Summer in Pennsylvania meant stepping downstairs to a kitchen table overflowing with tomatoes. It taught me to both love tomatoes and wonder when they were going to take over the household and squeeze me out of my room.
My father could never plant less than 20 tomato plants. Our cousin Tony would start seedlings and bring them over, then dad would go buy plants, then someone else would bring plants, so every August, tomatoes covered the basement kitchen table. Yes, basement kitchen table, because in our Italian household, one kitchen was never enough.
Even in the last two years of my dad’s life when he couldn’t plant tomatoes or dig anymore, he supervised. He wasn’t strong enough to help, so he stood in the living room’s picture window, looking out across the grassy backyard, watching me digging in his garden. I remember my hands wrapped around the wooden handle of the hoe on a sweltering July afternoon. I felt compelled to weed around all the tomatoes –grabbing the clumps of weeds with my hands and tossing them aside. I was hot, sweaty and exhausted. I looked up and he was standing there giving me the OK sign with his hand. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his kids work their guts out.
When I was done, I grabbed the garden hose and totally soaked myself from head to toe with it. However inconvenient the wetness was, it was totally worth it.
Since I now have no garden, I never have too many tomatoes, unless they’re on sale. Then I have no control and always buy too many. But finally, there’s a recipe that takes care of that, is fantastic, and doesn’t involve canning!
After a recent tomato binge I was re-reading a book by Molly Wizenberg, the Creator of the food blog, Orangette. My friend Linda, introduced me to her blog years ago. Actually, I think she threatened to strangle me if I didn’t read it because she knew I would love Molly’s blog and her recipes. Linda was right. Linda’s always right.
Molly’s a wonderful writer and an amazing cook with a passion for tomatoes you wouldn’t expect from a girl from Oklahoma.
In her book, “A Homemade Life,” she talked about one summer when there were too many tomatoes and she and her dad slow roasted them. When she wrote, “They were fleshy and deep red, with edges that crinkled like smocking on a child’s dress. When we bit into them, they shot rich vermilion juice across the table,” the description left me drooling like a baby and I couldn’t wait to try them.
She was right, they are amazing. She made hers with coriander, but I was out of coriander, so I just made mine with olive oil and sea salt. They cook down into syrupy tomato heaven.
Bite into one on a toasted baguette with herbed goat cheese and a tiny drizzle of olive oil and you won’t even mind the squirt of tomato juice that gets on your shirt. I also chopped some up and added them to a pasta I just made with sautéed zucchini and spinach that was delicious. I made it with some circular pasta (in the photo at left) my sister-in-law Donna sent me. The tomatoes are also a great addition to a salad.
I’ve been on a less meat, more vegetable diet ever since I watched a show on Netflix a while back called, “What the Health.” I’m sure the vegans of the world funded it, but I think I was probably eating too much meat anyway. If you have a chance, please watch it and give me your feedback. I’d love to know what you think. I know it definitely made me stop and think about my eating habits.
Here’s the recipe for the tomatoes from Molly’s book, “A Homemade Life.” And below that is the recipe for the veggie pasta I made.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander
3 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200.
Wash and dry the tomatoes, trim away the stem end halve them lengthwise. Place them in a large bowl, and, using your hands, toss them gently with the oil. Arrange them cut side up on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and ground coriander — about a pinch of each for every 4 to 6 tomato halves.
Bake until the tomatoes crinkle at the edges and shrink to about half their original size, 4 to 6 hours. They should still be juicy in their centers. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature. Put them in in airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. (Once they’re cooled, you can easily slip off their skins for easier eating or cooking in pasta.)
Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
1/2 lb pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. of dried Italian seasoning or
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
3 Italian zucchini or Magda squash sliced lengthwise and chopped into 1/4 inch slices
2 to three handfuls of fresh spinach
5 halves of slow roasted tomatoes, chopped into quarters with skin removed
1/2 to 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 Tbsp. Whipping cream (you can omit this if you’re vegan)
Grated Parmesan or Romano
Boil water in a large pot. Add salt and 1/2 lb. pasta. While the pasta is boiling, saute the garlic, zucchini, and herbs in a large skillet until the zucchini is a light golden brown. Then add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. The pasta should be done by the time the vegetables are done, so drain it and add it slowly to the vegetables. (If not, turn off the heat on the veggies so they don’t overcook.) Once the pasta is cooked, add as much as you want – you don’t have to use all of it. Add the chicken/vegetable broth, the whipping cream, and the chopped basil, and stir to combine over low heat. (If too dry, add more broth.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.