Preserving and Using Fresh Tomatoes

Preserving and Using Fresh Tomatoes
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tomatoHomegrown tomatoes can't be compared to the often tasteless varieties we buy from the grocery store. If you aren't growing your own, try to find a farmer's market or vegetable stand to buy local tomatoes.

Although it's true that you shouldn't store tomatoes in the refrigerator for the best taste, if you have an abundance and want to extend storage you can put them in the refrigerator AFTER they have fully ripened for about 2 weeks or so. Homegrown tomatoes often won't last this long, and it's better to use them right away or preserve. This will give you time to freeze, can or use the tomatoes.

Tomatoes can be oven dried to preserve them fairly easily. This works well with meaty tomatoes such as roma, plum or cherry varieties. Choose tomatoes that are ripe but firm and unblemished. Cut them in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the seeds. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet that has been covered with foil and coated lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea or kosher salt lightly. Bake at 140°F or the very lowest setting on the oven for 10-18 hours. You want them dried but still pliable, not crispy. This is not an exact science. So much depends on the tomato, your oven and the humidity. As time goes by check tomatoes and remove any that look ready. Cherry tomatoes will dry more quickly, perhaps by a few hours. Another option is to dip the tomatoes in herb vinegar, drain and place on the baking sheets as instructed above. Either way, store in containers or plastic freezer bags in the freezer for up to a year. Use in recipes calling for oven or sun dried tomatoes.

To peel tomatoes for a recipe, heat a pot of water to boiling and place the tomatoes in a metal strainer with a handle. Hold in the water for 10 or 15 seconds to loosen the skin. Remove and peel off the skin as soon as you can handle it. You can also drop them gently in the water and remove with a slotted spoon. Either way, place the tomatoes in ice water, then peel.

I love fresh sliced tomatoes with salt by themselves, and of course adding them to salads, making salsas, or slicing to use on sandwiches. The following recipes are also great for using homegrown tomatoes of any variety!

Chicken With Fennel and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. olive oil

4 each boneless chicken breasts, split

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 Tbsp. fennel seed, chopped

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 whole fennel bulbs, sliced into 1/2 thick slices

6 cups fresh, diced tomatoes

2 lemons, juiced

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear chicken breast in the oil until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes each side. Add the fennel seed, pepper flakes and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add the sliced fennel bulb, diced tomatoes, lemon and juice. Stir. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, remove lid and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes. Sauce should be thick, and chicken should be cooked through. Season to taste. Serve over your favorite pasta, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Fresh Tomato Relish

Ingredients:

Juice of 1 lemon

1 large red onion, peeled and finely sliced

4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and diced

1/2 cup each finely chopped cucumber

1/2 cup minced cilantro

1/4 cup sliced green onion

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. red wine or herbal vinegar

Salt and pepper

Pour lemon juice over onion in a bowl, toss well and marinate for 30 minutes. Combine the tomato with remaining ingredients, add onions and season. Serve with grilled lamb, pork or chicken.

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups uncooked pasta

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound (6 medium) roma or plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. While pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic in oil for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Stir in tomatoes. Cook 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until tomatoes are soft and sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Cook for one minute longer. Serve sauce over pasta.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves minced fresh garlic

8 fresh mushrooms

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

3 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

2 tablespoon fresh basil, torn into tiny pieces

pinch of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup red wine or a splash of herb vinegar instead and a little water

1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, herbs, spices, wine and blend well. Bring to a low boil and cook until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Add pasta to tomato mixture in skillet and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

3/4 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tsp. fresh minced thyme

5 cups diced fresh tomatoes ( about 2 pounds)

1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tsp. granulated sugar

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, basil and thyme, and cook, stirring often until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and the sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Either use an immersion blender or a regular blender, process until smooth. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with basil leaves.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 cups cherry tomatoes, any variety (about 1 pound)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh, minced basil

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tsp. Olive oil

2 tsp. wine or herb vinegar

2 tsp. fresh minced parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish large enough to spread the tomatoes over the bottom. Stem the tomatoes and place them in the baking dish. Sprinkle the onion, garlic, basil, and the salt and pepper over the tomatoes, then drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar. Bake until the tomatoes are soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

36 cherry tomatoes

1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon Good Season Zesty Italian dry mix

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place tomatoes stem-side down. With a serrated knife carefully cut off the top 1/8 inch or so of each tomato. With a small spoon or knife carefully scoop out a small amount of tomato. Set tomatoes on a platter. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, dressing mix, and milk. Blend well. Fill each tomato with about 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle tops with chopped parsley. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving.

tomato breadFresh Tomato Parmesan Appetizers

Ingredients:

Roma or other plum tomatoes

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Baguette

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Cut slices of baguette very thinly with a sharp serrated knife. On each slice place one thin slice of tomato, salt and pepper to season, dash of garlic powder, and sprinkle with a little Parmesan. Lastly, drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over the top. Broil until warmed and cheese is heated. Serve warm. Notes: These are VERY simple but very good. You can top with finely shredded basil if you wish or minced parsley. You could substitute mozzarella for the Parmesan. They look nicest with a thin, perfectly round slice of tomato, which is why I used a plum tomato, for the size. You can use any smaller fresh tomato.

 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.

 
 

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