Tuesday, October 18, 2011

what to do with ripe tomatoes

Why do so many recipes call for canned Tomatoes, when right now I have counters overflowing with fresh ripe beautiful tomatoes?
Why is it that it is just too hot to play in the kitchen, just when my garden is ready to explode?
August is feast or famine when it comes to tomatoes; the past few years I had blight and sadly watched my tomato crop turn soggy and brown; this year I planted 4 heirloom: Boxcar Willie; German Lunchbox; Raspberry Lyanna & Ponderosa Red. I babied those babies, and aside from losing a few off one plant to blossom end rot (I sprayed the leaves with an epsom salt mixture and no more problems so far) I am getting lots ripening and expect a ton to ripen any day now.
The other incredible Tomato menace, Hornworms, recently appeared on a few plants. I knocked them off into a bucket of soapy water, and now the hunt is on!
I also bought Early Girl and Golden Jubilee at the local garden center (a medium sized red and a medium sized yellow.) I planted those in pairs and allowed them to grow unchecked in large tomato cages until they started to list at which point I added a stake at on side and trimmed the edges a bit. In the past I overpruned, having read that too many fruits reduce the overall quality. Well this time I just don't want to stress the plant at all.
So the end result will be lots of tomatoes, and since I don't like to can, I will freeze them for later.
And, of course, since it turns out to be a good year, I have 3 good volunteer plants:  a Roma type, an ugly heirloom from last year, and an "I don't know what."
As far as experimenting, I started this story with a complaint about the lack of recipes calling for fresh tomatoes, so I am going to collect my favorites here:

Fresh Tomato Basil Shrimp Scampi
Tomato Pesto Focaccia
Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad
Balsamic Tomato w/ Sea Salt
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Slow cooker Tomato sauce

Swiss Chard

Ok, I admit, I like chard better than spinach. grow about a dozen plants.
I can take a few leaves here and there throughout the season, but at the end of summer I harvest them all, and prepare and freeze quart bags to use during the winter.

So, try this:

1 paper grocery bag full of swiss chard leaves
rinse the leaves under running water and tear off any unwanted/damaged parts
holding the rib in one hand fold the leaves together and tear the entire leaf from the rib, put the leaves in cold water to soak, and set the ribs aside.
chop the ribs as you would chop a stick of celery, I usually end up with about 4 cups. More or less does not matter, just adjust garlic, salt and oil as necessary:
add a tablespoon of chopped garlic (I use jarred garlic, which has lots of juice as well, experiment with fresh as you like it)
sprinkle 1 tsp sea salt
pour on a few tablespoons olive oil
(you could add chopped onions to this mix at this point)

mix this up and pour it into a large hot skillet, stir and sautee for 5-10 minutes, until the ribs start to soften

while the ribs sautee, wash the leaves and cut or tear them to manageable size, keep soaking until ready to add to the sauteed ribs

add the wet leaves by handfuls until the pan lid can just cover it all, cover and let steam down for a few minutes, stir and cover again for another 5- 10 minutes, remove when the leaves have reduced about 1/2, mix well, serve immediately or cool and freeze for later.
Great added to soups, plain, added to omelettes, mixed into mashed potatoes...