When Denise, our local tomato pusher, stopped by after the Thursday market with a flat of Early Girl tomatoes, we jumped at the chance to do some hard core tomato projects. The booty: sun-dried tomatoes, oven-roasted tomatoes packed in olive oil and tomato-coconut soup. Here's Denise, with that charming all-your-friends-are-doing-it grin:
Part One: Burn 'Em to a Crisp
For our first project, we wanted to sun-dry tomatoes sans sun. Triangulating from a few internet recipes designed for a gas stove, we decided to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle them generously with salt, and dry them in the oven on 200 overnight. Here's what we started with:
And here's how it ended:
So we tried again with a few more mixed methods: (1) turning the oven down to 175 and cracking the oven door open--still too hot, (2) turning off the heat and letting the tomatoes sit in a pre-heated oven--not quite hot enough, and (3) letting the tomatoes sit on top of the stove while we oven-roasted some more fortunate tomatoes--just right, but takes forever. Finally, we ended up with about 2 cups of stovetop-dried tomatoes:
The take-away: The sun may be fickle, and it may give you skin cancer, but it appears to be the only reliable method for producing sun-dried tomatoes if, like us, you have an electric stove that doesn't have a "warm" setting. But try this out on your gas stoves, and let us know how it goes.
Step Two: Dry Our Tears, Fire Up the Oven, and Bring on the Olive Oil
Since we still had seventy tomatoes left and needed to keep the oven going for stovetop-dried tomatoes, we rolled up our sleeves and tried out the Figs Olives Wine recipe for roasted tomatoes preserved in olive oil. For those of you with electric stoves, we lowered the heat to 200 degrees. The drool-inducing final product:
I'm going to keep these in the fridge until, like, February... Yeah, right.
Step Three: Quick Monday Night Tomato-Coconut Soup
Phoebe's stepmother recently sent over The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide. And while it doesn't have any pictures for our food porn fix, it does offer this more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts soup, delicious over rice and ideal for a minimal-effort Monday evening dinner. Our slightly modified version follows; we left the skins on our tomatoes since they were so new and delicious, eliminated the added water to sharpen the flavors, increased the number of chiles and added powdered cumin at the end.
Tamatar Ka Shorba
4 large tomatoes (or 10 Early Girl tomatoes, in our case)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
salt to taste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 sprigs curry leaves, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3 dried red chiles, roughly pounded
1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
Puree tomatoes, cumin seeds and salt in a blender until tomatoes are completely pulverized. Pour into a medium-sized saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet and add curry leaves, mustard seeds, chiles and cumin. When the mustard seeds pop, pour the oil and seasonings into the soup.
A note about curry leaves: these can be found in Indian markets, and if you don't have access to them, don't substitute curry powder--these are the leaves of the kari plant and bear no botanical or gustatory relationship to curry powder. There's no real substitute, but Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian suggests holy basil for a different flavor.