One girl. One (long) weekend. 20 pounds of tomatoes.
A word of advice to all you readers who one day dream of having a vegetable garden: 12 cherry tomato plants for 2 people is overkill. It kind of pains me to say that, because I L-O-V-E tomatoes and I am loathe to admit that I may have been a bit too greedy in thinking of how much I could realistically eat in the span of a few weeks.
(And, to all you readers who are shaking your head in amazement at how I could possibly have made such a gross overestimation in planting that many plants, well…what can I say? It was the dead of winter when we planned our garden. We started more tomato plants from seed than we thought we’d need because, well, they wouldn’t all make it, right? Wrong. And now here we are, in a state of tomato overload.)
So: do you remember how I told you about the pile of tomatoes we harvested before going camping? We did indeed bring those tomatoes with us, and they were enjoyed by all and provided some nice fresh vegetables during the week. However — going away at the end of August, when the tomatoes are ripening all at once, is kind of poor planning! We came back and picked another 20 pounds. I kid you not.
I don’t mean to sound disappointed or sad or annoyed — actually, I’m kind of proud of all these tomatoes. I didn’t think I’d get as many as I did, so it kind of thrills me to see those pictures above! When B and I lived in Boston, we had such a tiny yard that just a few tomato plants seemed to crowd the space…now with our 20×50 community garden plot here in Ithaca, I think we kind of let loose and went wild with planting as much as we could in the space, and still didn’t fill it up!
Even with sharing some of the haul with friends and eating ourselves silly with plain, raw, unadulterated tomatoes, we’ve still had a big pile sitting on the kitchen table that I’ve been working through over the past few days. I’ve been cooking and cooking and trying to decide what recipe to post…you’re probably overloaded with tomato recipes right now, so I felt I should post something unique! a standout!! like-nothing-you’ve-ever-seen-before!!!
And then the pressure just got to me.
And, I realized, maybe you – like me – would just be happy to get some ideas, a little inspiration. So in the spirit of tomato inspiration, I’ll just show you in photos of a few of the things that I did with our haul. And I *do* actually have a recipe for you, for a delicious sandwich we had this past weekend.
One of the first things I did with all the cherry tomatoes was to slow-roast them as Deb of Smitten Kitchen described. I now have two jars in the fridge of these lovely, sweet, utterly addictive treats, covered in olive oil.
On Labor Day, we had a light dinner of crostini with herb-garlic Boursin cheese, these slow roasted tomatoes, and local green grapes.
Mmmmmmm, this looks so good to me…my stomach just growled audibly.
As delicious as these slow-roasted tomatoes were, they don’t completely dry out, so they’re not good long-term keepers. For that purpose, I used a method for oven-dried tomatoes in From the Cook’s Garden. I grew a variety of tomato called Principe Borghese (similar to a roma) that’s supposed to be great for drying, so I gave it a shot. The method in the recipe requires endurance: halved tomatoes are seeded, then baked in a 175 degree F oven for 8-16 hours. Mine took about 14 hours to dry out enough to store. Yowza.
We had a simple side dish of halved cherry tomatoes tossed with some fresh oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Delicious and colorful.
I also made a roasted cherry tomato sauce and froze it to toss with pasta sometime during the winter.
One of our favorite late-summer salads made an appearance, as well: grilled steak salad with green beans, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, olives and arugula. We don’t eat beef all that often, but this salad is one of our favorite ways to have it in the summer.
We had some green beans from our garden and arugula from our share…I wish I could say I grew the Kalamata olives in my backyard, but Ithaca’s definitely not an olive-friendly climate. The salad is dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette and topped with slices of medium-rare steak; I adore the bold flavors!
And one more use for those slow-roasted tomatoes: this sandwich.
I grilled some slices of eggplant (from our share), layered those with fresh basil from our garden, a few slices of creamy burrata cheese (fresh mozzarella with a creamy interior), and some of the slow-roasted tomatoes tucked into the top.
I set the assembled sandwiches onto my grill pan, and firmly pressed down with my spatula to get some pressed-sandwich action going…
…the result was a crusty, gooey, sweet, fresh taste of August.
What have *you* been doing with tomatoes lately? (I really *do* want to know; I still have more tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table!)
Besides just eating them juicy and raw, here are a few more tomato recipes I’d like to try:
Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Tomato, Burrata and Basil Panini
1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
a small handful of fresh basil leaves
half a ball of burrata cheese, sliced
a small handful of slow-roasted tomatoes, or oil-packed sundried tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes
4 slices of multigrain bread
Preheat a grill pan (or grill) and lightly brush each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the eggplant slices on each side until they’re golden and tender. Set aside.
Lightly brush one side of each of the 4 slices of bread with some olive oil, then lay them olive-oil side down on a work surface. On two of the slices, layer the ingredients as follows: basil leaves, burrata slices, eggplant, then the tomatoes. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Top each with the remaining slices of bread, olive oil side up (you want the sides of the bread that are brushed with oil to face outward so they can contact the grill surface.) You’ll now have two assembled sandwiches, ready to grill.
Transfer each sandwich carefully to a grill pan. Use a spatula to firmly press down on each, so you get some of the grill markings and so the ingredients smoosh together as the cheese melts.
When the first side is golden, carefully flip over and press down again with your spatula. When the second side is golden, remove to your work surface and cut each sandwich in half; serve when warm.
Makes 2 sandwiches.