The end of August marks a goodbye to summer and the beginning of school for our kids. It’s a bittersweet time where many of us ask ourselves “where did summer go?” Time seems fleeting especially in summer when many of us are busy traveling on holiday and hosting family and friends. As we wrap up summer and head into fall we have a few lovely things to hold onto like the end of summer produce.
Tomato season is in full swing. All shapes and varieties in a beautiful array of colors can be found, basking in the glow of the sun, at your local farmer’s market. My favorite tomato of all time is the dry farmed Early Girl tomato. They are in season from now until early October so pick them up while they last!
As written on the Earl’s Organic Produce website (www.earlsorganic.com), “the dry farmed Early Girl tomato is a sweet tasting short-season hybrid tomato, meaning they are quick to mature after planting.
Dry farming conserves water by relying primarily on residual moisture in the soil left after the rainy season. Once the plants have become established, all irrigation is cut off to the fields. This lack of water stresses the plants, forcing their roots deep into the soil in search of water and nutrients. Due to the tomato’s lower water content, the result is a smaller, vibrantly red and tremendously flavorful treat.
Farmers initially began dry farming their tomatoes out of necessity; they either didn’t have access to water or didn’t have electricity to pump irrigation water from underground aquifers to their fields. The highly coveted flavor associated with dry farmed tomatoes today was just an added benefit.”
They are delicious to eat on their own. Tossed into salads or dipped into olive oil, the taste is fresh and juicy. My all time favorite way of eating these beauties is to roast them. My sweet neighbor, Lainey introduced me to this simple roasting method last year and I was hooked forever.
The tomatoes are cut in half and laid out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Olive oil and crushed garlic are mixed together and brushed on each tomato; skin and flesh sides. A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper are tossed together on top. You can add fresh or dried herbs of choice but I skip this addition to keep it simple. I treat this sauce as a base or foundation for soups and sauces. You can always add fresh herbs and spices when cooking to add extra flavor.
The roasting really brings out the sweet flavor of these tomatoes. Plus, there is no peeling of skins or removing seeds. Once slow-roasted, everything falls apart and is pureed. Every time I’ve used this puree in a dish, my guests exclaim ” what did you add to this dish to make it taste so good?”. “It’s the roasted tomatoes”, I reply with a coy smile. They just amplify flavor.
The tomatoes are slow roasted for about 45 minutes-1 hour at 375 degrees until they are lightly browned. Keep an eye on the oven and check early since all ovens cook at different temperatures. Once the skins have melted and juices bubble, take the tomatoes out of the oven and let cool. If there are any blackened pieces, simply pull them off. I prefer to remove them, however, if you like the smoky, charred flavor, keep them on. Pull the parchment by the sides and tip, with juices included, into your Vitamix or high-powered blender. You can also use an immersion blender. Blend to desired consistency.
Now, you have a wonderful tomato sauce or flavored base to add into your foods. My favorite ways of using this sauce is on pizzas. We also make a tomato based veggie stew. We love using this sauce for pasta, lasagna or stuffed bell peppers with a tomato-meat filling. Pulse your sauce thick and use it as a dip or spread on top of bread. Or make tomato soup. I’ve included the process below for roasting tomatoes in addition to my Roasted Tomato Soup recipe, a nourishing, delicious dish that can be enjoyed year-round. The possibilities are endless!
Many commercial brand tomato sauces contain the labeling “spices” and/or “natural flavors”. Since I am a mom of a daughter with nut and sesame seed allergies, it is challenging to find a safe tomato sauce especially since many food companies do not have to individually list the ingredients that make up the term “spices” and “natural flavors”. This can be frustrating for food allergy-parents. Making my own tomato sauce is a bit more time consuming initially but feels safer in the long-term because I am able to control each food item. Plus, I feel good knowing that my family is getting the most nutritious, natural ingredients delivered straight from the farm into their bellies.
Last season I roasted endless amounts of pureed tomatoes and froze them in different size canning jars. I use the 8 oz, 12 oz and 16 ounce sizes. If you have a large freezer for storage, it helps to make one big batch. This way, you can portion out your sauce into different sizes for different cooking purposes. If you are short on time, skip the puree and freeze the roasted tomatoes. They freeze well. Once defrosted, puree later or simply eat and enjoy.
This year, I purchased 2o pounds of tomatoes for $32 from Sea Level Farms. Samin Nosrat at http://www.ciaosamin.com was kind enough to set up a flash sale making the price at $1.60 per pound unbeatable! Thank you to Sea Level Farms for delivering your beautiful tomatoes to us in Oakland. It was inspiring to see people lined up on a warm summer evening excited to pick up their tomatoes.
Roasted Tomato Sauce:
This is not really a recipe but more of a “how to guide” on roasting tomatoes. It seems silly to spell this out but I hope some of these tips will help with the process. Increase/omit/add ingredients to your preference. Freezer safe storage method.
Vegan, Vegetarian, Nut-Free, Seed-Free, Sesame-Free, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
- About 2 1/2-3 pounds Dry Farmed Early Girl tomatoes. Of course you can roast more at once if you have a large baking sheet and oven! If you cannot find these, use Roma
- A high quality EVOO
- Crushed Garlic ( I like a lot)
What you will need:
- A small baking sheet or prep tray to hold the following( for easy cleanup)
- small bowl to hold oil and crushed garlic
- garlic press
- cooking/painting brush
- small bowl to hold salt
- 1 canning funnel( not necessary but very helpful )
- soup ladle
- large baking sheet( lined with parchment) for tomatoes
- canning jars in various sizes. I like to use Ball 8 oz, 12 oz and 16 ounce sizes. Make sure jars and lids are clean and sterilized. I run them through my dishwasher before prepping tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Get prep tray ready. Pour olive oil and enough crushed garlic(to taste) into small bowl. Prepare salt bowl. Include garlic press, brush, canning funnel, soup ladle and pepper onto small baking sheet. Set aside.
Wash and pat dry tomatoes. Twist stems off. Cut tomatoes in half or quarter, if large. Make sure cut tomatoes are relatively the same size so that they consistently bake. Lay tomatoes on large baking sheet, cut side up. Do not overcrowd pan or tomatoes will steam.
Dip brush into olive oil/crushed garlic mixture and coat both sides of tomatoes. If you run out of oil/garlic, add more. Generously season tomatoes with salt & pepper. Gently toss with your hands to make sure everything is evenly coated. Lay all pieces cut side up.
Roast for 45 minutes-1 hour or until tomatoes are juicy, bubbling and lightly browned on sides. Rotate pan halfway to ensure even cooking. Set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes.
Tip tomatoes with their juices into Vitamix or a high-powered blender. Puree to desired consistency or until skins are blended into sauce.
Place funnel on top of canning jar. Ladle puree into jars. Do not fill all the way to the top of jar because liquid in jars will expand as it freezes. Leave about an inch of headspace-from the rim of jar to the top of your tomatoes( see above picture). You can also process these jars for canning but I skip this step because I have a large freezer for storage. For more information on freezing and canning, consult the Ball Blue Book or Ball website at http://www.freshpreserving.com
Tighten and close jars with lids. Store in freezer for up to 1 year. Best used within 6 months for freshest flavor. Remember to label and date jars before storing in freezer.
Roasted Tomato Soup
Vegan, Sesame-Free, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free
- 2 pounds dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes or about 2 cups roasted tomato puree
- 1 bell pepper, yellow or red, seeded, stemmed and roughly diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 small clove garlic, crushed
- 1 -2 carrot, diced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- 1 tsp ground fennel plus extra for garnish
- 3 cups Vegetable broth and/or water( I used a combination), plus more if needed
- 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt & pepper
- Lemon juice
- 1-2 tbl (or to taste) aged, sweet balsamic vinegar
- basil, chiffonade for garnish
- fennel seeds, whole & lightly crushed in EVOO for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 F
Follow directions above for roasting tomatoes except storage and freezing. Or you can use about 2 cups of defrosted tomato puree.
While tomatoes are roasting, add oil to a warmed soup pot. Add onions and salt. Stir, turn heat to low, and cover pot. Check and stir after a few minutes, letting moisture on the lid drip back into the pot to keep things steamy. Lower the heat if any browning is going on and cover again. Cook until onion is tender, about 15 minutes on low heat. Stir in spices for 1 minute. Add carrot and bell pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add broth and/or water. Deglaze pan. Boil, reduce and simmer for about 10 minutes until carrots soften.
Pour the tomato puree back into soup pot. Add more liquid, if needed. Balance flavors with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Season with additional salt and pepper.
Garnish with basil chiffonade( thin ribbons). Gently warm olive oil with lightly crushed fennel seeds. Pour over top of soup with garnish.