What to do with fresh tomato abundance? - And two tomato salads to swoon over
Last spring, I bought five Co-op tomato starts and planted them out. I haven’t always had the best luck growing tomatoes. In the past, I’ve resigned myself to cherries and called it good. I also bought zucchini starts, which ended up as yellow crookneck squashes. Ah well, but the tomatoes! Big beef steaks, medium salads, and cherries. I’m in tomato heaven, tomato glut and ready to dance the tomato jig.
Have I canned my tomatoes? No. Frozen them? No. Given them away? No, although it would be virtuous. What have I done? I’m eating them fresh. I sprinkle on flaked Maldon sea salt and slurp in revelry. Sometimes, I get fancy and make tomato salads. I’ve written several recipes I’m excited to share.
It’s drizzling outside and obvious that summer has come to a close. I’m slipping on my shoes, grabbing a big bowl and heading off to the garden to pick tomatoes before the mold and snails take over. I’ll wait and hope for more sun before harvesting the green ones.
I’m inspired to cook my cherry tomatoes down into butter. Tomato butter’s beyond tomato sauce, but before tomato paste. I’m craving pizza so maybe this is the answer? All that summer goodness come home to mama.
Tomatoes are my bridge to leaving stress behind. They’ll get me outside to enjoy the peace and calm and then back into the kitchen to make homemade goodness with the bounty.
Three ideas for tomatoes besides eating them fresh
● Make homemade tomato soup. If your tomatoes have cracked skins or are slightly blemished but still good, try cooking them down with a little water. I use an Instant Pot on the broth cycle. When the cycle’s over, let them cool, then puree and strain. Add some sea salt and serve the soup hot with cheese toasts.
● Roast them in the oven with drizzled olive oil. Put tomatoes, Romas work best, on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt. Roast at 425 F stirring every 15 minutes until their juices have cooked off, and they’re super sweet and concentrated.
● Make tomato butter. Think apple butter. I fill a crock pot with washed whole tomatoes and cook them on high for 4 hours. Then puree and add them back, cooking them down on low for 8-10 hours, with the lid cracked so the liquids can evaporate. You can further concentrate the tomato butter by using a food dehydrator to make tomato paste. If you really want to get cooking, then add sweet peppers into the mix.
Turkish Tomato salad with toasted cumin and a reduced pomegranate dressing
Makes 5 cups
Gavurdağ (dağ/ pron: dah) is the name of a mountain in the Taurus range in the south of Turkey and this salad is from Gaziantep, one of the major cities in that region, as many delicious Turkish dishes are. Cumin goes brilliantly with the tomatoes, and the reduced pomegranate dressing creates flavor in multiple directions. It’s eaten with meat or kebabs. Be sure to use in season tomatoes, especially from your garden or local farm.
4 cups tomatoes chopped, in season are best (about 4 large tomatoes)
1 ½ cups Italian parsley, chopped, loosely packed
½ cup fresh mint, chopped, loosely packed
2 cups red onion, cut in half, thinly sliced, then cut in half again (about 1 large onion)
1 cup sweet red pepper, sliced thinly into strips and then chop strips in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons toasted cumin seed
½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
½ cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons runny raw honey
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt to taste
1 cup walnuts, toasted, roughly chopped
Before starting, read through the recipe and imagine how each step will work.
Assemble and prep. all ingredients.
In a pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the onions, red pepper and garlic to boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Strain and rinse with cold water. Pat them dry, or dry with a salad spinner.
Preparing the spice mix and walnut topping
In a heavy-bottomed skillet, toast the walnuts, on a medium heat, for 5 minutes or until they smell toasty. Roughly chop them, not too fine, and set aside.
In the same heavy-bottomed skillet, toast cumin seeds, until you can smell them distinctly.
Using a spice grinder, grind all the spice mix ingredients together and set aside.
Making the dressing
Add the pomegranate juice, honey and apple cider vinegar to a small pot, and bring it up to a high simmer. Allow the dressing to reduce until you have ¼ cup. Watch it, so it doesn’t boil over or burn. When it’s reduced, take it off the heat and add the lemon juice.
Assembling the salad
Combine the tomatoes, herbs, blanched vegetables, spice mix and dressing in a mixing bowl. Toss and taste, adding more salt if needed. Extra salt at the end really helps to bring the flavors out and up. Serve on a platter, with the toasted walnuts on top.
Greek inspired garlicky navy bean, mustard greens, sardine and fresh tomato salad
Definitely a winsome late summer salad, especially if you have an abundance of garden tomatoes. It’s an unusual pairing—beans with fish, at least for American tastes, but delicious and deserving of more attention. Lively, colorful and filling, this salad serves as a main for alfresco dining.
For the beans
1 ½ cups dried navy beans, rinsed*
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 quart water
For the saute
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced, removing any green inner parts
4 cups mustard greens, chopped, or if unavailable any hardy greens
Sea salt if needed
3 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Zest and juice of one large lemon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tins of sardines, 3.75 ounces each, rinsed if salted (any fish will work if you’re not a sardine fan)
Using an Instant Pot, add the beans, water, bay leaves and salt. Set to the bean cycle, or 30 minutes at high pressure with a natural release. It will take about an hour to cook the beans. When done strain and add to a large low salad bowl.
While the beans are cooking, preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the olive oil and onions. Saute the onions for 10 minutes on a medium high heat. After 10 minutes add the garlic and continue to saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mustard greens and continue to saute for another 3 minutes.
While attending to the saute, add 1 teaspoon of salt to the chopped tomatoes, straining off their juices before adding them to the salad. Zest and juice the lemon and mince the thyme. If the thyme stems are tender, no need to take the leaves off, just finely mince stems and all.
To finish, add the saute to the beans, and then gently stir in the lemon juice, zest, thyme and tomatoes. Taste to see if it needs salt, remembering that the sardines may be salty. Lay the whole sardines across the top of the salad and serve.
* or try Christmas lima beans, cooking according to package directions.