Two Tasty Tomato Dishes

My mom is an incredible gardener. My dad was, too. I am not sure yet if I’ve inherited this ability. My pinterest board is filled with great gardening tips and ideas. I have aspirations to have a gorgeous garden from which I can pick and make fabulous fresh dishes. Unfortunately, I’m a little lazy and very forgetful. Our first garden attempt was dry and dead with in two weeks (I live in the desert, so gardening here takes a little more effort, care and *ahem* regular watering). I really want a garden, but I know two things must be in place before I can be successful: 1. I must be done with school. 2. It must be on an automatic watering system. When I can get these two things done, I look forward to a wonderful harvest and learning many new things!

If you already have a garden and are wondering what to do with your huge crop of tomatoes, here are two super tasty recipes for you! The sauce freezes well, and the soup is perfect with crusty grilled cheese. To be honest, tomato soup for me has always been an excuse to eat gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. When I made this soup, I ate one half of a sandwich. The soup was so good it didn’t need anything, so I left the sandwiches to the kids and had seconds of soup. The sauce goes well with some mild italian sausage, if you’re a carnivore, and piled onto a tender whole wheat pasta. It’s perfect summer comfort food with some grilled asparagus.

EASY CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP

serves 4 (main dish) or 6-8 (side dish)

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 TBS fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook while stirring until they start to brown. Add garlic and cook and additional minute, or until garlic barely starts to brown. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add basil and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add salt and sugar and remove from heat. Pour into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender to puree. Puree well, until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream. Heat on low until warm again. Serve. Garnish with fresh basil or croutons, if desired.

REAL food alert: check chicken stock for msg and additives
VEGGIE alert: to make vegetarian, sub veggie broth for the chicken stock.
ALLERGY alert: for dairy allergies, sub a non-dairy milk, like coconut or almond milk, for the heavy cream.
HEALTH alert: this recipe is only about 150 calories per serving. If you want to health it up even more, you can reduce the cream to 1/4 cup, and sub honey for the sugar, or eliminate the sugar.

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ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

3 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 6-10), cored and quartered
1 head of garlic
1 TBS fresh thyme, chopped
1 TBS fresh rosemary, chopped
salt
sugar
3/4 pound mild italian sausage (optional)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the tomatoes on one or two foil covered baking sheets, along with the head of garlic (do not separate the cloves, just remove any loose paper from the outside). Sprinkle the thyme and rosemary over the tomatoes. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tomatoes are slightly charred. Rotate pans halfway through cooking, if they don’t both fit on the same rack in your oven. Remove from oven when done roasting. Pour the tomatoes and any juices into a blender or food processor, or pour into a bowl if you use an immersion blender. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the root end of the garlic head. Pull the garlic head apart into three or four chunks. Squeeze the soft roasted garlic pulp into the tomato mixture and discard the tough exterior. Blend the tomatoes, garlic and herb mixture until desired consistency (we like minimal chunks, but you may like chunks in your sauce). Add salt and sugar to taste (if you have nice ripe tomatoes, you won’t need sugar, if you have grocery store tomatoes, you may need a pinch or two). The sauce is ready to serve with pasta. If you like meat in your sauce, brown sausage in a large pan over medium heat. Add sauce and cook for 10 minutes.

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Roasted Red Salsa

I hate tomatoes.

I’m fine with cooked tomato products, like marinara or ketchup. But, raw tomatoes are disgusting. It’s one of the only foods that I just can not stand. That makes my relationship with salsa an interesting one. Obviously, I’m not a pico de gallo type gal. I prefer pureed salsas with no chunks, and I have always just dipped the chip and gotten the juice and flavor on my chip without actually scooping any salsa on there. Weird. I know.

But then, I went to a Mexican food place called “Burger House”, believe it or not. I was skeptical about the quality of Mexican food there. It’s in a small town where my husband lived in his younger years. Everyone in his family swore by the food there (a Mexican place called “Burger House”? Really?)…and they were right! I craved it for weeks after we arrived back home. For the first time, ever, I poured the little cups of salsa over my burro before taking each bite. It was addictive. I analyzed the salsa as much as possible. Obviously it had tomatoes and cilantro, and chilis that gave it a nice kick, but I also noticed tiny pieces of char that made me believe that something on there was roasted. I was on a quest. I have tried various types of salsa, tons of recipes, and came up with a mediocre one that involved canned fire roasted tomatoes.

Then, I happened upon a post  on one particular kitchen one day:  . I made it and almost came undone. It was amazing. It’s pretty darn close to the Burger House salsa, but so fresh tasting, with a good bite. I made a few simple changes to personalize it. When it comes to spice, homemade salsa is always unpredictable. Chilis vary in spiciness from chili to chili, so it’s always chancy. If you’re concerned about heat, start with two peppers. You can also use jalapenos, which are milder, but I prefer the flavor of serranos.

This recipe makes a lot of salsa and is amazing with home grown tomatoes. It also freezes perfectly. I typically make a huge batch, then freeze them in sandwich bags for future consumption. Make some this summer!!

ROASTED RED SALSA

15-25 fresh tomatoes (about 15 large ones, up to 25 romas)
2 yellow onions
8-10 cloves of garlic
3-6 serrano peppers
1-2 limes
1-2 TBS salt
1-2 bunches of cilantro

Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Halve your tomatoes and onions. Leave the papery husk on the garlic cloves, but separate them into individual cloves. If you want more heat, you will leave the seeds and membranes in the chilis, so remove the caps from the chilis now. If you want less heat, you will remove the seeds later, so keep the caps on. Lay the tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers on baking sheets. It’s a good idea to have the tomatoes on a baking sheets that has sides, as they will produce a lot of juice. Roast until the onions are translucent and the tomatoes and peppers are starting to char, about 45 minutes to an hour. You may have to remove the garlic and peppers before the tomatoes and onions. You may also have to rotate pans while cooking to allow each pan access to the heat source. Just check on them every so often until they are all soft and there’s some charring going on. Pull the pans out of the oven. Let it cool for 5 minutes. If you want to remove the seeds from the chilis, put on plastic gloves (trust me…I did this once without them and seriously regretted it). slice open the side of each chili. Use the cap to pull out the middle membrane with all of the seeds attached, and discard. You may also need to use your finger and wipe any residual seeds from the chili. Place the chilis in a food processor. For the garlic, you should be able to squeeze them, allowing the soft cooked middle to go into your food processor. Whatever method, you want to remove any charred husk and any outside layer that is to tough to puree. Place the tomatoes and onions (you’ll probably have to do two batches) in the food processor with the garlic and chilis. Add the juice from one lime, 1TBS salt, and the cilantro, and puree it all. After your two batches are done, combine it in a large bowl and taste it. Add more lime juice or salt according to your tastes. The flavors will intensify in the fridge. I find that this is the best after about a day in the fridge (and it gets spicier, keep that in mind).

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