Saturday, September 1, 2012

Today it's all about the TOMATO

What would we do without the tomato?  It's everyone's favorite summer vegetable to grow in their garden.  Although it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes, and is rich in lycopene, which is credited for many health benefits. 
When asked, you'll find that most people have a strong opinion about their favorite tomato.  Everyone's taste buds are different, so there really is no #1 best tomato.   There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, and just as many ways to use them:  slicing on a sandwich, making sauce, using in salads, adding to soups and stews or simply eating with a little salt and pepper to name a few.  
Several of my vines are heavy with ripe fruit, so I decided to get picking, preserving and creating.  It takes anywhere from 4-6 pounds of tomatoes to fill a quart jar.
After sanitizing the jars, lids, and bands, peeling the tomatoes, packing them tightly, adding the correct amount of lemon juice to assure the acidity, the jars are ready for the water to come to a full boil.  Two quarts of green zebra, two quarts of black krim, and one quart of ace tomatoes fill the pot nicely. 
55 minutes later they are ready for storage in the dark and cool basement pantry.  I didn't want this to be an all day event, merely a morning gig, but apparently my eyes were bigger than my canner when I was harvesting.  Here's something you might try if you encounter the same problem.
I made a batch of Tomato Pesto, adapted slightly from a recipe by Michael Chiarello.
4 Cups of peeled, chopped, and seeded tomatoes 
5 cloves of garlic
30 large leaves of basil
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 roasted red peppers
1 1/2 Cups of grated Parmesan
1/4 Cup of finely minced sun dried tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except Parmesan in a food processor and blend until it's a smooth puree.  Add Parmesan and blend briefly.  Transfer the pesto to a bowl, adjust the seasonings and refrigerate so the flavors can meld. 
Use as a quick sauce for pasta, spoon it on a burger, spread on a toasted, sliced baguette and top with chopped green olives or drizzle over grilled chicken.  Whatever you do with it, it's going to taste like summer.

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