Frontier Psychiatrist

Never Too Many Tomatoes

Posted on: September 5, 2012

Theoretically, you may be on a tight budget this month, due to last month’s lobster binge.  That’s ok.  Today’s recipes are not only gloriously cheap, but delightfully simple, which is equally important if, like me, you are feeling sloth-like in these final dog days of summer.  This time of year is defined by one thing for me: tomato season.  About 70% of the time, I’m pretty much a snob about eating what’s in season locally.  (The remaining 30% is composed mostly of an unwavering dedication to tropical offerings such as bananas.  Seriously, a world without bananas?)  Tomatoes are one of those foods that I preach about incessantly.  They just don’t taste like much when they come off a truck from Mexico in the middle of December.  So, when they’re good and fresh I hoard them like a squirrel would his nuts.  Lucky for the squirrels, nuts stay fresh a lot longer than tomatoes.  So, if you find yourself with a few too many ripe tomatoes this season (and I hope you do), I recommend using them in the following ways.

The ever-wonderful tomato salad.  Biting into a tomato like it were an apple is pretty messy and garners suspicious glances from on-lookers, so I typically try to avoid it.   A good tomato is one that you want to just take a bite of, but there are also ways to spruce it up.  At a minimum if you want to just slice and eat, make sure to sprinkle with a coarse salt; it really enhances the flavor.  But if you’re willing to really go the distance, the following recipe has been my lifeblood for the past several weeks: tomatoes, onion, olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper.  I like using a variety of tomatoes (beefsteak, green zebra, yellow cherries) for the diversity of flavors and for aesthetic reasons.  The freshness of the tomatoes shines through, but the vinaigrette and minced onions add a little bite to balance out the sweetness.  It is a requirement to have a crusty loaf of bread on hand to sop up the dressing.  And that alone could be a meal.

Tomato sauce.  This is what you do when you really, seriously, have way too many tomatoes.  They cook down quite a lot, so you’ll be able to use up a good few pounds of tomatoes in a single batch.  Buy the really ugly ones (they’re sometimes cheaper!) and go to town.  I love the very basic recipe I’ve shared below, but there are ways to spruce it up: during step 3, add a minced carrot and/or celery stalk and/or 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic.  Throw in a handful of fresh basil leaves or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes toward the end.  It is difficult to mess this up, so try out the flavors you like.  I wrote about tomato sauce around this time last year, with a slightly different recipe.  Check it out as another starting point for your creativity.

Tomato compote, or something.  I don’t know what else to call this, but compote works well enough.  Sauté onions, add chopped tomatoes, cook until broken down, add a drop of balsamic.  Done and done.  I serve this over baked salmon, and it is to die for.  The acidity of the tomatoes and balsamic stand up to the richness of salmon in a way that not all sauces can.  This is essentially the cooked version of tomato salad, so you’ll notice similar ingredients.

Tomato Salad

1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot, red onion, or other sweet onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (other vinegars will work, but sherry is the best)

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Mix together first 4 ingredients.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Mix, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

 Tomato Sauce

4-5 pounds tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cut an X into the bottom of each tomato.  Boil tomatoes for 10-30 seconds, then rinse in a colander with cold water.  When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, starting from the X’s.
  2. Cut tomatoes lengthwise and use your fingers to scoop out the seeds.  If you’re feeling ambitious, do this over a strainer over a bowl to catch the juices, which can be added back later.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until golden.
  4. Stir in tomatoes.  After 5 minutes, break up the tomatoes with a potato masher or the back of a spoon.  Let simmer for another 30-45 minutes.  You can add back the reserved tomato juices toward the end if the sauce looks dry.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Tomato Compote

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup chopped shallot, or any other onion

1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the shallots or onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until golden and translucent.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook until they break down, about 5 more minutes.
  3. Stir in balsamic vinegar and turn the heat down to medium.  Allow the mixture to thicken and reduce, another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Freya Bellin writes alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include 5 Tips for Cooking Your Very Own LobstahThis Is My Jam, and Presto! It’s Pesto.


4 Responses to "Never Too Many Tomatoes"

[…] Bellin writes the food column for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Never Too Many Tomatoes, Your Very Own Lobstah, and This Is My […]

[…] Bellin writes the food column for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Never Too Many Tomatoes, Your Very Own Lobstah, and This Is My Jam. Share […]

[…] the food column for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Cooking Social, Never Too Many Tomatoes, and Your Very Own Lobstah. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo […]

[…] Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include The Other Comfort Food, Cooking Social, and Never Too Many Tomatoes. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo BuzzDiggLike this:LikeOne blogger likes […]

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