Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

I can’t take any credit for today’s recipe, except that I had the good sense to latch onto it when I spotted it.  Whether it’s the beginning or the end of the tomato harvest, there’s always a batch of tomatoes that isn’t big enough to can, but too many to eat fresh, and they’re too good to let sit around and spoil.  The solution?  Fire up your oven (that’s the downside), pull out your meat roaster or your broiler’s drip pan or any other heavy, deep pan (you can use a glass cake pan, but the oven temp is high and I get nervous with modern glass bakeware and high temperatures.)

And then make sure you’ve got a food mill.  Don’t have one? Borrow one from your grandma or your elderly neighbor.  Or buy one if you can find one (my food mill hunt took me all over Murfreesboro and Smyrna before I found one on the back shelf of an off-the-beaten-path  hardware store where they had to wipe the dust off the box to read the price tag.)  Hmmm, now that I think about it, you might want to round up the food mill first!

And the best part of all? No boiling water, peeling or slipping the skins or coring.  You just coarsely chop them and roast them.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

2 quarts (give or take) ripe tomatoes; washed and stems removed, then quartered
2-3 onions, coarsely chopped
4-5 peppers (sweet or hot), coarsely chopped (leave the seeds for heat; remove for less heat)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves, diced) or more to taste
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 or 3 teaspoons of basil, oregano or mixed Italian herbs (optional)

Preheat oven to 450.  Place all vegetables in roasting pan; drizzle with olive oil (and herbs if desired); gently toss to coat.  Place in oven and roast for 2-3 hours or until the top is blackened and any juices have become thick and caramelized.  Allow to cool completely (I often throw mine in the refrigerator overnight to chill), then run through the food mill, about a cup at a time.  The roasted sauce can be placed in heavy ziplock bags or other plastic freezer containers  – I ration mine into 6-ounce servings, which is the perfect amount to make two homemade pizzas; freeze.  Makes approximately 6, 6-ounce servings but your mileage may vary depending on the size and juicy-ness of your tomatoes and the volume of other vegetables you added.

The concentrated sauce can be used as the base for traditional Bolognese, marinara or vodka spaghetti sauce.  It will need to be mixed with fresh or canned diced tomatoes, cream (optional) and seasoned with additional herbs and salt and pepper to taste.  I use my sauce as-is as a pizza sauce and it gets rave reviews every time.  If I could just find the perfect pizza crust recipe, I could take the pizza guys out of my cell phone’s directory!

Happy cooking and canning!

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It’s hard to believe we’re already at the threshhold of “late summer” – WHERE has the time gone!  My garden was a tangled jungle this week, after a couple weeks of letting Mother Nature take care of things. (At least she watered.)

This week, I managed to get everything untangled and I tossed the rain-rotten tomatoes to the emus across the fence.  It nearly caused a food fight between the cows and emus…guess they ALL like tomatoes and not everyone was in a sharing mood.

Everything is coming along nicely, except the zucchini plant – it appears to be two zucchinis and done.  (I may be the only gardener who cannot seem to harvest more than a couple zucchinis off a plant…most people have them running out the wazoo.)

The yellow cheese peppers are putting on. Cheese peppers are intended to be dried and made into paprika but their squatty shape makes them good for stuffing, too.yellow cheese pepper

Not to be outdone, the purple jalapenos have put on a flush of new flowers and fruit – which is good, considering our heat wave did in the first wave of fruit.
purple jalapeno
Jimmy Nardello appears to be a frying pepper, and we’re going to invite him for dinner soon.

Jimmy Nardello pepper

Over in the pumpkin patch, I’ve got two of these cute ‘Cotton Candy’ white pumpkins growing like weeds

Cotton Candy pumpkin

And the ‘Sweet Dumpling’ squash are also coming along nicely.

sweet dumpling squash

Tomato-wise, by the time I snapped these pics I had harvested most of the ripe tomatoes, but I found several ‘Hazelfield Farm’ ‘maters waiting for me and the camera.  One is wedged in tight..it took some doing to ease it out without mangling the fruit or the plant:hazelfield farm tomato
Don’t tell her, but ‘Eva Ball Purple’ is umm, not purple.  But her fruit are pretty…the old-fashioned juicy kind of slicing tomato we love on a BLT.
eva ball purple tomato
Here’s this week’s haul. It’s not enough to make salsa, so later today I’ll roast all but a few of them, leaving some for sandwiches this weekend.

No pics this week, but the potatoes are ready to be forked up – I’m excited to see how much of a crop I got from the “potato tower” this year.

The lettuce has finally gone to head, so I shared the pulled-out plants with the emus. They liked it, but not as much as they do tomatoes.

I hope your garden is putting on a show for you, too!

Happy gardening!



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Crop Report, Week 8

This is where things start to heat up.  The thermometer and the plants are both climbing higher every day.

I harvested our first pepper (an Anaheim) this week.  I’m planning to use it (and another one or two that are also ripe) in this recipe.


The purple jalapenos decided to stop showing off their blooms and put on some fruit.

purple jalapenos

As did some tomatoes, especially the Momotaros.


And the Eva Ball Purples

The Black Cherries

And the Maypop Righties

The first baby zucchini is getting nice and round (it’s an ‘Eight Ball’ so that’s to be expected)

baby zucchini

I got my first nasturtium bloom, ever this week (sorry I didn’t get a photo of it, but it looks like there are more blooms to come.)  I know they’re supposed to be easy plants to grow, but not for me, up to now.  So celebrate with me.  It’s modest, but it’s a start.

I’m starting to get fig envy.  I see pics of little baby figs everywhere.  And at the nurseries, their potted trees have figs.  I’m all for patience with my fig tree, but maybe it’s time to pour some fertilizer to it.  Bring us some figgy pudding, would ya?

I also picked up some blueberry plants this week and middle son and I are preparing the ground to get them planted.  Granted, it’s getting a little late to be putting digging in bushes, but I will be patient with them and give them a year to get growing and setting on.

We’re now down to T-30 days for potato digging.  They’ve been growing for 60 days, and they’re supposed to be ready to harvest in 90 days or less.  I’m hoping for mid-July tater salad.  With sweet onions from my elevated bed here.

And tomatoes to go with them.  And maybe some fried okra.

So how’s your garden growing these days?  I hope it’s growing by leaps and bounds!
Happy gardening,

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Somehow I missed posting a recipe last Wednesday.  Mea culpa – I was playing catch-up from our Memorial Day weekend trip.  (I can only use that excuse for so long, but I’m gong to milk it for all its worth!)

And this week’s recipe is not my own, but it’s a pass-along that I’ve tweaked to suit our tastes.  I got it from a 2006 Southern Living article – and they got it from Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, a fixed-price, fixed-menu, family-style eatery in nearby Lynchburg (not as famous as the distillery but it is a local legend and must-try spot if you’re in the ‘hood. Our church’s “Silver Streaks” make a pilgrimage down there every now and again. They *say* they’re only going to Miss Mary’s but they might be doing the JD tour, too.  As long as they aren’t driving the bus home, what happens in Lynchburg can stay among friends. Grin.)

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House

courtesy photo.net

This recipe is a great way to use up any remaining jars of last season’s canned tomatoes, if you are trying to clear them out to make way for this summer’s crop.  Or commercially canned ‘maters work great too.  It is a quick and easy, comfort-food side dish that goes especially well with pork.  In fact, I think for a a year or two, I made this casserole every time I roasted a loin.

Cheesy Tomato Casserole

32 to 35 ounces canned tomatoes, drained (and chopped if they’re not already diced)
15 Ritz or other buttery crackers, crushed (you can crush a few extra for a topping)
1/2 cup (or more) shredded sharp cheddar (I use an extra sharp for the flavor)
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 (or more) teaspoon paprika
coarse pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease or butter a small (8-inch square or pie plate) glass casserole dish.  While tomatoes are draining, saute onion in butter until soft and translucent; set aside.  Mix all ingredients together; sprinkle with additional cracker crumbs and/or cheese if desired (I do.) Bake for 25 minutes or until top is bubbly.  Serve warm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: For smaller families, you can cut the recipe in half, still using a whole egg.  Just place it in a smaller dish – a small, shallow gratin dish works great.

Happy eating!

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A week ago yesterday, we pointed our wagon (okay, our humongous SUV) westward and spent the Memorial Day weekend in south-central Oklahoma.  Before I left, I watered, weeded, took pictures and left word with Swimmer Girl and Middle Son to please (please, please!) water while we were gone. Temperatures soared, but they faithfully watered and the vegetables responded to the combination of moisture and heat. Unfortunately, the weeds were left unmonitored for those few days and the miscreants took advantage of their freedom to grow and flourish as well.

It has taken me a few days to catch up on other things before I could turn my stern eye back to the weeds.  Yesterday I slipped out before it got too hot and tackled the weeding.  Middle Son strolled out to see what I was doing; I mentioned running the Mantis tiller to loosen the soil in the paths and re-shape the rows.  He took the hint (errr, bait) and the next thing I knew the tiller was running with him behind it.  Then he went the extra mile and hand-hoed the edges to get everything looking wonderful as you sand weed-free as you see in this picture:

vegetable garden

When he finished, I pointed out that since he doesn’t love tomatoes,  he must have been motivated by his love for me.  He agreed that was part of it – and the promise of lip-smacking salsa in a few more months.  The tomatoes, zucchini and peppers are all blooming with abandon.

tomato blooms

zucchini blossom

pepper bloom

And finally the lettuce plants are taking off and growing large enough to make their way into a salad:

I had one tomato go all wilty on me.  At first I thought it had been overlooked in the watering schedule, so I watered it a couple times and it didn’t recover.  I plucked it out, washed my hands and substituted a health (but small) seedling in its place.  No sense in babying a sickly plant or risking letting its virus or fungus spread to the other plants.

My next to-do is to become a mixologist and whip up an egg/pepper concoction to protect the beans from rabbits.  And start harvesting a few of radishes.

So how’s your garden doing?

Happy gardening,

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Last Saturday, I had Mr. Official swing by a nearby produce stand and I picked up a half-bushel box of canning tomatoes, plus onions and jalapenos and bell peppers.

I then stood for a long couple of hours and skinned and diced two gallons of maters, along with a the other ingredients to make my one-and-only batch of salsa for the year – 16 pints plus a half-pint left over.

I’ve had this recipe for several years now, and I’ve adapted it slightly to suit our tastes. If you like a chunky, “picante” (spicy, you choose the heat) salsa, this is a good one to fill in for store-bought salsa. It isn’t expensive to make (not counting jars and lids, my guesstimate is around $1 per pint), but it is time-consuming to make. Give yourself at least 4-5 hours, more if skinning and seeding tomatoes isn’t second-nature to you (there’s a bit of a learning curve involved.) And be prepared for a major kitchen wipedown when you’re done, because those tomato seeds and the juice will squirt everywhere. It is a necessary step to avoid watery salsa, though.  

Chunky Salsa Recipe

2 gallons (40-50 large) ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
10-12 peppers (you can use any combination of bell, banana, habanero, or jalapeno), diced (remove seeds from bells; seeding any other peppers is optional; seeds typically equal more heat)
4-6 onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced (optional – I left it out this year, but it is good)
6 cloves garlic, minced or 6 tablespoons prepared garlic; more if you like a stronger garlic flavor)
3/4 cup lemon or lime juice
3/4 cup plain white vinegar
2 tablespoons canning or Kosher salt
24 ounces tomato paste
diced fresh cilantro (at least a handful)

If you have paste or Roma tomatoes, you can use up to 1/3 of them for the tomatoes in this recipe. For other tomatoes, be sure to squeeze each skinned and cored tomato to remove as much of the juice and seeds as you can. Having a large deep bowl or bucket for the skins and seeds makes cleanup easier (you definitely don’t want tomato skins in your garbage disposal, and you probably don’t want all those seeds down there, either.)

Dice the vegetables and place all ingredients except cilantro in a large non-reactive stockpot or kettle (note the size of mine in the photo to the left – this is not a job for a 3-quart saucepan or 6-quart pot.)  Bring to a boil and let boil for 5-10 minutes; skim off any scum or foam. Add cilantro and remove from heat. Stir through.

Have at least 16* hot, sterilized pint jars ready (I run mine through the sanitizing cycle of my dishwasher, then dip each in a large kettle of boiling water just before using.)  Have clean hot lids (flats and rings the same size as your jar openings) ready, along with jar tongs, a ladle, funnel** and a roll of paper towels for wiping the rims.

Using the ladle and funnel, fill each jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim with a clean moist paper towel, place flat lid on top and screw down the ring firmly.

When all the salsa is in jars, place jars in canning kettle or other large kettle (you can place a tea towel on the bottom of a large stockpot to cushion the bottom of the jars if you don’t have a kettle or you want to augment yours – you can get 7 jars in a typical kettle.

Cover by an inch of water and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, set timer for 30 minutes and turn down slightly but maintain a rolling boil. Remove jars from kettle after processing and place on a clean dry towel in a draft-free locations. Make sure they are completely cool and all the lids have sucked down before storing. (You will hear them “pop” as they vacuum seal themselves during the gradual cooling process.)

Use within one year.  Makes 14-16 pints

*If possible, always have a few extra clean, sterilized jars and lids on hand. Sometimes the recipe will make a little more because the tomatoes were a little meatier or plumper than other years. If you are buying new jars just for this recipe, and don’t have any extras, be sure to have a plastic container at the ready for any leftovers that won’t fit in a jar.

Promptly refrigerate and use within a week or so – it won’t last as long as commercial salsa.  That holds true for when you open a jar later on:  always try to use an open jar within a few days.  You can throw the extra in some creamy refried bean dip or use it instead of diced tomatoes in your next batch of spaghetti.  It’ll add a little unexpected zip!

**If you’re buying a canning funnel for the first time, choose the one for the smaller jars.  It will work with the wide-mouth jars, too.  If you buy the bigger size, it won’t slide in jars with the smaller opening.  Having both is nice, but you really only need the smaller one.

Happy canning!

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I honestly don’t remember what these are really called or which magazine inspired me to make them years ago, so we’ll go with “tomato towers.” They are a wonderful summer accompaniment to almost any meal, especially grilled meats.  Close your eyes and imagine slices of juicy ripe tomatoes and Vidalia onions, melded together with some soft fresh Mozzarella cheese. Throw in some basil leaves and balsamic vinegar for flavor and you’ve got a warm, gooey tower of goodness.  In fact, we had one last night…

Tomato Towers

1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and sliced into 4, 1/4-inch slices
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced into 4, 1/4-inch slices
Soft fresh Mozarella cheese, sliced into thin layers
4 basil leaves, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Place onion slices in balsamic vinegar to marinade for a few minutes; be sure to turn to coat. When ready to assemble, layer as follows:

1 slice of onion
1 basil leaf
1 or two slices of cheese (if they are small use two)
1 slice of tomato
1-2 slices of cheese
1 basil leaf
1 slice tomato
1-2 slice of cheese
1 slice onion

Homely but handy!

Place on hot grill (I like to use this perforated grilling tray so nothing falls through the grates), and grill covered until the onion caramelizes a bit and the cheese softens; carefully flip over and repeat; Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. This recipe make 2 large side portions, or split them apart to serve four.

Note: It is a given these will not stay neatly stacked once you start slicing into them, so don’t worry if they look a mess. Messy is good, especially when it’s yummy and messy.

Happy eating!

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