Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Use Up Your 'Put Up'

For many years, perhaps millions, gardeners have been 'putting up' their seasonally grown produce every fall season for later use. Maybe even 'Lucy', the three million old female hominin species of Australopithecus arafensisin dried some fruit each fall for winter snacking. All sorts of preservation methods are used to 'put up' home grown food. Canning, freezing, drying, smoking, salting, sugaring, and pickling are the most common.  My first choice is the easiest - freezing, especially for summer grown tomatoes and peppers. A rapid boiling water blanch, followed by a quick cooling off before being tossed into freezer bags and you're set for some delicious winter eats, which brings us to now.  

Who doesn't want something quick, great tasting and homemade after a long day? There is nothing as simple and easy as using your frozen tomatoes in sauces for winter lasagna, stew for chili or for just about any tomatoey recipe - no can opener required! When I am super lazy and need something in an hour or so, my first go to is tomato soup. Toss in some basil that you froze last fall and you're inching toward gourmet status or layers of flavor as they say in the foodie circles. 

Here's my recipe, feel free to tweak or heat it up with additional spices:

Ingredients - 
For two people use at least a dozen to fifteen frozen tomatoes, thaw them day of use for easy peeling or blanche them quickly in hot water and remove the skins.
Olive oil for heating the pan - couple tbsp
1/4 onion or more, finely chopped
1 or 2 scallions finely chopped, optional 
A couple of garlic cloves or more, finely chopped
One celery stock, finely chopped
Herbs from last fall or use fresh on hand - parsley, thyme, basil
1 cup or more of vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch of cayenne pepper for heat - optional
Red pepper flakes for heat - optional 
OR add spices to make it Mexican - cumin, chile powder, oregano, etc. 

1) Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan.  Add the onions, scallions, celery and cook over low heat, stirring often for 3-5 minutes, add the garlic after 4 minutes or so.  

2) Add the thawed, peeled tomatoes (you can seed the tomatoes too, but don't mind the seeds, they add fiber), cover and simmer for thirty minutes, add thawed frozen basil or any other herbs you 'put up' last fall (or fresh, chopped herbs). 

3) Remove the pan from the heat, cool slightly and add the mixture to a food processor or blender (do it in batches if making more soup).  Process to a smooth puree or leave it a bit chunky (your choice).  

4) Add this mixture to a the cup of stock and bring to boil, season to taste with cayenne, salt, pepper. 

5) To vary - add some cooked pasta shapes or white beans or whatever you like that works with tomato soup.  Often we'll stir in a little half and half to make it more creamy.  Top with homemade croutons, parmesan cheese chips or pumpkin seeds.  Or top with sliced avocado for a Mexican twist.     

Yum, serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and you're all set!


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