Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farmer's Market: Tomatoes!

It's summertime, and that means it's time for tomatoes! I used to hate tomatoes. As a child, you couldn't even get me NEAR a chunk of *cooked* tomato, much less a raw piece. I vividly remember picking every tiny speck of recognizable tomato out of my spaghetti sauce. Once, someone told me that the cherry tomatoes on the salad bar were really sweet, like candy. They were pretty and red and I *wanted* to like them, so I popped one in my mouth. I will never forget the horrible sensation as I bit down and that little ball of disdain popped open in my mouth and oozed nasty seeds and slimy sourness all over my tongue. Ugh.

Now that I have you drooling for tomatoes, let me explain. When I grew up, I tried tomatoes again: regular ones AND cherry or grape tomatoes. I still hated them. Yuck.

So why the tomato post?? Because I am here to tell you that a real, fresh local GARDEN tomato ripened in the sunshine on the vine is an entirely different food than those nasty, firm, pale, shipped-green-and-gassed-red tomatoes you find in supermarkets. They are not even on the same planet as far as taste goes!

The first time I had a "real" tomato, I was shocked! It was delicious, flavorful, and sweet. Now I relish summertime Farmer's Market (or garden) tomatoes. They are wonderful on sandwiches and in salads. My very favorite sandwich is a turkey club: turkey breast, greenleaf lettuce, thin crisp bacon, and a thick slice of real, ripe tomato on whole wheat toast with a smear of light mayo or mashed avocado. So good!

Yesterday at the Farmer's Market I saw these:

They look way bigger in the picture than they really are. These babies were the size of a dime. I popped one in my mouth: sweet! So sweet, I kid you not. I really dislike cherry tomatoes in general but these were so good I can just sit and eat them from a bowl like candy. If you see tiny little tomatoes like this at the market, taste one! Delish.

When I got home, I realized I have a bumper crop of BIG, homegrown tomatoes in my garden. I bet I have 15 or 20 pounds of tomatoes sitting in my kitchen right now:

What to do with so many fresh ripe tomatoes?? Well, today or tomorrow I'll be making spaghetti sauce from scratch. There's nothing like a homemade pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes! So simple, so good. Basically, here's what I do (not really a recipe, but a concept):

1. Wash tomatoes and remove stems
2. Get a huge pot of water to boil
3. Stick the tomatoes in there, as many as will fit, and remove them in 45 seconds with tongs or a slotted spoon. Place into a sink full of ice water. Do this in batches until they're all done.
4. Slip the skins off and throw them away. I do this while waiting the 45 seconds between batches.
5. Cut each tomato in half and run my thumb through the insides, over a sink, to remove most of the seeds.
6. Rough chop the tomatoes, placing in a colander to drain and then moving them into a large stockpot as I run out of room.
7. In a separate pan, I put a bit of olive oil. I chop some onion and garlic and throw it in there to cook. When it's soft, I put it in with the tomatoes on low heat.
8. In the same pan, I brown the meat. I am using a package of Italian chicken sausages. Turkey sausage is nice too (Foster Farms. I HATE Jennie-O Italian turkey sausages!!) Then I stick them in the pan with the tomatoes. They don't have to be cooked through, just browned a bit for flavor.
9. Add some fresh basil and dried oregano (because that's what I have) and a bit of salt, pepper, maybe a dash of cayenne (or I may just add one halved, seeded jalapeno from the garden and fish it out later).
10. Simmer all day on medium low. Stir frequently. If it needs liquid I add chicken stock. I cover the pot with a splatter screen like this one, which lets water evaporate from the sauce but keeps splatters off your stove.

Taste for seasoning near the end, and add anything you think it needs. If it's too acidic, a teaspoon of sugar will help (I use agave nectar). When the sauce is cooked, you can remove the meat (meatballs are great cooked in this too), and use a stick blender to smooth it out if you like it extra smooth. I love this over spaghetti squash!

Now, for the best part. Carprese stacks! If you've never had this simple, delicious salad, now's the time! Start with fresh, ripe red tomatoes and fresh basil.

Slice the tomatoes nice and thick. Get yourself some *good* fresh mozzarella (I have had some nasty, flavorless, rubbery fresh mozzarella. It came from the supermarket in a tub of brine. The kind I got this time was in a shrink wrapped ball, and was Bel Gioioso brand. Very soft and tasty!) Slice the mozzarella about the same thickness as the tomatoes. You can layer them in a circle on a plate for a crowd, or you can just stack them for a single serving. Slice up some of those nice fresh basil leaves and scatter them on top. Then top with just a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil (I really like the Bertolli brand... the kind that says "Rich Taste" on the front.) A bit of salt & pepper, and you have a masterpiece:


Delicious! (If you really want to drool, click on that picture above)!

Enjoy your tomatoes!

27 comments:

spunkysuzi said...

That is indeed the best way to eat them :)

Shelley said...

I'm dying for a caprese stack right about now! Gorgeous picture!

Karen In Tennessee said...

OK now you have me dying for a fresh farm grown tomato!!! Ship some of those off to Tennessee, maybe with some apples. LOL!!!

Great post and great photos. So glad you are back, Lyn!!!

Kimberly said...

There is nothing better than a tomato fresh off the vine.

Can I just say I am loving your posts these days? You sound so much more at peace with yourself and truly on your way to great health and happiness. Congratulations on all of your hard work paying off.

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

We've probably eaten more tomatoes this summer than any other food. Summer isn't summer without 'em...

Tammy said...

One of my all-time favorite veggies....my favorite vegetable combo is green beans, sliced tomatoes, yellow squash and a wedge of sweet vidalia onion.....Heaven on Earth. Mmmmmmm. :)

Betsey C. said...

What a great post! Thanks for the step-by-step recipes, I am drooling on my keyboard.

South Beach Steve said...

Lyn, I have to agree with you. If all I had ever tried was store bought tomatoes, I am quite confident I would not be a fan of them today. Fortunately for me, I was raised on farm grown ones. Mmmm!

Anonymous said...

I've been growing my own produce for roughly 20 years now. Every winter when I'm reduced to eating supermarket tomatos I CRINGE. I always liked tomatos but I grew up hating turnip and brussel sprouts and a million other things. Now that I'm all grown up (and a grandmother) I'm trying all those things again. Amazingly, I like a lot of them when they are grown and cooked right!

Nice to see you back and in such great form,
Barb

Anonymous said...

we all love our tomades... In New England we have a very bad desease spreading on our tomado's. Its called "Blite" I don't know the correct spelling . It attacks usually the leaves of the plant but this year it has gone to the inside of the tomato :( this has made most of us toss out our plants. Actually they are selling most tomato's in the market for 4.99 a lb... which is outragous. long story short, I MISS MY tomato's!!!

Sonya said...

SO fantastic! I love making tomato soup with mine, even though it's the dead of summer. Nothing like fresh tomato puree.

theomnivert said...

Oh my god I want that! My dad grows tomatoes in his garden and I used to eat toast with a smear of mayo, tomato slices and salt and pepper...so good. Thanks for the food porn. And I love your blog..I'll definitely keep reading!

Texas Lisa said...

YUM! Now I want some tomatoes! lol

theantijared said...

Those are some nice maters!!!

Ria said...

Beautiful pictures, Lyn . . . I'm definitely in the mood for a caprese stack now even though it's 8:30 am!

Have you ever tried uncooked fresh tomato sauce? It's one of my summertime favorites, and so easy . . . just combine chopped fresh tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar and chopped fresh basil and let the mixture sit at room temperature for a few hours - then toss with hot linguini and top with parmesan cheese.

Leslie said...

The picture of the Caprese stack enlarged is so vivid I thought there was juice from the tomato on my screen! YUMMY. Maybe tonight for dinner???

Tina said...

yeah the Caprese looks GREAT! Something has been eating all my home grown tomatoes but I have 2 right now that are still there...I'm craving a Turkey Bacon BLT!

skinnyhollie said...

I'm so jealous... I wanna Farmer's Marget that isn't 40 miles away! I also want a garden! I planned on growing one this year, but then had to move...

I just gave you the LOVELY BLOG AWARD over on my blog (www.skinnyhollie.com). I am so glad you're back from Vacation, and can't wait to see what the future holds for you!

beerab said...

OMG that looks amazing- I'm drooling lol. I love that stuff! Glad to see you are doing so well :)

Jesse said...

My mom has an awesome technique to keep the sauce on the sweet side, instead acidic, and with no sweeteners. She does a ton of garlic at the beginning with the onions, but then takes it out (otherwise it burns) when it is golden and at the height of its sugars. Then she adds it back in at the end of the simmering time, works like a charm. I always wondered what was missing from my sauce, and she pointed out it's just the natural sugars from garlic! Yum.

Jenn said...

OMG I want to lick the screen right now! Tomato, Basil and Mozz is my absolute fave summer treat!

angiesappetite said...

That looks amazing!! Fresh garden tomatoes are one of the best things in the world!

sian said...

even better if you grow them yourselves...love them with mozza! thanks so much for sharing!

Kelsi said...

Uh oh, I think we're having spaghetti for dinner tonight! Thanks for the thought. I have just added mozzarella to my shopping list since I have a huge tomato on my vine that should be ripe in a few days!

Kathy said...

You are so right about the difference between home grown and those pretend tomatoes you find in the grocery stores! I don't want to waste a drop of the juice from a good tomato and will slurp it from the plate if we have some sliced! And all those vitamins and nutrients!

Anonymous said...

Lyn,

Try the caprese stack with watermelon in place of the tomato. It's a delicious variation.

Rani said...

Hey.... I hate to eat fresh tomatoes... But after reading your post m wondering if m wrong... Anws I have just started cooking... N I live in Singapore so here we really don have a choice to grow our own tomatoes... Feelin really deprived now... N ur pics really make dem look delicious!!! Tx for the sharing...