The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

"Too Many Tomatoes" : Tips for Eating and Preserving

By by Vicki Lopez-Kaley with Lydia Bastianich, Food Network, Niki Achitoff-Gray, Sustain my Cooking Hab on Monday, September 4th 2023

“Too Many Tomatoes” Tips for Eating and Preserving

Raw Summer Tomato Sauce by Lidia Bastianich

1 pound ripe summer tomatoes, at room temperature
1 to 2 plump peeled, finely minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3 large basil leaves (about 1 heaping T shredded)
1/8 teaspoon pepperoncino (dried chili flakes), or more or less to taste
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
½ C or more grated Parmesan

Rinse tomatoes, drain and wipe dry.  Cut out the core and any other tough parts. 
Working over a big mixing bowl to catch the juices, cut the tomatoes—cherry tomatoes in half; regular tomatoes into 1-inch chunks—and drop them in the bowl.
Smash the garlic cloves with a chef’s knife and chop into a fine paste (easier if you add some of the salt as you chop; mash the garlic bits and salt with the flat side of the knife too.) 
Scatter the garlic paste and the rest of the salt (1/ teaspoon in all) over the tomatoes and stir gently. 
Pile up the basil leaves and cut into thin strips. Scatter these over the tomatoes, then sprinkle in the pepperoncino. 
Pour in the oil, stir and fold to coat the tomatoes and distribute the seasonings.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate at room temperature for 1 - 2 hours.
Foe Pasta: Toss the marinated sauce with freshly cooked and drained pasta. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (aka Parmesan) cheese. 
For Pizza:  Spread on your favorite uncooked pizza crust, add toppings. Bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes. 
For Bruschetta:  Place on slices of toasted bread, topped with grated mozzarella & broil until cheese melts.

Caprese Salad:   Slice tomatoes and slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Arrange alternately on a plate.  Drizzle with either pesto, flavored olive oil and/or fresh basil leaves whole or in strips.  Can also be made with halved cherries tomatoes, stirred into small balls of fresh mozzarella and a bit of basil, as above.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad:  Slice tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion.  Cut slices in half if your veggies are large. Place in a bowl or arrange on a plate.  Add your favorite Italian Dressing or Italian seasonings, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.  Can also add sliced green pepper!  Let stand for at least 30 minutes to let flavors penetrate the vegetables.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes:   On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, place sliced tomatoes (Roma or Amish Paste are perfect) and drizzle with your favorite oil and seasonings.  Roast in a low 175 degree oven, until tomatoes are somewhat dry roasted, but not burned.  Check every 30 minutes or so. Can be spread on bread, used as a pasta/pizza sauce, frozen or canned. 

Crock-Pot Spaghetti Sauce:  Wash and core your tomatoes.  Peeling is optional.  (See below).  Fill any size crock pot to the rim and add olive oil and your favorite Spaghetti Sauce seasonings, such as salt, pepper, red chili flakes, basil, oregano, fresh or powdered garlic, bay leaves.  Cook on high for 4 hours or on low overnight until tomatoes are very soft.  Stir as often as you can to prevent sticking.  
Use an immersion blender or a high power upright blender blend to break up seeds, skins and flesh in batches.  If tomato mixture is still hot, fill upright blender only about half full so heat does not build up too.   A food processor will also work, but some seeds/skin may remain. 
Can or freeze sauce as to your preference. 

How to Peel Tomatoes by Blanching
The Food Network advises that we avoid using a vegetable peeler to peel your tomatoes, as it will remove part of the tomato flesh along with the skin.  The most efficient way to peel tomatoes is to blanch the tomatoes by quickly boiling them in hot water, which helps to loosen the skin from the flesh, and then shock them in an ice bath.
Add tomatoes to boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds until the skin begins to wrinkle and peel away from the flesh. Don't let the tomatoes sit too long in the water, or they will start to cook. Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, strain the tomatoes and transfer them to the bowl of ice water to cool.

How to Peel Tomatoes In the Microwave
If you don’t have time to boil a pot of water to blanch your tomatoes, or if you just need to peel one or two tomatoes, try microwaving them.
Wash and dry the tomatoes and remove any stems. Use a paring knife to cut a small, shallow X on the bottom of each tomato (the opposite end to the stem end).
Place 1 to 2 tomatoes in a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 25 to 30 seconds. Keep a close watch as the tomatoes could explode.
Let tomatoes cool before handling (or shock them in an ice bath to speed up the process). The skins will slip right off with the aid of a paring knife.

Dried Tomato Powder  

Skins from about 10 tomatoes  (See above for how to skin tomatoes)
Instructions:  Peel skin and place the tomato skin on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set the tomatoes aside to use later or make homemade tomato salsa or sauce.
Bake tomato skins at 190°F for 3-4 hours in total. You can also use a convection setting. This will cause tomato skins to dry faster but be sure to check throughout the baking process to avoid burning.
After one hour of baking, turn tomato skins over and continue to bake for another hour. Turn tomato skins over again and bake for another 1-2 hours until they're completely dry but not burnt.
After the skins have cooled, grind them with a coffee grinder, a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle until a fine powder is formed.
Place the ground tomato powder in a clean, dry jar with a lid and place in the fridge or counter top for later use. Dried powder should last up to a year in a sealed jar.

Tomato Powder From Microwaved Tomato Skins by Niki Achitoff-Gray of Serious Eats
Skins from 10 peeled tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)

Line a microwave-safe plate with a double layer of paper towels. Spread as many tomato skins on top as will fit in a single, non-overlapping layer (about 1/4 of skins). Microwave on high for 4 minutes, then continue in 20-second intervals until the skins are papery, dry, and crumble if pinched. Repeat with remaining skins.
Add skins, salt, and sugar (if using) to spice grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle. Grind until powdered. Store in an air-tight container.

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Seasonal eating is never better, in my experience, than when fresh tomatoes come along.  We can't take for granted the privilege of gardening and the availability of the water that nourishes that juicy produce.  It's fitting that from September 1, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of October 4 has been named the "Season of Creation".  It is a time of dedication to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life.  The Season of Creation is an ecumenical celebration that allows all people to recognize ourselves as the work of the God's creative act, to contemplate nature and all that dwells in it, and to care for our Common Home.  

“Let Justice and Peace Flow” is the theme chosen for Season of Creation 2023.  The prophet Amos cries out, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5: 24), and so we are called to join the river of justice and peace, to take up climate and ecological justice, and to speak out with and for communities most impacted by climate injustice and the loss of biodiversity.  

Pope Francis focused on drought in his Sept. 1 message on the World Day of Prayer for Creation.  “Our unbridled burning of fossil fuels and destruction of forests are raising temperatures and causing great droughts,” says the Pope.   It's important to join with others to address the needs of humanity and of Sister Earth, our Common Home.  Learn more about the FSPA commitment to Integral Ecology and the Laudato Si movement.  "Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister mother earth who sustains and governs us and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs."  Laudato Si

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