Perfectly Light Tomato Sauce

The garden has had its share of challenges this year.  We’ve gotten too much rain and thus my squash plants are struggling.  I had some green worm issues with the brussel sprouts and collards.  But my tomatoes are kicking ass!  We’ve had a constant flow of tomatoes over the last month.  It’s so nice not to have to get these from the store and they taste so much better!  The only challenge it to keep using them so they aren’t going to waste.  I’ve made a zillion salad variations.  I’ve eaten them with salt and pepper.  I’ve chopped and diced them and added them to so many recipes.   We been eating salsa out the wazoo (Matt is magical when it comes to making salsa).  I was even able to get a nice batch of Tomato Jelly a few weeks ago.  But when we went home for 4th of July and returned with a huge bag of tomatoes from his folk’s garden, I knew I had to come up with something else.

So Monday night I cooked a fresh tomato sauce to freeze.  It turned out super yummy!  I’m currently enjoying some over black rice and field peas for lunch.

My sauce is very light, because I don’t like to use tomato paste.  That creates something too similar to a marinara like you’d get in the grocery store which just isn’t my personal favorite.  This turns out much thinner with a color and flavor most similar to a vodka sauce (without the dairy).

As tends to happen when I cook, I made it up as I went along.  I played it by taste preference and therefore don’t have the exact measurements (no measuring cups or spoons were used).  Below is an estimate of what I did that can be used as a guide to make your own creation.

You’ll need:

Tomatoes- I used approx. 12 pounds of several varieties- heirloom, small roma, and Cherokee purple.

Minced garlic-  4 tbsp (less if you’re not a garlic freak like me!)

Fresh oregano- 3-4 tbsp leaves

Fresh basil- 3-4 tbsp leaves

Bell Peppers- 3

Onions- 2 (I used Vidalia.)

Olive Oil (optional)- 4 tbsp (I like the consistency and flavor this brings.  But if you’re cutting calories, this can be skipped.)

Red pepper flakes- 1 dash

Salt & Pepper to taste

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Step 1: Get rid of those pesky skins!

Score the bottoms of the tomatoes.  Scald for 1 minute in boiling water.  Remove and place in ice water.  Peel away tomato skins.

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Step 2:  Prep everything

Roughly chop skinned tomatoes and add to a large pot.

Dice onions and peppers.

Mince garlic

Separate your herb leaves and muddle (I used a mortar and pestle)

Step 3:  Cook!

Combine your tomatoes, herbs, 3 tbsp olive oil and 2/3 of the garlic in a large pot. Bring to a low boil and then simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a dash of red pepper flakes.

Saute the peppers, onion, and remaining garlic in a large non-stick pan with a splash of olive oil over medium high heat until lightly caramelized.

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Step 4:  Blend!

Empty your tomato mixture into a blender or food processor and mix just until it is smooth (no tomato chunks).  Add your pepper and onion mixture and pulse quickly 2-3 times.  Some chunks of onion and pepper should remain.

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I had to do mine in two batches due to blender size limitations.

Step 5: Store!

Let your sauce cool and then bag in zip lock bags sized to accommodate your cooking needs.

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Hope you enjoy this sauce!  Let me know what you think!

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  Krooked Treez – Ocean View (LA Version)

Eating:  This sauce over rice and field peas with a boca burger.

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  Matt makes a most excellent cooking buddy!  He was very involved in the cooking project above.

Tomato Jelly!

So my old lady canning efforts continued  this past weekend.  I made tomato jelly for the second year.  I was so excited for my garden to finally put out enough tomatoes at once to make this possible.   This stuff is SO GOOD!   Since Saturday, the tomatoes continue to ripen at a crazy pace.  So it looks like my next canning adventure may not be long off!

 

This year I made a small modification to the recipe, because I forgot to buy a lemon to zest. Ha!  So orange zest it was!  And it turned out to be a wonderful change.

 

Yields:  About 6 half pint jars

3 cups prepared tomatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs of tomatoes)

1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 C lemon juice

1 box powdered pectin

To prepare tomatoes:  Wash ripe tomatoes.  Scald, peel, and chop tomatoes.  Place chopped tomatoes in a saucepan and heat slowly to simmering, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occassionaly.  Take cooked tomatoes and place in a blender.  Pulse until no chunks remain.  Measure 3 cups of the cooked tomatoes into a large saucepan.  Add orange rind, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves.

 

To make jelly:  Sterilize canning jars.  Add lemon juice to the prepared tomatoes in the saucepan.  Measure sugar and set aside.  Stir powdered pectin into tomatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  At once, stir in sugar.  Stir and bring to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.  Then boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

 

Remove from heat.  Skim off foam.  Pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Place the lids on tightly.  Process in a Boiling Water Canner (ie. big pot that allows water to be filled above the jars).  5 minutes.

 

My jars sealed in about 30 minutes.  And the jelly tasted delicious.  Let me know how yours comes out!

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Stay positive and love your life!

-Melissa

 

Today:

Listening to:  Them Crooked Vultures – No One Loves Me & Neither Do I

Eating:  Caprese salad and mushroom soup.

Drinking:  Sugar free Monster

Random fact:  I love the show Dexter.  I can’t believe it’s the last season!

A Suburban Garden: Tomatoes and Squash and Cukes….Oh My!

Last spring I started the project of turning my weed infested side yard into a small vegetable garden.  Most of my yard is shady owing to the fact that I have a million trees.  This is the only area of my yard that receives full sun and is not spoken for by a tree, a bush, or some other landscape effort.  I wanted to take what was my least favorite portion of my yard and turn it into a place I actually want to visit.  Enter lots of hard work:

We started by ripping up the insane amount of weeds and growth that had taken over the area.  What a mess!

Then the ground needed to be leveled and cultivated.  For this, I ended up renting a tiller or as Bee called it a “ground chopping tool”.

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Here is the most macho picture Bee has taken in his entire life.  Look at him just chopping that ground!

We then bought three kits to build raised beds and ten big bags of soil.  After a lot of work, sweat, and Bee squealing about bugs getting on him, we had this:

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Such farmers.

A short while later I had my first harvest:

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It looks pretty meager, but I was very excited!

By the end of the season, that little garden had produced an insane amount of veggies.  I ate so much squash I was sick of it.  I canned some delicious Tomato Jelly (sounds odd if you’ve never tried it, but it’s amazingly yummy) and some tomatoes, peppers, and onions for sauce use later.  I gave away more peppers than I could count.  The experience was so rewarding that I couldn’t wait to plant this year’s garden.

Lessons I learned to carry over to suburban garden 2.0:

  1. Don’t plant so many peppers.  I think I had 5+ plants last year.  That’s a lot of peppers for one person!
  2. Space out the plants a bit more/don’t plant so much.  The garden got unruly last year!  Stuff was everywhere.
  3. Beans are a waste of time in a garden this small.  I wasted so much space on beans and got enough for roughly one and a half meals.
  4. Tomato plants get crazy and take up far more room and need far more bracing that you anticipate.

This year planting took all of an hour.  Matt joined me for the task this year and was relived to not have to till anything.  We weeded, added some additional soil, and put down a bit of fertilizer.

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We’ve had a ton of rain over the last two months and the garden is loving life.  I swear that the squash and cucumbers grow 6 inches+ post shower.  They’re like mutants!  Here’s our first harvest (aside from the lettuce we’ve been enjoying for months):

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These squash were two inches long two days before this picture.

When the tomatoes start to ripen, we’re going to have to be ready to act quickly!  There must be no less than 100 green tomatoes out there just bidding their time.  Salsa, marinara, and jelly are planned.  We’re also going to be pickling some cucumbers…our first attempt at this.  If anyone has a great pickle recipe, send it my way!

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Matty better be glad I think he’s the best thing since sliced bread, because I’m totally eligible to sign-up for for farmersonly.com now!

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Squash peeking through.

Planted in this year’s garden:  squash, cucumbers, jalepenos, yellow bell peppers, sweet peppers, butter lettuce, brussel sprouts, collard greens, 4 varieties of tomatoes, onions, and radishes.

I will post recipes as we continue to harvest, cook, and can!  All you gardeners out there, please feel free to share your secrets!

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  The Smashing Pumpkins – Here Is No Why

Eating:  Brussel Sprouts, green beans, and black rice.

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  I always wanted braces as a kid even though I had no need for them.