Archives for posts with tag: peppers

I arrived home one night last week and came face-to-face with a platter full of ripe tomatoes and peppers. CRR was out of town, so I knew tomatoes and peppers were the answer to the what’s-for-dinner question.

Then I remembered a recent tweet from @ChefJoseAndres about an attractive tomato & egg concoction. He’s one of my favorite Washington chefs, has a great story. Andres trained as a chef in Spain, came to Washington with little but his knives, and proceeded to build a culinary empire. His debut restaurant, Jaleo, helped put Penn Quarter on the map before the neighborhood was cool. A host of Andres restaurants are within a stone’s throw of my office: Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya and Minibar. All are excellent, with a great vibe.

Just a few blocks from Jaleo is DC Central Kitchen, a food bank that turns leftover food into healthy meals for the needy. Andres got involved with DC Central Kitchen soon after he arrived in Washington, using his celebrity to transform the food bank into a cause. Bravo, Chef.

Now, back to that platter of tomatoes and peppers. His tweet was a photo of a traditional Spanish dish, pisto manchego. It can be served warm or cold, on just about anything, according to the recipes I consulted. I ate mine with a fried egg, as served by Andres.

pisto manchego

pisto manchego

Pisto Manchego for One

2-3 ripe tomatoes, skin removed, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 peppers, chopped (I prefer the natural sweetness of red peppers)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

(optional: zucchini)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan, add the peppers and onion and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, then a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity, cover, and cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Remove pisto to a pretty bowl and cover to keep warm. Fry one egg to soft stage, drape over the pisto. When you cut into the egg, the yolk will melt into the pisto. Enjoy.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

Do you remember the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”? It was running in the back of my brain as we planted our Super Vegetables.

I don’t think our grafted tomatoes and peppers will grow sky-high, but I hope they live up to their billing: taller, double yield, and produce earlier.

Grafting is an old craft with fruit trees, as horticulturalists try to breed stronger trees that are resistant to diseases and pests. Same with fussy grape vines. So why not vegetables? You “graft” the top part of one plant onto a stronger rootstock resistant to the scourge of pests and disease. CRR wrote about it for USA Today, and we decided to try a couple plants.

It’s a pricy experiment. These plants cost double what we’d normally pay at the farmer’s market. But in the interest of science – and yields! – we forged ahead. We ordered our grafted plants from Territorial Seed Company in Oregon, but many other companies now carry some of the Super Veggies, to test the market.

There’s an Indigo Rose tomato, with purplish skin and red flesh, developed at Oregon State University. A Brandywine, whose heritage is traced to the Shenandoah Valley, promises fruit that is seven inches across! And finally the Legend, a glossy red tomato.

Indigo Rose

Indigo Rose

We have a couple pepper plants too. The specter of a super-duper Early Jalapeno is a tad intimidating. But I’m looking forward to a bounty of  California Wonder, a bell pepper.

We’ll plant some “normal” peppers and tomatoes alongside the grafted plants and track their progress. Watch this space for an update.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

The seed catalogs began to arrive with the winter solstice. Never mind the wind and cold, I’ll curl up with the seed catalogs and daydream about the 2013 garden.

Pick just one out of the pile. The Totally Tomatoes catalog is, well, 67 pages of tomato varietals – and a handful of peppers and other tomato-friendly vegetables. There’s the beautiful Rossa Sicilian, an Italian heirloom (duh) brought to the U.S. in 1987. It’s a striking bright red with ribbed walls. Smallish, though, just 6 ounces.

The Brandymaster, a spin off one of our favorites, the Brandywine, comes in three colors — pink, red or yellow. The red and yellow fruits grow up to one pound, exactly the kind of yield we adore. There are beautiful striped tomatoes – the Hillbilly, mottled red and yellow; Ananas Noire, green with red streaks.

Oh wow, the Giant Tree, with dark red tomatoes that grow one to two pounds each. Jumbotron tomatoes!

On the pepper front, there is a Count Dracula pepper, with black leaves and black fruits that ripen to blood red. With a Scoville rating of 25,000, these would be living on the edge of the pepper world. Or at least on the edge of our garden. See photo at right.03006-1

It could be I have a future writing content for these seed catalogs. The trick is to lure home-bound gardeners, in dead of winter, to buy your fare with purple prose. It works. We will circle items in a half-dozen catalogs, and haggle for days over which specific varietals to order.

Minute by minute, the days will grow longer and soon it will be time to turn the earth again.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.