The Vegetable Garden: Tomatoes

Is there anything better than garden fresh tomatoes? I’m sitting outside in the garden admiring all of the glorious bounty available to us right now. The tomatoes are lush and sweet begging to be picked every day, the basil is so full it cries out to be cut and made into pesto. There are squash blossoms flowering every morning and I will never tire of them. The peppers are going crazy, we have a variety of plants in all colors, shapes and sizes. Cucumbers have to be picked at just the right time, if you wait a day they are huge! There is no end to the bounty of my small city garden and I am so amazed it came from the seeds I started in the dead of winter.
IMG_8267Now is the peak time for the tomatoes and I end up roasting a tray of them almost every day. It is so easy to roast tomatoes. I pick a variety of tomatoes every morning, the small red and gold cherry tomatoes, the odd shaped heirlooms, San Marzano’s and the dwarf plumbs and all prolific in the garden right now.IMG_8271I slice the cherry tomatoes in half and the larger ones are cut in to wedges right into my metal mixing bowl. Then I chop about 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, grab a few sprigs of thyme, oregano & rosemary, throw season this with salt and pepper then mix it all with a few tablespoons of olive oil. This mixture is spread into a baking sheet (I like to line mine with foil to help with cleanup), the tomatoes are turned skin side down and I roast them in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Once you try this you will be hooked. The tomatoes are sweet, intensely flavored and versatile. You can run this thru a food mill to make a sauce that can be easily frozen. This ends up being my go to pasta and pizza sauce. They are delicious mixed with pasta or as a topping with grilled fish. Use your imagination, you can’t go wrong.IMG_4697

Believe it or not there are still tomatoes left over after my roasting tray is filled. I take these and slice them into the blender with the juice of a lemon, a handful of basil and tarragon leaves, then season with salt & pepper. Puree until smooth, chill and pour this into glasses for a wonderful summer soup. Feel free to add some shallots, a peeled and seeded cumber, spice it up with a pepper, use different herbs, etc. Again, use your imagination, you can’t go wrong.IMG_4592

Last Sunday I picked a ton of tomatoes. After setting a tray to roast I pureed my fresh tomatoes with basil, tarragon, loveage, a pepper, the juice of a lemon and salt. I poured this into a carafe with some vodka. I then mixed up some Worcestershire sauce, tobacco and horseradish and put it into a miniature pitcher and placed it alongside. A fresh Bloody Mary is amazing. Try this now that tomatoes are in season. It will change your relationship with the traditional drink. Next time I’ll play with the colors and use green or gold tomatoes to give it a different look.

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I promised myself I would try canning this year, after using the superior tomatoes my Italian friends send me home with every year after my visit. Their Peroni Bottles full of tomato’s taste like liquid summer. I guess I’ll have to buy a bushel from the farmers market for my canning experiment because anything I pick I can’t help but use them right away.

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