Garden Tomatoes: Summer and winter
The greatest fruits of summer come from the tomato vines growing in my garden. The greatest fruits of winter come from the tomato vines that grew in my garden the previous summer. This I remind myself as a sea of red begins to cover the top of the counter in my washroom. I have been eating my fill everyday: sliced tomatoes drizzled with pesto; salad greens spotted with tomato chucks; grilled tomato slices; tomato and mayo sandwiches; tomato, bacon and basil sandwiches; tomato and cucumber salad with vinaigrette. You name a tomato dish and I’ve eaten it with the exception of the “Tomato Tart” recipe that my friend Rose sent me, which I plan to try very soon. Still the pile grows, but that’s okay because the fruits covering that counter soon fill jars in the cupboard and small containers in the freezer; storage for the coming winter months.
Why both? I prefer canned tomatoes for most recipes, but there comes a time when I just grow tired of canning, not to mention running out of jars. That’s when I turn to freezing, but not whole tomatoes as my mother did. I just never cared for the watery result of those whole frozen tomatoes.
I prefer to chop the tomatoes into a pot, after a good washing and removal of any stems, bring them to a boil; skin, seeds and all. Once they begin to boil and shrink into their own juice, I allow them to simmer 10-15 minutes before putting them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin. What you have left is a nice smooth puree that makes great soups and sauces.
I should note that I take great care when I can tomatoes to make sure I follow the rules to insure safely. I would urge anyone planning to can any type of food to check with their local Extension office for canning safety tips. There is also tons of information on the Internet. Just make sure to choose a reputable site.
Since I cook for one, I also can and freeze for one. I can tomatoes in half-pint jars and freeze in one-cup containers. If a recipe calls for more than a cup, I can always open two jars or two containers, but most of the recipes I cook for my single self take one cup so these sizes work well.
One of my favorite wintertime soups, Tomato Bisque, I first tasted one Christmas when my brother Phil and I ate dinner at a Little America restaurant in Cheyenne, Wyo. I came home determined to recreate the taste and texture of that soup. After trial and error I came up with a soup that I feel comes close.
Tomato Bisque Soup
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
¼ Cup minced onion
½ Tablespoon dry sherry (optional)
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup crushed or pureed tomatoes
¾ Cup milk
¼ Cup heavy cream
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
- Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat until soft, 1-2 minutes. Do not brown. If using sherry, add now and continue cooking 1 minute longer. Add broth and tomatoes to pan and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat and add flour to make rue. Cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes but do not allow the rue to brown. Whisk in the milk and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Whisk rue into the soup. Add cream. Add salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. Serve with hot bread and a salad or combine it with a grilled cheese sandwich and pretend you are in elementary school again.
Chef’s Note: My friend Rose substituted olive oil for the butter and non-fat condensed milk for the cream for a healthier version. I prefer my version, but for those of you watching fat in your diet, hers is very tasty.