38 Tomatoes


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Now this is a mess of tomatoes, 38 to be exact from Whitton Farms, and I saved this box of muddy beauties from the trash.

Last week, when I was picking up my CSA at the Botanic Gardens in the rain, I started talking to Keith Forrester about tomatoes. "I'd like to buy a lot of tomatoes and try making my own sauce," I said. "How about these?" he answered, plopping the wet box of heirlooms on the table.

It seems all the rain is wreaking havoc with Keith's tomato crop. Too much rain makes the tomatoes split near the stem. Look closely, and you can see.


Keith can't sell the tomatoes because they look so funky, but they still taste great. I know because I hauled them all home and then peeled, cored, and chopped following Julia Child’s instructions in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie calls the result “tomato puree.” I call it fun, squeezing the seeds out with your hands, especially after two glasses of wine.

The next day, I pulsed the tomatoes a few times in the food processor, measured out 7 cups, and made roasted red pepper pasta sauce for dinner. I love this recipe, which I’ve adapted over time from one of Rachael Ray’s 30-minute meal cookbooks:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

2 jars roasted red peppers drained
3 T olive oil
2 T garlic olive oil
4-6 minced garlic cloves
One-half medium onion, chopped
4 medium shallots, chopped
1 cup wine or chicken broth
7 cups crushed tomatoes (the ones I crushed!)
1 cup Italian parsley
Salt and pepper taste
Grated Parmesan for garnish
Penne (or a favorite pasta) cooked al dente

Drain and grind roasted red peppers in food processor.

Sauté olive oil, garlic, shallots, and onion in a large skillet or stockpot until translucent (over moderate heat). Stir in roasted peppers. Sauté another five minutes or so, turn up the heat a little, add the broth or white wine, and reduce liquid until sauce is thick. Stir in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, remove from heat, and serve over pasta with Parmesan.

At dinner, my husband Tony said this about the tomato sauce: “It’s great, but it’s a little thin. It would make great minestrone.”

Bingo. Since I had lots of sauce left, the next day, I made minestrone soup — a first for me. I used my other CSA veggies left for the week, including frozen yellow squash for a few weeks ago. Here’s what I added to the sauce, but any veggies will do:

Pam’s Minestrone with Fresh Tomatoes

1 and a half cups green beans (snapped into small pieces)
1 cup yellow squash, cut into small pieces
2 cups okra, sliced
One-half cup chicken broth
One and a half cups tomato juice (Fresh-squeezed from my tomatoes)
Three or four shakes of garlic powder
A sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
One-cup alphabet pasta

Cook vegetables (one at a time because they cook differently) until slightly undercooked in boiling, salted water. Drain and add to soup stock.

Add tomato juice and chicken broth. (A little more or a little less depending on how thin or thick you like your soup.)

Season to taste with garlic powder, salt, and red pepper flakes.

Cook pasta al dente and add to soup. I only used about half of it. Warm thoroughly and serve garnished with fresh Parmesan and parsley.

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