Tomato Soldiers make a last stand.
Summer is quickly fading. I am not quite sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am sick to death of bugs. Bugs in the house. Bugs at the office. Bugs in the garden. The bugs are mean and hungry - an exceptionally lethal combination of temperaments. Just putting our dog Lollipop out to do her business is like offering these mean bugs a smorgasbord! I skittishly venture outside and offer myself up to the flying, biting little jerks. I stupidly believe I have a right to be in my own garden. What am I thinking? Here is the order of happenings:
1. I set a toe outside the sunroom.
2. I present a leg.
3. I offer the rest of me as if to say 'Dark meat or white?'
The whole experience leaves me...
4. frustrated, angry, itching and in general, glad the cold weather is around the corner!
That said, as much as I am "ready" for the cold weather, I am also decidedly NOT ready for the cold weather. I know what is coming...Wind so cold it will drive a chill through your bones so fierce it will last for days. A day that looks clear and sunny but is below zero and everything is covered in black ice. Nights beyond pitch black.
I have noticed since we moved to the East, I get this anxious feeling about winter coming. I enjoy sweaters and bundling and soup and mulled wine as much as the next person but I'm not really big on the aches and pains that accompany the cold so it's a mixed reaction. On the one hand, in-between summer and winter is fall. Fall is the universe's way of rewarding us for surviving August. Fall here in Pennsylvania is breathtaking. Ok, getting a bit off track here. Where was I? Oh, yes! Winter. My objective of harvesting is to prolong summer. I can prolong summer through my cooking, freezing, preserving and drying of my harvest get it? I can bring a bit of late summer to January. Bugs be damned! It doesn't make me itch any less but it's a comfort to know the bites that come with the harvest are worth it.
My mood lately is not the best. We have not had a proper rain for days and days, weeks really, and this affects me. As I offer sustenance to the flying jerks on my way to the garden, obviously unhappy about being part of the 'circle of life,' I curse and frantically fan the bugs away (to no avail) and come to a full stop as I realize... my tomatoes are ready and there are TONS of them! Tomatoes come at the end of summer as if to say 'Get us while we're hot!' Tomatoes are the last real fruits of summer. The sun-kissed and colorful little soldiers are sweet yet tangy, versatile and reliable. Have I mentioned bountiful? Tomatoes offer so many options to the home cook; here are just a few suggestions.
I enjoy Roasted Tomato Soup which is so simple. Here is how to make it:
Cut your tomatoes in half and place in a baking dish. Splash on some olive oil and season with salt and pepper if you wish. Roast the tomatoes until the skins shrivel and the tomato juice is bubbly; about 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees; depending on the size of the tomatoes. Now, very carefully (super hot stuff) dump the entire thing into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Season and serve. (You may wish to strain the soup for seeds and skins and you can thin it with broth or cream.) Sounds yummy right? It is! It's good hot or cold too. Roasted Tomato Soup is like an ode to summer because it's really best with garden or farmer's market tomatoes. It will work with any type too.
Another great and easy option for all those tomatoes is Roasted Tomato Sauce. For the Sauce:
Simply follow the above steps for Roasted Tomato Soup but instead of pureeing, just allow the tomatoes to cool and then freeze them whole. Freezing allows you to have garden tomatoes throughout the coming months. I guarantee it is worth the effort. If you have never frozen your garden tomatoes, you're in for a treat! I use the frozen tomatoes to make meatloaf or I make homemade tomato juice by straining the thawed tomatoes; think Bloody Marys. I will even pull off the skins of the roasted tomatoes, dry the skins out and make a Tomato Salt.
Each one of my tomatoes is precious and nothing is wasted! There are just so many options for tomatoes. I hope you try some of my suggestions but in the meantime, get out outside. Brave the heat and the garden bugs - and harvest! Go and rescue your tomato soldiers! You will be glad you did.
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Avid home cook and passionate instructor