Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: A hearty harvest Bountiful tomatoes can be used many ways

By JANINE GILBERTSON August 22. 2017 8:54PM
Stewing a bountiful crop of tomatoes is a great way to prepare them for storage for later use. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

If you planted tomatoes this year and find yourself inundated with a hearty crop of juicy, ripe tomatoes, there are many excellent ways to put your bounty to good use.

One great way to make use of the beautiful tomatoes you’ve lovingly nurtured all summer (or of the vine-ripened local tomatoes from the market) is to make a big batch of stewed tomatoes and freeze them for later.

I have a history with stewed tomatoes. In college, I took a magazine writing class and decided to write about the virtues of having a few cans of stewed tomatoes in the pantry. They can be used in so many ways to make a quick meal (perfect for college students) and go well in rice dishes, with pasta and are excellent in chilis. Tomatoes are also packed with lycopene, an antioxidant loaded with health benefits.

My professor thought the article was so good he suggested I pitch it to a popular national cooking magazine. I took his advice and sent a query letter, only to receive a “no thank you” reply a couple of months later.

A couple of years after I graduated, I picked up an issue of the magazine and came across an article touting the benefits of tomatoes (not just stewed tomatoes) because they contain large amounts of lycopene. Now, when I look around at the grocery store shelves with tomato-based products like ketchup, I’ve noticed some companies use the lycopene angle in their marketing and labeling. 

Of course, there are many other uses for garden fresh tomatoes, such as making a fresh salsa. Salsas are easy to make and the ingredients are flexible. For example, if you like your salsa mild, skip the chiles and try some chopped bell pepper. 

One of my favorite uses for fresh summer tomatoes is to make tomato bisque. Fresh tomatoes cooked into a hearty soup thickened with a little cream is a fantastic early fall dinner (with grilled cheese sandwiches, of course) and is a great way to put all those fresh garden tomatoes to good use.
Salsas are easy to make and the ingredients are flexible. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fresh Salsa

5 or 6 ripe tomatoes, quartered

1 small onion

3/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1 fresh lime

1 tsp kosher salt

2 small serrano chiles, stems, ribs, seeds removed

Place the quartered tomatoes in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Set the tomatoes in a large bowl and set aside.

Add the onions, chiles and cilantro to the food processor and pulse several times to chop, then add to the tomatoes.

Cut the lime in half and squeeze to release the juice into the tomatoes and onion. Sprinkle the salt into the salsa and stir well to combine.

Allow salsa to rest in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

Tomato Bisque

3 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces

2 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp flour

2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped

1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Add the butter to a sauté pan over medium high heat and melt. When butter is melted, add the onions and sauté until they have softened, then sprinkle the flour over the onions. Stir the onions to coat with flour, then add the chicken stock, stirring frequently. 

Heat the onions and chicken stock until boiling, then add the tomatoes. Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened.

Stir in the thyme, salt and pepper and mix well. 

Transfer the mixture to a blender in batches, and process until smooth. Once blended, return to a stockpot over medium heat and stir in the cream, mixing well to incorporate. Heat for about 3 minutes to heat thoroughly, then remove from heat and serve.
Stewing a bountiful crop of tomatoes is a great way to prepare them for storage for later use. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Stewed Tomatoes

12 large tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp salt

Set a large pot of water on the stovetop and heat to boil. Score the bottom of the tomatoes with an “x,”, then set them in the water and cook for one or two minutes, until skins start to pull away from the tomato flesh. Remove tomatoes and plunge them in cold water, then peel away the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes to desired size and add to the stockpot.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium high heat, until the vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and cool. 

Once cooled, the stewed tomatoes can be frozen in plastic zip-type storage bags for up to three months before using.


Food

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