by Kate Heyhoe
With summer vegetables at their peak, now's a good time to give the planet a break: Eat less meat.
Trust me, with these grilled goodies, you'll never miss the meat. I started playing around with alternative grilling a few years back, while writing The Stubb's Bar-B-Q Cookbook. I had so much fun, we ended up with too many recipes, and they're just too good to keep secret any longer.
By the time Labor Day rolls around, most dedicated grillers have consumed vast quantities of ribs, burgers, brisket, chicken and even shrimp and fish. Expand your repertoire and put variety in the mix with tasty tricks like these. (Click the titles for the full recipes.)
Grilled Pie-Pan Vegetables: I got tired of seeing my peak-of-summer sliced vegetables slip through the grate. So I started dicing them up and grilling them in foil pie pans, pierced with holes to let the heat and smoke caress the vegetables. Peppers, onion, zucchini, eggplant, and carrots caramelize into gorgeous, sweet nuggets, and you don't lose a single bite. Toss the pans into the dishwasher and re-use them throughout the season.
Grilled Chalupas and Nachos: Mexican finger foods get all good 'n' smoky on the grill, cooked on a reusable aluminum pizza pan. Make these as a full meal, snacks, or appetizers.
Grilled BBQ Pizza: Forget the pizza pan: hot grill grates give this pizza its pizzazz. Use frozen bread dough or freshly made pizza dough. The grilled pizza recipe suggests barbeque chicken as a topping, but replace the chicken with grilled vegetables for meat-free eating.
Plan the party around these dishes, and your Labor Day barbecue may top this year's list of memorable meals. Be sure to pluck your vegetables from local farmers, for the tastiest results.
I've always thought the typical process of plastic recycling was more labor and resource intensive than it needs to be. Apparently, some brilliant students at Princeton thought the same thing and in 2001 launched a poster-child for zero-carbon eco-businesses, known as TerraCycle.
Essentially, they pay consumers and school groups for used bottles or other containers, repurposing the containers without breaking them down. They fill plastic soda bottles, for instance, with natural worm-enhanced fertilizer, stick a colorful sleeve over the bottle as a label, and sell the products online and at stores as diverse as Home Depot, Gardener's Supply and Whole Foods.
They've totally nailed the business dynamics down: they're truly eco-friendly, low-impact and low-cost, true recyclers, and their inventory has expanded to include rain barrels and composters made from oak wine casks; fashion bags, totes and backpacks from drink pouches; spray cleaners, bird feeders, and deer repellent (again in plastic soda bottles); and potting soil, seed starters, and tomato food, all happy and active with "worm poop" generated from organic waste.
The backstory behind the business is too cool to pass up (the guys won a million dollar business contest, but turned the prize down because they didn't like the constraints it came with.) Check out Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer's story in the video at TerraCycle's website. And we're big fans: The Global Gourmet's garden blooms big and happy with TerraCycle Plant Food.
This article also appears on our New Green Basics site. Visit New Green Basics to see reviews of other green cooking products.
Now that the FDA has given tomatoes a green light, go wild. The recent recall hit farmers way below the belt, so they could use some help. Besides, summer tomatoes are so tasty and good for you, I expect no arm-twisting's required. Want some ideas to sweeten the pot? Check out dozens of tomato recipes, for everything from Fire-Roasted Salsa to decadent Fried Green Tomatoes with Bacon, Cream and Cilantro.
For a limited time only, Storey Publishing is giving away it's best-selling guide, Grow the Best Tomatoes, by John Page, in a downloadable PDF format.
Here's an excerpt:
The tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum, is a fruit that we use as a vegetable. It is one of the few vegetables native to the Americas. It was first known as a food in Peru. Until a couple of centuries ago, it was grown only as an ornamental and was dubbed the "love apple." For a plant that was thought to be deadly poison in colonial times, the tomato has made up a lot of ground. It is now the most popular vegetable in our gardens. Why shouldn't it be? It can be used in so many ways, from eating single ripe ones in the garden, to frying them green, from making preserves from green and ripe ones, to pickling green and ripe ones, on into mincemeat, paste, juice, stew, soups, salads—the uses are endless.
Delete the tomato from all of your cookbooks, and you'll leave a hole that you can drive all the other vegetables through.
The Nature of Tomatoes
The tomato is actually a perennial; if the weather never got cold and if summer or tropical conditions continued to prevail, it would keep on growing for a long time. But as it is grown in virtually every part of the United States, the tomato acts more like an annual, and is treated by gardeners as if it were annual—which means it has to make it from seed to seed in a single growing season.
We consider the tomato to be a heat-loving crop. It doesn't do well until the soil warms up to 65°F or more, and until nighttime temperatures get up into the 50s. This occurs in late May in our northern areas; but if we planted seed at that time, the season wouldn't be long enough to get ripe tomatoes most years. Therefore, we have to lengthen the season by getting the plants started indoors or under protected conditions so that they are already several weeks into their growing season when soil and air reach optimal temperatures.
As we go south and reach the rough climatic equal of Chesapeake Bay, it becomes possible to start with seed in the garden and get ripe tomatoes each year. But even in these warmer areas, why not get your first tomato plants started inside, before the outdoor weather is ready? They will ripen earlier, and you can also plant seed when the time comes. Then you can have fresh tomatoes over a longer season.
The tomato isn't a particularly hard plant to grow, and to grow well, which is just as well since it it perhaps the single most popular vegetable garden plant grown in this country. Some folks are determined to make it difficult, however, and these efforts are usually centered on getting a tomato or two earlier than anybody else. This obsession with early fruit makes sense only for market growers, who can profit heavily from being the earliest. If you have gone to the trouble of getting tomatoes the size of golf balls before transplanting time, you are a hybrid between a gardener and a greenhouse grower. If it's your claim to fame, great! I figure that getting a six or eight-week start on the weather is cheating enough and keeps me in the gardener category. I shall proceed to consider tomatoes a garden crop and not a greenhouse crop.
For a limited time only, download the complete Grow the Best Tomatoes (Country Wisdom Bulletin A189).
Copyright © 2008, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created August 2008
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