Saturday, August 30, 2008

Perhaps you'd like a tomato with that?

As of late, everything comes with a side of tomatoes. In the past two weeks, there is constantly a literal mound of tomatoes on the counter, just staring at me...daring me to come up with something else to do with them before they self-destruct. Some well meaning new friends who live a couple of blocks away, left a bag of tomatoes from their own garden on our door knob one evening. They left a message on the answering machine that went something like "Thought you might like some tomatoes..." I yelled back at the machine "Friends don't give friends MORE tomatoes!" (Can you tell I feel a little guilty about unused produce?) They laughed out loud when they walked into our kitchen a few nights later, realizing that they'd probably done us no favors with their generosity.

After burning out on BLT's and tomato salads, I've turned to tomato sauce -- an easy way to utilize a lot of tomatoes in a hurry. (My grandma cans her tomatoes and always gives us plenty for winter soups and chilis, so canning them isn't practical for us.) Lately, throwing a pan of tomatoes into the oven to be roasted is as common place as throwing in a load of laundry. The following recipe is probably not the perfect sauce recipe, but its an easy recipe -- which, in my book, is perfect.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Fill a roasting pan or dutch oven (with the right rack arrangement I can squeeze both into our oven at once, with even a little room left over for a small pan of cherry tomatoes or bell peppers.) with quartered tomatoes. We like Romas best for sauce, but any smallish, meatier tomato works. Add some coarsely chopped onion and garlic, add generous amount of kosher salt and pepper, then douse it all with olive oil. Stir and roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes...until tomato skins look a little crispy or even slightly burnt.

Let cool, drain juices, pick tomato skins off (the fall right off at this point), and throw tomatoes into food processor. One roasting pan usually makes about 3 cups of thin sauce. I pour the concoction into freezer bags and lay flat in freezer until frozen.

When ready to eat later, I add some herbs, some tomato paste, and usually a bit of sugar to cut the tanginess while its heating in a sauce pan on the stove. We always freeze leftover tomato paste in ice cube trays, then keep the cubes in freezer bags. Two "cubes" of tomato paste is good for one cup of sauce. Probably about 2 tablespoons-ish.

Up next -- my new love and reason I have no room left in my freezer -- PICKLES!

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