Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes

A Week’s Tomato Binge

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Labor Day weekend, brought a tomato glut to my corner of the world.

Of course the Wednesday food sections were all over tomatoes with Revisiting the Caprese by Janet Fletcher in the Chronicle and So Many Tomatoes to Stuff in a Week by Melissa Clark in The New York Times. Mark Bittman of the Times chimed in with a Tomato Paella video.

Thursday, I snagged San Marzanos at Andy and Julia’s Marquita Farm t_andynjulia.jpgThursday box night at Piccino café in Dogpatch. At the Saturday Farmers Market, which seemed unusually busy, I got a couple of heirlooms from my regular heirloom guy and later saw some more that were so beautiful I couldn’t pass them by. Last, but not least, I got a basket each of red and yellow cherry tomatoes. That should be enough for a week’s tomato binge.

We got a head start with Janet Fletcher’s Tomato Bread Salad with Burrata, accompanied by grilled shrimp. For this, we put together a salad of toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives, capers and basil leaves with a red wine vinegrette. The salad was composed around a fine piece of Burrata, the very fresh Italian mozzarella, and we finished it with grilled shrimp, uncalled for and unnecessary, but divine. Oh boy!

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The cherry tomatoes were sacrificed for Melissa Clark’s Red and Yellow Cherry Tomato Confit, a versatile and wonderful accompaniment to things good, such as pasta, fresh ricotta cheese or polenta, or on grilled meats, fish or fowl. Simplicity itself, Spread tomatoes and garlic out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with rosemary, crushed red pepper, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Bake until tomatoes are wrinkled and fragrant, about 45 minutes.

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How easy is that? After cooling, I put the confit in a jar to get all the flavors friendly and served with grilled salmon. I even had it with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Store in the fridge, but get out to come to room temperature before using. You can even run it through your trusty toaster oven on the serving plate for a quick blast of warmth. Yum!

More tomatoes, fancy, then saucy.

Melissa Clark’s Multicolored Tomato Tartlets made a great appetizer for Saturday’s dinner party; individual warm puff pastry tarts topped with mascarpone, basil, nutty Parmesan and jewel-like slices of tomato. Those garnered some raves!

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Sunday and Monday were spent with the San Marzanos and sauce four ways, each distinctly different. Some were new to me this year and others I have gathered over time.

Onion Scented Tomato Sauce by Marcella Hazan via the Cheese (B)Log

Put two pounds of tomatoes in a saucepan with five tablespoons of butter, an onion sliced in half, and some salt. Cook uncovered at a very slow but steady simmer for 45 minutes. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion. How could it not be good, with all that butter? The onion — I used a fresh cipallini onion — imparts its subtle flavor to the sauce.

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Chunky Tomato Base, Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s “Soups: A Way of Life”

Peel, seed and roughly chop five pounds of tomatoes. Chop two medium onions and melt in six tablespoons of olive oil. Add tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. That’s all. I use this as a sauce for pasta or as a soup base or as a base for a more hearty meat sauce. The onions and olive oil give this sauce a full and rich flavor, with the onions present in the finished sauce. Sometimes I make this sauce with Early Girls, for their bright, shiney flavor. Use what you need and freeze the rest. Note that there is no seasoning… season this sauce as you use it.

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Amy Giaquinta’s Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce via Janet Fletcher in the Chronicle

Put three pounds of quartered tomatoes in a large glass baking dish. It is OK if they are more than a single layer deep. Add one-third cup of olive oil and some salt and stir to coat. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft and beginning to caramelize, about 3 hours in a 350 ° oven. Puree the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disk. Season to taste with salt. The oven roasting makes a really thick sauce with a concentrated, smoky, caramelized taste.

For simplicity itself, Fresh Tomato Sauce
The idea came from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, via the Mariquita Farm Ladybug Letter, but I have drastically simplified it.
Cook roughly chopped tomatoes in three pound batches in a 3 quart Le Creuset pan over medium-high heat. Give the tomatoes an occasional stir with a big wooden spoon as they yield their juices. When the tomatoes have broken down after about 10 minutes and look saucy, pass them through the fine disk of a food mill. Pour the sauce into another heavy pot over very low heat to keep warm and thicken while you work on the next batch.t_bowl3.jpgt_bowl2.jpgt_bowl.jpg

 

I put three cups each in quart containers and freeze to use whenever a recipe calls for chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, bearing in mind that this is unseasoned, pure tomato.

After all that, I had about six San Marzanos and two heirlooms left on my counter. I planned to make a tomato risotto to serve with sea bass and harcort vert from the batch of recipes in Revisiting the Caprese, but stumbled onto a Mark Bittman video of him making Paella with Tomatoes. These videos are about three minutes, so the dishes prepared gotta be easy (of course that doesn’t include prep time or time in the oven).

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He put 1 1/2 pounds of tomato wedges in a bowl with salt, pepper and olive oil to rest while getting the rice ready. He sautéed a chopped onion and tablespoon of minced garlic in olive oil until soft. To that he added a tablespoon of tomato paste and two teaspoons of paprika, stirring and cooking for a minute. Then he added 2 cups of rice and cooked, stirring occasionally, until it got shiny with the oil, another minute or two. He dded 3 1/2 cups of hot stock, stirred until everything combined and put tomato wedges on top of the rice mixture.

He put the pan in the preheated oven and roasted at 450 °, undisturbed, for 15 minutes, checked the rice for tenderness, and took it out of the oven to rest for ten minutes or so, enough time to roast a sea bass fillet.

When I did it, I used a 10 inch sauté pan, Spanish pimentón smoked paprika and homemade stock made with shrimp shells and tomato peels and cores.

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What a great way to finish off a tomato binge.

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One thought on “Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes

  1. I second the Marcella Hazan “Onion Scented” sauce, which is really terrific served with gniocchi. Chopped onions incorporated into tomato sauce lend a strong sweet flavor. Cooking a whole, unchopped, onion with the tomatoes lends just a hint of sweetness while adding the sulphurous complexity of the actual onion flavor.

    Our “go to” tomato sauce for pasta is as simple as most of the dishes described here and can be created in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and then cook your pasta: add olive oil to a wide pan with two cloves of chopped/crushed/mashed garlic, place on medium heat until fragrant (but not browned) then add whole canned tomatoes (or chopped fresh). When it begins to bubble, turn the burner down to low and add two more cloves chopped/mashed garlic. When the pasta is done, the sauce is done. Fried garlic and fresh garlic are two different flavors, and the two add depth to what is otherwise a simple fresh sauce.

    Paul Bertolli’s “Cooking By Hand” has a great section on tomatoes, if you’re still looking for ways to handle the overflow.

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