I’m on a mission to use every one of the tomatoes Piero the gardener gave me. I refuse to let even one of them go to waste. I’ve done all the usual things, like caprese salads and panini, and now am ready to take on some major things. Our oven has been broken so I’ve been a little limited in what I can do in the kitchen, but now it’s fixed and I’m operating full steam.
I had about four pounds of Roma tomatoes, so I thought it would be wonderful to make some tomato sauce to have in the freezer for those winter days to come. Imagine pulling out a batch of fresh summer tomato sauce to make a lasagna on a cold winter day. So I got my food mill ready and went to work.
I’ve never used a food mill. I had one in Atlanta, but it sat in my cabinet pristine as the day I bought it until the day I donated it to the ReStore. I blanched the tomatoes, peeled them, seeded them, then passed them through the food mill. What came out was the smooth, rich essence of the tomato. It was quite amazing. Usually I’m too pressed for time or too lazy to take the time to do this. I also have never had these glorious beauties to work with. It was a production, but well worth it. I seeded them into a bowl and realized that I had a mass of tomato goodness in there. Surely I could do something with that. As I said, I’m determined not to let any of these go to waste. I decided to make tomato juice from it. I strained it all until there was nothing left but a red, seedy pulp and got about a cup and a half of tomato juice. Bloody Mary’s, anyone?
I simmered the sauce with some finely chopped onions and carrots, simple seasoning of salt and pepper, and a few bay leaves from my very own tree. I meant for this to be a base for whatever I do with it later. I wanted it to be true tomato goodness. And that’s what I got. After it had simmered a while, I tasted it. It was the most wonderful thing I had ever tasted. You know how sometimes tomatoes have an acidic taste that you feel needs to be rounded out or softened? This tasted sweet and pure and like sunshine. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of something I’ve made before. It was just what I wanted and suddenly I wished I had even more tomatoes so I could preserve even more sunshine.
Very satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to dinner. I made a galette dough the day before and intended to make a tomato, onion, and ricotta galette. For this I used the big Tuscan tomatoes. They look like heirlooms, but my guess is they don’t use that term here because they never lost the art of growing the traditional varieties like we did. Everywhere I see them, they’re just labeled Tuscan. These are juicy, meaty and enormous. I sliced two of them and let them drain under a little salt. Thinly sliced onion and some rosemary from my garden, salt and pepper, parmesan and ricotta – that was it. I wanted the tomatoes to shine with as little help as possible. And they did. The difference in the taste between the slow-roasted Tuscans in the galette and the long-simmered Romas in the sauce was dramatic. The Tuscans were sweet, but very complex with a deep tomato taste. The Romas were bright and summery. Two completely different flavor profiles. I usually don’t analyze tomatoes like this, but I usually don’t get a variety pack of tomatoes delivered to my door.
Next up, the little cherries and grapes. Any suggestions?