Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomato Fever!

Plain and simple-the tomato is just about perfect food in my humble opinion. The tomato gives garlic, onion and mushroom a reason to exist. During the summer we can relish in consuming real tomatoes and during the winter we can consume vast quantities of tinned tomatoes. My mother always said that anything (even luggage!) could be improved with a fresh coat of paint and I sort of feel that way about tomatoes. A tomato improves most any dish. That being said, I did get a little carried away at the Farmers Market on Saturday when I impulsively purchased a very LARGE basket of plum tomatoes. They just looked so cute that before I knew it they were in the trunk of my car. Now what? After cruising through my cookbooks, various blogs, and the Food Network, I have a PFMT (Plan for my Tomatoes!)

I’ll straight away make a grand gazpacho to capture their immediate great tomato taste. I decided against using my tried and true recipe and am rolling out a new version authored by Wolfgang Puck, well-known chef, restaurateur, and television personality. Actually, I like to think that “Wolf” and I go way back since my husband and I ate at his newly opened first restaurant, Spago—Italian slang for spaghetti—in 1984. Situated in the heart of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, the bistro became a hot spot for celebrity clientele (visiting from Ann Arbor!) while Puck was credited with rejuvenating California cuisine. So, with a nod to Puck, let’s get this tomato party started with the following:

Wolfgang Puck’s Gazpacho

• 2 pounds, about 10 Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
• 1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
• 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
• 1/2-cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 2 cups tomato juice
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
• 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the soup. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until almost pureed, leaving a little texture. Season with salt and pepper. Return to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Prepare topping mixture. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients (not avocado) until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. To serve: Ladle 10 to 12 ounces into chilled soup plates. On a large serving spoon, place 1/4 cup of the topping mixture, top with 2 shrimp, and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Carefully place in the center of the plate of soup. Place a wedge of lime or lemon on the rim of the plate.

Topping Mixture
• 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1/4 cup red onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
• 3 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
• 1 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper

• 12 to 16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, butterflied, poached, and chilled
• 6 to 8 sprigs fresh cilantro
• Lime or lemon wedges

The gazpacho hasn’t even made a dent in this box of tomatoes so let’s get cookin’ with the following recipes to make and freeze:

Roasted Tomato Sauce
• Large quantity plum or slicer tomatoes
• 1/4 large onion per quart (dry measure) tomatoes
• 1 clove garlic per quart tomatoes
• Salt
• Ground black pepper
• Olive oil
Wash and trim tomatoes of anything you wouldn’t want to eat, such stem scars. Halve small tomatoes (such as plums) or cut large tomatoes into chunks. Let’s say 1-inch cubes, but larger is fine.
Distribute tomatoes in large ovenproof pans with a lip to catch juices. Tomatoes don’t have to be in a single layer, but don’t mound appreciably above the height of the pan’s lip, as the tomatoes will give off juice.
Peel and trim onion and garlic and distribute among tomatoes. Generously sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper, and drizzle oil over all. I stirred the mixture a little to distribute the oil
Place pans on racks in 350-degree oven and roast about 2 hours, or until the tomatoes have cooked down considerably, and the onions and garlic are soft. Expect the tomatoes to be sitting in some liquid.
Cool, then transfer tomato mixture in batches to the bowl of food processor and puree, skin and all. Marvelous! Transfer to freezer containers and freeze, or use as desired. Yield: A lot of tomato sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce Base

Step 1 Wash and core 25 tomatoes and cut into chunks. Remove as many seeds as you feel like—I don’t go nuts with this. Place tomato chunks in large stockpot. Chop up a few onions and a huge green pepper and add to pot. Throw in some garlic and fresh parsley if you have it, 3 T sugar, 2 T salt, and ½ T pepper.

Step 2 Bring to a boil on stove. Lower heat and leave the sauce to simmer for an hour stirring it once and a while.

Step 3 Cool sauce and pour in food processor and blend. Pour into quart freezer bags leaving ½ inch at top to allow for freezing. Seal and freeze.

Bon Appetit!


  1. Sara, this is awesome! BTW, Joe had an uncle named Spags...

  2. Are you tinning some for us who wouldn't even dare buy more than 4 tomatoes at a time? hah

    you rock with your PFMP!

  3. at first glance i assumed you had visited a farm. but no, this absurd quantity of tomatoes was yours! "a little carried away..." you don't say? but i'll be damned if you didn't put them to fine use! you done right by them 'maters.

  4. Thank you for those kind words, Gonga