Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1st post and tomatoes

Almost everything that happens in my home happens in the kitchen. We do everything here: cook, eat, relax, work on art projects and puzzles, talk, plan, use our computers and watch TV. By "we" I mean my husband, Justin, our three and a half year old daughter, Charlie, and our almost five month old son, August. On a good day the space is, for the most part, orderly. But on most days it is somewhat chaotic and cluttered. While my goal is to one day fall more on the organized side of the scale, I have come to terms with my current reality. My excuse for not tackling the clutter is that I prefer spending my time on the floor with the kids or in the kitchen cooking something (or if I have a spare few minutes alone, watching something on TV that would most likely cause my husband to ask, “are you really watching that!”). When it comes down to it, what is more fun, baking cookies with Charlie or folding her laundry? To me the answer is obvious -- cookies.

Even though I usually place cooking and baking in the fun column, sometimes my cooking and baking project list gets a bit long. It flirts with becoming yet another thing on my have-to-do list and I am in that predicament right now. I am overwhelmed and up to my eyeballs with tomatoes. I'm not exaggerating; we are overrun with tomatoes. I have no idea how it happened, but this year, with five different tomato varieties, I grew hundreds of tomatoes. We ate them straight of the vines, with basil and mozzarella, in salads and added them to everything from sauces to lentil soup. For every one we ate, two more would be ripe and be ready to eat the next day. I am the only one in this house who likes the perfect little Sungold tomatoes, so I bought one plant start this past June. Thankfully I only bought one. I have eaten my weight in Sungolds. For a few weeks I was bringing in a piled-high 8 to 10 inch bowl at least every other day, if not everyday. The plant itself grew so large that it completely filled and grew out of the 6 by 4 foot raised bed that it was planted in.

But then came the end of September and I had to pull the vines from the garden, a sad day as it signaled the true end of summer. (I love fall, but this year's summer was way too short.) Even though we ate a lot of the tomatoes, when I pulled the vines out, I realized that we had only picked and consumed about a quarter of what actually grew. The remaining three quarters were anywhere from almost ripe to very green. A couple years ago my mother told me that tomatoes can continue to ripen off the vine, if they are kept stem side down in a cool place. They will also ripen faster in a paper bag with a banana.

The remaining tomatoes are finishing their ripening in our garage. As they ripen, I bring them in to join the tomatoes on our counters. Yes, counters, plural, there is a sheet pan on the island, but also a large plate, a large bowl and a large colander full of tomatoes on my back counter. I have roasted about ten sheet pans of sliced larger tomatoes and have made two giant pots of tomato sauce.

While there isn't anything much better then eating a tomato straight off the vine, a great tomato sauce is pretty close. One yummy recipe that I came up with is a very basic roasted tomato sauce (I had to do something with 10 sheet pans of roasted tomatoes). And the fact that it is really easy to make, makes it even better. This sauce is also the kind that can be tailored to your own taste. If you want extra heat, add cayenne pepper or chili flakes. If you have extra fresh thyme on hand, toss it in. Add some white wine and a few capers and it pairs up well with halibut. This is one of those sauces that is always a little different each time it is made, but it is always yummy, which is a huge reason why I love it. Because of its flexibility, I have made a giant pot of the most basic version and have stored it away in the freezer. That way I can pull out just what I need, when I need it and adjust the flavor to match the rest of the meal.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes:
Slice tomatoes horizontally.  Slices should be no more than 1/4 inch thick.
Lay each tomato slice on a greased, parchment paper-lined sheet pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast the tomato slices in the oven at 250 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes.  Roasting is complete when the tomato slices are shriveled and beginning to brown, but before they burn.

In a sauce pan, over medium heat, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Add minced garlic -- 1 clove for each sheet pan of roasted tomatoes -- and saute until lightly browned.
Add the roasted tomatoes.
Add 1 tsp Herbs de Provence for each sheet pan of roasted tomatoes.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer until sauce reaches desired consistency. Feel free to puree the sauce with a hand blender or food processor if a smoother texture is desired.
Add fresh basil (optional) just before serving.

We love this sauce over pasta, chicken, pork, spaghetti squash, and as a pizza sauce, but it is great with just about anything, even on toast.

This is also a great way to deal with tomatoes from the grocery store that aren't as flavorful, especially in the dead of winter. Here in Seattle, tomatoes end up traveling a long way to get here in the winter months and have little to no flavor.


Roasted Tomato Sauce (with fresh basil)

1 comment:

  1. Barbo, this looks amazing! Your photos are gorgeous and are making me hungry! So proud of you!