Tomatoes gone wild: Recipes and tips for using up all that glorious garden bounty

Posted Aug. 07, 2012, at 4:28 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 09, 2012, at 4:44 a.m.
Greek stuffed tomatoes
Greek stuffed tomatoes

Nothing says summer like the first bite of a garden tomato.

No sooner do you take that taste than all the backyard tomatoes turn red and beg to be picked. Or so it seems. Not to worry. We have plenty of ideas on how to use up those red beauties.

Freeze them: Varieties used for sauce, such as romas or plum tomatoes, are easy to freeze. Cut out the cores and bag and freeze. When you’re ready to use them, drop them in warm water for a few minutes and the skin will slide right off.

Puree them: Boil them with a little water, put them through a food mill and place in 1-cup amounts in zip-close bags. Label and freeze.

Roast them: Core and halve the tomatoes, place in a single layer in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 325 degrees for 90 minutes to two hours, until they’re very soft. Bag and freeze, or cover with their cooking oil and refrigerate for a week. You can also puree and freeze.

Dry them: Reader Elizabeth Burns suggests doing it outdoors.

“It’s cheap and easy and delivers colorful, flavorful tomato morsels just right for snacks, salad or casserole garnish or extra zing in nearly any meal,” she wrote in an email.

Burns says to line cookie sheets with plastic wrap. Slice tomatoes crosswise, about ¼-inch thick, and lay slices on the trays, with no overlapping. Cover against bugs with a protective screen or cheesecloth and set out in full sun. After a hot day or two, they may be dry enough to turn.

“Depending on the weather, you can just leave them out 24 hours a day until they are dry (about 3-4 days),” she writes.

Store dried tomato slices in zip-close bags in the refrigerator to enjoy during the winter.

Meatball Curry

Serves 6

Don’t let the lengthy ingredients list dissuade you from making this dish. Make the meatballs one day and assemble the dish the next day.

For meatballs:

2 pounds ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

3 tablespoons cilantro

2 teaspoons green chilies

1 teaspoon minced gingerroot

1 teaspoon garlic

1½ teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

¾ teaspoons cumin powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

For sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1½ cups chopped onions

1 tablespoon peeled gingerroot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced green chilies

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, with juice (or 3½ cups fresh chopped tomatoes; romas work best)

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped, for garnish

In a bowl, combine the ingredients for meatballs. Mix by hand. Lightly roll into walnut-sized balls. Do no compact. Set aside on baking tray. (This step can be done the night before.) In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until beginning to color, 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and saute until browned, 8-10 minutes longer. Pour in 1 cup water. Place the baking sheet with meatballs on top of the saucepan, making sure the pan is completely covered. Reduce heat to low and simmer until onions are very soft, 8-10 minutes, or until water evaporates. The heat from the pan will “set” the meatballs. When there is no more liquid in pan, carefully lift meatballs from the baking sheet and arrange on top of onions. Cover pan and cook meatballs 1-2 minutes. Uncover pan, increase heat to medium-low and cook until meatballs are firm enough to turn gently with a spoon and the meat juices have been absorbed, 6-8 minutes. Stir meatballs to brown. Scatter ginger, garlic, chilies, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper on top. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until meatballs are browned. If meatballs stick, stir in a few of the tomatoes to deglaze the pan. Stir in all the tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro and the salt. Increase heat to medium. Cover and return to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until gravy is thick, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle garam masala over top. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir before serving. From “Easy Indian Cooking,” by Suneeta Vaswani (Rose, $18.95).

Tomato Puree

Makes 12 cups

10 pounds very ripe plum tomatoes, cut in quarters

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

In a large pot, heat the water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Mix in the tomatoes, and cook for about 15 minutes or until they start to soften and break down. Reduce heat to low, add salt and keep cooking for about 2 hours or until the volume of liquid has reduced by one-third. Remove from heat and cool. Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the solids. Place the puree in 1 cup amounts in freezer bags, press out the air and zip shut. Label and freeze. They’ll keep for at least three months. From “The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook,” by Brian Yarvin (The Countryman Press, $19.95).

Bell Pepper and Tomato Bisque

Serves 4-6

1 large onion

2 large bell peppers

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon salt

1½ pounds tomatoes, including romas, halved

2 cups carrots or potatoes, diced

4 cups stock

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Cracked black pepper to taste

¼ cup half-and-half

Heat a large stockpot over high heat. Add the oil and saute the bell peppers and onions for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, paprika, salt and carrots and saute for 15 minutes or until the carrots become tender. If mixture sticks, throw in a halved tomato. Decrease the heat to medium, stir in the tomatoes and cook until they dissolve. Stir in the stock, 2 tablespoons basil and the parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender. Return the soup to a clean pot and reheat. Adjust seasoning. To serve, spoon the soup into a bowl and garnish with a bit of half-and-half. Note: If you cut the tomatoes in half and let them dissolve into the onions, it’s easy to fish out the tomato peels, which will curl and float to the top after the broth is added. Based on a recipe in “Organic Marin: Recipes From Land to Table,” by Tim Porter and Farina Wong Kingsley (Andrew McMeel, $29.95).

Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Lamb can be difficult to find and sometimes you need a change-up from ground beef, so try ground pork in this recipe.

4 large ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus oil for baking dish

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

½ pound ground lamb or beef or pork

½ cup uncooked white rice

2 tablespoons pine nuts

¼ cup raisins

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chicken broth

Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Use a serrated grapefruit spoon to hollow out the bodies. Reserve bodies, tops and pulp. Heat the oil, onion and garlic in a skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes or until the onion begins to turn golden on the edges. Add the lamb and 1 cup of the reserved tomato pulp and continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until meat is completely browned. Mix in rice, pine nuts, raisins, salt and broth. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer covered for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a baking dish. Fill the hollow tomatoes with the meat mixture and stand them on end in the baking dish. Place the reserved tops on the tomatoes. Brush tomatoes with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes or until completely cooked. Serve warm. From “The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook,” by Brian Yarvin (The Countryman Press, $19.95).

Peach Salsa

Makes 10 pints; recipe can be doubled or halved

5 pounds very ripe tomatoes, squeezed and then chopped

5 pounds peaches, peeled and chopped

3 pounds onions, diced

2 green bell peppers, diced

2 ounces jalapeno peppers, diced; do not seed or de-vein

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon powdered ginger

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup chopped cilantro, with stems

½ cup chopped mint

½ cup lime juice

½ cup peach cider or peach nectar

Prepare and place all ingredients in a pot except cilantro, mint, lime juice and peach cider. Bring ingredients just below boiling; add reserved ingredients. Conduct initial pH test with pH strips. If pH is below 4.3, it is fine. To reduce, add lime juice, 1 tablespoon at a time. Hot pack at 190 degrees. Perform another pH test after 24 hours. If pH is below 4.5, safe canning was accomplished. From “Putting Up: A Year-round Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition,” by Stephen Palmer Dowdney (Gibbs Smith, $19.99).

Dowdney’s safe canning practices mean:

• Jars and lids have been sterilized.

• Jars have been filled to the canning line.

• Initial pH has been taken and the product is safe.

• The temperature has been taken and is at or above recommendation. Or, for water bathing, the stated temperature has been obtained and a 2-minute hold period has been timed.

• The finished jars are inverted for a minimum of 2 minutes.

• After 24 hours, a test jar will be pH tested again.

© 2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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