Lots of tomatoes, lots of tomatoes! The season is definitely winding down, but the tomatoes are still fabulous and plentiful. When I find my kitchen is full of them at this time of year, I just quarter and throw them in a roasting pan with onion and garlic and a splash of olive oil.
And, then, I can make all sorts of tomatoey things. But my favorite right now is tomato basil soup. When the tomatoes come out of the oven, I throw them in the blender with some stock and basil. I then stir in some plain yogurt or half and half, adjust the seasonings and have a delicious early fall soup.
Tomato basil soup
2 cups quartered fresh tomatoes (you can also use canned tomatoes)
2 T. olive oil
½ onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
2 c. broth (chicken or vegetable)
½ cup minced basil
½ c. half-and-half, coconut milk, plain yogurt or pureed cannellini beans (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375. Film a roasting pan with some of the olive oil. Toss in the vegetables, drizzle with the rest of the oil, and roast for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The longer they roast, the more caramelized they become (which is good!).
Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Add basil and puree with a hand or countertop blender. You can puree it until smooth or leave it somewhat chunky. Stir in half-and-half or another cream if you wish and season to taste with salt, pepper and even cayenne if you want a little spunk. Pour into bowls and garnish with garlic croutons, scallions, feta or goat cheese, or parmesan.
I’ll admit it – when I get really bored I head for the chips and dips. And I seem to be doing that a lot lately. It’s not a particularly healthy habit but it gives me a satisfyingly crunchy and creamy diversion. Of course, french onion dip and potato chips are probably the worst offenders. But oh, so good.
In order to get rid of some of the guilt, I’m trying to reduce fat and salt with healthier choices. I’ll share with you some substitutes that are easy to make and fulfill all of the requirements of a good chip-dip combination. Salty, savory, creamy, and of course crunch from chips.
So many salsas and vegetable combinations make great dips. It means moving away from thinking about dips as only creamy. One of my favorites is pico de gallo, a chunky salsa that is just as good on chips as it is on fajitas.
I tend to rely on vegetables I froze last summer, but you can also buy them fresh. Even supermarket tomatoes are suitable for jazzing up in a salsa. The peppers and onions give them flavor. You can also use frozen corn, canned artichoke hearts, canned beans and even frozen mango if you want to make a fruity salsa.
Feta or goat cheese blended with artichoke hearts and roasted peppers
Corn and black bean salsa
Pico de gallo
Classic bruschetta (tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil)
Hummus – make from chickpeas or white beans, use as a dip or a spread on sandwiches or toast.
Pita chips (easy to make your own by cutting fresh pita into quarters and toasting them)
Check out the myriad of commercial chips available – beets, sweet potato, taro, carrot, turnip
I grow eggplants in every summer, and although we do eat some of them fresh, I roast and freeze lots so I have them available for this rich dip. It’s a riff on baba ganouj, a classic middle eastern dish. And infinitely adaptable to whatever you want to add.
Eggplant dip (Baba ganoush)
1 medium eggplant, roasted and peeled
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted and peeled
½ medium onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, diced
½ c. toasted bread crumbs or panko
¼ c. tahini
¼ t. cumin
1 large tomato, diced
1 T. vinegar
Salt to taste
Saute onion and garlic in 2 T. olive oil until soft. Process in a food processor with the pepper and eggplant until you reach the consistency you like, smooth or chunky.
Stir in rest of ingredients, salt to taste and serve at room temperature with pita chips.
Pico de gallo
This Mexican favorite has a fresh, tangy flavor and just longs for crisp tortilla chips.
1 chile, chopped (with or without seeds depending on your taste)
3-4 tomatoes, chopped finely
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. vinegar or lime juice
1 T. fresh cilantro
1 t. salt
Mix and chill. Serve as dip with tortilla chips, on black bean tacos or as topping for a baked potato. Feel free to add other ingredients such as black beans or corn.
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained or 2 cups freshly cooked
1/2 c. tahini
1 T. lime juice
1 t. cumin (tip from my brother – roast whole cumin seeds and grind for unbelievable flavor)
1 clove garlic
1/4 t. cayenne
Olive oil (you can use some of the juice from the beans to reduce fat)
Salt to taste
Blend all but the olive oil. Gradually add enough olive oil or bean juice to make it creamy but not runny. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate for the flavors to blend.
This is such an exciting time of year with the produce coming in from the garden in buckets and baskets. But it can sometimes overwhelm.
Tomato plants may be on the decline in the garden, but the tomatoes are still ripening and filling our counters. Let’s figure out what to do with them.
Canning is certainly one option but I like to freeze them for later use.
I simply rinse them and throw them into a bucket or freezer bags in the freezer. No blanching, no cutting up before freezing. When I’m ready to make sauce or salsa, I pull out what I need and run them under warm water briefly to loosen the skins. They can then be cooked or thrown into the food processor with onions, garlic and jalapenos for fresh-tasting salsa. They won’t be firm as when fresh, but they still have the delicious taste of summer.
Here is a salsa recipe to get you started on using them fresh. Check out the recipe tabs for Catalan tomato bread, gazpacho and bruschetta. All have few ingredients – mostly tomatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil. Quick and easy!