Tag Archives: tomato

Caprese Salad

 

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest of things can tend to be the most delicious?  Sometimes we get wrapped up in crazy new flavors, seasonings, toppings, ingredients list as long as your arm. But it truly is quality that makes all the difference.  When produce is seasonal, fresh, local, and picked in its prime, there is nothing better. And nothing says “summer” quite like a fresh Caprese salad. Soft, creamy mozzarella cheese, tangy fresh basil, and plump juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine. OPA!

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High-quality cheese is a delight, while 99 cent slices of pasteurized processed cheese like product is hardly worth wasting the calories and preserving your insides. And you can taste the difference between a true fresh pressed, high quality olive oil and a knock off lower quality oil or mixture. It should taste grassy and strong on its own, maybe tickle the back of your throat a little. That is the anti oxidants working. It is worth investing in some! A little bit goes a long way.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh tomato
  • 1 large ball fresh mozarella cheese
  • Big handful fresh basil leaves
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Slice the tomato and mozzarella into slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Layer them alternating on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and sprinkle on some sea salt. That’s it.

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You can also make this salad on skewers to serve as an appetizer or snack, or use the tiny mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes for an adorable itty bitty version! These flavors also lend themselves very well to bruschetta or pasta dishes.

 

What is your favorite summer dish? Do you have other recipes with the Caprese flavors you’d like to share? Comment below!

5 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes

 

As summer winds down into the gorgeous chill days of fall, gardens are finally running out of steam on producing tomatoes.  If you’ve read earlier articles you know how much fun I’ve had with gardening in my neighborhood this summer!  Baskets upon baskets of these lovely red jewels.  And now, sadly, my final harvest is coming to fruit on the vine, and soon I’ll pull up the plants before Jack Frost takes them away.

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For those who still have one last bumper crop, or have a huge pile on the counter starting to soften, here are 5 ways to easily preserve tomatoes for all year round.  From as simple as cut & freeze to the process of canning (made simple with my one easy trick!) there are lots of ways to put up what you have now for when it is no longer available fresh, and preserve the lovely nutrients inside.

Option 1: Cut & Freeze

The simplest of all: just cut up your tomatoes into halves or quarters, and toss into a freezer bag. Label and put in the freezer. Later, you can use these tomatoes in sauces, soups, stews, and chilies with no problem. If you want to remove the skins, simply defrost and the skins will fall right off! Or you can leave whole, or puree them with the skins on.

Option 2: Oven Drying

Oven Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

It is oh-so-easy to dry your own tomatoes! All you really need is a wire rack, a knife, oodles of tomatoes (preferably roma), and some time.  See my article How to Make Oven Dried Tomatoes.

Option 3: Canning diced tomatoes

Quarts of Homemade Canned Pasta Sauce

Canning your own diced tomatoes is a snap! As long as you have the time to invest, canning your own will create a much healthier, flavorful option than store-bought cans. Simply dice up your tomatoes, place in a canning jar, and process. Be sure to always follow the rules of safe canning whether using a water bath or pressure canning method.

Option 4: Canning pasta sauce

Canning Pasta Sauce

Canning pasta sauce is only slightly more involved than diced tomatoes in that you add spices to the jars. I added fresh basil, garlic salt, and dried onion. Read the full article HERE.

Option 5: Turn them into tomato products

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If plain tomatoes aren’t your favorite, there are still SO MANY tomato-based products we use daily that you can make in your own kitchen. Give some or all of them a try:

And there you have it, easy ways to preserve tomato bounty! Any home gardener who has weathered at least one tomato season has had more chopped fresh tomatoes than they could handle, and these are all tried-and-true preservation methods. Using these techniques you can enjoy the flavor of summer all year long.

How to Save Tomato Seeds

 

As the world settles into the summer-fall change of pace, kids going back to school, traffic patterns adjusting, temperatures cooling off, birds are migrating, stores change their displays to autumn holidays, and gardeners are busy preserving the tapering bounty of produce.

In season now are fresh juicy peaches, heavy enough to break limbs as they nearly fall off the tree, pears of all shapes, sizes and colors, summer squashes like butternut, delicata, and sweet dumpling, the tail end of watermelon and cantaloupes, and the heat lovers like peppers and tomatoes are ramping down production.

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Although, this doesn’t look very ramped-down to me!

Meanwhile, the cold weather lovers like spinach, bok choi, brussels sprouts, pumpkins, and winter squash are coming alive and some may be planted now for a second fall/early winter harvest.

One of my absolute favorite things about gardening is the seeds. And the miracle that one tiny seed is capable of producing pounds upon pounds of produce. And that one single fruit from that plant, if you keep one single seed and plant it again, you can again get pounds and pounds of produce!

I honestly sit and wonder sometimes how many growing seasons it would take for one tomato seed to reproduce enough to cover the planet.

Say one tomato makes 200 seeds, and each seed is planted the next year to create 200 plants. Then each plant creates twenty fruits, each with 200 seeds. Now you have 40,000 seeds, each capable of being planted again the next year.

And so on.

Tomatoes could inherit the Earth in about 10 years, I think.

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Seeds from heirloom Italian tomato varieties

There are so many good reasons to save seeds:

  • It promotes heirloom varieties – non-GMO and non-altered versions of a plant that will create new, similar plants the following growing season; each unique
  • You produce plants that are best-adapted to your individual climate, elevation, and soil. No store-bought seeds can be ideally suited to every location, but a few growing seasons of choosing the best fruit and saving the seeds will breed the traits that are best for you & your plants
  • It is essentially free food! If you save seeds, you only have to buy them one time, but can plant indefinitely
  • It promotes self-reliance. If you can grow your own food year after year, it doesn’t matter if the store runs out or doesn’t have any nice-looking produce, you know you can harvest your own right out of your back yard
  • You can create ‘designer produce’. Seed saving is a little bit like genetic modification, only much slower and done as nature does. You can choose fruits based on how quickly they mature, how many leaves the plant grows, or color, and by choosing the trait(s) you want you can enhance the chance that more of the next generation will have those traits. Eventually you can create an entirely new, true-breeding species!

With that said, here’s how to save seeds from tomatoes easily. It is much simpler than you may think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large tomato of a variety you want to save
  • Cup of water
  • Time

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Step 1: Cut the top off the tomato & discard or compost it.

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Step 2: Cut the tomato into wedges, and squeeze out the pulp and seeds into a cup. It’s okay to get juice and goo in with the seeds, you will get rid of it soon.

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Step 3: Cover with a paper towel or cloth and let it sit at room temperature for a day or two. The water may get frothy, and some seeds may sink while a few float. The goo will slowly degrade, leaving the seeds uncovered.

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Step 4: Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, or simple pour off the cloudy water and re-cover until there is nothing left but seeds. Spread onto a plate and let air dry for 24 hours.

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Step 5: Put the dry seeds into an envelope or other container, and store it in a cool, dry area where it is not likely to get wet or be invaded by insects.

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Canned tomato sauce from my garden tomatoes

Step 6: The next planting season, plant your seeds and watch them grow! Soon your seeds may have stories attached to them, you can create your own fun names for the new species, and pass them down to your friends and family for their enjoyment too.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

 

For those who do not know, late summer is when the garden bounty is rolling in, including tomatoes and herbs like basil. Home gardeners are likely giving away baskets of fresh veggies and herbs to friends, family, and neighbors. Those who know how and have the time & inclination are putting up the excess for the long, cold winter ahead by canning, drying, and freezing.

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I planted a few basil seeds in late April, and had no idea they would take off so well! They were tiny seedlings when I had them in a pot in the window, but when I put them outside they just flourished! Now I have a basil bush just outside my front door. It is wonderfully convenient to just run out and grab a few leaves.

This tomato soup recipe is stunningly simple. Don’t let its simplicity fool you though, it is also amazingly delicious. There is nothing quite so amazing as fresh, local produce simply prepared. Orange goo in a can doesn’t even come close.

With only 3 ingredients, this soup is so easy a five-year-old could probably make it. And, honestly, you don’t even need the basil, you can just make a simple creamy tomato soup by leaving it out. I added it because you can only eat so much pesto in one week. 🙂

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And the final bonus, it is both vegetarian and vegan, as well as gluten free! If you just blended it all, I bet it could be made raw too! It is very healthy, as well as Paleo and Mediterranean. There isn’t a diet I know of on which you cannot eat this soup. If you don’t have or don’t like coconut milk, you can omit it for a regular tomato soup, or use cows milk, almond milk, etc instead.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 can coconut milk (6-7 oz)
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • Optional: olive oil, salt & pepper

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Step 1: Open the coconut milk and mix it up with a spoon. Pour half into a pot and begin heating. Dice up your tomatoes into quarters and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10-12 minutes.

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Step 2: You can stop here if you don’t mind your soup a little chunky and don’t want to add basil, it has a nice rustic texture at this point. Would be great served with some whole-grain bread. But if you want it creamy and smooth, pop it into the blender and give it a whirl.

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Step 3: Add the handful of basil, and blend again.

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(Note: be sure to have the lid on the blender firmly. Otherwise, you end up with a hot, orange mess all over your stove. Not that I would know from experience…)

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Pour your hot, finished creamy tomato soup into 2 bowls, top with sea salt & black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. This makes a little less than 1 quart of soup, and can easily be doubled to use the whole can of coconut milk. Simply add more tomatoes.

Enjoy!

Creamy Basil Tomato Soup

Creamy Basil Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can coconut milk (6-7 oz)
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • Optional: olive oil, salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Open the coconut milk and mix it up with a spoon. Pour half into a pot and begin heating. Dice up your tomatoes into quarters and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  2. You can stop here if you don't mind your soup a little chunky and don't want to add basil, it has a nice rustic texture at this point. Would be great served with some whole-grain bread. But if you want it creamy and smooth, pop it into the blender and give it a whirl.
  3. Add the handful of basil, and blend again. Pour the hot soup into two bowls, and top with sea salt & black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Enjoy with some fresh whole grain bread or a nice green salad.
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Italian Cucumbers & Tomatoes

 

In the summer heat, with the garden beginning to produce bumper crops, there is nothing better than a refreshing side dish you can pick from your own yard (or farmers market or grocery store) and have ready in under ten minutes. This can be served room temperature or refrigerated, and is easy to make ahead for a party later or the next day, but fast enough to be ready like, now.

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Cucumber has cooling properties, and tomatoes have tons of trace minerals and compounds. Put the two together, and you’ll always get something delicious with a side of healthy. Feel free to mix it up with whatever herbs you have handy. I had chives, but dill, parsley, mint, or basil would also go nicely here. You could also add in feta or goat cheese if the spirit moved you.

Oh, and if you don’t have or don’t like bottled Italian dressing, feel free to quickly whip up your own vinaigrette. Combine one from each of the following: 1/4 cup (white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice) + 2-3 tbsp (olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, palm oil). Optional additions: mashed or diced garlic cloves, fresh/dried herbs, salt and/or pepper, and infused oils or vinegars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (or 2 large, diced)
  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped herbs
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing (affiliate link)

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Step 1: If using cherry tomatoes, cut in half. If using large round tomatoes, dice into quarters or eighths. Rinse the cucumber well, and cut half into small cubes.

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Step 2: Dice your herbs, feel free to combine more than one kind too. Mix it all together in a bowl and drizzle on the dressing. Toss to coat.

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This awesome side dish has graced many a backyard barbecue over the years, and will continue to do so for a very long time. It can be left in the refrigerator overnight, and up to 3 days. The longer you leave it, the more water will come out of the veggies though, so by the third day it gets a little soggy. I bet you’ll finish it all in one sitting anyhow. 😉

Below is the total nutrition information for this dish. It makes about 4 servings at 1/2 cup each.

Nutrition Facts

 

User Entered Recipe
  1 Serving 
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 281.4
  Total Fat 18.2 g
  Saturated Fat 1.6 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 903.2 mg
  Potassium 261.5 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 25.4 g
  Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
  Sugars 12.1 g
  Protein 1.2 g
  Vitamin A 27.7 %
  Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
  Vitamin B-6 3.6 %
  Vitamin C 99.1 %
  Vitamin D 0.0 %
  Vitamin E 0.7 %
  Calcium 2.7 %
  Copper 3.0 %
  Folate 6.5 %
  Iron 6.7 %
  Magnesium 4.8 %
  Manganese 6.8 %
  Niacin 1.9 %
  Pantothenic Acid     2.9 %
  Phosphorus     4.6 %
  Riboflavin 2.4 %
  Selenium 0.1 %
  Thiamin 2.7 %
  Zinc 2.2 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Mock-Caprese Goat Cheese Bruschetta

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Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer or snack, consisting of bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper. Outside of Italy, bruschetta has become a word used for toast topped with just about anything. The most popular is diced tomato with olive oil and mozzarella or other cheese.

Caprese salad, or “insalata Caprese” is another Italian antipasto, or appetizer. Created to resemble the colors of the Italian flag, red, white and green, it consists of thick slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves. Normally topped with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Since these are two of my favorite Italian appetizers, I decided to combine them into one delicious bite. However,  at the time I had no fresh mozzarella. Nor basil. Hence, the “mock-caprese”. However, you could use realistically any white cheese, and any fresh herb, and I’m sure it would be tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 1 thick slice farmhouse bread (or other whole wheat slice)
  • 1 fat, fresh Roma or beefsteak tomato
  • 2 tbsp garlic & chive goat cheese (or 1 thick slice mozzarella)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Step 1: Spread the goat cheese over the slice of bread, either with or without toasting it first.
Step 2: Slice the tomato into thick rings and put on top of the cheese.
Step 3: Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. If using fresh herbs, layer them on top now.

You could easily scale this up for a lovely party appetizer, or make as few as will satisfy a snacking crave.