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San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

At Plant Science Day, I was told that magnesium and calcium counteract each other. The magnesium acidifies while the calcium neutralizes. Regardless, I did the epsom salts thing this year in a totally new location. I also added some lime; the soil was VERY acidic. We've had plenty of rain, plus the plants are well mulched to hold in the moisture. I used a 2-pound bag of epsom salts for 12 plants. There are already several small tomatoes, and I just pulled off one that has BER. With over 150 tomato plants of 13 different varieties, I guess I'll have enough even if I don't get any San Marzano tomatoes. BTW, I highly recommend the Hortonova 13FG Vertical Trellis for growing tomatoes and any other climbing crops. Also, the tomato trellis clips are fantastic. Both are sold by Johnny's Selected Seeds (Johnnyseeds.com or 1-877-564-6697). I'm using them in combination this year for the first time, and I'm extremely impressed.

Jul 08, 2014
stukin in Gardening

Grilled Padrón Peppers

After seeing these prepared only in a large skillet in Spain, it just didn't occur to me until last year that they could be grilled. (Maybe I need a recipe for a glass of water!) I've grown these in CT for several years and usually get way more than I can use. I've never seen them in a store around here, but they're available by mail order. Very expensive!!! especially with the shipping charges. Just toss them in a bowl with olive oil and throw on the grill. A wok also works well and allows plenty of room to toss them around.

May 05, 2014
stukin in Recipes

Basic Steamed Lobster

Eating a lobster SHOULD be a lengthy process. If you don't take your time, you're not really enjoying it. One thing that should not be rushed is eating lobster (and crabs.) One thing you'll never catch me eating is lobster tail (the kind that comes without the rest of the beast attached.) The tail is the least appealing part of the lobster but the easiest to extract, therefore it's the most popular. Of course, I don't throw it away, but it's my least favorite part. The claws, particularly the knuckles, and the meat found in the little crevices around the gills (sometimes called the feathers) are the sweetest parts.

Apr 28, 2014
stukin in Recipes

Basic Steamed Lobster

A better way to remove the meat from the small legs is to put each one on a cutting board and then use a rolling pin to squeeze out the meat. Start at the tip and roll back toward the attachment end, and the meat will all come out in a long strand. You'll save your teeth and do a more thorough job. It's amazing how much meat is hidden in those "feeler" claws, and it's some of the sweetest part of the beast. Considering that the average lobster only produces about 25% edible meat it's a shame to waste any of it. Another part that is usually wasted is the fat that is found mostly on the inside of the large shell that covers the upper part of the main body. It's white (after cooking) material, and it's totally edible and very sweet. Just scoop it out with a spoon or your finger.

Apr 28, 2014
stukin in Recipes

Basic Steamed Lobster

Your method is barbaric in the extreme. What you're doing is killing the beast slowly and painfully instead of dispatching it quickly and painlessly. The proper way to do this is to simply put the lobsters in the freezer for half an hour before cooking them. The cold puts them into a deep sleep (DO NOT let them freeze!) before adding them to either boiling water or steam. They don't wake up; they just die peacefully and quickly.

Apr 28, 2014
stukin in Recipes

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

The sulfur in match heads acidifies the soil, and that's what peppers like. Never lime soil where you plan to plant peppers or potatoes. I saw the match trick on TV many years ago on Square Foot Gardening. Epson salt also acidifies the soil, but be careful not to overdo it. If a little is good, more is not necessarily better. I've caged my tomatoes for about 40 years, mostly because I'm extremely lazy. You'll get bigger tomatoes if they're staked, but cages allow you to have more plants in a given area. I just bought a 250X10-foot roll of spun fabric row cover to protect my cole crops (broccoli, kale, couve, etc.) from the cabbage butterflies. I'm trying to avoid spraying as much as possible. I may also try it to stop the squash vine borers from destroying the zucchinis. Butternut squash is the only squash I know of that doesn't seem to be bothered by the borers. My crop wasn't great this year, but last year I got over 400 pounds. If you pick immature butternut squash during the summer, they make an excellent substitute for zucchini. No need to peel or remove the seeds; just slice and grill. The seeds and skin are tender enough to eat the whole thing.

Nov 08, 2013
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

Now that the growing season is over, I can see what did well and what didn't. The San Marzano tomatoes were almost free of BER this year for the first time ever. I can opnly attribute that to the epson salt I used in the soil. For the first time ever, my peppers were almost totally free of pepper maggots. I did one spraying early in the season when the first peppers were still tiny, and that seems to have wiped out the flies that do the damage. Next year, instead of spraying my couve (Portuguese kale) to keep the cabbage butterflies at bay, I'm going to use spun fabric row cover. I used it on some of the crop this year, but I didn't have enough to cover it all. The difference was dramatic and without spraying. I enlarged the whole garden by almost 100% to about 3000 square feet, so I should have enough produce to keep me busy and well fed. I put up a deer fence around the whole yard, so hopefully that problem is solved.

Nov 03, 2013
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

Many years ago, I used the "leaf method." In the fall, I piled all my leaves in the garden up to a depth of at least 4 feet. By the next spring, they had settled down to a depth of about a foot. To plant, I just made openings in the leaves and then pulled them back in around the plants. As the leaves decomposed, they created a constant supply of nutrients. The worms had a wonderful time, there were absolutely no weeds, and I never had to water. That was, by far, the best garden I've ever had. The best I can do now is to save the straw from the big clumps of ornamental grass that I cut down in the fall. I use it as a mulch to hold down the weeds and retain soil moisture. The straw also allows me to grow some tomatoes without supports by keeping them out of contact with the soil.

Jul 09, 2013
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

Lots of good advice there, but for the number of tomato plants I have - about 200 this year - it would cost me a bloody fortune! I did the lime thing for calcium plus I used some epson salt around the San Marzanos. I've been told for many years that BER is the result of a magnesium deficiency. It's cheap... 88 cents for 2 pounds at Wal-Mart.

Jul 09, 2013
stukin in Gardening

pepe's "sorry no clams" question

Fussy, fussy, fussy. I'll eat pizza of any kind and color. I don't care whether it's red, white or chartruse. If it's pizza, and it's a decent pie, I'll eat it and be very happy. Bad pizza is an inexcusable crime against humanity. Good pizza, whatever the color, is cause for celebration.

Jun 27, 2013
stukin in Southern New England

Basic Steamed Lobster

Discard the head and torso????? That's the best part!!! What a waste!!! The body is where the sweetest and tenderest meat is found, not to mention the "coral" and the "tomalley." That's pure sacrilege.

Feb 14, 2013
stukin in Recipes

Stamford, CT

When I first came to Stamford, there were exactly 5 restaurants. The Open Door, Pellicci's, Armando's, Sai Wu, and Curley's. Other than those, there was junk. We didn't get the first McDonald's until about 20 years after I moved here. Stamford has come a very long way.

By the way, I thought Il Falco was gone. It was on Broad St for many, many years before it disappeared.

Overall, I agree with your choices, but I'd add Eos for Greek on Summer St.

Feb 14, 2013
stukin in Southern New England

recipes for hen of the woods?

VERY fascinating! I never thought of boiling first and then frying. One thing I'd try is using rice flour instead of wheat. It creates an extremely crisp coating. Hopefully, I'll live until next summer so I can try your suggestion. At the moment it looks iffy at best.

Nov 12, 2012
stukin in Home Cooking

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

Your rabbits are much smarter than mine. My big problem is with squirrels and chipmunks. I never saw a rabbit climbing anything. If you use tomato cages, try placing a low fence of chicken wire around the cage. You could also do the same with plants that are staked. I've found that to be highly effective at keeping rabbits at bay, but it won't do any good against woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks and other climbing critters. My other weapon is a pair of pit bulls that love to kill animals. Their favorite prey is rabbits.

Jul 26, 2012
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

I meant alive. A few Burmese pythons would do the trick. Little ones. Twelve feet or so.

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

Brilliant idea! I never had a problem with squirrels until about maybe 15-20 years ago. We had an unusually long drought with some hot temps. That was the first time I ever had any squirrels problems. At first I thought is was racoons, so I trapped and removed several of them. It wasn't until a few months later that I saw a squirrel eating a tomato while sitting on a stump near the garden. Ever since then, the squirrels have come back each year. I knew intuitively that they were after moisture, but it never occurred to me to put out water. What I've done instead has been to just plant more and more tomatoes in the hope that the squirrels would eventually reach their full capacity. They'd usually wipe out all the tomatoes on the plants, but they'd leave the late fruit alone. I guess they weren't smart enough to figure out that plants will keep producing even after the tomatoes are picked clean. I like the idea of water. Gonna try it right now. Where can I buy some snakes?

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

It seems strange that the San Marzanos are the only tomatoes that I'm having a problem with. I have 108 plants of 13 different varieties, and they're all planted in the same type of soil. I move them around each year and alternate with other veggies for no particular reason. It also seems strange that some of the tomatoes are perfect while others on the same plant, and even in the same cluster, are affected. Maybe I should be happy that not all of my tomatoes will be edible... I live alone and share them with just one other person. 108 plants does seem a bit absurd when I think about it. The squirrels and chipmunks are fat and happy, and there's still plenty for me.

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

It's obviously too late for this year to do anything. I was thinking of going to Plant Science Day at the state Agricultural Extension Station on August 1 and bringing along along a sample of an affected tomato. If they confirm your advice, you're a certified genius, IMO. What do you mean by "a little" epson salts? Are you talking about something like a tablespoon per plant, a cup per plant, or what? This is really hurting because the plants are totally LOADED with fruit this year. So far, at least 50% are bad. Debarao, one of the other varieties I planted, seems to be completely immune to the problem. It's a plum type tomato, but it's not as dry as the San Marzano. Actually, it's more like a cross between a salad and a plum tomato with excellent flavor and productivity. I was ready to give up forever on San Marzamos.

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

pimentos de padron (but in wisconsin)

I've been growing these for about 10 years. Came back from Spain with a pack of seeds, and I still have about three-quarters of them left. (The Spanish are very generous with their seeds.) They're easy to grow, but make sure you pick them VERY small. If you let them mature, the fruits will be hot, and the plants will stop producing. Water often, especially in hot weather. If the plants drop their lower leaves, they're not getting enough water. Make sure the soil is well drained and weed-free. From a dozen plants, I get a very adequate yield to enjoy for most of the summer. Store leftover seeds in a well-sealed pack, and keep in the refrigerator. If that's the only variety of pepper you grow, you might want to let 1 or 2 of the fruits grow to maturity (bright red), and save the seeds for future use. Let the seeds dry thoroughly before sealing putting them in storage.

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

Tomato fruit eating critter

What you most likely have is chipmunks and/or squirrels. Set a small Havahart trap for the chipmunks and a larger one for squirrels. The best bait to use is the same for both. I should really be selling this secret, but I'll be generous this time only. Use the seeds from the cavity of cantaloupe melons. Other melon seeds works well, too. However, cantaloupe melon has an aroma that animals just can't resist. I also use several pieces of the melon skins for some added aroma. This also works for woodchucks. You might catch a skunk, but they prefer a meaty smell such as cat food or dog food. The next question is what to do with the critters once they're caught. I could tell you what I do, but you probably don't want to know. It's technically illegal to transport them because of concerns about the spread of rabies. Be aware that once you start getting rid of the animals, there will be a hundred more to take their place. So far this year, I've eliminated at least 50 chipmunks and about 20 squirrels. It has gotten so that the damage to my garden is greatly lessened. I just leave the baited traps in place all the time from early spring right through the fall. I eat lots of cantaloupes and never, never, never throw away the seeds. I also have all my friends and family save their seeds for me. Whatever you do, don't use fish heads or parts or any kind of meat; you're sure to get skunks. Not fun!

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

I've been growing the San Marzano variety of plum tomato for many years and have nearly always had the same problem. The inside of the fruits often turn black with what looks like a mold of some sort. Eventually, the whole bottom of the tomato turns black. I can out the bad part, but it's a nuisance when trying to process a lot of tomatoes. Many are so bad that I just throw away the whole tomato. I don't have the same problem with other varieties such as Roma or Debarao.

Does anyone know if there's anything I can do to prevent the problem, or should I just give up on San Marzanos? Not all of the fruits are affected, but I'd guess it's about 50%. I'm wondering whether it's from too much or too little water or perhaps humidity-related. I'm reluctant to use fungicides; I'd rather just grow a variety that doesn't require their use.

Jul 19, 2012
stukin in Gardening

Our de buyer Carbon Steel Cookware Experience

Selling a set of beautiful, old cast iron is sufficient grounds for divorce (or worse!). Anyone who has the audacity to sell a hundred year old family heirloom just isn't worth keeping, much less feeding. That would be like someone selling my favorite dog. There'd be no second chance; that's what a .45 is made for.

Feb 07, 2012
stukin in Cookware

pepe's "sorry no clams" question

I live in Stamford and learned a long time ago never to make a special trip to New Haven too have a Pepe's clam pie. The possibility that they'll be out of clams is just too great to chance it. If I'm in the area, I'll sometimes give them a try. The first 4 or 5 times I went there for clam pie they had them. The next 3 times in a row, they were out. Since then, it runs about 50-50. They might have them at 7:00 PM and be out by 7:30 PM. It's the luck of the draw.

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Southern New England

Desperate for suggestions - First wedding anniversary somewhat near Madison, CT.

I haven't been to the Dressing Room, but my daughter has. She said it was extremely expensive and just not worth it.

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Southern New England

Coromandel or Tawa

Coromandel in Darien!!! Easy decision. No brainer.

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Southern New England

Qestion about portuguese acorda....

There's a very popular restaurant in Lisboa called PAP AÇORDA that is famous for their açorda (as the name might imply.) Most often they use bacalao instead of other seafood products you mention. The only problem is that they do not use the boneless bacalao, so you're forever picking pieces of sharp, hard bone out of your mouth. If you make the mistake of swallowing one, you're headed straight to the hospital. It's really dangerous. If it doesn't skewer your throat or stomach, your small intestine is almost sure to get punctured. BE CAREFUL!

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Home Cooking

Qestion about portuguese acorda....

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (Traditional Portuguese Bread Soup)

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 bunch of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped

2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup of olive oil

6 medium eggs (the freshest possible) at room temperature

7 cups lightly boiling water

6 cups (a good size loaf) day old Portuguese, French or Italian crusty bread, torn into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1/2 tsp ground pepper



1. In a large pot, get the water boiling and add the salt



2. Using a mortar and pestle, pulverize the garlic and cilantro together until it forms a thickish paste. Transfer to the bottom of a heat-proof bowl or casserole dish and drizzle with the olive oil.



3. Crack the eggs one at a time, and add to the simmering water holding the egg as close to the water as possible. After about 20 seconds, very carefully move the eggs to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Gently simmer until eggs are barely cooked through but the yolks are still soft on the inside (about 2 or 3 minutes.) The eggs will continue to cook in the hot water/bread mixture. (Very fresh egg whites will hold together much better than old eggs.)



4. Add the bread to the bowl and coat all the pieces with the cilantro-garlic-olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with the ground pepper.



5. Pour the boiling egg water mixture into the heat proof bowl and arrange the poached eggs on top. Sprinkle the top with fresh cut cilantro.



6. Serve at the table with a ladle being sure to place an egg in each person's bowl.

This soup is very often served topped with shrimps, lobster pieces, cooked salt cod, good quality black olives (NOT the canned ones).

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Home Cooking

Cookie Dough's Surprising Danger

If you've never had a case of salmonella food poisoning, you've missed out on one of life's greatest experiences. First, you're afraid you might die. Then, you're afraid you might not die. If you happen to be standing in the security line at the airport waiting to board a plane when the cramps and diarrhea hit (as I was in Lisbon, Portugal), you'll know a whole lot more about salmonella than you apparently do now. How fast does it hit? Have you ever been hit by a speeding train? Have you ever been hit by a piano falling from the 10th floor? You get the picture. To downplay the dangers of salmonella is just plain DANGEROUS, STUPID, MORONIC, AND IDIOTIC!!!!!

Jan 13, 2012
stukin in Features

Padron peppers from greenmarkets

Excellent observation. It all depends on size. If picked very young and small (as they do in Spain), they'll all be very mild. If you can buy them lose, make sure you pick out only the smallest ones. To my taste, even the hottest ones are not too incendiary to eat. You just have to develop a taste for "heat." I'd rank mature Padrons about the same as jalapenos, maybe a little milder.

This year, just for giggles, I'm going to try growing some Padrons in very large containers (18"H by 22"W.) I was able to get about 2 dozen of them from a landscaper who was throwing them away after planting the shrubs that had come in them. I'll use the compost that the city gives away to residents, so my total investment will be very minimal. I'll try containers with just a single plant and a few with multiple plants to see how much I can crowd them without sacrificing yield.

I've grown them in my garden for several years and had huge crops of peppers. They're one of the earliest crops to be ready for picking because they're picked so young. Last year, I was picking Padrons in mid-June and had way more then I could use by July 4th. I firmly believe that growing conditions have absolutely no effect on spiciness; it's all a matter of maturity. BTW, spicy chilies are just as plagued by insects (especially pepper maggots) as the mild ones. Padrons, if picked young - as they should be - are not bothered by pepper maggots since they are picked really small. If allowed to mature, they'll be full of pepper maggots. There's no need to even think about spraying; it's not necessary. Jalapeno peppers are exactly opposite. Even habanero peppers are extremely susceptible to pepper maggots, so that disproves the theory that hotter peppers are in any way immune to pepper maggots. (After more than 60 years of growing peppers, I'm somewhat of an expert.) I haven't gotten crazy enough to grow bhut jolokia, yet!

Jan 07, 2012
stukin in Manhattan

Balducci's or Fairway?

I've found that Trader Joe's has some of the same cheeses that Fairway and Whole Foods have for somewhat less $$$. I bumped into a woman from Greenwich who told me she now goes to Trader Joe's in Darien first because she's tired of feeling ripped off by Whole Foods in Greenwich. She looked as though she could easily afford Whole Foods' prices, but I guess even the very wealthy don't like to be gouged if they can avoid it. Fairway prices nearly all their cheeses by the quarter-pound to avoid the shock effect of showing the price per pound. I guess it's easier to sell a cheese that costs $10 a quarter pound than the same cheese for $40 a pound. It's amazing how small a quarter pound piece of cheese is when you look at it.

Dec 28, 2011
stukin in Southern New England