Archives for category: Tomatoes

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The last time I blogged was a month ago. It was about tomatoes. As was the blog before that (sort of). Well I’m at it again: tomatoes. This time stuffing them into jars to be eaten once the last leaves have fallen from the trees in Fort Greene Park and my wool coat has reclaimed its place by the front door.

I recently returned from a 15-day trip around Turkey with a few new recipes under my belt, ones that have been passed down through generations in my boyfriend’s family. His sisters do the cooking, and do everything by hand, and do not own a single measuring cup or spoon. One thing they do each year is turn late-summer tomatoes into a sauce to be eaten year round. It’s quite simple: tomatoes, peppers, salt, and a bit of oil. They primarily use the sauce to make Turkish menemen (and egg-and-tomato dish like shakshouka).

When we left for Turkey the weather was hot, sticky, classic late August; when we returned last week early fall had descended on New York, with its warmish days but brisk mornings and chilly nights. Luckily we got back into town just to catch the tail end of tomato season. We bought these organic ones from Hepworth Farms at the Park Slope Food Coop for $1.26 a pound! If you can get bruised ones for cheap at your local farmers market that’s good too.

This recipe is not quite the rustic preserved tomatoes I made last year or the ones written about earlier this week in the New York Times. But it’s not far off either. In addition to menemen I’d love to eat this with pasta or polenta or in a vegetarian lasagna. And honestly, I can’t imagine I’ll wait til winter to try!

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Preserved tomatoes, Turkish style

8 pounds tomatoes, preferably Roma
2 pounds long sweet peppers
1/2 cup oil
1 heaping tbsp salt

1. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Transfer the pureed tomatoes to a large stockpot on the stove. Bring the tomatoes to a boil.

2. Halve the peppers lengthwise and chop in a food processor until fine, but not pureed. (A food processor works much better for this than a blender which tends to just pulverize.) Without a food processor you can do this by hand it just takes a while—chop as finely as possible.

3. When the tomatoes are boiling add the peppers, oil, and salt and reduce to a simmer but keep the liquid bubbling. You want to reduce some of the liquid and create a sauce. So simmer for about 45 minutes to one hour until you reach the desired consistency of sauce.

4. Have your Ball jars or recycled glass peanut butter jars (what we used!) clean and sterilized (we boiled the clean jars in water for ten minutes and removed with tongs and air dried). Don’t let the sauce cool too much. Using a funnel, spoon the tomato sauce into the jars, filling almost to the top, leaving just the tiniest bit of room.

5. While still hot, put the lids on and flip the jars upside down. Leave for two days to ensure a proper seal. (This is the method my boyfriend’s family uses; you can also look on the internet for other methods to seal, namely submerging the jars in boiling water.)

Below is a photo of the beautiful village where we stayed for five days in the mountains of eastern Turkey, where my boyfriend grew up and his family still spends the summers. Bottom is me picking apricots in a neighboring village. I also saw pomegranate, lime, and fig trees during those two weeks. I’d definitely never seen a pomegranate tree before!

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Do you know what a tarte tatin is? You may have eaten one without realizing what it was. It’s essentially fruit that’s caramelized in butter and sugar, baked with pastry on top, and then flipped over and served upside down with the fruit showing.

I was up in Woodstock this week and came upon this slide show in the Times for tomato recipes—garlicky tomato gazpacho, Sicilian stuffed tomatoes, and so on—but the one that really caught my eye was the tarte tatin, made with a variety of cherry tomatoes, chopped olives, and thyme. I vowed to make it as soon as I returned to the city this weekend. And so I did.

This being high tomato season and all, I can’t help myself when I’m at the coop or the farmer’s market and I walk by those little green pint baskets filled with Sun Golds or Elettros, Brown Berries, and Red Pear Heirlooms. They are, after all, only good this time of year—one month, maybe two if I’m lucky, so I get them while the getting’s good.

The Times recipe was pretty good but I added red chile pepper flakes for some heat (which I add to almost everything—ice cream?), and halved the cherry tomatoes because some of mine were quite large. Do not make this mistake—don’t halve your cherry tomatoes! They end up leaking a lot of their liquid into the tart and the pastry became a little soggy. Live and learn. It still tastes scrumptious.

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Caramelized Tomato Tart Tatin
Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 14-ounce package of puff pastry
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 red onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus a pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon sherry or white vinegar
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 1/2 pints (about 1 pound) cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. If frozen, slightly thaw your puff pastry, about 20 minutes before you will handle it. The colder it is the easier it is to work with but it shouldn’t be frozen. Gently unfold the pastry and cut into an approx. 10-inch circle. Set aside in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of sugar and cook, stirring, until onions are golden and caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add 2 tbsp water to deglaze the pan, scraping brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. In a separate, ovenproof 9-inch skillet (I used a cast-iron), combine 1/4 cup sugar and 3 tbsp water. Cook over medium heat, swirling the pan gently (don’t stir) until the sugar melts and turns amber, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and swirl gently.

4. Sprinkle olives over caramel. Scatter tomatoes over olives, then the onions. Season with the thyme, salt, and pepper. Top with the puff pastry round, tucking the edges into the sides of the skillet. Cut several long vents into the top of the pastry.

5. Bake tart until crust is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges with a butter knife. Carefully flip the tart out onto a serving dish. Cut into wedges and serve.

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I came home from Vermont on Labor Day with a weighty bag of small plum-like tomatoes from my stepmother’s garden. I was housesitting for her and my father and part of my laborious duties included picking the ripe fruits from their vines. While the Sun Golds burst with the flavors of sun and summer, these more Roma-like tomatoes seemed better suited to gazpacho or a sauce.

The bag sat on my counter in Brooklyn for most of last week until it occurred to me to roast them, concentrating their flavors for a sweeter, more flavorful punch. I like raw tomatoes, I do. They’re one of August and September’s exquisite pleasures: slicing the juicy fruit, whether beefsteak or heirloom, seeds spilling over the edge of the cutting board. Layered with good buffalo mozzarella and basil, or just biting into one like a peach. But I find, after a while, I want my tomatoes cooked. I want the tastes condensed, the flavors warm. Maybe it’s just summer turning into fall.

So I decided I needed more tomatoes. I swung by my local farmer’s market Saturday after the tornado/tornahdo left Brooklyn and the sun came out blazing. A stand had a $1/lb bin of bruised tomatoes that needed a home – I was more than happy to adopt these forsaken ones. I lugged six pounds home for six bucks.

Once home I sliced all the tomatoes and arranged on a baking sheet, drizzling olive oil and salt on top. I roasted them in a 225 degree oven for one hour, a little more, turning once, until they were shriveled and syrupy. These are great to eat just like this – tossed with pasta, or on toast, in a salad, or mixed with rice. But I thought marinated in olive oil with the basil and garlic I brought home from Vermont would be even better. So quite unintentionally I found myself stuffing the roasted tomatoes into glass Ball jars and sealing their lids in baths of boiling water.

A friend came by and said, “you’re canning!” And so I was. Sort of. But I think of it more like cheating – preserving the rich flavors of summer without spending days on a factory line in my kitchen. It took all of a couple of hours to fill four Ball jars this weekend. I know that won’t get me through the winter, let alone fall. September? Maybe.

Roasted, marinated tomatoes, for fall

Tomatoes, any variety, the cheaper/uglier the better
Olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Chili peppers, optional
Basil, optional

1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges (unless very small in which case halve them). Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake at 225 F for at least one hour, and up to one and a half hours.

2. Cool completely before transferring to a Ball or Mason jar with a sealing lid. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic to each jar, also adding basil and small dried peppers if you’d like. I add a dash more of Maldon salt. Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are coated and marinating in the oil.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn down the heat to a vigorous simmer and add your jars with the lids on tight. Let sit in the simmering water for at least five minutes, or until the jars are sealed and the lid doesn’t pop when you push on the center.

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