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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

Stamford Lunch near Fairway

Brasitas is Columbian and, IMO, very good. Colony Grill is, IMO, the most overrated pizza I've ever had. In fact, I'd rather go hungry than eat there! I seem to remember someone telling that Colony doesn't accept credit cards, but that could be wrong.

Dec 25, 2011
stukin in Southern New England

Balducci's or Fairway?

Balducci's is outrageously expensive!!! Fairway's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared to Balducci's. There's a very little known secret about Stew Leonard's is that their "whole" beef loins are not what they're represented as. They often advertise "Whole" boneless loins, but they open the Cryovac sleeves they come in from the packers and remove the best 2 or 3 steaks from the better end to sell as individual, pre-cut steaks for a lot more money. The easy way to tell if this has been done is to simply look at the package and see if it's still vacuum sealed in Cryovac. If it's in an ordinary plastic bag, they have stolen the best steaks and left the junk. One end of the loin will look great, but in reality, there will only be a very few really good steaks. This is very deceptive and, IMHO, dishonest. Another thing to know is that if you have their butchers trim and cut the meat for you, the trimmings go into a barrel to be ground and mixed in with their regular ground meat, so they're actually selling the same meat twice. If you insist on buying Stew Leonard's "whole" beef loins, get yourself a good knife and cut your own meat. Don't let their butchers do it for you. You'll be amazed at how much meat they trim off with the fat; that's all meat that you're paying for. In the winter, you can put the big pieces of fat in a suet feeder for the birds instead of throwing it in the garbage.
Penzey's Spices is across the street from Stew's and a hundred yards or so to the east. I love that store! Very friendly service, fantastic selection and fair prices. You'll find items there that you just won't find anywhere else. For example, I went crazy trying to find nigella seeds; Penzey's had them. Smoked Spanish paprika is another hard-to-find item; Penzey's carries it (although I wish they also carried the hot type.)

Dec 25, 2011
stukin in Southern New England

Spots to Buy Padron Peppers?

Even in Spain, Padron peppers are seasonal. La Tienda has them in the summer months, but they're outrageously expensive (especially when you add shipping.) I had a good crop this past summer and couldn't use more than about a tenth of what the plants produced. I feel guilty just letting them go to waste, but there's nothing i can do about it. Seeds are now available from a few sources in the U.S. Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine, has them in their catalog. If you know anyone who gardens try asking them to put in a few plants. They start producing fairly early in the season, and the more you pick the more they produce. The big trick it to pick daily or at least every other day to keep them productive. This past summer, I was still getting fruit well until mid-September. If the fruits get too mature and hot, they're still useful as hot peppers for other purposes. Unfortunately, the plants get fairly large, so they're probably not suitable for growing in pots unless you have room for some very large containers.

Dec 25, 2011
stukin in Manhattan

Our de buyer Carbon Steel Cookware Experience

It seems to me that it would be relatively easy to have "helper handles" made and installed at a good welding shop. I wouldn't do this with most pans, but it should be feasible with DuBuyer pans. The handles could be either welded or attached with large rivets. The rivets should be heated and hammered for maximum strength. I don't think this is a job you should attempt to do yourself, and I would bring along a pan with helper handles to show them exactly what you want done. I don't have a clue what it would cost, but it would be interesting to find out.

Nov 11, 2011
stukin in Cookware

Grilled Pizza

I've been making pizzas and pitas on my trusty Weber grill for at least 20 years and have done it literally hundreds of times. Here's how:

For the dough, place 3 cups A/P flour (I usually use 2-1/2 cups A/P and 1/2 cup whole wheat), slightly heaping 1/2 tsp active, dry yeast, 1 tsp table salt in food processor fitted with a dough blade. Pulse to mix. With the machine running, slowly add exactly 13 fluid ounces warm water, and continue to process until dough comes together and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. (It's ok to continue to process for about 10 seconds after the ball forms, but don't get carried away.) Generously oil the inside of a bowl (at least 2 quart size) with extra virgin olive oil. With a spatula, transfer the dough ball to the bowl, and turn it over once just to coat it with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for several hours. If you don't want to use the dough immediately, place it in the fridge after it has risen. It'll keep for up to about 2 days and will improve in flavor as it rests. Just bring it to room temperature at least 4 hours before you want to use it. This will make enough dough for 3 very large or 4 medium/large pizzas.

To make pizza, pre-heat the grill on medium/low for about 20 minutes in warm weather and longer in cool/cold weather. Prepare a pizza peel or thin, flat board such as an old drawer bottom by sprinkling it with a little coarse corn meal. Roll out a piece of the dough so that it's quite thin - how thin is up to you. Place it on the peel or board, brush or spray it with a little olive oil, and cover it with a plastic bag for about 10 to 15 minutes. Before sliding the dough onto the grill, lower the heat to low. (Before you try to slide the dough off the board, make sure it will slide freely without sticking by shaking the board.) As soon as the dough is on the grill, close the cover and set a timer for 3 minutes. Check the dough by lifting a corner gently; if it's sufficiently browned turn it over with tongs. Immediately and quickly brush or spray the other side with a little olive oil, and, working as quickly as possible, sprinkle on whatever toppings you prefer. Close the cover and continue to cook until the bottom side is nicely browned. The second side will brown more quickly because it was oiled unlike the first side which was facing down on the board. Keep in mind that the toppings will not brown as they would in a conventional oven (unless you want to cremate the whole thing.)

I keep several old drawer bottoms on hand that I've sanded down to about 1/8th inch thickness with tapered ends. They take up very little storage space and are perfect for this purpose. The dough won't stick to the wood if you just remember to use a little cornmeal. (I bought an old dresser at a tag sale for $1, removed all the drawer bottoms and burned the rest of the wood in the fireplace.)

You can make pocket pitas with the same dough recipe. This recipe will make 8 pitas. If you want pockets to form, DO NOT oil them. For some strange reason, the oil seems to prevent pockets from forming. They take exactly two-and-a-half minutes on the first side and one-and-a-half minutes on the second side - 4 minutes total. Brush or spray them with a little olive after they are finished cooking, and keep them in a plastic bag so they stay soft.

One thing to definitely remember is DO NOT overload the pizzas with topping. Less is more! The toppings should be very sparse unless you want to end up with a soggy mess. The toppings should be as dry as possible. If you use fresh basil leaves, put them on immediately after the pizza is finished cooking. If you use any tomato, drain it really, really thoroughly and use very little of it. That's probably the most important rule to remember.

Aug 25, 2011
stukin in Home Cooking