Sunday, August 13, 2006

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.


At 8/14/2006 1:35 PM, Anonymous Kim U said...

I love the cherry tomato idea, definitely going to do that.

My latest obsession has been roasted tomato sauce -- tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, roasted for an hour or more at 400 deg. So yummy.

At 8/14/2006 2:08 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Roasted tomato sauce.... oh, now THAT is brilliant! I may have to try that. Thanks for the idea, Kim U!

At 9/04/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

The dried tomatoes sound fabulous. I am completely inundated with romas at the moment... have you ever tried it with them?

At 9/05/2007 4:12 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Nicole, I have not tried drying Roma tomatoes, but I expect they would work equally well. I just have a personal preference for the cherry tomatoes because then I can just throw them into dishes without cutting them into smaller pieces.

At 9/05/2007 5:43 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

Thanks! I will be giving it a try this weekend.


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