrilla at Camilla

Friday night we headed to the “Thrilla at Camilla”. I didn’t realize how big of an event this was! The FDNY Bravest Boxing Team vs. The Irish National Police were fighting for the 2019 Transatlantic Championship. This is the 4th year the event has taken place at St. Camillus. It’s a fundraiser to benefit injured service members and Gold Star families through the charity, Building Homes for Heroes. What a fun event and for a great cause.

After the boxing match we stopped into Rustwoods to say hello to a few friends. The kids enjoyed the art gallery and I introduced them to my friend and owner of Rustwoods, Mikal Hameed. We had to dash out to make it to Low Tide for some dancing. The kids cut a rug!

After my family left late Saturday afternoon, I went to Riis Park for the ROCK! AWAY! Music Festival, organized by the one and only Max Power. My husband was playing with his band Ye Mighty Wave. It was a wild show – think hippies in outer space dancing with jiggle sticks in moo-moos.  Kendall Hanes joined the band, he’s 8 years old and a fantastic drummer. Everyone was rocking out! Max Power works so hard to put this annual festival together for all of us to enjoy. Thank you Max!

Kendall Hanes center stage playing the drums

I noticed there are more food options then last year up at Riis Park Beach Bazaar. My favorite is  Cuisine by Claudette and for dessert MUD ice cream. I heard the Meat Up Grill, Rockaway Clam Bar and Fit Food Kitchen are delicious too. I had two Frozes –  a boozie combo of Rosé, Deep Eddy vodka and a secret ingredient they will not divulge. So good! I was feeling pretty, pretty, pretty loose after those cocktails.

the Cauli Bowls are so good at Cuisine by Claudette Riis Park location

Saturday night I signed up for dinner on the porch at the Rockaway Retreat House. I know Jaime Schultz is an excellent cook so this was much anticipated. Sitting on the porch with a cool breeze after a long day of beach hopping was exactly what I needed. She made an assortment of vegetarian dishes, fresh and light. Thanks Jamie for a wonderful dinner and evening.

Late that night I got news that my friend Jimmy O’Brien (Down by the Jetty columnist) and Mckenzie Dowler got engaged!! The proposal happened down by the jetty, well on the jetty actually!!  I’m so thrilled and happy for those two love birds! Congratulations!

Sunday more beach and more Max Power music at the ROCK! AWAY! Fest, this time at Low Tide. We hung out until sunset…  ohh those summer nights.

I’m planning on participating in more summer activities tomorrow, Hopefully I can keep up with all there is to do in Rockaway this weekend.

tagged in rockaway, summer