Saturday, August 6, 2011

Love Apples/A.K.A. Tomatoes:

It is tomato time!!!! I remember as a kid my mom giving us sliced tomatoes with mayo and salt and pepper as a snack. Or tomato mayo sandwiches in our lunch. Doesn’t get any better then that. Since she grew up on a farm and my grandmother still has a garden that produces some of the most delicious tomatoes you ever ate, my mom appreciated seeking out good tomatoes. During the summer they were served at almost every meal, just sliced. 
Oh the wonderful tomato, Art: Andy Warhol Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can, Movies: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, festivals all over the world including the Tomatina (tomato throwing fight in Valencia, Spain), and countless dishes from condiment to dessert. There is a national Tomato Day: June 1st and National Tomato Month in October. What can’t you do with this fruit/vegetable?
Originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D. this beautiful food made its way across the Atlantic in the 14th century with Spanish explorers. Once it got to Europe it had to shake its bad rap of being in the nightshade family and being related to the Deadly Nightshade and finally made it’s appearance on European tables in the mid-15th century. Today, tomatoes are grown and eaten worldwide.
What is an heirloom tomato anyway? An heirloom variety is defined by the following; an open pollinated seed (meaning they are pollinated by the birds and the bees not scientists), non-hybrid cultivar as well as they must be at least 40-50 years old (time lines conflict!) Heirloom varieties are essential because they maintain diversity, this is important because with depletion of plant diversity we put ourselves at risk to plant epidemics and devastating pest infestations.
Nutritionally they are low in fat and calories but high in dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and of course the super phytochemical lycopene (organic ones contain 3x as much as conventional ones!).
So, as they say “an apple a day…” Eat your tomatoes! Here are some ideas on what to do with this summer’s love apples:

Summer Bounty Ketchup:
Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon celery seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, or 1 whole stick
1 bay leaf
1 star anise pod
6-8 whole all spice berries
4 whole cloves
2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ cup cane sugar
1 tablespoon molasses

In a food processor pulse the onion and garlic until finely chopped. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. In the same food processor, puree the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with all the spices (the vinegar through salt go in later).  Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, sweeteners, and some salt and cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until thickened. Taste again for seasoning and add more vinegar or salt if desired. Pass through a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool before storing in the fridge for a few weeks.

Note: The spices in this recipe are all suggestions. You can truly do anything here. Leave some of them out, make it spicy with some cayenne or chili flake. Make it smoky with some smoked paprika. Make it a curry ketchup by adding some curry powder. Use different color tomatoes. I made one with red tomatoes with all the ingredients above but also did a yellow tomato one using ¼ cup honey instead of sugar and molasses and no paprika. Next: green tomatoes. The elusive Green Zebra has escaped me but I might try a green (unripe) tomato ketchup…

ODT (Oven Dried Tomatoes)
Makes about 1-2 cups tomatoes

1-2 pounds tomatoes cut in half, or ¾ inch slices
Olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Heat an oven to 300°F. Place the tomato pieces on a rack set inside a sheet pan.  Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle each piece with garlic and thyme. Dry in oven for 2-2 ½ hours until collapsed and tender (times will vary depending on variety of tomato).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before storing in a jar and completely covered with olive oil. Store in the fridge.

 Quick Tomato Sauce:
Makes about 5 cups

2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, or 3 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Process the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan along with olive oil, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.


  1. Looks great Vanessa!

  2. My patio garden had such an enormous yield of tomatoes this year (both roma and cherry) that we were befuddled how to store them for the colder months....We actually spent nearly three days oven roasting huge batches and then freezing them.

    I did thaw a batch as a test run to see how they were after a freeze, and it went quite well.

    We tried smoked paprika on one batch, which was an interesting variation. :)

  3. Going to ask a question not related to tomatoes...

    I make almond milk from raw almonds. I am saving the almond pulp and drying it in my dehydrator. Not sure what I can make from the dried almond pulp. Any recipes? Hate to throw it away. Been saving it, but don't know what it will do.

  4. Wow. Let me think about it...I have never made almond milk but I imagine if you are dehydrating the pulp you could toast it in a dry pan and sprinkle on anything or mix in with granola...I will look into it!

  5. SO one of my Raw Foods book says to dehydrate the pulp and then you can use it as a flour in baked goods...I guess as you would almond meal?

  6. thanks, I will try it. I know it doesn't react like wheat does when you bake with it...I have had several epic flops. Thought I could do cookies or bread, but haven't figured out the right chemical mixtures yet. I totally appreciate your feedback. If you ever come up with a good recipe, please post it:)

    Also...fresh homemade Almond milk is outstanding. The milk is great for fruit smoothies or just alone!!!

    It's really easy to make: Soak a cup or more of raw almonds for a few hours or overnight. Drain and rinse. Add to blender w/ 32oz water and blend on high for a couple minutes. I add a bit of Agave nectar for added flavor. Squeeze thru a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth into a pitcher. Much better that the store brands.

  7. Forgot to must be refrigerated and only lasts 3- 5 days.

  8. Your ODT is delicious!! Thank you so much.