Tomato Time

Cherry Tomato Galore

Cherry Tomato Galore

It is that weird time of year when the same farmers who were out desperately covering tender crops with reemay blankets in the spring are now fully open to (and maybe hoping for) a frost to change the season. The frost will sweeten the carrots and parsnips, kill the aphids on the kale and make people interested in buying leeks again. It will also kill the darlings of summer-- tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans and basil.  

We've dodged frost 3 times in the past two weeks, which means we are loaded with tomatoes. We picked a boat load of under ripe ones when we weren't quite ready for the first threat of frost. Now those are ripe as are more on the vines. Then there is the hoop house. It's a strange feeling to be overwhelmed with too much of a good thing. Especially when I'll kick myself for ever taking a tomato for granted in about two and a half months.  

To ease that waster's remorse, I've been preserving away. I'll make pickled tomatoes a la Paul Virant and plain old tomato sauce with nothing but tomatoes and salt to become soup or a real marinara later on. But below is my favorite way to handle the bulk of our cherry tomatoes-- oven roasting and freezing. It is the easiest way to do a lot while doing other things. And I find that of all the tomato preserves I make, these little frozen bags of acidic summer are the ones I use the most. It isn't anything new, but hopefully this encourages anyone else feeling the glut to keep on it.  

Pre-Oven

Pre-Oven

Half Way

Half Way

Done

Done

Roasted Tomatoes to Freeze

  • Preheat oven to anywhere from 350-450F
  • For me it depends on what else I'm cooking so I can double up the space but beware, the tomatoes kick off a lot of steam so don't try to dry anything in your oven at the same time.
  • Toss all the cherry tomatoes you can find with a good, healthy glug of olive oil and salt (chili flakes and herbs optional) 
  • Put in the oven uncovered and cook  
  • The tomatoes will burst and release their liquid and then that liquid will reduce to a thick syrup. Cook until when you draw a spoon/spatula across the bottom of the pan it leaves a clean trail (nappe) 
  • Allow tomatoes to cool and transfer to a plastic bag. (Roll down the lip of the bag for a cleaner final product.) 
  • Lay flat and freeze on a sheet tray or open space in the freezer. Once frozen move as you like, but if stacked and frozen they have the tendency to freeze as a lump. 

What to do with them once they are in the freezer... 

Fastest

  • Toss with pasta and a splash of cream
  • Grill bread under the broiler, rub with garlic and load tomatoes on top
  • Put in a quiche
  • Winter BLTs with swiss chard and bacon

Moderate (bit more time)

  • Ratatouille (recipe below)
  • Long-cooked beans with tomatoes and butternut squash
  • Braised pork with tomatoes and chickpeas

 

Ratatouille

1 eggplant

1 onion

2 small bell peppers

2 C roasted tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

1 zucchini (I'll sub delicata or cubed butternut in the winter) 

1/2 C olive oil

Salt and Pepper

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Herbs (fresh or dried): oregano, thyme, bay, marjoram or basil(I tend to stick with one and use thyme or lemon thyme the most) 

1 C wine (or apple cider if the time is right) 

1 C bread crumbs tossed

  • Preheat oven to 300-375F
  • Cut all vegetables into uniform thickness
  • Toss all in olive oil with good pinches of salt and pepper, paprika and any herbs you want to add

  • Place in a casserole dish
  • Pour wine/cider/water (I guess) over the whole thing and bake uncovered until the eggplant have given up their pasty white color to a golden translucence and everything is tender and tasty
  • The olive oil will probably have split from the rest and be floating on the top (that's good)
  • Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole and return to the oven to bake until the crumbs are toasty and have absorbed the oil. If you are ready to eat, pop it under the broiler but keep a close eye.
  • Serve with a big green salad and I like bread for sopping
  • If you have the foresight, make a day or two in advance and leave uncovered in your fridge. Reheat uncovered adding a splash of water if it seems dry.