11 June 2008

Salmonella and a reason for low-tech engineering

OK, now that I have the catchy title, can I write a good story? I haven't been paying attention to the salmonella/tomato problem, but yesterday I overheard a hairdresser having a conversation with her client about it, and joined in. That's one of the great things about my job. Talking to other clients and stylists really fosters a sense of 'home' in the salon. Unless you're having a conversation with your client about something private and realize you've been talking too loud. But, it turns out the client talking about the tomatoes works for the FDA and had a lot of interesting things to say, mainly: they have no idea where it's coming from. I told her I'd been lamenting the fact that I wouldn't be able to make my tomato pie, and she informed me that cooked tomatoes are fine. Yeah! But cooked to what temperature? I'll have to find out. But, I digress, which I do a lot.

Remember the fence I built to keep the squirrels out of my potted tomato plants?

I built it to try to keep this guy...

From doing this to my tomatoes:

I was really proud of my skills in building that tomato fence. My forearms bear the scars of the chicken-wire scratches. Then this happened:

The tomato flowers started growing through the top of my not-tall-enough cage. I really remembered this variety being short and squat. Not! So, back to work. The cage isn't looking quite as spiffy as it used to, but it's over 2 feet higher now. And you know what? The head squirrel is probably laughing it's head off, 'cause his plan to steal my tomatoes has long been in place, and he's just biding his time.

I hope I grow enough tomatoes to justify all the effort I put into the fence. If it works, I'll store it in my basement over the winter and reuse it every year. Oh wait, how will I get it through the door? I guess I'll be storing it under my deck. Maybe I could leave a small opening and it could be a squirrel trap? No, that would be cruel.

Here's my recipe for Tomato Pie. I first had it in the South Carolina 'lowcountry', and its become a family favorite. There's many variations of this on the internet.

Preheat oven and baking sheet to 350*

1 (9") deep dish pie shell (I use frozen)
5 large tomatoes, peeled, sliced and squeezed to get seeds out
1/2 small onion, chopped (I cook it in the microwave for a few minutes)
3 t dried basil or 1/4 c fresh, chopped (I only use fresh)
salt and pepper
3/4 c mayonnaise
1 1/4 c grated cheddar cheese

Mix tomatoes, basil, onion, s&p in a bowl. If it seems too liquid-y, drain it. Place in bottom of pie shell. Mix mayo and cheese and spread over tomato mixture. Bake on cookie sheet at 350* for 35 minutes or till golden brown and bubbly. The bottom crust is always soggy, and I haven't figured out how to fix that, but it doesn't take away from the deliciousness of the pie.

Anyway, I really didn't mean to write such a long post. Well, there's really not too much writing---the pictures take up a lot of space. Yesterday was another day in the heatwave zone, ending with a thunderstorm with lots of rain. Thank goodness for the rain. I came out to my porch this morning with my laptop, ready to go back in and grab my fan, when much to my surprise, I felt an actual cool breeze. It's only 72 degrees right now, the sky is bright blue, and it's beautiful outside. It's going to be in the upper 80's instead of the upper 90's for the rest of the week. That said, I'm getting on my walking shoes and putting in my time. I switched days off this week, and I'm so glad!


Happyone said...

So that's that pesky little squirrel. You got a real good picture of him!! I'm not a big fan of squirrels!!
Your modified contraption should keep him out of your tomatoes.
Enjoy your day off. The weather is perfect!!

ellesu said...

It's amazing what my stylist and I talk about. She shares as much as I do. I don't know what it is about beauty salons that fosters this *specialness -- but it's nice.

Thanks for the Tomato Pie recipe. I can't wait to try it. We've been eating our tomatoes for a couple of weeks now and they are so good.

Jay said...

They might not know exactly where the bad maters are coming from, but they do know they're coming from the big corporate farms. If you buy at the farmer's market from an organic farmer then you should be okay. Or if you use your own.

Unless it's the seeds that were tainted then we're all screwed. LOL ;-)

fiwa said...

Yeah - I was thinking the same thing Jay was - if you grow your own I would think you should be fine.

That tomato pie sounds really good. Have you ever tried baking the crust for a few minutes first, and then filling it and baking the rest of the way? Just wondering if that would help the soggy bottom.

I'm TRYING to grow my own maters this year so I can make fried green tomatoes. Scrum! So far the sun & temps are not coperating with me - so we'll see if I actually get any.

Ilene said...

I'd forgotten about tomato pie. Now you having me craving it, and it's not exactly low-cal. Well, it's not home-grown tomato time yet, so I guess I still have a few weeks.

Jamie said...

YOU are such an amazing woman, building cages, giving recipes, when I grow up, I want to be JUST like you!

Hugs and smiles. :)

Anonymous said...

My friend had the same exact problem, she put out nuts on her deck railing and the squirrels leave her tomatos alone now.

Golden To Silver Val said...

Even though they are so darn cute...squirrels have caused me a lot of trouble over the years. They are the one biggest cause of power failures in our neighborhood. They chew through the wires or else they get too close to the transformer and it blows...killing the suspect squirrel at the same time. I used to lose my phone service every couple years or so due to them chewing through the phone wires. The phone company finally put my wires underground so that's been safe ever since.
About the pie crust....I would put the empty pie shell in the oven for about 10 minutes or so to partially cook the bottom crust. Take it out, cool it for a bit, then add the filling and bake as usual. See if that works. The recipe sounds good. Thanks!

SOUL said...

i miss tomatoes :((

Moohaa said...

He's a determined thing isn't he? I'm glad you were able to make it higher though so you can keep growing your tomatoes.

That tomato pie sounds divine! yum!

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, that tomato pie recipe is indeed a true lowcountry favorite. We dearly love our produce in South Carolina but I've noticed so many things are puny this year! I saw watermelons the size of cantaloupes at the store yesterday, and peaches the size of kiwis, and the kiwis were ... well, they were small ... but tangy and good!

I haven't had tomato tart in a few years so when you tell me what temperature to cook the tomatoes so as to avoid salmonella, I think I'll try it again. So good. And the post is never too long which is so entertaining, and with so many interesting photos!

CRUSTY MOM-E said...

HI!! I'm glad the weather has settled for you..talk about going from one extreme, right?

You may have hit the nail with how to grow nice lush tomatoes...net them and grow the net as the tomatoes do. :)

Thinking of you too! I brought Panera bagels to my friends house today..and I can see you there! but I'm meeting you there and I just smile and I just know that you're having a good peaceful happy moment! :)


Gin said...

I think you need a recipe for squirrel pie! LOL Just kidding! I am going to save your recipe and give it a try once my own tomatoes are producing, it sounds yummy. I have tons of fresh basil growing! But so far my tomatoes are only vines. It'll be a few weeks before I get any tomatoes.

You did a great job on the fence.

Billy said...

Maybe you should invest in a pellet gun?

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