Jam Session

Tomatoes are the calling card of summer. Plump, red orbs growing heavier on their vines with every passing day, they tease in shades of green and yellow as they slowly ripen. Gradually darkening like rubies glistening in the sun, suddenly, they’re all ready for harvest at once. It’s now or never; grab them by the fistful or regret your mistake for another year. If you don’t take advantage, hungry critters stalking your garden surely will.

That’s how even a modest plot of land can drown a single person in tomatoes. Big or small, standard or heirloom, it’s sheer bliss for the first few days. Then, after a couple rounds of tomato salads, tomato soups, tomato sauces, and tomato juice, tomatoes may begin to lose their shine.

Don’t let it get to that stage. Take your tomatoes while they’re still new and fresh, concentrate them down to a rich, umami-packed tomato jam and you’ll never grow tired. Burning through two whole pounds right off the bat may feel like a sacrifice, but it’s a wise strategy in the long run. There’s going to be plenty more to come to enjoy every which way, without ever reaching your upper limit of enjoyment.

What Does Tomato Jam Taste Like?

A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, I do use sugar in my recipe but not nearly as much as with berry or other fruit jams. It should be just enough to balance and heighten the other inherent flavors. A touch of jalapeño adds a subtly spicy bite, which you could omit or double, depending on your heat-seeking sensibilities.

How To Make Tomato Jam Your Own

  • Use half or all tomatillos instead of tomatoes
  • Increase the garlic; there’s no such thing as too much
  • Instead of jalapeño, use sriracha, smoked paprika, gochujang, or harissa to spice things up
  • Swap the apple cider vinegar for balsamic or red wine vinegar

What Can I Use Tomato Jam On?

The only limiting factor is your creativity! A few of my favorite uses include:

  • Avocado toast
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • Hot pasta or pasta salads
  • Swirled into creamy soups
  • On a cheeseboard
  • As a burger topping
  • Used for dipping alongside or on top of hummus

How Long Will Tomato Jam Keep?

While this jam isn’t properly canned and thus not shelf stable, you can preserve the harvest by storing it in your freezer for up to 6 months.

You don’t actually need to grow your own tomatoes to make tomato jam, by the way. Store-bought tomatoes taste just as sweet- And savory.

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Food for Fathers

Fathers, as a group of people, are not a monolith. Making a blanket statement about such an infinitely diverse and varied population would be incredibly shortsighted, to put it lightly. Fathers should absolutely be celebrated and appreciated, but not in the way that Hallmark cards seem to think.

To treat all fathers the same way is reductive, completely opposite to what we’re trying to convey in the first place. If it comes from a genuine place, Father’s Day is about recognizing the people that raised us for all their unique quirks, habits, and mannerisms. It’s a chance to reminisce about the lessons they taught us early on, our challenges and struggles together; all the things that make them who they are, and in turn, make us who we are.

That kind of depth defies stereotypical gift guides. You can’t put that in a cooler filled with ice or wrap it up in a tool set. I may not be able to speak as a Father myself, but I promise you, they don’t all want beefy burgers or “man caves” or golf sets. Once and for all, almost none of them want neckties.

I’m not going to offer you a recipe roundup of The Best Father’s Day Recipes for the simple reason that I don’t know your father or what they like. Instead, this is a roundup of things I think my father would like. Maybe you’ll find some overlap here for inspiration. Whatever you make, just make sure they know they’re loved. That’s the real point of this holiday.

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Fat of the Land

The original “liquid gold” was not a processed cheese food. The true gilded elixir is every bubbie’s secret ingredient, the indescribable element that always made her matzo balls better than the rest. A staple of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking, schmaltz is made from rendered chicken fat cooked with onions. Even in the height of the farm-to-table cooking craze when duck fat fries were all the rage, this humble grease never gained more attention. To this day, I have yet to see a single vegan alternative offered. In a world where we have plant-based ghee, browned butter, and niter kibbeh, I’m not asking, I’m demanding: WHY.

Vegan shmaltz is everything you want as a cooking catalyst and nothing you don’t. It’s free of cholesterol, completely kosher, full of flavor, and won’t leave your kitchen smelling like a barnyard for a week. As a nice side benefit, you’ll end up with a tidy pile of caramelized onions to lavish over meatless burgers, toast, scrambles, pasta, and anything else that could use a little umami assist.

Step up your matzo ball game by making this easy swap to replace the bland vegetable oil originally called for, but don’t stop there. Anywhere you might use melted butter, try using schmaltz instead. It will open up a whole new world of riches, bathed in a golden glow.

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Unsolved Mysteries

Making something out of nothing is my favorite kind of practical magic. Frugal to a fault, I’m not above trying unlikely combinations for the sake of avoiding another trip to the store. Sometimes this leads to lamentable meals, like the time I tried using breadcrumbs instead of oatmeal. However, more often than not, I’ll find new favorite worth replicating, even when I have a full arsenal of ingredients at my disposal.

This is very well aligned with the spirit of Depression-era cooking. No waste, no regrets. That’s why when I came across the legend of Mystery Pie, I was immediately charmed. It strikes me as a combination of chess pie or vinegar pie plus mock apple pie, being made with little more than sugar and miscellaneous filler that somehow transforms into a rave-worthy dessert. Better yet, this one doesn’t even need a separate pastry crust to hold everything together.

Whipped egg whites traditionally fill the gaps, but aquafaba does the trick for a plant-based fix. Add crushed crackers and crunchy nuts plus a splash of rich vanilla, and that’s it. It doesn’t seem like it will end well, yet it manages to exceed all expectations.

Perfect for unexpected guests when the pantry is running low, or simply trying to keep things uncomplicated when it comes to shopping or prep, this is a good mystery to solve.

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Be Still My Beeting Heart

There’s a lot wrong with Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t take a serious heartbreak to see through the thinly veiled marketing ploys or pushy PR blast to see it for the Hallmark holiday that it is. Terminally single, I’ve railed against it, mocked it, and ignored it throughout the years, depending on my level of cynicism.

This time around, however, I’ve found a new perspective. Don’t worry, I’m no less of a pessimist, but there’s more than one way to go about this concept. Ultimately, Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of love, and I’m all for that. Love can take many forms, beyond classic romantic love. There’s platonic love for your friends, familial love for your parents; love is love. No one love is lesser than any others, and yes, you can absolutely celebrate self love, too.

Pasta is my love language. It sounds mundane, and for the most part, it is. Dried pasta is a cheap, ubiquitous, reliable staple that’s always on hand for a last-minute meal, haphazardly thrown together at the end of a long day. Homemade pasta, however, is a different story. It’s every bit as affordable, takes only a few extra minutes of labor, and a little more advance planning, but those tiny extra steps pay off in huge dividends. Exactly BECAUSE dried pasta is so easy and accessible, anyone that cares enough to start from scratch clearly cares. It’s a small gesture that says, “I want you to have the best. I want you to enjoy something that I enjoy. I want to make this exactly to your tastes.”

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. Even if the noodles are too thick or misshapen, these pretty pink strands could melt the iciest hearts with one bite. Roasted heart-shaped beets make the affection poured into this dish obvious, because life is too short for secret admirers. Don’t cover it up with heavy sauce, either; a touch of olive oil, a few dollops of dairy-free ricotta, garlic, basil, and lemon zest is enough.

There’s no wrong way to express your love. Let’s take back Valentine’s Day and celebrate what’s really important. Love is care, love is kindness, and sometimes, love is pasta.

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