Tag Archives: summer

Best Ever Tomato Soup

Y’all, I am not kidding you about this soup. One bowl of this and you will not want to go back to Campbell’s ever. I like to make a few batches of it at the end of the summer when plum tomatoes are plentiful and usually very cheap. Then I freeze it in individual portions to eat all winter long with grilled cheese sandwiches (currently obsessed with sharp cheddar on sourdough). If I run out, then I sub in canned tomatoes, which is almost as delicious.

Best Ever Tomato Soup

  • 4 lbs plum tomatoes, quartered, or 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 small onion finely diced OR 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • optional garnishes: basil, croutons, parmesan OR ricotta salata (worth it!)

Puree tomatoes in a blender or food processor. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil or butter. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Garnish as desired. Serves 6.


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My Next Battle with Tomatoes

I realize I’m making this seem like a war, and frankly, sometimes it feels like one. Tomatoes are threatening to take over my kitchen and the most useful way to preserve them is one of the more complicated. Basically, I’ve taken you through the easy methods (boozy fruit and drying) to the intermediate (jams and plum sauce), but now it’s time to tackle something more advanced: crushed tomatoes. Yes, it sounds easy, and yes, it doesn’t require many ingredients, but it does require more prep than the other recipes, since the skins and seeds of tomatoes can taste bitter and a lot of people don’t like the texture. To keep it from being overwhelming, I suggest tackling this with a small batch like this (scale up if you like!) or bribing a friend to join you. However, that being said, I find it more than worth the effort to have such fresh tasting jarred tomatoes all winter long.

Canned Crushed Tomatoes

  • 5 lbs Roma or San Marzano tomatoes
  • 4 glass pint jars with lids and rings
  • 4 tbsp commercial lemon juice, divided
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  1. Run jars through a dishwasher on the hottest setting, or put on a cookie sheet in a 225 F oven.
  2. Bring a small pot of water to boil, drop in lids and turn water off.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. In small batches of a pound or so, drop tomatoes in boiling water, leave for 1 minute, then remove and put tomatoes in an ice bath in order to loosen skins. If possible, keep water simmering for the water bath.
  4. Remove the skins of the tomatoes, then squeeze over a large bowl or in a sink to remove seeds (these things can squirt so watch out!) Transfer naked, squished tomato to another large pot and if desired, tear tomato into pieces.
  5. When all the tomatoes are prepped, put over medium high heat, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 in of head space, then add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt to each jar, close with lids and seals.
  7. Process jars in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.

And a bonus step: sit down and have a cold beer.

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Me Vs Tomatoes: Round 1

It’s my favorite time of year: tomato season! I kicked it off a week or so ago when I was cleaning out my office and found a rather expensive software license that I got for free at a seminar last year. I remembered a classmate was complaining about having to buy her own software, so I offered it to her. She remembered my passion for tomatoes and gave me two pints of cherry tomatoes as a thanks. Then I thought that maybe other people had an overabundance of tomatoes and decided to put up my first wanted posting on Freecycle asking for tomatoes. Soon I heard back from a local chef who has more tomatoes than she can handle, and offered me 10 pounds. Yay!

One of the least labor intensive ways of dealing with fresh summer tomatoes and really capture their flavor is to dry them. I don’t have a fancy dehydrator, or the space to set up a drier in my yard, so I opt for oven drying. All it really takes is patience and a day when you’re going to be at home.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

  • ripe roma or cherry tomatoes
  • sea salt

Preheat oven to 225 F and cover cookie sheets with tin foil. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, arrange closely on the cookie sheets then sprinkle with sea salt. Place in oven and do your best to resist opening and closing the oven unnecessarily. Cherry tomatoes were dried in about 2 to 3 hours, romas in 6 to 8 hours. As tomatoes finish drying, pull them off the sheet and store in Ziploc bags and return the rest to the oven. If you dry them sufficiently, they have a practically infinite shelf life, but I prefer to leave them in the freezer, just in case. When you’re ready, use them as is, or soak them in olive oil for 24 hours to soften in order to chop, etc. Enjoy!


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Curried Zucchini Soup

The world might be preparing for an invasion of zombies, but right now I’m dealing with an invasion of zucchini. Let’s just say that I have an entire vegetable bin in my refrigerator dedicated to squash and zucchini right now, and it will probably stay that way through August. I love the little ones for sauteing or roasting and sometimes even raw, but the baseball bat ones often have a less appealing texture. Fortunately, I found this recipe for a zucchini soup and it was a perfect solution for consuming more bat-like zucchini: by pureeing the soup, you take care of any texture issues and get to focus on the lovely flavor. While I’m not normally a soup kind of girl in the summer, this one is so light that I don’t mind a hot dinner. I keep it simple by having it with some naan and yogurt, but I bet this would go well with any Indian inspired protein.

Curried Zucchini Soup

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lb zucchini, diced
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 5 cups broth or water
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice
  • small zucchini, thinly sliced (optional)

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add zucchini and curry powder and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add liquid and rice, bring to a simmer, cover and allow to cook until rice is tender, ~20 minutes. Adjust salt to taste (you’ll need more if using water). Remove soup from heat and puree using an immersion blender, or in batches with a regular blender or food processor. Pour a little lemon juice over each bowl just before serving, and if desired, garnish with a few slices of zucchini. Serves 6 to 8.

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Beet and Beet Green Gratin

One of my favorite vegetables is the beet, and 90% of the time, I eat them boiled or roasted, sliced up and topped with a little salt. But, I’m trying to get out of a culinary rut, so I did a little Googling and came across this recipe for beet and beet green gratin from my beloved NY Times. The ingredients are simple so the beets really shine, is only 170 calories a serving, and makes great cold leftovers, which are my favorite. It served as a great light supper, but would also make a good side dish to roast chicken. Not surprisingly, I made a few tweaks to the recipe due to what was in my refrigerator and my innate laziness. The prep is a little time consuming, but but you can cook the beets and prep the greens a few days before.

Beet and Beet Green Gratin

  • 2 bunches beets (6-8 beets) with greens attached
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces parmesan, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • pinch of salt
  1. Cut greens off beets 1/4 in from the base, and set them aside. Roast beets in 400 F or boil until fork tender, ~30-45 minutes. Once beets have cooled, the skins should slide right off, remove top, then slice horizontally.
  2. Rinse greens, cut off and discard stems, and chop leaves coarsely. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, ~2-3 minutes. Add leaves, cover, and cook until tender, ~ 5 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole. Combine last 5 ingredients, then fold in greens and beets.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until dish is set and golden brown on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

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No, that is not a made up word in my title. It’s one of my projects for the summer and should make excellent Christmas presents. One of my favorite parts of summer is all the amazing produce. Working on a farm, and being a huge fan of the farmers market, I sometimes end up with more than I can eat before it goes bad. That’s when I turn to food preservation, which can mean making jams and pickles, but can encompass a lot of other methods.

One of my favorite methods, and the simplest, is to use alcohol, which brings me back to the title of my post. Rumptopf is a German dish, which involves layers of fresh fruit, topped with sugar and dark rum. As the summer progresses and different fruits come into season, add another layer of fruit, with more sugar and rum. Or, you can buy all the fruit and make it in one go.

I divide this recipe into 4 1-pint jars to give out as presents, but you could be selfish or generous, and put it all in one giant jar, that would hold a half gallon of water. Just use glass, which won’t transfer any flavor or chemicals to the fruit.


  • 2 cups (1 pint basket) strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 2 cups peaches, sliced 1/2 thick, pit removed
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 2 cups plums, sliced 1/2 thick, pit removed
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 liter dark rum
  • 4 pint glass jars
  1. Divide strawberries evenly between jars. Sprinkle 2 1/2 tbsp sugar over each layer of strawberries, then cover with rum, about ¼ cup.
  2. Repeat with each type of fruit, creating layers. At the end, make sure the fruit is completely covered with rum.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place (not the refrigerator!), and periodically swirl to help the sugar dissolve.  If the fruit floats to the top, occasionally flip to make sure everything is equally saturated with rum. Allow to soak for at least 3 weeks, though the longer the better.

Serve over pound cake, use the fruity rum in cocktails or just have a ridiculously tipsy fruit salad.

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