Tuesday, September 9, 2014

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: tomato edition //

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, the signs that summer is quickly drawing to a close are all around us.  And so I'm wrapping up this series of simple summer foods with one of my very favorite summer foods: tomatoes.  Not just any tomatoes. Fresh from the garden tomatoes.

We planted our 5th garden this summer. We do a lot of the usual veggies, snap peas, lettuce, beets, zucchini, but our crowning jewel is tomatoes. We usually do about a dozen tomato plants, and each a different heirloom variety, with maybe 1 or 2 big boys thrown in there for a little extra yield. Every year we find ourselves literally up to our shoulders in tomatoes.

The end of summer stands out as one of my favorite times of the year because of all the great tomato inspired meals we eat. And in case you are wondering what to do with all your gardening loot I thought I'd share some of my favorite tomato recipes with you.

1. Golden Tomato Sauce. I have mentioned this here before. It's from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 cookbooks. If you looking for things to do with your garden veggies, check out what Heidi has to offer.

I have made this sauce with all sorts of tomatoes, red, yellow, and whatever else we've grown.  It adapts very easily to all type of tomatoes.  But it's the very very best with Roman Candle tomatoes.

I also like to top my pasta with some feta and spicy Italian sausage. (But don't tell Heidi, she's a vegetarian!)

2. BLT's. I think everyone knows what that stands for: bacon, lettuce, and tomato.  So I'll just mention a couple tips and variations.  Bread choice: hands down, my favorite bread to use for these is sourdough.  We toast it and then spread some mayo on. If you'd like to be a little healthier (try to balance out the bacon, and the mayo that I've added) use kale instead of lettuce.  We found we actually prefer out BLT's with kale, making them BKT's. It might catch on!

3. Bruschetta: Another a classic that you probably know how to make. 2 large tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh basil, chop it up, drizzle in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper it,  and served on toasted baguette slices.

My one tip for this dish: peel the tomatoes first.  Here's how you do that. Bring a medium size pot of water to boil.  With a very sharp knife, cut a few X shaped marks across the surface of your tomatoes. When the water is boiling carefully put the tomatoes in for about 30 seconds; the skin will begin to peel back where you cut the X. Use a slotted spoon to fish the tomatoes out, let them cool a little and then simple pull the peels off. Removing the peels just makes the texture of the bruschetta even better. It's not essential, but I like to do it.

4. Caprese: Baguette slices toasted and arranged on a plate, topped with slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and torn up fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Super simple, super delicious, every time.

5. Summer Pasta. I posted this recipe about a month ago. You can see it here.  It's basically caprese with pasta instead of bread. It's also basically one of my favorite summer meals.

6. Salsa: I'm sure that my friend Jacqui, the Mexican Domestic Goddess, could give you a very authentic salsa recipe. But until then, this is how a gringo makes it:

For a very large batch:
3 large tomatoes chopped into very small pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
2 serano peppers, seeded and diced
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
a generous amount of salt and pepper.

This is the base, from here you can add as many extra things as you like, bell peppers, corn, black beans, mango, whatever strikes your fancy. Just chop it up and throw it all in a bowl.

7. Tomato Gallette: I found a recipe for a squash gallette on my other favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. At the time I didn't have any squash, and I had tons of tomatoes. So I used tomatoes instead. It turned out great! I also used feta cheese instead of fontina, and I left out the sage, because I don't really care for sage.

8. A Note On Freezing. When I really find myself with a surplus of tomatoes I freeze them.  I used to make sauce and freeze that, but then when I'd thaw it and use it, it never tasted very good. Then I heard somewhere that freezing tomatoes after they've been cooked can ruin the flavor, and it's best to freeze them fresh, and before any seasoning has been added.  So that's what I do.

Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to scoop out the seeds. Then cut them into small pieces and put them in a doubled freezer bag.  Last summer I froze enough tomatoes for about 5 batches of tomato sauce.  It was so nice in the middle of (our super awful) winter to be able to pull some of my home grown tomatoes out of the freezer and make something that reminds me so much of

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