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Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

I think Georgia O'Keeffe would approve of this delectably oven-roasted plum tomato.

Don’t tell my kids, but a few weeks ago, I made tomato sauce from tomatoes I picked out of the garbage can at the farmers market in Ramsey. OK, by now anyone who has read my previous posts knows that I’m almost as obsessed with having  tomatoes as not having Styrofoam. And in my defense, it wasn’t really a “dumpster” ad there wasn’t much else in that garbage can. And I had asked. Well, actually I had asked the farmer selling Jersey tomatoes if she had any “seconds” she was selling at a discount.

She thought for a moment while she scanned her table covered with eggplants and pies.

“You can have these,” she said, handing me a pair of slightly bruised but beautiful tomatoes that were sitting next to the cash box.

“Normally if I know someone wants them I save them. I’ll save them for you next time,” she offered. But as I explained that I wasn’t a regular at that market.   And that’s when I noticed about a half a dozen gorgeous tomatoes in that  garbage.

“Do you mind if I take those, two?” I asked my tomato kindred spirit.

“Go right ahead,” she said.

This weekend, at my regular farmer’s market in Inwood, I hit pay-dirt and I didn’t even have to get my hands dirty. After wandering the market and asking everyone, “Got any seconds for sauce?”  I stumbled on a stand that was selling exactly that out in the open for $1 a pound.  Most of them were bright, fire-truck red romas, but there were a few yellow mixed in too.

“How much would you charge me for this whole box?” I asked the farmer. She led me behind the table and showed me an unopened but full box. “$15,” she said.  Needless to say, I took it.

This picture really doesn't do justice to just how many tomatoes I came home with.

For some reason, things, or more specifically food, looks less in the world. I am always worried that I won’t have enough. And while John carted our box through the market, it didn’t seem to be that much – until I got home and I realize the box was almost the size of two milk crates. It was deep with red-gold.

Mostly I was thinking about the winter. Could I really cook up enough tomatoes to substitute for all those cans of plum tomatoes I buy to make soups and sauces when the cold weather hits? I wasn’t sure but I was going to try.

I started by opening up The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Normally I parboil fresh tomatoes so that I can pop them out of their skins. But Hazen explained that you can cut the tomatoes in half, parboil them and then process them using my old friend the Foley Mill. I tried it and it worked like a charm. I tried her  basic sauce with garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. It came out sweet and light, with a rich tomato flavor. Kind of like really good pizza sauce.

I love fire-roasted tomatoes and these, roasted in a cast iron pan on the stove top, have a similar flavor.

Then I turned to Cocina de la Familia by Marilyn Tausend where I learned that you can pan roast tomatoes for such classics as Sopa de Tortilla by using a cast iron pan. I tried this method, throwing in a chili pepper and some garlic at the end. I used my hand blender and made a quick sauce with a stronger, more robust flavor which I personally liked a bit better.

The gazpacho was richer with the help of a bit of home made tomato juice.

Then finally I made some gazpacho. I added some of the liquid from a batch of parboiled tomatoes that I seeded and left to drip over a colander. The tomato juice added a richness to the gazpacho that I think gazpacho need.

My big discovery was slow-roasted tomatoes. I found this recipe at SmittenKitchen.com. Slow roasted tomatoes are sort of cross between roasted tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. The author of SmittenKitchen went on and on about how delicious they were. But when they first came out of the oven I wasn’t impressed. Disappointed, I packed mine in a jar with the roasted garlic, a little extra olive oil and a bit of sea salt. But, the next day, when I tried one, I was wowed. Once they’ve settled into their flavor they are amazing.

Tonight, (4 days later) I finally hit the end of the box. In the meantime, my $15 worth of tomatoes made me the equivalent of:

  • About 5 cans of plum tomatoes
  • About 2 cans of roasted tomatoes
  • about 2 jars of tomato sauce (unseasoned)
  • About 2 jars of tomato sauce (seasoned)
  • About 4 trays of slow-roasted tomatoes (that’s a pretty big delicious jar)
  • A blender full of gazpacho

Is it enough to get me through the winter? No. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Was it green? Maybe. For starter, my big box of tomatoes weren’t organic (they were low spray) and I probably use gas and electricity a lot less efficiently than say Brad’s Organic (today,  I noticed these canned tomatoes were on sale for 2 for $5 at the Westside Market in Chelsea.) But on the other hand, my tomatoes were local, the only gas they used was getting to the farmer’s market.  I used my freezer to store so my tomatoes have no hidden preservatives. And my containers aren’t cans lined with  BPA. — although in addition to old ice cream pint containers, I did use a few ziplock bags and a few old yogurt containers which are made of#5 plastic. Still in the end, fresh tomatoes taste better than canned. And that’s worth something. Ok. A lot.

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