For the last three weeks, I come home every night to find one or two or seven tomatoes on my kitchen counter. We are having a bumper crop this year. My husband gets home from work an hour before me, so he has undertaken most of the garden duties including the fun job of picking our fresh produce. Of late, however, most of his time has been spent tending to the grass seed we had to lay down because I was too cheap to water the lawn this summer. Yes, we are that house in your neighborhood with lovely flowers and brown grass.
I’m still trying to decide if I would trade last winter’s mild temps with this summer’s heat. Nope. I’ll still take the mild winter anytime.
As I write this, our window sill above the kitchen sink is covered in almost perfectly ripe tomatoes—they should be ready by this evening. While I’m usually generous with most of our garden produce—giving away cucumbers and summer squash to whomever will take them, with tomatoes I’m the ultimate miser. Even my own mother has to resort to sad eyes for me to give her one of my ruby jewels. We can’t possibly eat as many as are ripe, so I have been using my second favorite tool in my kitchen, my vacuum food sealer that I received from my sweetie as a Christmas gift last year. (Favorite tool? Hands down my four cup food processor.)
When I would prep tomatoes for freezing, I used to go through the motions of slicing an X on the bottom with a sharp knife and then immersing them in boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins. I usually ended up with scalded fingers and a messy kitchen. A couple years ago my sister was visiting and was watching this process.
Her: Why are you doing that?
Me: It’s a process called blanching. I’m doing it to remove the skins before freezing.
Her: I know it’s called blanching, Miss Smartypants. I’m just wondering why you are going to all that trouble. I just freeze them with the skins on. They come right off when you defrost them. Just cut them in half, squeeze out the seeds and go.
So, I learned something from my big sis that I have been doing ever since that conversation. No fuss, no hot water, just cut off the stem end, slice in half, bag and seal. Into the freezer they go, just waiting for winter pots of chili and slow simmering pasta sauces.
What are you doing with your tomatoes?
Minutely adapted from Heidi Swenson’s recipe in “Super Natural Every Day”
6 medium-large, ripe red tomatoes
1 cup plain yogurt
Scant 1 Tbsp harissa (if you can’t find harissa or don’t want to make it (see recipe below), use a pinch of red pepper flakes)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 shallots, minced
¼ cup parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
Fine-grain sea salt
½ cup whole wheat couscous
Balsamic vinegar glaze for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter or oil a medium baking dish or gratin pan. (The tomatoes should nestle together in the dish without much room between them.)
Use a serrated knife to cut the top 10 percent from each tomato. Working over a bowl, use a spoon to scoop the flesh from each tomato, letting the juice and tomato chunks fall into the bowl. Do your best to avoid piercing the walls of the tomatoes. Use your hands to break up any large chunks of carved-out tomato flesh. Arrange the tomato "shells" in the prepared baking dish.
Combine 2/3 cup of tomato chunks and juice, the yogurt, harissa, olive oil, basil, shallots, parmesan and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the couscous and stir until combined. Use a spoon to stuff each tomato nearly full.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the couscous is cooked and the tomatoes start to wrinkle a bit and brown near the pan. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze just before serving.
I found this recipe on the internet years ago—sorry don’t have the source for you.
10-12 dried red chili peppers, I generally use Guajillo and/or New Mexico chiles
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
Soak the dried chilies in hot to boiling water for 30 minutes and then drain well. Wearing rubber gloves, remove stems and seeds and discard.
In a food processor combine chili peppers, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Blend. Add remaining spices and blend to form a smooth paste.
Store in airtight container in the fridge. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top to keep fresh. Or store small individual portions (1 Tbsp) in snack bags in the freezer.
Lisa Parsley is a Janesville native writes about food and cooking for Gazettextra.com. Lisa is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.