September 17, 2021

A la Carte: Too Many Tomatoes? Lee Has All Sorts of Solutions for You

Lee White

A couple of weeks ago I went to a small party at Washington Park in Groton. It was held outside in one of a half dozen “cabins,” each of which have concrete floors, a few dark-stained columns, good sturdy roofs and wooden picnic tables with attached  “chairs.”

It was a very casual party, with pizza, already-barbecued chicken wings and coolers of beer, wine, soft drinks and water. Good thing for all of those things, because the humidity was high and the temperature, at 4 p.m. on a Saturday, was spiking in the 90s. 

I had a lovely conversation with Joyce Hedrick, wife of the mayor of Groton City. Even though Groton has fewer than 45,000  inhabitants, unlike Gaul (which, as we learned in Latin II, is in three parts), Groton has five parts: City of Groton, Town of Groton, Noank, Groton Long Point and half of Mystic.

Anyway, Joyce and Keith have a vegetable garden. Keith just canned pouches of green beans that week, but Joyce was going to begin making marinara sauce.

She wondered if it could be frozen, avoiding the steamy job of canning. I said I roast, then freeze tomatoes in late summer, which I thaw for stews, braises and sauces.

As for worry about botulism, tomatoes are so acidic that they can be frozen raw or cooked, whether sliced, chopped or pureed. Of course, the tomatoes can be made into a marinara (chopped and cooked with garlic, onions and seasoning), although I would wait to add fresh basil before serving. 

I often buy half a bushel of Roma tomatoes. In a couple of large sheet pans covered with parchment paper, I cut the tomatoes end to end and place them cut side up on the pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle them  with extra-virgin olive oil. If you roast them in a 250 degree oven for two or three hours, then you can pack them in plastic bags and freeze them.

But I found this recipe that might be even better. I might double or triple the recipe and freeze it.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Photo by Kiriakos Verros on Unsplash.

From The Four Season of Pasta, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins (Penguin, New York, 2015)

Yield: 2 to 3 cups sauce, enough for 4 to 6 servings

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onions, sliced not too thin
2 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Greek or Sicilian oregano (optional)
About 2 pounds ripe-as-you-can-get tomatoes

Set oven at 400 degrees.

Spread 2 tablespoons oil over bottom of roasting dish into which tomatoes will fit.

Combine onion and garlic on the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste and oregano if using. Stir vigorously to mix everything together; spread ingredients out to make a layer across the bottom of the dish.

Cut tomatoes in half. Core the stem ends. Sat halves cut side down, on top of the onion garlic layer. Dribble remaining 6 tablespoons oil over the tops (you may not need all the oil).

Bake 45 minutes to an hour. At the end of that time, remove pan and let tomatoes cool down. Pull off the skins and discard. Combine all roasted ingredients and, if you wish, chop or puree with an immersion blender. Or leave as is—the rustic look can also be lovely.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

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