Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Red Tomato Harvest.

September 22, 2020; the first day of autumn, the beginning of Mabon and celebration of the fall season.  Mabon is the Second Harvest; a reflection of the past, gratitude for the present, blessings for the future.  A week-long celebration in which the bounties of fruits, vegetables and grains are harvested for the final time.  Pickling, jamming, jellies, bread making, dehydrating, roasting, and food preservation are the major goals.  Winter, depending upon where one lives, can be knocking at the door at any moment.

In my previous article, we visited the taste treat of Fried Green Tomatoes.  I bet many of the home cooks tried it, but I bet many others pickled those green tomatoes for future use.  Since this is time for Second Harvest, consider this a second article to figure out what to do with all those extra red tomatoes.  While they can be canned or frozen whole, homemade pasta sauce and salsa are very much delicious options.   However, two other options are dehydrating and roasting. 

Dehydration is extracting all moisture from a thinly sliced food item, then sealing it in air tight packaging.  It can be seasoned before processing, but be careful as anything added will be greatly intensified in flavor.  Jerky?  Yes, this is made through the dehydration process, as is “fruit leather”.  Owning a dehydrator makes the process easier, less messy, more hygienic, but still time consuming.  Cutting the ripe, red tomatoes into one quarter inch slices, space them out on the dehydrator disks.  Cover, turn on the device and my three trays still took eight hours to completion.  If all five trays had been used, the time would have been ten to twelve hours.  Once completely dried, carefully lift the slices which have shrunk to 1/8th of an inch thin.  I placed mine in a resealable plastic bag, making sure to, carefully, squeeze out the air, before sealing.  Yes, a container can be used, but it is air that will destroy all your hard work by creating mold on the tomato slices.  Keep them in a cool, dry, dark environment; heat and light are not friends to dried foods.  In a cabinet, they will keep for six months; stored in a freezer is a one year bounty!

Freshly sliced tomatoes in dehydrator.

Dried tomato slices.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The other method for drying out tomatoes is to Sun Dry.  The tomatoes are sliced, placed on parchment lined trays and exposed to the sun until completely dried out.  This method takes days, leaves the tomatoes open to the air, and anything air borne.  While, in Utah, the red dust of our magnificent sandstone formations is nicknamed “seasoning”, do we really want it on our drying tomatoes?  Then there are insects, falling leaves, pet hair, and who knows what other non-tasty and unhealthy yuck that might get added in.  So, as you can guess, I am partial to a dehydrator.

What can dehydrated tomatoes be used for?  First, they can easily be rehydrated by soaking in hot water for thirty minutes.  Chop them up to add to salads, slices onto sandwiches, or anything else tomatoes are called for.  They can, also, simply be crushed or ground up to be added to soups, stews, dressings, and basically any dish calling for seasoning.  Dried tomatoes have intensified tomato flavor, so add a sweet/tart/tangy balance to a recipe.

Roasted tomatoes will not keep as long as dried.  Up to five days in the refrigerator, only six months if frozen.  Reason being is the cooked olive oil which can eventually turn rancid, even if frozen.  However, these little tidbits are so exquisitely delicious, they will not last long anyway!

Preheating the oven to 450F, slice the tomatoes, again, to one quarter inch thickness.  If using cherry tomatoes, simply cut in half.  In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with a half cup of olive oil  (this is for 6-8 large Roma tomatoes), one quarter cup of Italian herbal mix, one tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, one half teaspoon of fine sea salt. 


Place the tomato slices, or halves, in rows, onto jelly roll pans (the sides will keep the oil from leaking onto the oven floor).  Roast for 20-25 minutes in the oven; any longer and they will begin to turn too mushy.  Let cool for 15 minutes before placing in air tight containers or bags.

Roasted Tomatoes

You will be tasting them, I know you cannot resist!  Have any frozen pizza in the freezer?  Unwrap, place a few slices of the roasted tomatoes on it, and then rewrap.  Wait until you finally bake that pizza, the taste will make your eyes pop out!

How about some Bruschetta?  While the tomatoes are roasting, brush thick slices of Italian or French bread (even sub rolls will work) lightly with olive oil.  Once the tomatoes are done, space them out on the bread, top with shredded mozzarella and pop back into that 450F oven for 15-18 minutes.  One bite, and you will be totally in love!

Bruschetta and Roasted Tomatoes

Joyous Mabon, Welcome Autumn, Second Harvest is here, Celebrate and eat some tomatoes!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Journey of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Like a lot of women, I happen to enjoy the occasional “chick flick”, and one such movie is Fried Green Tomatoes.    It came out in 1991, based on a novel by Fannie Flagg, about the women at the Whistle Stop CafĂ©.   Starring Mary Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy, this is feel-good story of female friendship and empowerment in Alabama.  This is also the first time many Americans heard of “fried green tomatoes”, and it was assumed the recipe originated in the Southern United States.

Actually, fried green tomatoes was not a dish served, in the South, before 1991, but were well known in the Northeast and Midwest.  According to Robert F. Moss, a food historian and writer in South Carolina, "they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menu of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century."  (

While Moss found recipes in several Jewish and Midwestern cookbooks of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were none in Southern cookbooks or newspapers.  Due to the movie, the origin of fried green tomatoes became lost, and re-designated to a whole new region of the United States.  See, a good example why history should not be messed with!

A recipe for "Fried Green Tomatoes" appears in the International Jewish Cookbook (1919), recommended as "an excellent breakfast dish," (Of course I have a copy, did you really have to ask?)   The recipe also appears in Aunt Babette's Cookbook (1889), another kosher Jewish recipe book. Recipes for "fried tomatoes" (though not necessarily green ones) appear in several Midwestern cookbooks from the late 19th Century, including the Buckeye Cookbook (1877) and The Presbyterian Cookbook (1873) from the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, OH.  (Ok, no, I do not have any of these others named.)

Basically, we have fried green tomatoes beginning the journey in the Northeast, primarily New York.  It then begins traveling towards the Midwest, but only ends up in the Southern states due to a movie.   Which now ties into Good Things to Eat – From Old Nauvoo -, and a copy of this little cookbook can be obtained at the Restoration Bookstore (   What does this recipe journey tie into, you wonder?  For those not entirely familiar with the Mormon religion, Mormonism originated in the 1820s, in western New York, during a reform period known as the Second Great Awakening.

Most of the population were none too happy with this new religion (so much for reform), so the members moved towards the Midwest. Settling in Kirtland, Ohio, there was hope to establish a permanent New Jerusalem, or City of Zion, in Jackson County, Missouri. However, they were pushed out of Jackson County in 1833 and forced to settle in other parts of Missouri in 1838.

What has this all to do with the Temple at Nauvoo, and a cookbook?  The Church's first temple was in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, and the only one completed in the lifetime of Joseph Smith. Another Temple was built in Nauvoo, Illinois, but in the winter of 1846, the Mormons were forced out once again.  This Temple received a double insult, in 1848, by being damaged by fire, and a tornado, before finally being demolished.

Now what I really want you all to see, is the correlation of the traveling of Jewish immigrants, from New York, to the Midwest; and the Mormon journey.  Was there perhaps interaction going on, a sharing between two separately distinct religions?  Maybe not in religious doctrines, but when it comes to cooking and recipes, you know all the ladies were sharing and comparing!  So, there is no wonder that a Jewish culinary recipe would find its way into a cookbook, related to Nauvoo.

On page 62, appears "Fried Tomatoes", and the batter for this recipe is versatile.  It is thin enough to make crepes (take out the black pepper if not desired), or add more flour for deliciously, fluffy pancakes.  Oh, and there is also a recipe for "Summer Squash Pancakes" on the same page; and here is a great lead in to harvesting. 

So many tomatoes, so little time to get them red enough to create sauce or salsa.  There they sit, all those green tomatoes, on the window sill.  Hoping daily that the sun will ripen them up quickly.  I have the patience, I can wait, but...but...what do those green tomatoes taste like.  They are firm (almost hard), moist, but not juicy, and sour (pucker up!).  No one wants to eat that, well, except those who love sour.  Now is the time to make yourself, your family, even friends, a real taste treat, Fried Green Tomatoes.  In the Nauvoo recipe, sugar is added to combat the sour of the green tomato.  However, we enjoy dipping our slices into a mildly spiced Ranch dressing which enhances, not only the tomato, but the fried batter around it.   For added crunch, after putting the batter on the tomato slices, press Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) on, before frying up.

Now this recipe seems to be for firm red tomatoes, but I have personally found them to still be too juicy for a good fry-up.  …and the way I am constantly making sauce, there are hardly ever enough around to be fried up anyway.

 Fried Tomatoes

(Good Things to Eat – From Old Nauvoo – page 62)



6-8 tomatoes  

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. pepper

2 eggs, beaten

1 Tbsp. butter



Wash tomatoes and cut them into ½ inch slices.  Melt butter slowly in a skillet. 

Mix other ingredients together.
  Dip the tomatoes in the batter, covering both sides.  SautĂ©’ 2 or 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. 

You may also use green tomatoes (Yes, do this!!!).  Add extra sugar (No, you don’t have to!)

Even food has its own historical background, and I do hope you enjoyed this culinary journey.

Mary Cokenour




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Honey Bees and Water

With Fall being just around the corner, animals and insects are attempting to get their homes, nests and hives ready for Winter’s cold, and darker, days. Back on June 21st, our home was blessed with the arrival of a swarm of honey bees. Cindy Smith, and her husband, came to their rescue; taking them home and providing a new hive. Seems an old tree had fallen within our Monticello neighborhood, and these bees were looking for sanctuary. 

Within the past week, about three dozen honey bees have been visiting our backyard once again. With the recent rains, our bird bath was full to capacity; its rim providing just the correct distance for bees to drink. That is correct, drink water; bees will travel up to five miles, from the hive, to find water. Like we humans, bees are mainly live sacks of water that need to keep hydrated. “…it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day." (Bug Squad:

Of course there are a variety of uses for water, including hive maintenance, honey production and the nurse bees must insure the health and well-being of the queen. Bees cannot swim, so they can drown if they fall into a water source. While the bird bath has a rim, we added flat rocks for them to perch on as well. They lower their proboscis into the water and suck it up. The proboscis is a straw-like tongue used for slurping up liquids and also for tasting. When not being used for either chore, the proboscis is folded up and stored in a groove-like structure in the bee's head. 

We checked on the bees daily, making sure the water was reachable for them, and that none had fallen into the water. One night I found two floating in the water, not moving, and I feared they had passed on. Placing them into the palm of my hand, I spoke to them, telling them how sorry I was for getting there too late. I was going to recite a blessing over them, when suddenly, there was movement. Little legs began to twitch; they were alive, but needed warmth.

Bringing them into my home, I continued to cup them inside my palm, and talked to them the entire time. Slowing rising up, they both began to clean themselves thoroughly. Drooping antennae lifted upward; legs swept against bodies and wings; they began to walk and it tickled. As they became more active, their little butts began to wiggle, and I knew it was time.

Walking outdoors, one took off immediately; the second was hesitant. Simply sitting in a chair, watching the sun set, my honey bee companion and I; and then it left. 

This is, for me, one of those moments that confirms why life is worth living.

Mary Cokenour