What’s In Season Now, Whole Roasted Tomatoes
Farming, especially organic farming, is an endeavor wrought with variables. Take the weather. I have never heard a farmer like what the weather gave her. Too hot. Too cold. Too wet–”could not work my field.” Too dry–”do you know how much money this irrigation system costs me?” Farmer’s test their soil. Fuss with their compost. Mix and match. Hope and pray. And then a hailstorm comes and wrecks it all. Tomato Mountain Organic Farm, the place that both employs my wife and provides our CSA felt the cruel swing of nature this summer. From one of ideal conditions to that of damage overnight. Their fields felled by one of our now normal, call it climate change not global warming, induced t-storms. Hail blitzed. Winds whipped. A hoop house did a little Wizard of Oz number. A crop of onions and others decimated. To the rescue, jars and jars of summer’s bounty preserved, batches of Tomato Mountain’s tomatoes.
Tomato Mountain delivered quart jars of whole roasted tomatoes to make up for the lost value in their CSA boxes. Now, while I rue the circumstances that got us these jars, I actually welcome their addition to the larder. See, this is the season for canned tomatoes. You may think the time to open a jar of tomatoes is January or so, when the third Polar Vortex has you forgetting tomatoes ever existed. Yet, what will you do. Will a little marinara sauce warm your icy toes. That time of year you need rich, heavy foods anyways. Summer is when you need the light, purity of jarred tomatoes. There are several ideal seasonal dishes to use with your old tomatoes.
Take the abundance of summer squash now filling gardens and stalls. One of the best ways to eat summer squash is stewed in a sauce of whole roasted tomatoes. An even more classic candidate for this style of dish, all the green beans now arriving. Nearly every summer vegetable can be enjoyed in a bath of whole roasted tomatoes. First let me tell you why you should use your old tomatoes and then I’ll give you the basic formula for mixing with summer’s bounty.
This is also the season of tomato, and many of the recipes you will see for baked vegetables call for fresh tomatoes, perhaps fresh tomatoes grated. You could do it that way, but I don’t. For one thing, I want my tomatoes too many ways besides cooked. A good, local tomato makes everything it touches taste better. So, now is also the time of year I eat a lot of bagels; now is the time of year I eat a lot of spreadable goat or sheep’s cheese; now is the time of year I make blue cheese salads and blt’s. That’s where my tomatoes go. When I stew my eggplant, have my caponata, I’m opening the jars. For the other thing is, it’s a lot easier. No worry about peeling. No worrying about being at the right stage. These whole roasted tomatoes from Tomato Mountain are the right consistency and texture for your dishes.
Making them, it depends on the vegetable. Green beans, zucchini, summer squash, greens, about all the vegetables but eggplant, do not need any extra steps. Do this. Sweat an onion or two to give it a head start in a wide bottom pan that you can fit a lid. Add your washed, trimmed vegetables. Cover with the contents of your jarred tomatoes based upon the size of your pan/amount of veg you have on hand. Season pretty hard with salt. Include a clove or more of garlic, some of many herbs if you have (but save enough herbs to use after cooking where they will do the best). Bring to a boil and then turn to a simmer. Put a loose lid (or cover with foil if needed). Some people let it finish in the oven, where the heat is more even, but I think you get fine results stove top. Check starting around 20 or so minutes after you start simmering. Your definition of done may differ from mine.
You may think we put away tomatoes to earn a taste of summer when things are most dreadful, but I’m telling you, we put away tomatoes to have them ready for next summer. Tomato Mountain may have put some away to cover the emergency of lost crops. You should have had them anyways. Eat seasonal food. Eat what’s in season now. What’s in season now is last year’s tomatoes.