Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ways to Eat Tomatoes

I have to officially take my garden off the "failed" category and put it in the success category. Although some things did not work out, and although those tomato plants look totally dead, they're still putting out a lot of pretty good tomatoes! They wouldn't win any prizes, but they're keeping us well fed. Even if all that happens now is that the tomatoes on the vine get red, I'll have a serious crop of Roma tomatoes for making rich, red sauce in a week or two (I'm not listening to Lynn Rosetto Casper, who said Romas are the "eunuch of the tomato world." She hasn't seen the sauce I made this week...) Next year there are definitely some things I want to do differently, but I even pulled some large, beautiful carrots out of the garden this week.

Yesterday I had the grill in action (actually had to go refill the propane tank, which I just filled six weeks ago) blackening several batches of cherry tomatoes and onions for salsa. I have a great salsa recipe, which is as follows:

Chipotle Salsa

Cover the bottom of a dry cast iron skillet with cherry tomatoes and put them on a burner (next to the grill if you have a burner there, or on the grill if you'd like) on medium-high heat and put 1/2 onion cut in wedges in one of those veggie grill pans (with holes, so it doesn't fall through the grates) and grill, turning with tongs until they are blackened in spots and the tomatoes are falling apart slightly. Then puree in a blender with a couple cloves of garlic (you can roast these with the onion if you want-- I don't know if it takes the raw garlic effect out of them since it's pretty fast) and one chipotle chili with a little adobe sauce from a can. Then put the puree back into the skillet over heat and simmer until it thickens to a consistency you like.

I managed to make three quarts of the stuff yesterday, which required another round with the canner, so I added a quart of just regular tomatoes to the batch. My pantry (a shelf in the basement storage unit) is looking good!

I also made my absolute favorite tomato dish yesterday, a cold yellow and red tomato soup. It's absolutely delicious, really smooth and flavorful, and even my friend Doug who does not like cold tomato soups (crazy for a person who spends as much time in Spain as he does) loves this soup. It is incredibly easy and also dramatic, two more major pluses. The only trick is buying the ingredients! I knew I wanted to make this, but I just won't buy yellow tomatoes at $3.99/lb at the grocery store. Lucky for me, they were $2 a basket at the St. Joseph Farmer's Market, so I got at least 3 lbs for $4 on Friday afternoon. Also the red and sweet white onions, so fennel and celery are the only "conventional" veggies here I had to buy.

Chilled Red and Yellow Tomato Soup

for yellow soup:
2 lbs yellow beefsteak tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped sweet white onion
1 small celery rib, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fennel bulb
2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
(Optional are a garlic clove and 2 Tbsp shallot. If I have them, I use the shallot instead of the white onion, but I don't use the garlic because I like to minimum the effects of raw onion and garlic...)

for red soup:
3 lbs red beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup canned tomato juice (though I forgot this last night and it seems optional to me)
1/4 cup chopped red onion (white would also be fine, or shallots)
1 small celery rib, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fennel bulb
2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

It is really fun to make this soup. First you make the yellow-- all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth, then push through a sieve/metal mesh colander into a large bowl to remove the solids. (This is the part I like, using my hands!!)

Then you quickly rinse things out and make the red soup the same way...

Put each in a covered container in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Another great thing-- you can make it early.

Then for the dramatic presentation:

To serve it put a cookie cutter or hollow canning lid or something down in the center of a shallow bowl and pour the yellow soup into the ring. Mine kind of leaked out around the flower cookie cutter, but you still get the idea. Pour the red soup around the ring and lift the ring from the bowl. This recipe will make 6 bowls of soup. And trust me, it's amazing.
After all that, and some cleaning out of our storage stuff in the barn and a good workout, I was really done cooking. I'd planned to try to do something with the rest of the zucchini, but announced to Steve that I wasn't up for much cooking, so we'd just be having lobster ravioli and the soup. He laughed. The ravioli came from Trader Joe's, and the sauce was homemade. I had a lovely dry Riesling in the fridge, too. We ate on the porch, and Steve insisted we take a picture of the lovely soup. The prairie is mellow and the air was dry. Earlier, Steve asked if the dry air reminded me of Reno, but I said no. It actually felt like Southern California, dry but with a breeze that felt like it was coming off the ocean. It was fresh and crisp and really luxurious on the skin. I almost couldn't bear to leave my chair where I was reading and get up to make any dinner.

And when we sat down to dinner, it was clear that it really doesn't get any better than this.


Mr. Cantor said...


-- Phil Cantor

liz fathman said...

I lost most of my tomatoes this year. Being an urban gardener is a little tough -- limited space, limited sunshine (in my case, houses and big trees block a lot of it) -- but I still want to make it work. I love the idea of going into the garden to pick vegetables for dinner. So, thanks for the inspiration (I just sent a link to this post to my sister, who has 10 plants worth of tomatoes to deal with), and wish me better luck next year!

Melissa said...

These recipes look great! As Liz said, I have 10 plants worth to deal with...what was I thinking? Looking forward to trying these.

-Melissa Fathman (Liz's sister)

Susan Sink said...

Melissa, Good luck! I had six plants: 2 roma, 2 cherry, 2 beefsteak. Luckily, they kind of paced themselves, with the beefsteak arriving first, then cherry, and finally roma. I currently have some of the last of the roma in the oven on 200 where they'll roast for 8 hours or so and hopefully be dried. I'll throw them in baggies for the winter and use them in pasta and black bean soup! I'm new to this, but think in addition to recipes, the only way to cope is to find all the ways to store them-- canned, frozen sauce and salsa, and now sun-dried.