Fifty Ways to Eat Your Tomatoes
After the account of my visit to the farmers' market yesterday, you must think I have a real obsession with tomatoes. And you might be wondering, what on earth is one person planning to do with seven quarts of fresh tomatoes?
Though in two days I can't quite come up with fifty ways to use all those red beauties, I've managed to do quite a lot. And for the most part, what I've done has been to preserve the fresh tomatoes to use this winter in one form or another.
The Early Girls and a few of the Romas endured the age-old procedure for canning: a quick dip in boiling water, a slip of the skins into the compost dish, a brief simmer, and then a hot water bath to seal the two pint jars that will start off this year's collection.
The paste tomatoes found their way to the food processor and then into a stock pot with sautéed onions, garlic, green pepper, carrots, and celery (all from the farmers' market as well, I might add) plus dried herbs.
After two hours of simmering, those luscious tomatoes ended up as over two quarts of a chunky vegetable-laden pasta sauce, destined for this winter's spaghetti or perhaps even lasagna.
The cherry tomatoes and then the grape tomatoes, of course, were ideally suited for drying, a fairly simple process, though it may last an entire day. Doing one batch a day, I halved and seeded the small tomatoes –- easily the most laborious part of the procedure, which is why I didn't try to dry them all at once.
The tomato halves then get tossed with salt, pepper, dried thyme, and olive oil before finding elbow room again on a baking sheet.
Give them up to 12 hours in a 200 F oven, and those little morsels roast slowly, concentrating their sweetness and flavor into shriveled, leathery or crispy nuggets of intense tomato taste. I packed the dried tomatoes into jars and topped them off with more extra virgin olive oil, slapped on a lid, and slid them into the refrigerator.
Those will emerge again later when I want to throw together a rich pesto pasta, or for some other magical meal, and the leftover olive oil will then find new life, infused with flavor, in other dishes.
I still have nearly two quarts of Romas left, but they need another day or two on the windowsill to finish ripening before I can them as well. And next week... well, who knows how many tomatoes I'll bring home then? Considering how often I use canned tomatoes (especially in Indian dishes and in vegetable soups), I really don't think I can have enough jars of that particular harvest.
Sure, I'll still save a few fresh tomatoes for meals this week (like a quick pasta toss with sautéed garlic, tomatoes, and basil), and I know I can think of other ways to use or preserve this fruit/vegetable.
So stay tuned... I'm sure I'll have more ideas later.