You say tomato, I say dinner

16 Aug

With summer on it’s way out there are a few things you can count on. First, the “back-to-school” commercials start their haunting jingles. Second, your grill has burned more charcoal than a first semester art school. And, third, you have run out of ideas for all of the tomatoes coming out of your garden.

I like to think of tomatoes as my go to flavor all year. They impart sweetness, acidity, and color to every dish that they are added to. But, Summer tomatoes are special. Because Summer is their season, tomatoes are allowed to fully ripen on the vine. This means that their sugars have fully developed and the acids have mellowed. They become deep red in color, as opposed to the redish pink color Winter tomatoes have. Once you start eating your ruby beauties it’s like an addiction. You just can’t get enough! The problem is, what do you do with your tomatoes once you’ve had your fill of sauce, salsa, soup, salads and sandwiches?

The key here is rethinking your processes. If you’ve make 6 versions of cooked tomato sauce, try a raw version:

Raw Tomato Sauce

2 large beefsteak tomatoes, grated
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons high quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate for 4-8 hours or overnight. Serve over cooked pasta.

Or try to put a new twist on an old favorite. Use creamy goat cheese instead of mayo on that sandwich. Hollow out your tomato halves and use them to bake eggs in. Then eat everything together for a light easy breakfast. Give your usual BLT a kick in the pants and add roasted red peppers or pesto. Dry your tomatoes in the oven for 2 hours at 300. Stash in the fridge coved with olive oil. These will keep for a week (if you don’t eat them) and are perfect for pasta, salad or a quick snack.

The only thing that tomatoes don’t really take well to is freezing. Well, freezing before cooking that is. Tomatoes have so much water in them that when you freeze them, the sharp ice crystals puncture and cut all of the structure  in the cells of the tomato flesh. When you thaw them, the tomatoes are flavorless and have an unpleasant mushy texture.

If you have more tomatoes that you couldn’t possibly finish, consider 2 things. First, donations to all your tomato-less friends are nice (wink wink, nudge nudge) and second cook before you freeze. The cooking process breaks down the cell structure of the tomatoes like freezing does, but the heat does it in a good way. But cooking the tomatoes, you release the juice quickly. The heat causes the water to evaporate and concentrate the flavor (i.e. yum.) After cooking your tomatoes for at least 15 minutes you should be safe to freeze them. But do it quickly and seal them tightly.

The best way to preserve summer’s bounty is to can. Canning is to be tackled in another post, but you run less risk of damaging the flavor of your tomatoes when you can. Plus, there’s nothing like finding a jar of tomatoes in your pantry mid-November and thinking fondly of summer fun.

Always thinking of the next meal


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