I enjoy every part of gardening, but there is no doubt in my mind that the reason to have a garden is to have tomatoes. This year we have four tomato plants and two grape tomato plants at our community garden and another six tomato plants at home. We planted them extremely early this year because of the crazy weather and already have a bounty, but last Saturday, I also decided I couldn’t pass up a box of canning tomatoes for a mere $15. So, in addition to John’s family heirlooms (Vinson Watts), Oxhearts and Best Boys, we had a box of really beefy and beautiful tomatoes to work with. I also have lots of beautiful peppers from green to orange as well as a couple of eggplant that came in our farmer box.
Canning ensued! I was able to put up eight cans of tomatoes, three of salsa and four of spaghetti sauce. I also peeled all the tomatoes over my newly purchased but greatly used veggi/fruit mill (aka: potato ricer) which was placed over a large bowl. As it filled, I turned the handle and created tomato juice with the seeds and skins staying on top. You can put this juice up in cans or see this month’s Southern Living magazine for a great way to can it as Bloody Mary Mix, but I just put it in an air tight container in the fridge and have been enjoying it all week for breakfast.
Because I also had eggplants and we were headed to the house of our friends Mary and Adam, I also decided to try two appetizer spreads. The first is an old and easy stand by of eggplant caviar named for the way it looks with the eggplant seeds floating in the spread. The second was a recipe I got from Mark Williams’ cooking class at Yew Dell gardens last year, Romesco Sauce. They were both lovely and delicious. I also discovered by accident that if you add too many juicy tomatoes to the Romesco Sauce, it makes a fabulous gazpacho.
4 pounds eggplant, halved
olive oil, 2 T plus enough for brushing eggplant
2 minced shallots
4 minced cloves garlic
1 pound tomatoes peeled and chopped
2 T lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Pita wedges, as an accompaniment
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush eggplant with olive oil and roast in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft. Saute the garlic and shallots in 2 T olive oil over low heat until they are translucent and aromatic.
After the eggplant has cooled, remove the pulp from the skins, and process in a food processor until smooth. Place mixture in a bowl and add remaining ingredients along with garlic and shallots. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve with pita wedges Now, for my secret ingredient. I am a huge fan of Oliva Bella. You can get their olive oil and balsamico at Blue Dog and Lotsa Pasta, but you can get their sweet tomatoe relish and other items at the Beargrass Creek Farmer’s Market. Just a tablespoon or two of this really adds another dimension to the eggplant caviar.
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 minced cloves garlic
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and seeded
4 Roma tomatoes
2 T. red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 T. honey
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds evenly over a cookie sheet at 350 degrees in the oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop almonds in food processor. Add toasted bread crumbs and garlic. Pulse to incorporate. Add peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, honey, cayenne pepper and paprika. Blend into a grainy paste. Add salt and pepper. Pulse to incorporate. Serve with bread, toast or crackers.