how does anyone know?

“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


(ripening persimons on the tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ripe: fully grown and developed: mature ripe fruit
:having mature knowledge, understanding, or judgment

Unripe: not fully matured
2. not fully prepared or developed; not ready

How do we know when something is ripe?
Color?
Touch?
Taste?
All of the above?

Ripe equates with that which is good.
That which is pleasing.
That which is inviting.

Ripe is as good as it gets….

Unripe is bitter, hard, immature, not ready…
unripe is unproductive.

If you profess to being a Christian,
how does the anyone know whether or not you are ripe and ready?

One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered.
“The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah,
whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.
I will build them up and not tear them down;
I will plant them and not uproot them.
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 24:2-7

It’s all good…

Even if I know I shall never change the masses, never transform anything permanent, all I ask is that the good things also have their place, their refuge.
Richard Wagner

God will bestow on you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those who keep His commandments.
St. Columba (Columcille)

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(an afternoon of refreshments, Adare Manor / Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)

There are those moments in life in which time seems to stand still…

In a good way…

The outside world is far removed as it is unconsciously, yet blissfully, forgotten…
Events and circumstances that, just a minute prior spun heavily around your head,
are now oddly light years away…
You feel yourself drifting lightly away to elsewhere…
Somewhere else that is much like that place between sleeping and waking…
that time and place where all is still, quiet, peaceful and good.

It is to a place where there are…
No worries
No pulling of this way and that
No demands
No places to be, no people to see, no fires to put out…
No looming deadlines, tests, procedures, appointments…
No screaming headlines of the bad, the sad, the scary…

For your bad, sad and scary are momentarily and mercifully put on hold.

It’s not that you pretend it’s not all there.
Not that you’ve turned a blind eye…
Not that you are foolishly disregarding the obvious and apparent…
It’s not that you have turned callous, empty or too consumed to notice…

Or…. maybe it is because you have been consumed, overwhelmed and nearly beaten down…
Because you have nearly reached your breaking point…
the point of the almost and alarmingly place of no return…

You have been spared for just the slightest and briefest of moments.
It’s as if your brain has been clicked off, and rather than churning out a litany of thoughts, frets, worries…you are still, quiet…and actually dare it be said, content.

It is a place and time of quiet reflection spent with or without company…
It is a place that is elsewhere, that is other…and for right now, all you know is that other…is good.

It is a taste, a small minuscule taste dancing across a tastebud, momentary yet distinctly detected…a taste of the very Divine…
A moment frozen in time when you have fallen into the arms of Love itself.
And yet you don’t even comprehend nor realize that’s what it actually is…
For it is so delicious, so intoxicating, so welcomed yet equally foreign and so very alien that you just can’t put your finger on what it is or from whence it came…

For all you know, with any sort of certainty, is that you’ve been granted what feels to be a momentary reprieve, a respite, a miracle of a mystical embrace….
all of which has you yearning for more….with the knowledge that you had been transported to a moment of the Holy and for that one tiny moment, everything is all good….

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A shot of yours truly in one of those happy good places, munching on a handful of dried cranberries, sitting on a giant rock, in the middle of quiet mountain stream, thankful that for a brief moment in time, life is indeed… all good.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Pomodoro or Let’s get cooking with Cookie

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
― Isabelle Eberhardt

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(a bowl of our soon to be Tomato pudding)

Ahhh, Isabelle, I feel your pain.
When I think of summer, I think of gardens,
When I think of gardens,I think of tomatoes,
When I think of tomatoes, I think of Italy.
When I think of Italy, I think I want to run away.
When I think of running away to Italy, I think of food.
When I think of food in Italy, I think of pasta,
When I think of pasta, I think tomato, as in Pomodoro. . .

Wait a minute, What?!

That’s right, tomatoes plus Italy–as in all jumbled up together.
As they go hand in hand. . . like that whole peas and carrots thing.
And of course I probably think of bacon. . .who doesn’t think of bacon?
As in a good ol BLT—but this is not about that nor bacon, this is about Pomodoro, the humble tomato. . .

Today’s post is all about the abundance of summer tomatoes and what in the heck to do with them! Trust me, I’m feeling your pain. When the time has come and there is simply no one remaining on the planet to give away your excess crop to, as it seems as if family and friends are actually turning in the other direction when they see you coming. . .and the thought of letting the bumper crop die on the vine as it were, is totally and simply unacceptable. . .
it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get creative!

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And no I’m not talking about canning.
I don’t “can.”
And yes, I should go take a class at the Extension Agency or study some YouTube video, but the thought of creating botulism in my kitchen, then gifting it to others or welcoming it to the table some cold January night as we consume a tomato bisque made from a jar of the past summer’s canned tomatoes that I did something not right to, simply scares me. I’m thinking bio-terrorism in my kitchen and I for one do not wish to be on the CDC’s watch list.

So instead of botulism, we’re going to do a little number for those of you scouring the cooking blogs for something new and exciting in order to bring to the table on those meatless Monday’s, or terrific Tuesdays, etc, or even a little something special to offer along as a side dish to a scrumptious beef tenderloin. . .

Behold, the Savory Tomato Pudding à la Cookie

Yes, for those of you who would like a sweet version of this sort of thing, it is possible–I however prefer to have my tomato dishes remain relatively savory as in main course and not dessert.

We will start with what seems to be a million tomatoes.
Perhaps 10 decent sized tomatoes or perhaps 12 to 15 smaller ones.
First we need to remove the skin and seed these puppies
Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil
On the bottom of each tomato, cut an X
Put the tomatoes in the pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes.

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Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water as this stops the cooking process. At the X, the skin should now be easy to pull off. Peel off the skin then cut the tomatoes in half and working with your hands, squeeze out or scrape out the seeds. I know this is a pain but the seeds are bitter and will negatively effect the palate.

Using a loaf of a tuscan boule, Italian loaf, brioche or challah bread–cut away the crust and cut the bread into small cubes–you can always tear it into small pieces if you need to release any aggression.
Place the bread in a large bowl.

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Spray a casserole pan with Pam.

Next, gather some nice fresh herbs–basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, etc—whatever floats your boat— but basil is essential.
Slice and dice the herbs.

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You may notice that I actually use scissors to cut the chives into small pieces.

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Take an onion and dice it.

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In a saucepan heat a little olive oil with a few hot pepper flakes and a nice grind or two of pepper.

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Once the oil is heated and ready to sizzle, add the onions.
Stir until translucent.
Toward the end of cooking the onions add one or two cloves of minced garlic. Garlic has a tendency to burn and does not need to cook nearly as long as the onions. Add the garlic toward the end to heat it thoroughly before it has a chance to brown. Brown garlic = bitter.

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Now it’s time for our tomatoes.
Add tomatoes cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down.
(This is the same process I use to make my tomato sauce but I would be using a dutch oven, and I
would have also satued some celery and bell pepper, add some red wine, a bay leaf or two and cook
on a low simmer for about two hours—stirring periodically until the sauce thickens. . .)
We’re hoping to cook down 4 cups worth for our tomato pudding.

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I like to cook the tomatoes for about 30 minutes or even longer which will help to thicken the sauce a tad.
Continue stirring.
As the tomatoes are gently simmering, add about 4 TBL of brown sugar or maybe 3 TBL and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. I do not like my tomato pudding overtly sweet. Some receipes call for a full cup of sugar–the thought of such makes me a bit queazy —just enough to help heighten the natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes, you may also add a nice squeeze of a lemon as well as this will highlight the tomatoes nice acidity.

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Add the herbs toward the end of cooking because if you put them in too early and leave them in too long, they will become bitter–off setting the taste of our sauce.

As our tomatoes are cooking, take this time to break 4 large eggs in a large measuring cup with room enough to add 1 1/2 cups of half and half. Whisk until well blended.

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Now remove the tomato mixture from the heat and pour it over the bread crumbs. Stir to coat all the bread with the sauce. Let it sit for a while in order to allow the bread to absorb the juice of the tomato sauce.

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Next pour the egg and cream mixture into the bread and tomato mixture.
Add about a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Mix throughly and pour into your prepared casserole dish.
(you may certainly add more cheese into the body of the pudding and even get creative with the choice of cheese—I had debated on adding some fresh goat cheese but I refrained—my husband’s palate leans to the more simple whereas I dash toward the complex—naturally as it should be 😉 )
Sprinkle a mix of shredded cheddars or an Italian blend of cheese.

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Place in a preheated 350ᵒ oven for approximately an hour or until golden and puffy.
(I cooked mine for about 40 minutes in a convection oven)

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Oh so flavorful and satisfying!!!
The taste of the height of summer is on a plate!
Serve as a main as I did along with an accompaniment of wonderfully creamy rustic style grits (recipe to follow later) and for my husband who loves these, fried okra. You can forego the okra opting for a salad, or fresh green beans.

Molto Bene!
Mangiare!!

10 medium sized tomatoes—peeled and seeded
1 onion diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
a medium loaf of a rustic bread, crust removed and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups half and half
4 large eggs
4 TBL brown sugar
splash of a good grade balsamic vinegar
squeeze of a lemon
salt
pepper
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
mix of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, rosemary)
Olive oil for sautéing onions (2 or 3 good sized tablespoons)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (more if you prefer)
1 to 2 cups of shredded cheeses—colby jack, mozzarella, italian blend, cheddar—your call and choice–this may go in the casserole as well as a good coating on top
rectangle pan works best sprayed with PAM
Oven at 350ᵒ

In just a few short weeks, a little bit of Southern Heaven for expectant tastebuds

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton

ADD A LITTLE OF THIS:

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(a small section of the plowed garden)

PLUS A LITTLE OF THIS

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(a few heirloom tomatoes ready for planting)

WHICH EQUALS A LOT OF THIS:

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(part of last year’s bounty of heirloom tomatoes)

AND OF COURSE THE BEST PART IS THIS:

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(sliced heirloom tomatoes, shredded basil, chopped chives, fresh green peas, sea salt, fresh ground pepper—add blue cheese or feta—yum. . .)

Yep, it’s that time of year again.
Actually we’ve gotten a rather late start.
Things should have been plowed and planted by now, but as this was the year for the winter that wouldn’t let go. . . we’ve had to wait.

Yesterday the ground was plowed, boosted with the addition of fertilizer and plowed again.
Hopefully a nice little passing rain shower, which is predicted for this morning, may grace the freshly tilled soil.
Add the water, let dry, plow again, then add tiny tomatoes, eggplants then the myriad of seed packs—yellow crookneck squash, black beauty zucchini, leeks, Blue lake bush beans, Silver Queen and Peaches and Cream Corn, yellow wax beans, bush baby limas, bush cucumbers, red and orange bell peppers, etc

And now, we wait. . .