The garden gods continue to bless us with fresh tomatoes and I stay busy looking for ways to use them. I have never canned tomatoes before, and do not plan to start now, since I do not have an A/C vent in my kitchen. I would probably worry about botulism and never use them anyway, so why bust a sweat, right?
I have made all the usual things like grilled cheese with cold slices of vine ripe tomatoes, BLT's, and Caprese salads. I have eaten yellow pear cherry tomatoes by the handful and sliced fresh big beef tomatoes and eaten them with salt and pepper and a splash of rice wine vinegar.
I made a delicious pasta dish with fresh yellow pear and cherry tomatoes and eggplant parmesan. But still, the tomatoes keep coming.
Every couple of days I pick an apron full of big ripe tomatoes. I let them sit until I have a big pot full, then I make fresh tomato sauce. All I do is wash and core the tomatoes and throw them in the pot. Over low heat they cook until the peels open and the juices and pulp are released. Depending on the time of day, I may dump them in the crock pot over night. When they are cooked down, I pour the cooked tomatoes through a mesh sieve to catch the peels and seeds. I use a wooden spoon to work it through. The seeds and peels get thrown out for the chickens and I continue cooking the pulp and juice until it is reduced and has thickened a bit.
I may use it right away to make marinara sauce, or refrigerate it for a day or so. If I don't plan to use it soon, I freeze it in zipper bags. I made sauce two days ago and pulled it out of the fridge this morning. When it sits overnight in the refrigerator, the watery part separates and the thicker part sinks to the bottom. If I want a thick sauce, I simply draw the liquid off with a turkey baster, discard it, and use the nice thick sauce on the bottom.
Today I made fresh tomato soup for lunch and I will be making red sauce for pasta tonight.
I will start telling you about the tomato soup by saying, "I hate tomato soup." I have always heated tomato soup. My mother would sometimes make tomato soup with milk instead of water. That soup was a color I will never forget. I think the only thing that comes in the color of tomato soup with milk is tomato soup with milk. I am gagging a bit just thinking about it. Feel free to agree with me in the comment section! Obviously a creamed tomato soup was not happening.
What I made instead was a tomato soup with onion, garlic, fresh basil, and a little Parmesan cheese. I know that tomato soup aficionados like to eat their soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. I decided to pair mine with an open-faced grilled cheese with Swiss cheese and fresh basil, toasted under the broiler. As I made the soup I tasted it along the way. I knew it was special, not the tomato soup of my youth. This was vibrant and fresh, a little tangy and a bit spicy with crushed red pepper. By the time it was done and the photos were taken, I was ready to eat and my soup did not disappoint!
Next time you find yourself with a boat load of tomatoes, try this soup. Here's the recipe.
- 12-16 fresh ripe tomatoes
- 1 small to medium onion finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 TBS tomato paste (optional, but adds body and sweetness)
- 6 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
- For Garnish
- Wash and core the tomatoes. Place them in a large stockpot over medium-low heat or overnight in a crackpot on low. Cook until the peels have come off the tomatoes and water and pulp is released, 1-2 hours on the stove or overnight if using the crockpot. Remove from heat and allow to cool until you can safely handle the tomatoes.
- Secure a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the tomatoes through the strainer in batches. Use a spatial or wooden spoon to work the juice through the strainer. Scrape the pulp off the bottom of the strainer frequently to keep things flowing. Keep mashing the mixture trough the strainer until all that is left are the seeds and peels. When all the tomatoes have beans strained discard the pulp.
- Pour the tomato sauce back into the pot and return to the heat, cooking until the sauce is reduced to the thickness you want. You can refrigerate it overnight and make the soup the next day. Using a turkey baster, you can draw the watery part off the top of the sauce before making the soup. This only works if it has been sitting overnight. If making the soup the same day, just cook a bit longer to remove more water.
- Add the oil to a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute but be careful not to brown the garlic. Add four cups of the fresh tomato sauce to the pot. Season with salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Taste the soup halfway through, If it is too tart add a pinch of granulated sugar. Remove the soup from the heat, garnish with sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche and extra basil. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich or crostini with melted cheese. Serve with additional Parmesan on the side.