Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.
This week's harvest: Tomatoes
They're heeeeerrrrrrrre! Well, they've been here for a few weeks depending on your backyard and when you planted them, but we'd needed the heat over the last week or so to finally give the tomatoes a kick in the pants to ripen up. Ohhhh, and the wait was so worth it. Technically a fruit, these are the star of the market. They win all farmers' market beauty and popularity contests. We love the sweet, tangy, juicy, and fresh taste. I really feel like recipes are worthless here since eating a perfectly ripe tomato with nothing on it is the best treat all by itself. So, I figured I'd feature recipes that don't fuss much with the tomato but just make it the star ingredient and then how to can these beauties for wintertime eats.
When are they in season?
May/June through August
Selecting, storage and preparation tips:
As long as you know and trust that your farmer is growing pesticide-free, field tomatoes, don't worry about picking the wrong ones; they'll all be good. Feel free to ogle the prism of colors and shapes and take them all home. You do need to be careful that if you pick the ones that are super ripe, you need to barely touch them and eat them that day. Otherwise, you can pick some of the others that will stay ripe and ripen a bit on your counter. Remember not to squeeze the tomatoes that are for sale, as squeeing equals brusing and you will royally piss off the person selling those tomatoes - even if they don't tell you. Lastly, please don't refrigerate your tomatoes; they'll taste best at room temp.
My tomato philosophy: eat fresh tomatoes fresh and use canned tomatoes if you're going to cook them. Here are some fresh tomato recipes and how to can your tomatoes. It's all you need to know this summer about eating tomatoes.
Soft bread, tangy creamy mayo yo, and seasoned sliced tomatoes. The perfect simple summer sandwich.
There are lots of different ways to make gazpacho, I prefer the slightly chunky all vegetable method. This recipe is simple and a great blueprint. I might use sherry vinegar instead of the red wine if you have it. Top with cooked shrimp and chunked avocado for a more rounded meal that not only sings but belts it at the top of its tomato lungs.
Make this at the beginning of the week and add it to your cheese quesadillas, scrambled eggs, bean burritos. Sass it up and add watermelon or simplify and just do tomato p;
onion and vinegar. Having this in your fridge instantly ups the awesomeness factor of your cooking.
Buy your tomatoes by the flat so that you can can and use them instead of the supermarket canned tomatoes. Here what to do with it:
I'm ashamed to admit I've never done this. I plan to this year. I will get over my fear of canning. Here's the recipe that I hope will get me over the hump. If I do well, and want to keep going I found a canned salsa recipe by Boho Farm & Home.
Dried tomatoes have that intensely sweet flavor that we all love. Make them at home. This is a nice way to eat the tomatoes that have gone a bit wrinkly and are less alluring.
Once you've canned those tomatoes, make this Italian tomato bread soup. Natalie Morris, who just spent a year there, gave us this recipe to share. This adorable and catchy song all about this simple soup is popular with the kids in Italy -- Rita Pavone's "Viva la pappa col pomodoro". Enjoy.
Pappa al Pomodoro
250ml (about a cup) olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3 leeks, finely chopped
1 litre (about 4 cups) meat stock (made with beef and chicken)
2 litres (about 8 cups) pureed canned Italian tomatoes
500g (about 4 1/2 cups) day old country bread (preferably unsalted) thickly sliced
generous handful of basil leaves, torn
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
Warm the olive oil and garlic in a medium cooking pot. When the garlic has colored slightly, add the leeks. Saute over a low heat for 20 minutes, adding water as necessary to keep the vegetables from turning brown. Stir in the stock and pureed tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the bread, pushing it into the liquid with a wooden spoon. Stir in the torn basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Now whisk the soup energetically until it has a porridge-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.