Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

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September can be the time of tomato burnout, at least if you have your own garden or are friends with someone who gardens. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but fresh tomatoes at every meal do pall after awhile. We don’t personally have that problem this year, but we were inundated last year, especially with cherry tomatoes. I love the bounty of fruit you get from a cherry tomato plant, in July and August. By September I am usually faced with bowl after bowl of cherry tomatoes that no one is really all that interested in anymore.

The typical answer to too many tomatoes is to make sauce. This can be problematic with cherry tomatoes. No one is going to peel those babies and they sometimes have very thick skins. Last year I tried an experiment to deal with them in the quickest way possible. It was about a hundred degrees (I’m not exaggerating) and I wanted to get in and out of the kitchen in the shortest amount of time.

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Now, this does involve turning the oven on in the summer heat, but it isn’t on for long and the results make it worth it in my book. Long story short – roast those luscious nuggets of summer sunshine until they are browned and shriveled, which takes very little time since they are so small. Let them cool a little and then chuck them into the food processor. A quick whirl and they break down into sauce that is thickened by the pureed skins.

I like to freeze the sauce flat in ziplock bags, like I freeze my zucchini, to save freezer space. It also makes for easy and fast thawing later. You can thaw in the fridge overnight or put the bag in hot water. It also works to cut the bag off the frozen block of sauce and put it right in a pan to thaw over low heat.

Print or download the recipe.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
From The Cook’s Life
Yield varies

Cherry tomatoes
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake 20 minutes, or until softened and browning in spots. You might hear some of the tomatoes burst as they are cooking. There will be a fair amount of liquid on the pan from burst tomatoes and it might be caramelizing in spots. That is fine.

Let the tomatoes cool, on the pan, for about 30 minutes. The scrape, pour or otherwise transfer the tomatoes and all their juices to a food processor or blender. Process the tomatoes into a sauce. Scrape down the sides once and process again.

Pour the sauce into ziplock bags. Be sure to label them with the contents and date before you fill them or you’ll be writing on squishy bags. I like to use quart bags and fill them with about two cups of sauce. It is easiest to place the bag in a straight-sided glass or glass measuring cup before filling. Place the filled bags flat on a plate or a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen solid, you can store the bags upright like books or stack them flat.

When ready to use, thaw the bags overnight in the fridge or float in a bowl of hot water for about half an hour. You can also cut the bag off the frozen sauce and thaw it right in your cooking pot. Use the sauce as the base of any soup or stew, or spice it up for pizza or pasta.

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Zucchini for the Freezer

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‘Tis the season of zucchini – the time of year when gardeners are tired of the zucchini bounty and are happy to give friends, neighbors and random passersby their extra squash. I got so tired of my plant taking up most of my garden space that I took the whole thing out and planted a fall garden. More on that in another post.

I have mentioned dealing with all the zucchini in several posts. Can you tell that zucchini has been preoccupying me just a bit? Some of the harvest played a starring roll in lemon zucchini muffins and some featured prominently in pasta dishes or side dishes. And then the rest of it…

Most of the harvest ended up in the freezer, in the form of bags of shredded zucchini. Ready and waiting for me to make zucchini bread and muffins or to sauté to make a quick batch of zucchini pesto for pasta. When I’m not so tired of the blessed vegetable.

DSC_0349I have a ready stash now, stacked in the freezer in ziplock bags. Over the years I have develop a process that works for me and makes the most of precious freezer space. First, shred the zucchini, either by hand or with a food processor. For ease of filling, line a glass or other straight-sided container with a quart-sized ziplock bag, folding the top edge back over the glass. Fill the bag with about two cups of zucchini shreds. You can measure the first one and then fill the others to the same height as the first. I use two cups because that is what most of my recipes call for, and it fills the bag nicely.

DSC_0359Press all the air out of the bags and seal them tightly. Flatten the bags as much as possible, spreading the zucchini shreds out to the very edges of the bags. Label each bag with the contents and the date. Don’t skip the labeling or you will be stuck puzzling over the contents in January, when the contents are frosty and your memory is fuzzy. Freeze the bags flat, and then store them on their sides, like books in a shelf.

When you are ready to use the zucchini, the bags thaw in just a few hours on the counter. Or dip the sealed bag briefly in hot water until the zucchini is thawed enough to use. Or throw the frozen zucchini block right into boiling soup or pasta sauce.

What is your favorite way of dealing with garden abundance?

Something from Nothing

I’m working on cleaning out the freezer again today. I have been saving bones from cooked chicken breasts in the freezer marked, “For soup.” I marked it so I wouldn’t see a weird looking bag of mystery contents and throw it in the trash on the next clean-out. And they really could be trash. I mean, you’ve eaten the chicken, so why keep the bones? Well, they make lovely stock, when you cook them with a few veggies and some water.

I pulled out my bags of bones, yes there were two, and put them, still frozen, in a pot. I filled it about half full of water and added three carrots, a shallot and several cloves of garlic. I wished I had more shallots, but I wasn’t running to the store just for shallots or onions for stock. I also threw in a container of chopped celery I found when I was rooting around in the freezer for the bones. It wasn’t marked, but I know I chopped up the rest of a bunch of celery when I realized I wasn’t going to use it before it went bad. Can you tell the freezer is my savior when I am a victim of poor planning? By the way, I found the pesto I was looking for when I made the peach jam the other day. Now I just need to remember what I was going to do with it.

I let my freezer bounty simmer for about two hours and then tasted it. Pretty good, but needed salt, of course. A little salt, a little black pepper and I was ready to strain out the bits and take stock of my stock.

Now I have beautiful, homemade chicken stock for making soup, adding to recipes that just need a cup of chicken stock or making plain rice more interesting. I am going to use part of today’s stock to make chicken and dumplings, along with leftover roast chicken. But that is tomorrow’s post…

Something from Nothing Chicken Stock
from The Cook’s Life

 Of course you can make chicken stock from raw chicken and then use the meat for soup or other recipes. I prefer to bake or roast my chicken and use just the picked over bones for my stock, but feel free to start with bone-in breasts or thighs or a whole chicken. If you are cooking the chicken, be sure not to let the water come to a boil or you will end up with tough meat. Keep it at a gentle simmer.

Leftover bones from 6-8 chicken breasts or from a whole chicken
Water
3-4 carrots
2 medium onions or 4 medium shallots
5-10 cloves garlic
3-4 ribs celery
Pepper
Salt

As you can see the amounts vary considerably – adjust to what you have available and your preferences. Place the bones in a large pot (at least 6 quarts) and add water until it is about halfway up the bones. They don’t have to be covered with water. Put the pot over medium heat and let it start heating while you prepare the vegetables.

Peel the carrots, onions or shallots and garlic. Cut them in half or quarters and add them into the pot, poking them down into the bones. Cut the celery ribs in half or quarters and add to the pot. It won’t look like enough water, but the bones and vegetables will shrink and compact as they cook. Too much water and you will have thin, weak-tasting stock. Put the lid on the pot and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, with the lid on, for 1½-2 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that comes to the top.

After two hours, taste the stock. It should taste like chicken and vegetables. Add pepper and salt to taste – start with ½ teaspoon of salt and go from there. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out.

Strain the stock through a mesh sieve and discard the bones and vegetables. Chill the stock for several hours and remove any fat that congeals at the top. If you want to get really frugal, you can freeze the fat separately and use it to sauté rice before adding the liquid.

If your stock tastes too watery after you strain it, you can return it to the pot and continue cooking it without the lid until it is more concentrated.

Store the stock in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for longer storage. Freeze it in amounts that you want for recipes, so you aren’t thawing 6 cups of stock to use 1 cup of it.

Download the recipe here.