Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What do I do with all these tomatoes!? Part 2

I'm in love with fresh, home-grown tomatoes. I'm not going to hide it.... it's true. And when we first started the garden, one of the things I looked forward to most was the ability to make homemade spaghetti sauces, and soups, and everything tomato! However, something that I was very unaware of was the sheer quantity of tomatoes that are required to make ANYTHING! So I planted A LOT of tomato plants....which, didn't do a damn thing to help the problem.

Rule #1 in Gardening: NOTHING works the way you want. If you need 1 green pepper and 20 tomatoes for a recipe, you will go outside and find 1 red tomato, and 35 green peppers. Everything ripens at different times, and there's no way to control it. It's feast or famine. Want 20 ripe tomatoes? Go on vacation for a weekend.... and you'll come home to 20 overly-ripe tomatoes. Gardens have a mind of their own. Deal with it.

1 red tomato out of 8! WTF!?
So, how am I supposed to cook anything with only 4 or 5 ripe tomatoes at any given time?!

Save them! There are so many options with tomatoes -- you could roast them, slow roast them (which we talked about in Part 1), freeze them, can them, dry them.... and I'm sure there are tons more ways that I don't know about.

In my opinion, how you save them depends on how you plan to use them later....


One of my favorite ways that I've been saving better boys, creoles, or even romas (pretty much anything larger than a cherry) is to roast the tomatoes with onions and garlic. I originally got the idea from Tyler Florence when I was looking up his ultimate tomato basil soup (drool). I made the soup. It was amazing. But I started thinking, why not roast the tomatoes, onions and garlic all together and freeze them so that next time I want soup (which usually isn't until winter), I'll have the hard part done -- and done with awesome tomatoes from my garden instead of sad grocery-store-in-winter tomatoes. 

Once I mastered the roasting, and the proportions (which is mostly personal preference), these frozen bags of roasted wonderfulness became the base for future soups & spaghetti sauces!

Here's How:
4 - 8 ripe tomatoes, sliced in half (they need to be good and ripe)
1/2 Onion (I like Vidalias if they're in season, or any sweet onion)
6 or 7 cloves garlic (skin still on)
Olive oil (enough just to coat - maybe 2Tbsp?)
Salt & Pepper 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash all the tomatoes and slice in half & cut out stem piece. With your thumb, get as many seeds as you can out (trust me on this, both soup and spaghetti are WAY better without seeds! They don't seem like a big deal, but it's worth the time to remove them). Put in a bowl. Separate garlic cloves from the head (but don't peel them) and add to the bowl. Slice the onion in approximately 1/4 inch slices and add. Sprinkle with salt & pepper then pour just enough olive oil over everything to coat it when you toss it, but you don't want a huge puddle in your pan.

Arrange everything in a single layer on a cookie sheet with the cut sides of the tomatoes facing down.

Roast for about 30-45 minutes keeping an eye on everything towards the end that it doesn't burn. At this point, you can either remove everything from the oven, or just turn it off and let it finish roasting as the oven cools down. (I usually do the latter when I have errands to run. Just turn it off around the 30 minute mark and when I get home, they're cool and ready to finish)

After about 30 minutes in the oven...
When they're all cooled and peeled, they smell so good it's impossible to keep the camera steady...
When they've cooled enough to handle, peel the skins off the tomatoes, and the paper off of the garlic (it usually just squeezes right out) and discard. Then take alllllll the roasted yummy goodness and pour it into a ziploc freezer bag, squeeze as much of the air out as you can, label and freeze. 

It takes some time to figure out how many tomatoes & how much onion & garlic to use, but it's mostly to whatever your taste is. I'm a BIG garlic fan, so I probably use more than I have listed here, but it's really up to you! Just try to fit as much in the  pan as possible since everything shrinks so much once it's cooked, and again, it takes A LOT of tomatoes to make anything!

Last winter's tomato basil soup made with last year's garden tomatoes...YUM!
There is just nothing like cooking with garden fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter...

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