Every year I grow a tomato plant and about this time, late summer, it produces way more than I can handle. At the farmers market, tomatoes are cheaper than ever as are complimentary ingredients like peppers, cilantro, basil, etc. Which always leaves me left with heaping bowls of tomatoes and until this year I was never sure what to do with them.
The cultural and family expertise of handling real food is many generations removed in my family. My remaining grandparent only has a few tips and only around Atlantic fish (he’s from Newfoundland in Canada). This means I’ve had to play around with various tomato recipes while researching what others do. Now, a few years later, I am leading a renaissance of real food in my family and ready to share those tips with you. Hopefully, this will inspire you to get in the kitchen or visit your farmers market for a few pounds of tomatoes!
I’ve found four delicious ways to handle the tomato overload. They are marinara/meat sauce with pasta, pico de gallo, insalata caprese, and plain old can-freezing. The first three can be a full meal with all the extra ingredients, while the last insures a prolonged tomato enjoyment throughout the winter.
Creating a marinara sauce is the easiest way to use up several pounds of tomatoes. Minimally cut-up the tomatoes, add to a pot, and heat at a low simmer for an hour. Add whatever suits your fancy. My favorite is to add a whole branch of basil because it makes the house smells like an italian kitchen.
Sometimes I add ground beef from the farmers market. It makes the meal much heartier and satisfies the iron and vitamin b12 cravings I get with my mostly vegetarian diet. Finish up with your favorite kind of pasta and you have several meals for the week.
Pico de gallo is my staple food of the summer. I eat it with chips, in tacos, over avocado, and many others. Since I eat it every day and make it so often I’ve developed some super-quick methods for creating it. No tricks or shortcuts, just some serious vegetable chopping and that’s all about getting good with the knife. Look at it like an art form, practice as you go, and eventually you can finish your chopping in minutes.
My Pico is embellished with whatever I can find at the farmers market, such as cilantro, shallots, jalapeños, or tomatillos. Don’t forget the winter holdovers, onion and garlic, and maybe even try something new. I love expanding my palette with new items at the farmers market (like cactus!).
This last recipe for insalata caprese is a little harder to make and requires some specific ingredients. I recommend the 30-minute mozzarella recipe and visiting a natural foods store or Amazon for the citric acid and rennet. The first time following the recipe I thought it was all wrong but it came out fine.
Add sliced tomatoes and basil leaves and you’re good to go. Although, a real insalata caprese asks for olive oil and vinegar. I consider it optional.
The last, and easiest, recommendation I have is to smash all the tomatoes into a jar and freeze them. I mean that literally, my family discovered that tomatoes mash easily and that saves a lot of time cutting. It’s a lot of fun too.
We always seem to run out of jars and scrap together containers out of whatever is available in the pantry. Then, promptly forget all about them until summer tomatoes are distant memory (January?).
These are my summertime routines for dealing with all those extra tomatoes. They become a normal part of my week and I end up eating more tomatoes than I ever thought possible. I do think they are delicious which helps out a lot. Plus, I am always reminded of Italy and Spain and how many ways they use tomatoes. It makes me feel very European and old-school.
Oh, and make sure to share any recipes you use.