Sunday, July 22, 2012

Home-Grown Tomatoes, Grilled "Cheese" That Will Explode Your Brain, The Quiet Storm

People always talk about how tomatoes you grow yourself taste better, and how grocery store tomatoes are crap.  Although I believed that was true, and would not buy tomatoes out of season even though they're in the stores year-round, I thought, you know, they're not THAT bad, at least not in the summer.

Nevertheless, I wanted to grow a whole bunch of them, and taste what everyone had been saying.  Last summer, I got plenty of tomatoes through my CSA, and I just didn't think they were any different than the organic ones from the store; as long as I never put either one in the refrigerator, they tasted fine by me.

And I still think that!  However, the brandywine tomatoes I'm growing on my porch are definitely the greatest tomatoes I've ever eaten.
A smaller brandywine tomato, one of the first of the season.
I actually haven't cooked with one yet, because I keep on just eating them!  Mostly, I've been just slicing them, sprinkling on some chopped basil from one of my plants, and adding some salt and pepper.
This was a trick I learned from my older sister as a child.  She used to love to slice tomatoes and eat them with just salt and pepper.  The basil is my only no-duh addition.  You may not believe me, especially if you're one of those "I hate raw tomatoes" people, but it does NOT taste like a raw tomato!  It actually tastes like a delicious marinara sauce.

A lot of the time, though, I never even manage to put any salt, pepper, and basil on them before I eat them completely unadorned.  They are far better than my CSA tomatoes last summer.  I cannot explain this, but it's true.

The only "cooking" I've done with my tomatoes was adding some slices to the grilled "cheese" sandwiches I made.  I never photographed one with a tomato in it, though.  Still, do you guys want to hear about the greatest damn grilled "cheese" sandwiches ever?  Great!  Here goes...

So, in the book Vegan Diner, there's this recipe called Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze that I'd been wanting to make for some time.  It's tofu-based, and it's got agar powder.  Eaten alone, it tastes good, but not amazing.  However, it is just totally perfect for heating in a grilled "cheese" sandwich!  The way it heats is so terrific -- the texture is perfect.  I never was one to eat grilled cheese without pesto, and I'd made an enormous amount of pesto from the basil in my garden.  Also, I really believe that grilled cheese should be on rye bread.  It just tastes best.

So, rye bread, buttered on the outside with Earth Balance, Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze smeared on the bottom slice, pesto on the top slice, cooked on my pre-warmed cast-iron skillet.  MMMMmmmm.  It was so good that I'd make one and bring it to friends just to be like, "OMG, you gotta try this!"  It was so good that I insisted my vegan friend Kate stop by, even if just for a few minutes, so I could make her one.  It was so good that I ran through the streets naked yelling, "GRILLED CHEEZE WIT A Z, BITCHEZ!!"  Well, OK, I didn't do that third thing, but I really, really wanted to.

Do you like those little strawberries next to the yummy, yummy grilled "cheese"?  I grew them in one of my sub-irrigated planters!  I have only six plants in there, and they produce about as many strawberries as you see in that picture every day.

In other news, I don't usually eat out, but I do occasionally eat at Pittsburgh's vegetarian/vegan restaurant The Quiet Storm, and I'm almost always thrilled with what I get.  I don't prefer to eat there on a Sunday because there is only a brunch menu on Sunday, and I really prefer their non-breakfast items, and also because the brunch items have been steadily increasing in price since I first started going there, but it seems like I only ever make it on a Sunday!  Boo.  Nevertheless, the food always pleases me.

I went there with my friend Heather a week ago, and was tempted to get some kind of a breakfast burrito, but I decided, ultimately, to go for sweet/savory instead of just savory/savory, and I ordered the Nyam -- described on the menu as "Jamaican-inspired cornmeal & coconut pudding, topped with roasted sweet potatoes, bananas, & cinnamon-maple syrup."  It came with fresh fruit, and black beans.  And, you know, it was awesome.  I pretty much inhaled it between sips of hot coffee with soy creamer.
Nyam from The Quiet Storm.  This place never disappoints!
To close off this entry, wanna see my first fully-grown cucumber?  It's pretty daggone cute, I think.  I may be a bit too sentimentally attached to my home grown fruits, though.
Awww, baby's first cucumber!


  1. I've had my eye on that Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze too! Now, I gotta make it and make a grilled cheeze with it!! Yum! The Nyam sounds delicious, but my only issue would be that they let the black beans touch the fruit! I have weird food touching issues with certain things. :-)

    By the way, link added! Love you blog!

  2. I'm just the opposite, I want to mix ALL THE THINGS! I'm all like "Hmmm, I wonder if it might be delicious to dip this cornbread into pickle juice?" To each his or her own, though. :-P

    (I kid about the cornbread and pickle juice! I was trying to think of something gross.)


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