Cinco De Mayo!

Felicidades! Happy Cinco De Mayo to you and yours. Be safe, smart and thirsty mi compadres. While consuming beverages today don’t forget to eat and may we recommend our DIO!! Tomatillo Salsa? Que bueno! Recipe is in this post from last year. (Click pic for tip)  Tiene hambre?

 

in my belly now....

in my belly now….

Something Prince Would Wear…

“Consider the eggplant, shiny purple, tight skin. Like something Prince would wear.”

Eggplant is purple. Purple is good.

Eggplant is purple. Purple is good.

Aaaah, it seems like yesterday we uttered those words. They ring with the poignancy of Edison’s “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” It may just as well as been yesterday as it was three years, and four kitchens ago that we shot our first episode of DIO! Where does the thyme go, I tell you. It goes in the pantry, you know that.

Sista Sal and I lived together in a tiny little cottage on the sleepy CT Shoreline. Yes, Yankee Key West as I liked to call it. And I maintained the outdoors for she and I. We had hanging baskets, decorative barrels, pots, cans and window sills. There was a festive Perennial Love Garden chock filled with hasta, Allium and black-eyed susan’s. I grew giant-sized sunflowers that stopped traffic. There was bamboo. Side note, the bamboo grows spreads like, well you know, it spreads crazy like. It spread under the neighbors fence who thought he might harvest it.  He was sure it was asparagus. Oh, Yankee Key West. My point was around here and I know it will resurface. Like bamboo.

The size of our vegetable garden grew each year. It was lined with brick (we’re Italian) and subject to many trips by Ma (The Tomato Thief). Eventually a fence was put around it to prevent rabbits, deer and

plant a kiss on that fruit

plant a kiss on that fruit

yes, Ma. Every fall I buried fish breakdowns in the native american traditions to fertilize the soil. Our bounty was always  amazing. The tomatillo plants and the eggplant plants were the most amazing. Their leaves and branches had a jaunty raconteur nature to them. These plants were the “Zoot Suit Riot” of my 90’s garden life. Take a moment and smell the Seattle Coffee. Such a fun time.

Sista Sal asked recently if there was a great recipe for her bounty of eggplant and if it could be kid friendly. Sista Sal speaks, Li’l Bro listens.

Patties Eggplant:

  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (I like Tillamook)
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 3 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup oil for frying
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. 
  1. Place eggplant in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on medium-high 3 minutes. Turn eggplant over and microwave another 2 minutes. Eggplant should be tender, cook another 2 minutes if the eggplants are not tender. Drain any liquid from the eggplants and mash.
  2. Combine cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, onion, garlic and salt with the mashed eggplant. Mix well.
  3. Shape the eggplant mixture into Patties. Heat oil in a large skillet. Drop eggplant Patties one at a time into skillet. Fry each side of the Patties until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes on each side. Freezing Patties for half hour prior to frying help with keeping their shape. 

Salad Days! Tomatillo Salsa Recipe!

A couple lifetimes and botox appointments ago, I was a gardener. I did it for the gladiolus, not as a source of income. Situated in sleepy Westbrook, CT (Yankee Key West) There was this little cottage by the sea with knotty pine. I lived there with Sista Sal in my, ha- ha, salad days. I was an ideal tenant with christmas flaire and a penchant for landscaping. The seasons were (ivy) covered in great style. My gardening included maintaining containers, bulb planting, vegetables, herbs, annuals and perennials. I had this mad idea that the lawn should be covered in daffodils every spring. Each year the lawn got a little closer to Holland. It was great recreation to bring color and produce to our table.

Every year the “Perenial Love Garden” running the length of the property was introduced to new and inspired cast members. Hosta, bleeding hearts, anemone, phlox, allium; we had them all. One magical day friend Robin asked if I wanted some bamboo. Sharing ‘starts’ of new plants is common practice in Yankee Key West. She brought me a couple innocent looking pots. The Garden was going to look so cool.  The bamboo turned out to be a last straw (as it were). I didn’t realize it was so virile. So agro.  Bamboo spreads like a, well, like a bad idea in your early twenties. And it popped up everywhere. The Love Garden, the lawn, the adjacent driveway. The second season it made it’s way into the neighbors yard who assumed it was free white asparagus and served it with lamb one night. 86 the bamboo from the Perennial Love Garden Sista Sal asked. DIO READERS: I moved it to the far corner of my folks yard, thinking the shade would keep it dwarfish. It’s proximity to the marsh brought it a new life. Here’s a pic from a recent visit.

The Last 'Straw'

12 years later, relocated bamboo shields Uno and Due’s beach compound from attackers and paparazzi alike

Twelve years later it looks like a location shot for “Crouching Tiger, Sleeping Dragon”.

I would continue to experiment in my Garden Of Good and Evil. I had a corn period, fail. I got fascinated with castor bean plants, also known as mamones. They were freaky leaved tropicals that grew wicked gnarly (remember, it’s New England) flower buds resembling blackberries. We had to say “No to Mamones”. Mile high sunflowers and  morning glories were a triumph.  I planted broken down fish remnants in the steps of our New England forefathers as an amazing fertilizer. My garden beds came to be the stuff of Johnny Appleseed legends. They could turn it out.

Now I told you that story to tell you this one. Every year the veggie garden got a little bigger, a little more daring. There would always be a featured guest star for each growing season. After Habanero-Hot Summer circa 1977 I thought to cool it down with planting tomatillos. Tomatillos are little fruit popular in mexican cooking.

tonytillio

plant with care and get ready to eat.

Tomatillos grow in this charming little husk that splits open as the fruit ripens. The husks resemble chinese lanterns that I thought would match the bleeding hearts and bamboo in nearby garden beds. They produce a lot of fruit in charming little lanterns. So much so that at you can’t keep up with them as they ripen. So they may have fallen into the soil and rotten. There was so much fruit. I didn’t even think it would matter. Until the next year.

I had moved to new digs a mile away but retained liberal visitation with the Gardens. Sista Sal calls me to come over and see the fruits of my labors. All that fruit seeded the veggie garden, now in her care. Tomatillo plants were popping up all over her well appointed vegetable garden. Bamboo Redux! Almost overnight they spread like crazy. For the remainder of the growing season, there were tomatillos for everyone. Sista Sal, the neighbors, friend Robin, Uno and Due all got there fill of the tasty fruit popular in Mexican cooking. We’d leave them on doorsteps with notes saying “Freshly grown, not to be thrown”. We had to get up on what to do with this bounty, actually I had to get up on what to do with it as Sista Sal had organized a mutiny on the bounty. I had left the garden beds better than I had found them and my fruit needed to be dealt with.

I pickled tomatillos. I fried tomatillos. I baked tomatillos. I made beautiful sauces for enchiladas.

My most successful recipe for the tomatillos was for salsa. People seemed to eat it up. It was easy to assemble and always thought of as a nice gift and not “here comes Tony again with his GD tomatillos”. I thought you might like to give this a try for your summer snacking.

eat this now.

What to do with all that bounty? Salsa lessons.

When you take your first taste please think of a tiny cottage surrounded by little flowers and a madman burying fish carcasses in the backyard. You’ll understand what Sista Sal got to live with and some very special summers.

Taste a Better Life!!!!

Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb. tomatillos chopped

4-5 radishes chopped

1/2 cup red onion chopped

1/2 cup cilantro chopped

1 jalapeno chopped (seeded if you need not sweat)

3 scallions chopped

juice of one lime

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste.