Friday, August 21, 2009

Sultry Carmelized Tomato Salsa

"Roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavor to a rich dark essence that is a mystical experience for tomato addicts." ~ from The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas

My recipe is an adaptation of Thomas' 'Roasted Tomato Sauce' (mostly because I did it from memory, forgetting I had printed hers off the internet in 1998!) If you're not lucky enough to have a bumper crop of tomatoes in your backyard, check your local farm stand for bruised and reduced tomatoes. Klein's Farm Market (on Route 20 (72) two miles west of Randall Rd in Udina, IL) sells theirs for 99 cents a pound and some of them aren't even bruised, just ugly!

10 lbs. Very ripe (or over-ripe) tomatoes, any variety (I used beefsteaks + plums)
1 Sweet onion
1 Red or Yellow bell pepper
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (or more to taste)

Peel and chop the tomatoes into chunks about 1". For peeling, some recipes call for the blanching method (cutting a cross in the bottom of each tomato and submerging in boiling water for one minute, then into cold water to 'slip' the skins off.) My tomatoes were so ripe, once I started slicing them the skins peeled off pretty easily without all the mess of the water bath. Be sure to catch all the juice by chopping over a bowl or placing your cutting board in a tray. This is most labor intensive part of the recipe and I did it over two days, placing the first batch of chopped tomatoes in the fridge until the rest were ready.

Dice the onion and pepper to a small size, about 1/2" or so. The tomatoes will melt into a soft carmelized paste, leaving the onion and pepper to provide a bit of texture.

Toss all of the ingredients together, including the tomato juice and spread evenly over two large baking sheets with edges. I used my lasagna pan and it held all 10 lbs. nicely, but it may have increased the roasting time.

Carefully place in 350 degree oven and roast for 3 to 4 hours, stirring once after the first hour and then every 30 minutes or so. If you use two baking sheets, you'll need to transfer the salsa onto one sheet once the liquid starts to cook away and watch it carefully. The goal is carmelized not burnt. It's done once most of the liquid is gone and you're left with a soft thick paste.

Now what to do with it? Oh my! Thomas suggests to serve on pasta, with rice, on pizza, with polenta, in soups, in a quesadilla, in an omelet or alongside anything that goes well with tomatoes. I use mine on basically everything I eat until the sad, sad day it's all gone.
Here's yesterday:
Breakfast: soft boiled egg chopped and topped with sultry salsa. I think woke up in too much of a hurry to get to eating the salsa. I mean, it's good with eggs and it was good here - heck it's good with a spoon! But next time I'll try an omelet with a bit of cheese and maybe some basil.
Lunch: Salsa Roll-ups - tortilla spread with cream cheese, sultry salsa, bacon bits and a bit of shredded cheddar. The creaminess of the cheese played well off the savory salsa, leaving a very pleasant memory on the tongue. ...think I'll have another.
Dinner: Salsa Salad - baby spinach and romaine lettuces, chopped red pepper, 2 tablespoons of salsa and a teaspoon or so of ranch dressing (actually it was really good with just the salsa, I just wanted to see how it would combine with the ranch. So, viola, a fat-free dressing!)

One thing I purposely did this year, was to leave spices out of the recipe. Adding one slice (roughly half dollar size times 1/2") of Fresh Ginger Root gives carmelized tomatoes an aftertaste like the twang of barbeque sauce. My kids don't like that particular kick so I skipped it. I might try placing a small slice in a container of salsa in the fridge and see what happens. Same thing goes for basil and salt and pepper - I suppose you can add anything later.

Also, this does freeze quite well. I put it in those Ziplock plastic containers and hide it away in the bottom of the freezer. Sometimes I still have one left in October. Hmmm, maybe I'll make it again with the Ginger - I think I need a bigger freezer. If you try it, do let me know all the things you do with it. >^.^<

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