Posts Tagged zucchini

Is there such a thing as too many tomatoes?

This year, rather distressingly, I ran out of canned tomatoes in April, which led to a long and rather anxious wait until the tomato season rolled around again.

Yes, you can buy canned tomatoes, and no, I probably can’t tell the difference, once they are all mushed up in sauce or stew or soup. But I still prefer my own. I know the ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, perhaps some salt), I like knowing where they came from, and I like the taste.

So while last year we made up half a bushel of the stuff, this year we upped that to 1.5 bushels and I still fret it won’t be enough, especially as the spoils get split three ways this year compared to two in 2010.

But three people definitely make life easier when you’re talking bulk like this, and we got quite a production line going for peeling, crushing, chopping and juicing.

We started with simple crushed tomatoes, because they are so easy and they taste so good, although all the books warn you to be careful with the quantities to avoid botulusm contamination. It’s really simple. Peel and crush tomatoes, cook them down a little, perhaps with salt and slosh them into jars which each have a spoonful of bottled lemon juice at the bottom.

Then boil the living daylights out of the sealed up jars — 35 minutes for the 500 ml jars — and save for the days when tomatoes in the store taste of nothing and you want to remember what they really should be like.

After that we switched to Italian tomato sauce, which tastes wonderful, but takes forever because there’s so much deseeding, chopping, boiling and simmering. It had onion, garlic, carrots and peppers, as well as salt and pepper. The recipe said celery, but I vetoed that. Celery, someone once told me, is the only thing that actually takes more calories to digest than you get from eating it, and I can’t stand the stuff.

A couple of tips for next time, which is actually tomorrow because we couldn’t face finishing off that final box and need to try again.

  • Give yourself a couple of days between buying tomatoes and canning them to give them a chance to ripen a little more. They will taste better and they might even be easier to peel.
  • And nick each tomato after you toss it in boiling water for its deskinning bath. I started doing that midway through and was amazed how much easier it was they were to peel. We could have saved a lot of time and energy.
  • Save the seeds/liquid that comes when you poke the seeds out to make the sauce. It makes a wonderful home made tomato juice, but it’s not just that. I used it instead of stock or water for an amazing tomato shrimp risotto today, with fresh corn and zucchini and jumbo shrimp added right at the end.

In fact, because I’m going to forget what I did if I don’t write it down, here’s the recipe for that risotto. All measurements  are approximate.

Shrimp tomato risotto

olive oil
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
spices to taste (I used cumin, black pepper and a little cinnamon)
2 handfuls of arborio rice
2 cups of the liquid that comes from seeding half a bushel of tomatoes
a squirt of sriracha (or something else to give it a kick)
fresh vegetables (I used 1 orange pepper, 1 zucchini and kernels cut from one ear of corn)
6-12 raw shrimp (I used thawed frozen)
chopped cilantro (I could have used parsley)

Fry onion gently in olive oil until soft, then add garlic. Add whatever spice you are using (saffron would have been good too, but I didn’t have saffron), then add rice and fry until coated. Add tomato liquid, bit by bit, and when that runs out keep going with stock or water. Toward the end of the cooking, when the rice is tasting almost cooked, add sriracha, then vegetables. Just before it’s done, bury the shrimp in the hot rice, cover the dish and leave on a very, very low heat for another 10 minutes or so. Stir in cilantro right at the end and eat.

Sorry. No picture. You’ll have to make do with lots and lots of jars instead.

Total haul:

  • 30 jars crushed tomatoes
  • 11 jars tomato sauce
  • 3 tupperware boxes of tomato seeds/juice
  • another half box of tomatoes waiting to be attacked
Advertisements

Comments (1)

Travel broadens the eating horizons

There’s nothing like an out of town trip to make you realize what you are missing in terms of foods and fruits. I feel that each time I visit somewhere like Zabars in New York, and I felt it again in today, with a glorious visit to the even more glorious Santa Fe farmers market , which describes itself as one of the top farmers’ markets in the country. Well I’ve not been to that many U.S. farmers’ markets, but this one made me want to buy up strings of garlic and wreaths of chili to take home, as well as investing in pans, spices and ingredients and get to work here in a tiny rental apartment. Luckily reality sank in before I could get that far. Canadian customs probably wouldn’t take kindly to New Mexico garlic or pimentos, and the TSA would definitely turn their noses up at dangerous home-made chutney. So I looked and longed and bought four ounces of beautifully bitter arugula to have with a cheese sandwich tonight.

There were many highlights, so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Why can’t we get all that in my part of the world?


Marvelous misshapen peppers

Marvelous multicolored peppers

More multicolored peppers

And tomatoes (also multicolored)

What about garlic?
Chili peppers?

Pickles?
And some flowers to round it all off.

Comments (1)

Red shirt day

Thought for the day: When canning tomatoes, it really helps to wear a red t-shirt.

Saturday was the second of two tomato sessions, as canning buddy and I transformed a half bushel of Roma tomatoes into stuff that will keep us in pasta sauce for a while, liaising from time to time with a parallel can-o-rama venture over in New Jersey. There were jars of tomato sauce, with carrots, peppers and onions, jars of tomato salsa, with peppers, onions and spices, and a few more jars of plain old crushed tomatoes when we got fed up with looking up recipes. We made tomato jam too, but more of that anon. And of course there were spatters of tomato over clothes, and every surface of the kitchen. Why is tomato juice so much more likely to end up sliding down the white rim of the stove than on the black cooking surface itself?

Mindful of dire internet warnings about nasty bugs growing in canned tomatoes, we kept to the recipes pretty religiously, using bought lemon juice instead of fresh (apparently the acid content is more reliable) and using a package for the spicing in the salsa (I know, I’m shocked too, but it was an experiment). The only change was omitting celery and adding red pepper to the main sauce. It’s curious, but celery is one of the few things that I really detest.  Strong taste, lots of water and nothing but crunch.


And then, thanks to the Internet, there was a glorious green-flecked, rust-red tomato-basil jam, where three pounds of ripe tomatoes melt down to just two jars of something that seems to be half way between a jam and a chutney, with ingredients that include vinegar, sugar and lots of basil.  I was aiming to open that solitary jar for a celebration dinner last night, but forgot, so guidance on the taste will come a little later.

I can, however, offer a taste test of that zucchini lemon jam from a few weeks back. It’s heavy on the lemon and somewhat chewy from the lemon peel, with a perfect set and a few strands of zucchini that don’t actually taste of zucchini at all. There’s not much of a basil taste, perhaps because I actually used lemon basil rather than actual basil.

Rating: 4 (out of 5). It gets points for taste, set, novelty value, and for the color, which is a delicate shade of kiwi green with flecks of dark (basil) and light (zucchini). But it loses a point because it just doesn’t wow me as much as I thought it would. Shame.

So let’s see. I did jam from tomatoes and zucchini already. Is there an eggplant jam that I could use to complete the ratatouille?

Comments (4)

Zucchini jam

Well this is a new one for me. But inspired by yet another of those internet recipes, I made a small batch of lemon zucchini jam today, using the last of the somewhat scraggly lemon basil from the patio and market-fresh zucchini and lemons.

It’s a 2-day recipe, which is always a bit of a nuisance, with a first-day simmer and a second-day boil. but I think it’s going to be worth the wait. The six jars are a delicate kiwi green in color, with darker green flecks from the basil, and it has a better set than anything I made since we bought a swish-looking ceramic-top stove last year.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

For anyone looking at ceramic-top stoves, and hoping to make jam on them, all I can say is “don’t.” They just don’t hold a rolling boil in the way a regular stove does, and that means a jam won’t set properly, or takes forever.

I’m thinking zucchini jam (courgette jam, for those of you across the pond) will be good spread thick on wholewheat bread or toast, or perhaps on top of a semi-sweet pound cake. The taste is apparently more marmalade than jam, which is probably a good thing.

That jam was one of five ventures in a hectic canning morning, mostly to take advantage of the seriously yummy plums and peaches that are crowding the farmers’ market right now.

We made a plum lime chutney that tastes a little vinegary but should mellow with age, and a peach chutney with a definite chili kick, as well as the tried and tested peach pistachio preserve from last year and a few jars of spicy pickled plums and peaches. I let myself experiment with the pickled fruit, throwing in cinnamon and allspice as well as a generous handful of dried orange peels from what is quite possibly the best spice store in the (Western) world. Kalustyan’s on Lexington Avenue is perhaps my dream shop, with more spices than I ever thought was possible, all of them fresher than anything I’ve seen elsewhere. I counted about five different sorts of peppercorn last time I was there, and always regretted not buying a selection to try them out. Their web site shows 490 different sorts of spices, and they do mail order.

I wonder what dried green mango tastes like? Beet powder?

I wonder if they send goods up to the Great White North?

Comments (4)