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.
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
- Run jars through a dishwasher on the hottest setting, or put on a cookie sheet in a 225 F oven.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil, drop in lids and turn water off.
- 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.
- 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.
- When all the tomatoes are prepped, put over medium high heat, and bring to a simmer.
- 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.
- Process jars in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.
And a bonus step: sit down and have a cold beer.
Lately I’ve been going through a wee bit of a pizza fixation. But eating that much pizza even with whole grain crusts can’t be all that healthy, plus cranking my oven up to 500 F at the end of a hot day is sometimes a bit much. So in order to enjoy those pizza flavors, increase the vegetable quotient, and avoid heating up my entire house, I came up with this pasta salad recipe. I should warn you that my pasta salads tend to be heavier on the salad and lighter on the pasta, so if you want a more traditional dish, double the amount of pasta. Also, for you meat eaters out there, this would be really tasty with pepperoni or prosciutto. The banana peppers give it a little bit of a kick, but if you want more heat, try peperoncinis. Not a fan of any amount of spiciness? Use 2 tbsp red wine vinegar instead.
Pizza Pasta Salad
- 6 ounces short pasta (like penne) cooked and cooled
- 1 large tomato diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 4 baby zucchini or squash, thinly sliced (you want the smallest squash you can find)
- 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 6 ounces mozzarella, diced or shredded
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup pickled banana peppers, drained & chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tbsp dried
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to refrigerate for at least one hour before serving so flavors can meld. Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish.
Apparently pizza is now my go to dish for when I have friends over. Homemade pizza is impressive but easy to make, can be topped with whatever you feel like, and only takes 10 minutes in the oven. If I’m feeling ambitious, I set out a bunch of sauces, cheeses, and toppings, and it becomes a make your own pizza fest. This weekend, we kept it simple and topped it with the last of last year’s marinara, local mozzarella, oregano from my garden, and thinly sliced zucchini from the farm. I was surprised by how much I liked the zucchini, it didn’t get mushy and instead added a bit of crunch and a really fresh flavor. This crust recipe is adapted from my boyfriend, Mark Bittman, and resembles the crust from an upscale pizzeria. It makes 2 pizzas and serves 4 to 6 officially, though with 4 people I only had 1 slice leftover.
Basic Pizza Dough
- 3 cups all purpose or bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup warm water
- additional vegetable oil or cornmeal
- additional flour
Mix first four ingredients. Stir in water until a slightly stick ball forms. (This would be a great place to use a mixer or food processor) Set in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rest until doubled in size, ~1 to 2 hours. Divide dough into 2 even parts, flatten into discs, put on wooden cutting board sprinkled with flour and cover with the kitchen towel. Allow to rest for ~20 minutes, and preheat the oven to 500 F. If using a pizza stone, sprinkle with cornmeal, if using a cookie sheet sprinkle with cornmeal or coat with oil (I like the cornmeal better). Roll out one crust at a time, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking. Transfer the first crust, top as desired, then bake for 10 minutes.
Part of getting a CSA is often a commitment of seeing the same vegetables (and fruits) in your box for weeks on end. I’ve been eating some kind of pumpkin or roasted squash weekly since October. But with that comes the challenge to do something different with it almost every week so you don’t get tired of it. When I get my email describing what’s in the box, I hit the index of my cookbooks looking for a new recipe. I hadn’t considered my Spanish cook book (Cooking in Spain by Janet Mendel, if you’re curious!) for dealing with pumpkin before, but this week I flipped through just in case. There were several that all looked interesting and one that only called for ingredients that I had on hand. I roasted my hunk of pink banana squash (hard squash of the week!), threw the rest of the ingredients in my food processor, then poured it over chickpeas & rice. So delicious! It’s very refreshing and bright tasting, and made me feel like I was back in summer. For the carnivores out there, this would be delicious over roasted pork. (Spanish food always makes me think of pork).
Andalusian Pumpkin Sauce
- 1 lb roasted hard squash or pumpkin OR 1 can pumpkin
- 1 tomato seeded and peeled OR 1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider, red wine would also be delicious, not balsamic)
- 1 clove garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
Pour all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add a little water if too thick. Enjoy! Serves 4 to 6.