I’m always glad to see the sun, especially after cloudy days and rainstorms (and rainbows are a definite bonus). The tomatoes in my container garden seemed to magically ripen in-between the intermittent rain storms, which is Mother Nature's way of saying I got this! It makes me smile when I see vine ripened fruit which is ready for harvest.
August is here and the best tomatoes seemingly wait for this month to show their stuff.
I recall the bounty of tomatoes which filled my mothers apron pockets daily as she brought the harvest into our house. We ate tomatoes at almost every meal, usually with just a sprinkle of salt. The tomatoes lay on the kitchen counter and I'd see my Dad grab one like an apple and take a huge bite with the juice running down his chin and arms.
An open faced tomato sandwich with mozzarella, slices of tomato, basil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper is a summer favorite in our house. Sometimes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Dad took off the month of August from his dental practice and went fishing as many days as possible. I packed him hearty lunches with sandwiches (he really did like PB&J), fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, and hard boiled eggs--food he could eat with one hand and fish with the other. I'm convinced he shared his lunch with some of the other guys on the Flying D fishing boat who didn't pack a lunch. He rarely missed a chance to fish and we'd occasionally travel with him to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn just to see the boats come in after a long day.
Susans garden is also starting to bear fruit as we compare notes daily as to what's ready for harvest. Her peppers seemed to ripen overnight!
I’ll be making tomato sauce to freeze as a reminder of summer when the winter sets in. As a quasi urban farmer, I'm always observing and learning what I can do better when it comes to growing, harvesting and food preservation. Thank you farmers and other gardeners for generously sharing your knowledge. I don't can foods, however, the deep freezer and pantry hasn't let us down, especially over the last few months.
Roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic, fresh basil, salt & pepper are a fast and delicious way to make a topping for bruschetta.
My favorite way to preserve a taste of summer is to make tomato sauce. This is a simple recipe that's always delicious. I actually bake the sauce in the oven, after about 45 minutes simmered on the stovetop. The Roma and plum tomatoes did very well last summer prepared this way, however, I’ve used a variety of tomatoes.
Cut a small shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Core each tomato. Fill 3/4 full a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Peel the tomatoes; the best way to do this is to plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then place in a bowl of cold water. Their peels will slip off easily. Quarter the tomatoes and set aside.
In a large pot, sauté 1 whole minced sweet medium sized onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in 2 teaspoons of olive oil until soft but not browned over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt, pepper and sugar and stir gently. Let the mixture come to a simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add a cup or two of red wine. In a 325 degree oven, place your pan of sauce--I use a Le Creuset braiser on the lower middle rack. Bake for 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Add basil once sauce has reduced and is thickened. The slow roasting brings out the best flavor in tomatoes, in my opinion. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, I use an immersion blender to break down and purée the remaining pieces of tomato. Adjust seasoning to taste.
I vacuum sealed bags of sauce for the freezer and prepared mason jars for the fridge for short term use. We ate the last of the 2019 sauce about three weeks ago and it was perfect. Tasted just like the day I made it.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and lifestyle company. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
Rittman Orchards and Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport www.clevelandairport.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com
Nature's Oasis Lakewood www.naturesoasis.com
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