Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tomatoes Three Ways

Eco-novice talks tomatoes.

The first week tomatoes appeared at my farmers' market, I bought 10 pounds.  This large purchase was inspired by joy and overzealousness, not any concrete plans for using them.  After a few days, I realized I might have to come up with some quick ways to preserve them, so I talked over some ways to freeze them with my sister-in-law, who enjoys annual bountiful tomato harvests from her garden.  She suggested just dicing them up and freezing them, skins and all, as the easiest and quickest possible solution.  

But, in the end, we made it through all 10 pounds.  Pretty impressive for a family of four, with two little ones.    Turns out sweet and juicy tomatoes from the farmers' market, as opposed to the tasteless wonders available year-round at the supermarket, are viewed by my children as a treat.  (The transformation of the tomato from a delectable fruit into a tasteless homogenized vegetable is one of the great tragedies of industrialized food production, in my opinion.)  My 4 and 2-year-olds ask for a tomato from the farmers' market the same way they longingly plead for grapes or raspberries.  I just cut the fresh tomatoes in large chunks and serve them up plain to my kids. 

Here are three more ways I found to enjoy our 10 pounds of tomatoes.

The classic caprese salad.  I lived off this for several months of my first pregnancy.  Simply alternate sliced tomatoes, slices of fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves.  Top with drizzled extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  I make up a plate of this that looks like it's intended for a large dinner party and then eat it all myself.  Sometimes I half-heartedly offer a taste to my husband.  If my 2-year-old sees me eating this salad, she demands a large share of the tomatoes.  I barely remembered to snap the photo above before finishing off that particular round.

The tomato melt. When I was in college, the dining hall didn't open for "brunch" on the weekends until 10 am.  This was torture for those of us (the chosen few) who were actually early risers.  A friend and I used to walk to a bagel place downtown on Saturday mornings for a tomato melt to help tide us over.  I like to butter a toasted bagel, place a slice of tomato and then cheese on top (sharp cheddar is delicious), then broil or bake in the toaster oven until the cheese is melted.  Bread, tomato and cheese is a pretty winning combination any way you slice it.  For example, I also love to add fresh tomatoes to my quesadillas.  After melting the cheese and crisping up the tortilla on my stove top,  I open up the quesadilla while still piping hot and place a few tomato slices inside before eating.  I also love putting fresh tomato slices on top of cheese pizza (after the pizza has cooked).

Pasta sauce. Later in the week, we realized we were short one jar of our favorite jarred pasta sauce (a simple tomato-basil sauce), which my husband uses as a base for a homemade meat and veggie sauce.  Solution: I ended up using my immersion blender to puree a whole bunch of fresh tomatoes (skins and all) which we then dumped right into the sauce.  The sauce was a little runnier than usual (we could have reduced the tomatoes a bit first), but it was probably the freshest and most delicious tasting pasta sauce my husband has ever made.

What is your favorite way to enjoy fresh tomatoes?


Chile said...

This past week I've enjoyed sliced tomatoes on pizza instead of pizza sauce. I simply put a solid layer of tomatoes on the parbaked crust, sprinkled Italian seasoning and minced garlic over them, and then added the toppings (I don't use cheese.) Baked as usual and had a delicious, fresh-tasting pizza.

This week I'm planning to make tabouli if I can find my bulgur or/and I might make bruschetta. I also plan to freeze a few of the tomatoes. They can be frozen fresh if cored first, although I prefer to roast and seed them.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Chile, I love that idea for pizza! I've also read that you can freeze whole tomatoes, although I have a small freezer and that would take up a lot of space.

Chile said...

If I had limited freezer space but really wanted to freeze tomatoes, I would roast and peel them first, then puree them, and put them in containers that wouldn't crack (like overfilled glass jars!) when frozen.

I've also blended those prepped tomatoes with tons of fresh basil and then frozen the result in ice cube trays. This makes a nice "seasoning cube" for sauces and soups. (I can't make traditional pesto because I don't use oil, cheese, or nuts.)

Elizabeth said...

Tabouleh uses lots of my fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

Fresh salsa (diced tomatoes, minced onion, a dash of salt and sugar and lots of chopped cilantro) is what we eat all tomato season...always have a large Tupperware of it in the fridge.

Chunky fresh spaghetti sauce is just a bunch of sauteed onion, garlic, diced zucchini, mushrooms, carrot---I use olive oil first, then add red wine.....then add 5-6 cups diced tomatoes. Season with the usual spices and fresh basil. Cook til hot and vegetables are tender.

My most favorite is BLTs made with soy bacon, or even just LTs, heavy on the tomatoes...not just one little slice.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Chile, I tried the pizza idea tonight on half of my cheese pizza -- it was delicious! It makes for a pretty runny wet "sauce", but my husband and I both really liked it. I'm not sure I could sell my kids on it though.

Thanks for all the ideas, Elizabeth. I've been thinking of trying some homemade salsa this season. And I should try a pasta sauce from scratch at least once...

Truffula said...

My entire family finds this Rustic Tomato Tart, from Cooking Light, divine:

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Well, yes, Truffula, that does look pretty divine. Thanks for the suggestion!


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