Cherries, Beefsteaks and Big Boys…Oh My!
Ah, the gentle snap of a perfectly ripened tomato right off the vine! That garden-fresh smell of the late summer tomato harvest. You know you are in for a treat! I remember as a little girl loving to go out back and up the side of our house where my mother’s tomato plants seemed to grow like Jack’s beanstalk. As I headed up the side of our backyard, I use to excitedely anticipate how many deliciously ripe red tomatoes I would find that day. Filling the shallow yet wide wicker basket full of them was just fantastic! If this little piece of my young life brings back memories for you then I know you are just going to love what this blog post has in store! You’ve waited all summer for your bounty and now it’s here! Tomatoes abound…grape, cherries, beefsteak, Romas, big boys! Whatever you planted and tenderly cared for since May is now fruitful in copius amounts and you are super excited but also left thinking, how am I going to eat ALL these tomatoes!?!
There are so many ways you can use up your bounty and you don’t just have to eat them raw (although that is a deliciously appealing and healthy option). Tomatoes are one of the worlds healthiest foods, and there are hundreds of different varieties (seriously!) to choose from. We typically choose our favorites based on a combination of flavor, texture and appearance. Full of vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin C , Vitamin K, Biotin, Potassium and Fiber, tomatoes are one fantastic food and there are so many ways to enjoy them.
Made best with grape or cherry tomatoes, known for their super sweet taste, a quick Tomato and Basil Bruschetta can serve as a simple and delicious hors d’ oeuvre or as a topper on grilled chicken or pork. You can click the link above for my super simple recipe. I guarantee you have all of the ingredients in your kitchen as you are reading this. You can also sautée up some Cubanelle peppers with a few Anaheim or Pablanos, if you like a little heat, and slice some freshly picked Big Boy or Beefsteak tomatoes over top with a sprinkle of sea salt. A loaf of bread and a glass of wine and you can call me for dinner!
Another way to use up your tomatoes is to make a raw sauce. I know, you might be a little perplexed at the lack of luster in the words “raw sauce”, but I assure you…it is delicious! Raw sauces are fantastic for so many reasons and tomatoes are one of the best foods to make a raw sauce with. Not only do you reap the benefits of the full nutritional value of the food, but it’s so quick to put together and bonus…you don’t even need to have a pot of sauce simmering away on the stove for hours. You will love this in the summer months!
Take 6 or so plum or vine ripe tomatoes and chop them roughly. Add in about a 1/2 cup of black olives, cut into rounds, 2 tbsp of capers, drained and rinsed, a clove of garlic, minced, a half of a red onion finely diced and 10 or so fresh whole basil leaves. Some salt and freshly ground black pepper and about 3/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil and you have the perfect raw tomato sauce to toss your favorite pasta in!
The great thing about tomato raw sauces are that you can use it as a base for your favorite ingredients. Want something a little more simple and traditional like a caprese? Add halved mini mozzarella balls to some halved grape tomatoes, some freshly picked basil leaves with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cracked black pepper and you have the perfect base to serve chicken or veal cutlets over. Honestly, the possibility are endless and totally up to your preference. I love cooking when it is this easy and delicious…who wouldn’t!?!
Building on the raw sauce idea, turn your tomato raw sauce into a tomato vinagrette just by adding some acid. You can make this vinaigrette to toss a green salad in or try this recipe for Tortellini Salad with Fresh Tomato and Herb Vinaigrette. Roughly chop 5 large tomatoes of your choice and a combination of tarragon, flat leaf parsley and basil. Place in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add in the zest and juice of one large lemon about 1 tsp of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix all the ingredients together and stream in about a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and whisk to combine well. Toss the cooked tortellini in the vinaigrette and put over a bed of baby arugula. Yum!!
Are you getting hungry yet? I have saved the best for last! A couple years ago, my husband and I spent the weekend in Watkins Glen, NY touring the local wineries and eating some awesome food at the restaurants in town. We had gone to this small “pub-like” place one night where I had assumed I would be eating some pulled pork sandwich or maybe some fish and chips. To my surprise there were a few unlikely suspects on the menu and I had a hankering for pasta (this is nothing new for me). There was this one dish that described its sauce as a roasted tomato sauce. Roasted! Tomatoes! I was all in. The dish did not disappoint. I found myself savoring each bite and trying to account for every ingredient that made this sauce SO delicious. I found myself weeks later craving that sauce and trying to re-create it with a few tweaks of my own.
Roasting up tomatoes changes the game and the way you think about how a tomato sauce should taste. Its sweet, smoky, savory and frankly… just awesome! I add in some roasted garlic to deepen the sauces flavor even more, a quick splash of dry white wine (like a Pinot Grigio) and some rich chicken (or vegetable) stock. After the sauce simmers for about 45 minutes, mix in a small amount of halved cerignola olives which are so mild and plump and top it off with fresh whole basil leaves for an herbaceous finish. NOTE: if you use a long pasta variety like I do, reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water just in case your pasta decides to suck up all your sauce. Long pastas, especially spaghetti, thin spaghetti and angel hair, tend to do that.
I know there can be quite a heated debate over whether or not certain pasta varieties go with certain sauces. I am definitely a pasta and sauce matchmaker, guilty as charged! So I have to say for the purpose of this dish, I feel that it is best enjoyed with a choice of your favorite long pasta. The top pick in our house is thin spaghetti, but I am quite sure it would be equally delicious with tagitelle, fettuccine or even bucatini. The choice is all yours!
If you are a lover of pasta and want to try a little something different, I urge your to give this Roasted Tomato and Garlic Sauce recipe a whirl. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Everything you need is right below.
2 pints grape tomatoes
1 head garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 2 tsp divided
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cerignola olives, pitted and halved
20 large basil leaves, whole
salt and pepper
1 lb thin spaghetti
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse and dry the grape tomatoes and place them on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt,1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of about 1 tsp olive oil. Toss well until all the tomatoes are coated. Take the head of garlic and chop off the very top, exposing all the cloves. Put the head of garlic on a small sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle another teaspoon of olive oil over top. Close up the foil in a little packet (not tightly) but making sure that the packet is sealed on the sides. Place on the baking sheet.
Roast in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. The tomatoes will burst and some may be slightly charred (that’s perfect). Open the foil packet and let the garlic head cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil and in a separate high-sided sauce pan, add the butter and oil over medium heat. As the butter starts melting add in all the roasted tomatoes and turn over the head of garlic, squeezing from the bottom to the top, squeeze all the roasted cloves into the saucepan.
Using a wooden spoon, smash the tomatoes and garlic. Add in the white wine and continue smashing the tomatoes and garlic with the back of the spoon until about a 1/4 of the wine is absorbed into the contents of the pan.
Add in the chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or up to an hour. Stirring occasionally.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the olives and whole basil leaves into the sauce and stir to combine. When the pasta is just al dente, reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water and then using tongs, transfer the spaghetti to the sauce pan and combine the pasta and sauce together for about 1-2 minutes. You can add some pasta water to loosen the sauce if need be. Serve hot.
Serve hot with some crusty ciabatta and of course, a glass of vino!
Here’s hoping that this post gave you some creative ideas and great cooking inspiration on how to use up the copius amounts of tomatoes you have growing in your garden in some scrumptious ways! Enjoy the bounty and the rest of summer.