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20 Summer Tomato Recipes and Techniques (including rescuing and freezing!)

31 Jul

Here it is finally, a round-up of recipes for using summer tomatoes, including rescuing tomatoes past their prime and processing for freezing (without the trouble of canning!). Bookmark this one….

1. The Easiest of All: Chopped Tomato Sauce

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

2. Speedy Bruschetta (great for using up tomatoes past their prime salad days)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

3. Pan-Roasted Cherry, Grape or Sungold Tomatoes (Oil-Free options and another way to use up those minis gone soft)

4. Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad or Burger Topper

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor.

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor. Try it!

5. Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

6. Spanish-style Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes!

Stuffed Tomatoes!

7. Provencal Vegetable Tian (baked layered summer veggies with olives)

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone...but you get the idea.

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone…but you get the idea.

 

8. Marinated Mini-Mozzarella Balls

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

 9. Classic Criollo Tomato and Avocado Salad

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

 10. Cannellini and Tomato Salad (no cook)

Add crusty bread and you've got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

Add crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

11. Pan-Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa (fat-free)

Pretty all the way from start to finish

Pretty all the way from start to finish

2012-08-26 04.56.47 tomato tomatillo

12. Oven Charred Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa

Oven Charred...Yum

Oven Charred…Yum

Next page: Bisque; Watermelon Feta and Tomato Salad, AND several ways to preserve tomatoes by freezing!

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How to Freeze Food in Resealable Freezer Bags

23 May

This is a quickie tip that I got from somewhere years ago and have used successfully ever since.

If you’ve ever tried to freeze meatballs or sliced garlic or ravioli in resealable freezer bags and ended up with a frozen lump of  stuck together stuff that is difficult to separate for cooking, this is the solution for you.

Do try to take out as much air as possible.

Do try to take out as much air as possible.

Take a flat dinner plate and lay it on the counter. Fill your freezer bag with the items, but don’t dump them into the bottom like filling a grocery bag. Fill it flat in one layer, using the plate for support. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible and put the plate and bag in the freezer. Once the food is frozen, remove the plate. You can store the bag flat! And when you want to use just a bit, it is easy to break off the amount you want. What you see in the pictures is roasted garlic that I wanted to save. Whenever I need it, I break some off. It is easy to slice when it is frozen too!

The flat frozen bag is easy to store, and you can break off just what you need when you need it.

The flat frozen bag is easy to store, and you can break off just what you need when you need it.

Yay!

No-Fuss Strawberry Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam (Easy, Sweet and Tart)

25 Apr

’tis the season….rhubarb in the supermarket =  strawberry rhubarb jam in my fridge. And in my friend’s fridges too; this is so easy and makes such a generous amount that you can gift your dearest buddies with what I consider to be the most delicious jam of the year. There is no gelatin and no pectin, just produce and sugar.

berry and rhubarb macerating

berry and rhubarb macerating

All you need is a few small clean jars with lids to pack it up, ’cause as much as I promise myself this will be the year, I have yet to do any real canning/preserving.

Into the clean jars!

Into the clean jars!

Rhubarb facts: It is a vegetable, but it is used as a fruit. Originally from Asia, its botanical name is Rheum rhabarbarum (which is a really unappealing name, I must say). The stem – the only edible part of the plant – looks a lot like celery with a reddish tint). It is in season in late spring and summer.

duck, duck, jam

duck, duck, jam

I have posted this before (Here is the original post ) but since I make it every year, I think it is worth posting again. It’s a pretty flexible recipe; these amounts are guidelines only. And click here for a strawberry rhubarb shortcake idea!!

 

jam on toast. YUM

jam on toast. YUM

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (Refrigerator)

1.5 pints strawberries (about 24 oz), washed, hulled, sliced in half or quarters

5-6 medium stalks rhubarb, sliced into 1” chunks (about 1.5 lbs)

2 Cups sugar

2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice

In a large bowl, mix strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice. Stir to coat and let sit for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Place two saucers in the freezer.

In a large saucepan, bring fruit to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Use a hand-held mixer or immersion blender to puree the fruit until pretty smooth. Reduce heat and cook at a lively simmer until mixture begins to thicken, 20-25 minutes.

To test for gelling point, drop one teaspoon of jam on one of the chilled saucers and put back in the freezer for about a minute. When you take it out, the jam’s surface should wrinkle gently when pushed with your fingertip. If not, keep stirring and heating and try again in another five minutes or so, then try again with the remaining saucer.

Ladle hot jam into jars. Allow to cool and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

How to Blanch, Blend and Freeze Paste Tomatoes for Raw Sauce

14 Sep

Yay! Home-grown paste tomatoes!

Don't they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Don’t they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Boo! Not enough time or energy to make paste!

 

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Yay! Shortcut!

We’ve finally got some joy out of our backyard garden. Three raised beds (the fourth strawberry one doesn’t count because it is not expected to produce in the first year) and all we got was garlic, decent peas, decent lettuce, some kale, ONE zucchini…and a lot of failed everything else.

Live action! Padushi uses hi immersion blender to finish the job

Live action! Padushi uses his immersion blender to finish the job

Therefore I am inordinately happy about the fact that I have harvested a couple of pounds of paste tomatoes, with more greenies getting pink on the vine.

So…here’s the easy way to deal with the ones we’ve picked on a Thursday night, near collapse from the workweek and doing a million other things at the same time. Didn’t bother cooking them down. The raw fresh taste will still be there in the winter!

FREEZE! or use immediately....

FREEZE! or use immediately….

Raw Pureed Paste Tomatoes for Freezing

1) Get a big pot of water on the boil.

2) Get a bowl of ice water ready.

3) rinse the tomatoes (if you must).

4) drop tomatoes in the boiling water.

5) as they split, pluck them out and plunge (I love the word plunge) them into the ice water,

6) when they cool, pull the peels off.

7) chop, dice, or run through a mill or processor.

8) use or store or freeze.

DONE!

Make Your Own (Freezeable) Tomato Puree

29 Aug

While I wait, anxiously, for my own paste tomatoes to ripen before some sort of blight gets them (my tomatoes are abundant and my only hope left for a reasonable harvest of something this summer), my CSA, Restoration Farm, is piling on tomatoes of all stripes..I think we picked up 7-10 lbs this week alone, and since the friend we share with , Allison, has not been around, we’ve been taking it all home. So…I have made and frozen a couple of quarts of sauce recently, using the simple recipe that follows.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

There are other ways to do it (some cooks just blanch, peel and run through the food mill and don’t cook it at all; while some, including me, just blanch and freeze whole tomatoes), but I like this because the puree is smooth and ready to go in a pinch and the hint of garlic gives it a round flavor without taking it in a particular ethnic direction.

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

The blanching may seem daunting at first and yes, it does add time to what you are doing, but it is so simple and I like to watch the tomatoes float up and down in the bubbles and slipping off the peels so easily is somehow satisfying.

So give it a try if you get your hands on some paste tomatoes and enjoy summer freshness when there is snow on the ground!

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns….

Tomato Puree

3-5 lbs paste tomatoes

3-5 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp coarse salt

To blanch tomatoes, put a big pot of water on to boil. Be ready with tongs and a big bowl of ice water on the side.

Rinse and core tomatoes. Drop into boiling water (you will probably have to do batches). Remove each tomato as soon as its skin starts to wrinkle/split, and drop in the ice water.

Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooled to handle, slip off the peels and discard peels or add to stock (thanks John Picardi, or was it Mad Dog for that tip!).

Dump the water from your big pot and add the peeled tomatoes, split or chopped in half if you like. (If you have a food mill, you can put the tomatoes through the mill first to eliminate seeds. Or, there is another suggested way to do it later in the recipe). Add garlic and salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for five, ten, 15 minutes…however long you want. The flavor is bright early on and mellows somewhat with more cooking, so it is up to you which you prefer.

When you’ve reached desired flavor, let cool. At this point, since my food mill is missing a piece, I press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl. The solids remain in the strainer and…true confessions…I use that as a spread on toast because the seeds don’t bother me there, but they do bother me in a smooth sauce. Then pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container (you will yield anywhere from a pint to a quart depending on quantity of tomatoes and how much liquid evaporated in the cooking) and freeze for a fresh neutral tomato puree in the middle of winter!

Oh Yes We Can Can (But we might not)

8 Mar

Call it canning by increments…or that road paved with good intentions.

filling the jars

filling the jars

I keep planning to can, and then somehow…

Two years ago I jarred Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, but didn’t go as far as heating and preserving; we just used it all up while it was fresh.

Getting the bubbles out with a spatula

Getting the bubbles out with a spatula

Last year I bought all the equipment — Walmart aka the new Woolworth’s was the only place that actually had it all in one place — and then put it all in the basement and that’s as far as it got. I jarred my jam and froze my tomatoes as usual.

This year’s incremental move towards canning is to do a workshop with Caroline Fanning, one of the growers at the CSA we belong to: Restoration Farm. Basically, Caroline did most of the work sterilizing and prepping and making apple butter, and  me and the other attendees loaded up some jars and put them in the pot, then we all chatted about a range of food issues until the jars were ready to be removed.

Caroline checks for bubbles

Caroline checks for bubbles

We stopped talking long enough to hear the pops from the jars as they told us they were ready, and then we resumed our multitude of rich conversations. It happens with food-obsessed people; we are so happy to find ourselves in the company of similarly loony people that we can’t stop sharing everything we know.

steamy hot from the pot

steamy hot from the pot

My joy was enhanced by the fact that Caroline’s husband and growing partner Dan took my son and his kids to build snow forts elsewhere, so I got to devote my full, uninterrupted grown-up attention to culinary, homestead-y type conversation for almost three hours! Heaven.

little soldier boy jars at attention

little soldier boy jars at attention

So it may take me yet another season to actually do preserves, but then again, it may not. Caroline demystified it very well for us and it is not as horrendous as it seemed in my Little House of the Prairie addled mind.

In the meantime,I offer some pretty pictures of the jars in the afternoon light and a link to my friend and colleague in food writing T.W. Barritt, who actually went home and tried it and can give you a recipe for apple butter, canning instructions and everything!

Chicken Feet Stock (not for the squeamish, so don’t say I didn’t warn you)

19 Oct

It’s not every day that someone swings a plastic bag of severed extremities at you by way of “hello.”

My Precioussssssssss

But when that day comes and if the swinger happens to be Caroline Fanning, one of the growers at Restoration Farm, and she happens to follow her swing by saying, “Hey do you want some chicken feet?” then you should most definitely say “YEAH!” Continue reading

Basic Home-Made Tomato Puree (freezeable!)

13 Sep

I have just done a listening exercise with my ESL students on The Marshmallow Test … a 1960s experiment that offered four-year-olds one marshmallow off the bat, but an additional marshmallow if they could just wait alone in a room for 15 minutes with that first marshmallow and not eat it.

Plunged into ice water and ready for processing into tomato sauce

Astonishingly the findings over time showed that kids who could delay gratification for longer times at four, were likely to be more successful socially, educationally and professionally when they grew up than the kids who couldn’t wait and sucked that first marshmallow down as soon as they were alone with it.

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