It’s tomato season, and whether you grow them or not, you might find yourself with a surplus (if they’re still green, you can speed up the ripening by storing them close to a few bananas, which gives off more ethylene gas than most fruits).
What to do with them all, especially those that are quickly going squishy?
We spoke about a few ways you can use tomatoes on the Calgary Eyeopener this week.
If you don’t have time to cook them right away, toss them directly into the freezer, whole. This also makes them easier to peel, as the fruit swells and splits its skin, so you can peel it away with your fingers.
Many stews and braises call for a small amount of tomato (often a spoonful of tomato paste) for sweetness and acidity, and often you can just throw a whole tomato or two into the pot, straight from the freezer, to break down and do its thing.
If you’re not into making vast quantities of salsa or tomato sauce, you can roast them by the sheet (roasted tomatoes are great in sandwiches or on pizza, they won’t get soggy). But one of my favorite things to do is melt them on the stovetop, or in the oven if it happens to be on.
To do this, roughly chop as many tomatoes as you want to cook (don’t bother peeling them). Put them into a skillet with a drizzle of oil (butter is delicious, too) and sprinkle them generously with salt.
Cook over medium-high heat until they start to break down. They’ll look like they’re melting.
Add some garlic or chilies or spices. Cook them for as long as you like — they condense and intensify in flavour.
Melted tomatoes freeze well, keep in the fridge for a while and can be tossed with pasta or used to start a quick curry.
And, of course, there are so many dishes around the world in which eggs are simmered in tomatoes: shakshuka, piperade, eggs in purgatory. You make nests in the tomato mixture and crack eggs right into the skillet to poach.
Add some crumbled feta or goat cheese, if you like. Tomatoes are delicious with either. Or serve melted tomatoes with a whole burrata or some warmed fontina or brie.
Other tasty additions: fresh basil, a splash of balsamic vinegar or something briny, like crushed olives or a spoonful of capers.
A Big Veggie Curry
I freestyle big curries all the time using whatever is in the fridge. I never measure when I make this curry. You don’t need to either.
You cook by sight and feel, using whatever veggies need to be used, and tomatoes in any form: fresh, frozen, canned, jarred, even salsa is great.
- vegetable oil or ghee, for cooking
- mustard seed
- cumin seeds
- chopped onion
- sliced jalapeno
- crushed garlic
- ground cumin
- coriander (optional)
- chopped coriander (optional)
- tomatoes in any form: fresh, frozen, canned, jarred, even salsa or cooked veggies (I like roasting things like cauliflower florets for flavour)
- cooked or canned (drained) lentils or chickpeas (optional)
- a handful of baby spinach or torn chard or kale (optional)
- sour cream, yogurt, whipping cream or coconut milk
Set a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil (or ghee) and warm some mustard seed and cumin seed for just a minute, until they start to turn fragrant and perhaps pop a bit.
Add some onion (if you like!), jalapeño and garlic and cook for a few minutes, sprinkling with salt, until soft.
Add a spoonful of turmeric and a shake of cumin and coriander, and some chopped cilantro stems if you like.
Cook for another minute or two, then add your tomatoes and cook them down until very soft and concentrated (you may need to add more oil or ghee).
Stir in any veggies and pulse you like, and cook to either heat through or cook the veggies, if they need it.
Add more water if you need to, so you can keep cooking it without it getting too thick (cover if you don’t want excess moisture to evaporate).
Tear in some greens, if you like, and stir just until they wilt into the warm mixture.
Stir in or swirl in some sour cream, yogurt, cream or coconut milk, if you like.
A freestyle galette is easy and a great way to use tomatoes at their peak. There are so many ways to make it—with some pesto or other flavorful condiments (even thick dips, like spinach and artichoke!) spread over the crust, or a layer of paper-thin lemons or caramelized onions.
You can add cheese — crumbled or grated — in any quantity, or herbs from your garden.
If you like, top your galette with crispy capers: pat a spoonful of dry capers and fry in a small skillet with enough oil to barely cover them, until they turn crisp and open up a bit.
Top with the capers just before serving, and drizzle the tart with a bit of the caper-y oil too, if you like.
- ½ pkg puff pastry, thawed
- pesto, olive tapenade or garlicky olive oil (optional)
- enough tomatoes, of all colors and sizes, to slice and cover your tart
- sliced brie, crumbled soft goat cheese or Boursin, grated parmesan or really any other cheese(s) you like
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- a small handful of fresh herbs or a few chopped chives (optional)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, or milk or cream, for brushing (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. On a lightly floured surface (or on a silpat baking mat, if you have one) roll the thawed pastry out thin, about 1/8-inch thick. It can be a circle, oval, square, whatever. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Poke the bottom a bunch of times with a fork to prevent it from puffing up in the oven.
If you like, spread a thin layer of pesto or tapenade over the bottom, or brush it with garlicky oil (put some olive oil into a ramekin and crush in a garlic clove), or crumble over some soft cheese.
Slice the tomatoes about ¼-inch thick and lay them in a single layer, overlapping slightly, leaving about an inch of pastry around the edge.
Fill in the gaps with cheese or small cherry or grape tomatoes, whole or halved.
Grate over some firmer cheese (like Parmesan) if you like, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil (or the garlicky oil).
Fold the edge of the pastry over and, if you like, brush with a little beaten egg, milk or cream.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until deep golden.
Tomato-y Baked Beans
Braised beans are the new baked beans. Simmered until tender, then given a tomato-y boost (acid can prevent dry beans from softening, so tomato sauce is added after they’re cooked) and if you like, broiled with a cheesy lid.
There are plenty of ways you can go about this: stir some cooked, chunky pasta or gnocchi into the beans before topping with cheese and baking, or simmer a few sausages in the cooked beans — add them along with the tomato sauce, or roast or grill them and tuck them in after—for a sort of streamlined cassoulet.
- 1 cup dry butter beans (also known as baby lima beans) or navy beans
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary or thyme
- 1-2 bay leaves
- pinch red chili flakes
- jump to taste
- olive oil
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce or purée
- grated or torn mozzarella or parmesan or other melty cheese (optional)
If you want to, soak the beans in plenty of water for a few hours, or overnight — this will jump start the hydration process, but is unnecessary — starting from dry will only add about 15 minutes to your cooking time, and you may in fact find your beans hold their shape a bit better and won’t split.
If you’ve soaked them, pour off their soaking liquid and put the dry or soaked beans into a medium pot or Dutch oven with about four cups of water.
Add the garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, chili flakes and a big pinch of salt, add a drizzle of olive oil and cook over medium heat for about 1½ hours, or until the beans are tender.
Add more water (or stock, if you have some) as necessary if it reduces too much as the beans cook.
When the beans are tender, add some tomato paste or purée and cook until the liquid reduces and thickens.
Remove the rosemary and bay leaves, adjust the salt if needed and serve with crusty bread.
If you like, grate some mozzarella and/or parmesan (or other melty cheese) overtop and run it under the broiler until golden.