Food Friday: Let’s Do Lunch!

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It is time to Go Back to School! Hooray!

This is a list to keep on the fridge door – so you don’t lose heart at night when making lunches to send off to school, or to take to the office, or just to get a jump on the week. Start with Column A, move through the alphabet, and embellish at will.

I work from home, consequently I have no excuse to have sad little meals of peanut butter on Saltines. I should have a well-stocked fridge, packed to the gills with tasty amuse bouche and nutritious luncheon ingredients. And here, at the beginning of the school year, so should you.

Get out the tiny little Tupperwear containers, find all the maddeningly elusive lids, and start chopping. Make yourself little Bento boxes of luncheon-y delights for every day. Shake up your routine, and experiment. Try chopped cornichons. Swipe on some chutney. Dust a sandwich with a handful of sprouts. Give up the Pepperidge Farm white bread and try Naan bread. And don’t forget leftovers! The Tall One made some interesting combinations with leftovers from Thanksgiving, theorizing that everything tastes delicious on a crescent roll, especially when daubed judiciously with cranberry sauce…

Here is your list of school supplies:

Column A
Let’s start with bread:
Ciabatta bread
Rye bread
Whole grain breads
Hard rolls
Portuguese rolls
French baguette
Italian bread
Brioche
Flour tortillas
Croissants
Bagels
Challah bread
Crostini
Cornbread
Naan bread
Focaccia bread
Pita bread

If storing overnight, top bread with lettuce first, then the spreads, to keep sandwich from getting soggy.

Column B
Next, the spread:
Mayo
Sriracha sauce
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Honey mustard
Italian dressing
Russian dressing
Cranberry sauce
Pesto sauce
Hummus
Tapenade
Sour cream
Mango chutney
Butter
Hot sauce
Salsa

Column C
Cheeses:
Swiss cheese
American cheese
Mozzarella
Blue cheese
Cream cheese
Havarti cheese
Ricotta cheese
Cheddar cheese
Provolone cheese
Brie cheese
Cottage cheese
Goat cheese

Column D
The main ingredient:
Meatloaf
Turkey
Chicken
Corned beef
Bacon
Crumbled hard boiled eggs
Scrambled eggs
Corned beef
Salami
Italian sausage
Ham
Roast beef
Egg salad
Tuna salad
Ham salad
Crab salad
Chicken salad
Turkey salad
Lobster salad
Tofu

Column E
The decorative (and tasty) elements:
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Basil
Onion
Avocado
Cucumber
Cilantro
Shredded carrots
Jalapenos
Cole slaw
Sliced apples
Sliced red peppers
Arugula
Sprouts
Radicchio
Watercress
Sliced pears
Apricots
Pickles
Spinach
Artichoke hearts
Grapes
Strawberries
Figs

Column F
Finger foods:
Cherries
Carrots
Strawberries
Green Beans
Broccoli
Celery
Edemame
Granola
Rice cakes
Apples
Bananas
Oranges
Melon balls
Raisins
Broccoli

Nobody will ever complain about lunch again if you can remember to jazz it up a little. My son, who lived for at least an entire year on (requested) white bread, bologna and yellow mustard sandwiches, is now a strapping 6 feet 4 inches tall. Imagine how far into the clouds he would stretch if we had thought to make him fig, goat cheese and carmelized onion sandwiches…

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/how-to-create-an-artful-sandwich.html?ref=dining&_r=0

http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/

http://www.marthastewart.com/853321/brown-bag-sandwich-recipes/@center/856055/lunch-recipes

http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/breadstuffs/sandwich-types.asp

“I always tell my kids to cut a sandwich in half right when you get it, and the first thought you should have is somebody else. You only ever need half a burger.”
― Louis C.K.

Celebrate Harvest at Colchester Farm CSA – Oct. 4

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oktoberfest_webposter_2014_resizedColchester Farm CSA’s second annual Oktoberfest Fundraiser is set for Saturday October 4, from 4 to 9 PM on the farm. This celebration of the fall harvest features a pig roast, an array of fall vegetable dishes, pumpkins, and a locally sourced, seasonal beer tasting.

New Sweden, a foot-stomping five piece band from Wilmington will entertain during and after the feast. Voted best band in Delaware for three consecutive years at the Tri-State Indie Music Awards, their music is best described as, “powerhouse folk-rock…a blend of Bright Eyes, Avett Brothers and a little bit of The Clash.”

Family fun begins at 4 pm, with a petting zoo and children’s games. The fall harvest buffet will open at 6 pm, featuring pulled pork and sausage by The Grill Meister, Gunner Roe, and seasonal dishes incorporating Colchester Farm vegetables prepared by Chef Sabrina Sexton. Guests are urged to arrive in a timely fashion, as the buffet will close at 8 pm. In addition, a cash bar will feature local beers and wines.

One lucky person will win a five hour afternoon sailing trip complete with music, wine, and cheese, on the schooner Martha White, along with five or his or her friends. Raffle tickets for the sail are just $10 and available at Chestertown Farmers‘ Market, Chestertown First Fridays, and at the fall celebration. Only 150 will be sold.

Proceeds from the event support Colchester Farm CSA’s education programs. Colchester Farm programs inspire healthful change and an awareness of the natural and edible world through community cooking classes, small-scale agriculture workshops, field trips for K-12 youth, and internship and work-exchange opportunities.

Tickets are available in advance at www.colchesterfarm.org, at the Chestertown or Kent Island Farmer’s Markets, and at Chestertown First Fridays. Prices are $30 for current CSA members, $35 for non-members, and $10 for ages 12-17 (children under 12 free). Purchase tickets in advance and receive a $5 discount. (Children’s tickets not discounted.) Contact Nevin Dawson at 919-633-0378 or registrar@colchesterfarm.org for more information. Colchester Farm is located at 31285 Georgetown Cemetery Road, Galena MD.

The Education Program Sponsor for the event is Astec Environmental Services. Other sponsors include JBK Ace Hardware & Rental; Dukes Moore Insurance; Kingstown Farm, Home, and Garden; Evergrain Bread Company; Friendship Montessori School; PNC Bank; Unity Landscape Design/Build; Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit; People’s Bank; CNB; and Brook’s Tavern. Sponsorship inquiries are welcome at the contact information above.

Colchester Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a nonprofit, small-scale farm that grows fresh local produce for shareholders and community members, and offers apprenticeships and education programs. The CSA promotes an alternative model of farming that strengthens the relationship between farmers, community members, food, and the land.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Liming, Powdery Mildew, and Dogwoods

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked of the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: What time of the year should I be putting lime down on my lawn? Also what kind of lime do you recommend? Thanks

Answer #1: Before applying lime you should do a soil test. Soil testing will determine if you even need to apply lime and if the pH is low the results will indicate how much lime to apply. Lime can be applied just about any time of the year but fall is an excellent time for lawn tasks. Look for agriculture lime (calcitic limestone). Dolomitic lime contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate and is recommended for raising the pH on low magnesium soils. Pelletized lime is similar to agriculture lime, but is easier and neater for homeowners to apply than powdered lime. Look on the homepage of our website given below for information on soil testing.

Question #2: I came home from vacation to find the leaves of my very-productive cucumber plants looking mottled and appearing to have a white coating on them. What can this be and is there something I can do to salvage the plants?

Answer #2: Sounds like your cucumbers are infected with powdery mildew, a common fungal disease that affects cucurbits. This disease is favored by warm weather and can be destructive in dry as well as wet seasons. Once plants are infected they cannot be cured. Spraying with a copper fungicide or horticultural oil labeled for powdery mildew may slow down the infection. While plants usually do not die, they are weakened by the infection which reduces yields. Prevent the disease next year by doing a thorough clean-up of your garden in the fall, plant powdery mildew resistant varieties in an area with good air circulation, provide ample spacing between plants and avoid overhead watering.

Question #3: My father-in-law wants to dig up and give me two dogwood seedlings that have grown in his yard. I do have plenty of room to plant them but I was wondering what the best time of the year is to do this. He is thinking the fall but I wanted to check.

Answer #3: Correct timing does play a role for the successful transplanting of dogwood seedlings. Fall is a good time to plant but transplanting certain tree species like dogwood, red maple, cherry, hawthorn and zelkova should be done in spring. Typically this is in March when the ground is workable. Keep the seedlings watered, especially during dry periods, for the first two years after transplanting.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Food Friday: Mason Jar Salads

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We all have a friend like this. Mine is quite adorable and enjoyable, witty and smart. She reads good books, enjoys a good beer, she tells great jokes. She has wonderful fashion sense, has smart children and drives a hybrid car. But she does have a smug flaw: for years, she has been very cheerfully efficient about doing household chores. She does not groan or hide herself away in the bedroom with her book (the way I do). She smilingly cleans bathrooms and remembers to vacuum at least twice a week. Her husband is equally loathsome. Imagine the audible nature of their eye rolls when a tumbleweed of dust and dog fur comes flying from behind our sofa. Ghastly!

She also makes meal plans. Imagine that. If you call her on a Sunday afternoon she will be roasting a chicken for dinner that night, and she will proceed to get two more meals out of it during the week. And she’ll pick the little bits of meat off the bones to feed to her ancient, fussy cat. Later she will probably start rolling out meatballs for a huge homemade spaghetti sauce. She might even make her own fresh pasta, but I haven’t asked, for fear that it might be true. And she finds time to exercise.

When her kids were little she made healthy, colorful lunches with tempting comestibles for them to eat with gusto for their school lunches. Mine probably traded the bologna-on-Pepperidge-Farm-white-bread-with-yellow-mustard sandwiches for Twinkies. (Note: The Tall One ASKED for bologna sandwiches – for years!)

My children have grown up and moved on without too many psychic scars, so at least I don’t have that school lunch panic clawing at my being on Sunday afternoons any more, but there is still the week of dinners that really should be planned. Perhaps I will reform one day, but I suppose I am still wandering around waiting for Good Witch Glinda to fly in and grant me a few wishes, and if dinner planning is going to use up one of them, then I am indeed a sorry sad sack.

Imagine my delight when I started reading about a new food trend: Mason jar salads. It was probably hatched up in Park Slope, Brooklyn where some hipster was confronted by a collection of vintage Mason jars and wondered how to monetize them. That’s OK. I am using my own decidedly un-hip jars from grocery store spaghetti sauce, recycled. (That’s our little secret – doctor the sauce up with a couple of cloves of garlic, lots of good olive oil and a handful of basil and you have a last minute meal that is quite palatable. My speciality.)

What I like best about the Mason jar salad approach is that with just a little effort, and not too much because I cannot change my stripes overnight, I can wash some Romaine lettuce, tear some more greens, rips leaves from the basil plant, cube some Mozzarella, wash some tomatoes and whip up an improvised pesto. And it is easy to stick with one theme or to go wild with different veggies and ingredients. In about half an hour I have salads for a week. And then I have no excuses not to have a fresh salad every night or for my own lunch. Yesterday I dragged my starving self out of the studio for some lunch and was reduced to eating peanut butter on Ritz crackers. Not very inspired for someone who writes a food blog…

There are a few things to keep in mind to be sure the salads last for five days. Layer wisely. Put your salad dressing in first, to coat the bottom of the jar. Tear your lettuce and greens because cutting them, besides being aesthetically unpleasing, will cause brown edges. Ick. Don’t cut tomatoes – use small cherry tomatoes or those tiny, jewel-like Marzanos whole. Then things won’t get soggy. If you are bringing your salads to the office, please watch out how much garlic and onion you use. You do not want to alienate anyone. Shake, don’t stir. Enjoy. Repeat.

So take heart, fellow procrastinators. This is not a step that will have you competing in the marketplace with Martha, but it will give you a sense of well-deserved smugness. Look at the facts: you are recycling and re-using Mason-like jars and you will be eating salad five days a week. Additionally, you can grill some chicken or steak or fish or serve with some garlic bread. You have planned ahead. And when Glinda comes a calling you can use your wishes for something important, like new ruby slippers.

Caprese Pasta Salad
2 tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ½ ounce fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 ounces cooked penne pasta
½ cup fresh Romaine lettuce
½ cup fresh basil, torn with verve

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil to mix in with one’s vinegar.”
–Oscar Wilde

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/06/mason-jar-salads_n_5452313.html

https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-best-new-way-to-bring-your-lunch

http://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2014/02/12/instagramable-lunch-ever-14-healthy-mason-jar-salad-recipes/

Food Friday: Blessedly Cool Gazpacho

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Get out of the kitchen! Walk out onto the front porch with a book and relax. Oh, some unexpected company has come walking by, and you have just invited them to sit with you in the warm shade, to enjoy the breeze, and watch the other neighbors doing their mundane chores. What are you going to serve? Do not panic! You are going to whip up a batch of gazpacho, my dear. Because at this time of the year you have got all the fixings in you fridge and right there on your kitchen windowsill. You do NOT need to go to the grocery store, I promise you. This is not a tricky damn woo Martha recipe, where you need walnut oil freshly pressed by Trappist monks. Even I have all this stuff, and usually I am only good for stale Triscuits, hard bits of Cheddar cheese and cheap white wine. (This summer there is a bottle of vodka stashed in the freezer. Shhh.)

Stick your head in the fridge. What do you see? I see Vidalia onions, half of a cucumber, limes, green peppers, radishes, V-8 juice and Tobasco sauce. There is an assortment of ripening tomatoes, a basil plant, and a poor, sad, wilting parsley plant on the kitchen windowsill. On the back porch the last few tiny heads of lettuce are struggling valiantly in the heat. And bread! The bread collection in the freezer yields a goodish loaf of last week’s ciabatta bread. Perfecto! In the cupboard I find olive oil and a big old can of Marzano tomatoes – in case we need to stretch the recipe once news of this impromptu party goes viral through our active social media accounts. This beauteous gazpacho should be quite Instagramable!

Gazpacho can be very versatile. It can be a soup, a dip or a cocktail. I am opting for the cocktail, because it is Friday, after all. And after last week’s experience in the hot Vulcan-like kitchen, I plan to kick back and find some coolth. (And if no one walks by, Luke, the wonder dog and I will curl up with Gabriel Allon and discover the mastermind of The Heist, my latest Kindle read from Daniel Silva.)

Grab a bag of Doritos (ours might be a little stale, sorry) and pour some in a bowl and drop it on the table next to the porch swing. Excuse yourself for a few minutes. Luke is good for entertaining people because he always wants to chase the ball. Hours (and hours) of endless amusement for him…

Thaw and soak the bread, peel, chop, slice and dice your vegetables, and then whip them up in the blender, or with your food processor. Chunky – great for dip. Slurpy – good for soup. Smooth – get out the straws and the vodka.

Gazpacho Soup: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/gazpacho-recipe.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/jun/24/how-to-make-perfect-gazpacho

Gazpacho Dip: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho-dip-10000001733020/Gazpacho

Gazpacho Bloody Marys: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gazpacho-Bloody-Marys-236770

Gazpacho without a Recipe:
https://food52.com/blog/10925-how-to-make-gazpacho-without-a-recipe

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
-Lewis Grizzard

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Petunias, Japanese Beetles, & Invasives

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I have 3 hanging baskets that are filled with purple petunias. The leaves are starting to turn slightly yellow and they aren’t blooming as well. They are in full sun and I water them every 2-3 days. Can you help?

Answer #1: It is not unusual for hanging baskets to take a break from blooming mid-summer. Petunias can even tend to get leggy. The yellow leaves suggest that perhaps this is a good time to apply a balanced liquid fertilizer labeled for flowers or houseplants. This would also be a good time to prune them back. Prune the stems back to about half their length. You can cut back to within a few inches of the base if needed, but do not remove all their leaves. Then water well to prompt new growth and flowers. This mid-summer overhaul should keep them blooming until the fall.

Question #2: This summer I had to put up a Japanese beetle trap near our Linden tree. The beetles were all over it. Their activity has slowed down so is it safe for me to take the trap down?

Answer #2: We do not recommend the use of Japanese beetle traps. Placing a trap near a plant that the beetles are attacking can actually draw more to the area and cause more damage. The pheromone used to attract the beetles to the trap is very efficient and can draw Japanese beetles from a large area. If you still insist on using them place them on your property as far away as possible from the plants you are trying to protect but also be respectful of your neighbor’s plants. Japanese beetles fly for about 4-6 weeks and plants do tend to recover from their damage.

Question #3: I have a grass-like weed that is rapidly spreading through my lawn. It first appeared about 3 years ago. It dies out every winter but comes back more intensely each spring. It started on the sunny edge of the woods. Please help me to identify it and any suggestions you may have for eradicating it will be greatly appreciated.

Answer #3: The weed sounds like Microstegium vimineum or Japanese stiltgrass. It is native of Asia, first appearing in the U.S. in 1919 and is now spreading rapidly throughout the eastern U.S. This is a very difficult plant to control and is highly invasive. It is an annual grass and has a lifecycle similar to crabgrass. Japanese stiltgrass has a fibrous root system, stems which are erect or reclining and roots at stem nodes. You can help prevent the spread of stiltgrass by mowing before it goes to seed in late summer. Small areas can be handpulled, although you need to be careful about disturbing the soil. Disturbed soil is an open invitation for additional weed seeds to germinate. In wooded areas use a non-selective systemic herbicide for control. In lawn areas apply a pre-emergent herbicide used for crabgrass control in early spring.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Food Friday: Hot Summer? Hot Biscuits!

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It’s been a hot, stinky summer, and I should be thinking about all the cool and abundant foods that can be eaten without cooking – tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, any berries, radishes, celery, cucumbers… Instead I am beginning to think about baking some biscuits, and really ratcheting up the heat index the kitchen for the morning. There is nothing is better than a warm home baked biscuit, schmeared with sweet butter. Unless it is a scone, lathered with cream and jam. Or whipped cream and some of those berries. Mmmm.

And why I was suddenly compelled to bake biscuits you might wonder? I did an illo recently for my podcast friends at The Dinner Party Download – which is such a great podcast and you really should listen to it: http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/ Rico Galliano and Brendan Francis Newnam engage in much banter, hilarity, booze, music, storytelling and generate a lot of pleasurable listening for me when I am walking the dog, or folding napkins. They weren’t able to use my design after all, but being good sports and gentlemen, they thanked me with the gift of a fabulous cookbook, which spurred me on to ridiculous temperatures. Rico and Brendan sent me the Tupelo Honey: New Southern Flavors From the Blue Ridge Mountains cookbook, which is packed to the rafters with photos and ideas and recipes for Southern cooking for the twenty-first century. The Tupelo Honey Café has cafes in Asheville, Greenville, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Johnson City. My bucket list just got longer.

The Dinner Party Download starts each episode with an icebreaker joke, and then some small talk, which leads to cocktail chatter. Appropriately the Tupelo Honey Café cookbook starts with “Moonshine, ‘Thunder Road’ and Mountain Elixirs”. Not that I will be hitting the moonshine before breakfast, but it’s good to know that these cookbook editors have their priorities straight, with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks.

I moseyed past “Ode to Muddy Pond” and “Tupelo Honey-Molasses Eggnog”, made note of “Summertime Tomato Salad” which looked easy peasy and blessedly cool: cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, a red onion and some vinaigrette. I thumbed past the “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese Mac and Cheese, Please” and the “Smoked Hog Jowl – Creamed with Lima Beans with Tarragon” to reach the “Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits”.

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
• 2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 1 cup buttermilk
• Melted butter
Preheat oven to 425˚ and position oven rack slightly below center of oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt. Snap pieces of shortening with your fingers until they’re no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in cream and ⅔ cup of buttermilk. Using your hands, sweep in the flour and turn dough until dry ingredients are moistened and dough resembles cottage cheese, adding just enough of remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency. Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Turn dough out onto the surface and sprinkle top with flour. With floured hands, fold dough in half and pat it into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold dough in half a second time. If dough is still clumpy, repeat folding process for a third time. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you don’t twist the cutter. Place biscuits in pan, sides slightly touching. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating pan 180 degrees after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush biscuits again with melted butter. Yields 10 biscuits.
https://tupelohoneycafe.com/recipes

No more Bisquick for us!

If you would like to continue enjoying Southern recipes, here’s one from Southern Living for scones – which are just gussied up biscuits. But they are more acceptable for afternoons, particularly if you trowel on the clotted (or whipped) cream.: http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/easy-scone-recipes

One blog I like to follow, indeed it is my fantasy life, is The Little Observationist. http://www.littleobservationist.com/ Steph is an ex-pat American living in London, who blogs (and photographs very nicely) about food and drink and London sights, smells and tastes. Recently she baked scones for the first time, which I found rather shocking as she has lived there for quite a while. But I suppose if I could have tea and cakes with regularity from the Paul Patisserie or The Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel, I wouldn’t be baking at home either: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/tiny-strawberry-cream-scones/

Two more sites with lots of good ideas – Garden & Gun Magazine and Food52:

http://gardenandgun.com/article/comfort-southern-food

https://food52.com/blog/10906-how-to-handle-dough-in-a-hot-kitchen

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.”
-Carl Sandburg

Food Friday: Summer Tomatoes are Upon Us!

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Cake is the perfect food. Really. You can eat cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You might get a wee bit roly-poly, but nonetheless, a nice slice of pound cake can be eaten at any time of the day or night. You can toast it for breakfast, eat with your fingers while reading the newspaper at lunch, and serve it with an amusing wine and perhaps a salad for supper. It is the Spackle of the kitchen – it covers up for your shopping and food preparation flaws.

Tomatoes are the perfect fruit. Once again, you can have them for any meal. The British fry up breakfast, long touted as the best thing about British cuisine, always includes eggs, cold toast, fried bread, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. At lunch the tomato is the vital ingredient for BLTs, which as we all know, are the pinnacle of all lunch experiences. And for dinner, the tomato is the most versatile item on your windowsill.

So far, this week for dinner, we have had gem-like tomatoes grilled in a pan with a little oil and garlic, and then tossed them into a mixed green salad, with bacon, some extra basil, homemade croutons and chunks of fresh mozzarella. Tuesday night we boiled up a pot of fresh (though, admittedly, store-bought) pasta and sautéed some tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus tips, garlic and shrimp, and threw everything into a couple of bowls. We also had garlic bread, in case there wasn’t enough garlic in the sauté… We also had some delightfully cheap Chardonnay.

Wednesday night we had big beefsteak tomatoes, sliced with more fresh mozzarella, garnished with lots of basil from the container garden, oil and balsamic vinegar. And more garlic bread. Oh, and some wine.

Thursday night we grilled a couple of small steaks, sliced the heirloom Ugly tomato generously and drizzled them with brown butter, and also had some mixed greens. And wine.

https://food52.com/recipes/18779-brown-butter-tomatoes

Friday night is Pizza Night, and we will be making some Big Love Pizza; cooking small pizzas on the grill, adding handfuls of squeezed and drained Marzano tomatoes, grated mozzarella, sliced of pepperoni and at the very last minute a handful of fresh basil. Dare I add some wine?

Perhaps we are in a tomato/basil/mozzarella rut? What a delirious place to be! Perfect for the summer, when the humidity makes us limp, and the afternoon thunderstorms induce longing for coma-like naps.

Grilled Tomato Salad – for two

12 or so small tomatoes that you picked from the back yard, or bought at the Farmers’ Market
4 slices of bacon
2 slices thick, day old bread, cubed
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 garlic clove, peeled, please
1 salad bowl filled with mixed salad greens and some basil leaves
snatched from the garden

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble.

Cut the bread into cubes, and fry in the hot bacon fat until golden brown. (Pescatarians – use oil, you poor suffering souls) I sprinkle the croutons with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and a little dried oregano while draining on paper towels.

Add a little oil to the still hot pan, and carefully deposit the tomatoes and the garlic, roll everything around with a couple of wooden spoons, until the tomatoes start to blacken and blister and the garlic becomes overwhelmingly and seductively fragrant.

Fill your salad plates with the greens, top with tomatoes, mozzarella and crumbled bacon. Bliss!

How about a slice of pound cake for dessert?

Here is a link to my blog and the original recipe for Big Love Pizzas: http://jeandsanders.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-4-2010-its-food-friday-big-love.html

“A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.”
― Rudyard Kipling

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
― Miles Kington

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Gummosis, Paper Wasps, & Patience!

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I have a weeping cherry tree that has some holes in the trunk. Sap is dripping out of them and is even dripping to the ground. So far the tree looks pretty healthy. Could this be some sort of insect infestation and what can I do to help the tree? This tree has been in my front yard since I bought my house many years ago.

Answer#1: The oozing sap is called ‘gummosis’ and generally happens any time an injury occurs to the bark of a tree. Gummosis can be caused by many factors such as insects, mechanical damage, diseases, or weather. Pushing out sap is the trees attempt to protect itself by flushing out pathogens or insects. Ornamental cherries are prone to both borers, which are insects that bore into the tree, and canker diseases. Both of these conditions are serious and unfortunately can’t be cured once they attack the trunk of a tree. However, in many cases the tree continues to do okay and can remain viable for a few years. If the tree has borers or a canker disease it will start losing branches and then will eventually have to be removed. These trees are generally not long-lived and have an average lifespan of about 25 years. For additional information on ornamental fruit trees, go to our website and look for publication HG 93 IPM Series: Ornamental Fruit Trees found under ‘publications’.

Question #2: In the corner of the ceiling on my front porch there is a papery, honeycomb like, circular shaped nest. I see paper wasps flying in and out of it. How concerned should I be about paper wasps and should I do something to get rid of them?

Answer #2: Paper wasps tend to be less aggressive and threatening than yellowjackets. The nests are usually fairly small, only a few inches in diameter, so they do not contain as large a number of wasps as found in yellowjacket nests. But if the nest is in a frequently used area, control is warranted because they will sting if they feel threatened. Active nests can be sprayed with a registered wasp and hornet spray. Look for one that is labeled as non-staining and can be sprayed from a distance. Treat in the evening or early morning. Paper wasp nests located in non-frequented areas should be left alone. The wasps prey on caterpillars and are considered to be beneficial.

Question #3: My husband and I planted 4 beefsteak tomato plants in late April. They are producing tomatoes but none are turning red. Last year at this time we were already eating vine ripened tomatoes. What is going on?

Answer #3: Patience may be the key word this year. Tomatoes and some other warm-season vegetables are behind their normal schedule. In April, soils were not warm enough for tomato plants to grow. Root growth does not occur until soil temperatures reach about 65 degrees F. Do not fret there is still plenty of time for your tomatoes to ripen. Gardeners need to be flexible in their expectations because every year is a different year in the garden.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.