I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for interesting ways to use tomatoes when there’s a surplus. A few years ago, a good friend brought over what seemed to be a bushel of gorgeous Roma (plum) tomatoes she picked up at a farmers market. OK, since a bushel is 53 pounds, I’m exaggerating but it was, at the very least, a demi-bushel, if you will. (Oh, and a peck is a quarter bushel. I figured someone would want to know. I looked it up, I had no clue what either were.) Since I didn’t want them to go to waste, and I lived alone at the time, I knew I had to come up with a good way to preserve these beauties — pronto.
I ran out and bought a huge aluminum turkey roaster that I could later toss out. I washed the tomatoes, then cut them in half, removing any part of the stem. With a sharp knife, it really didn’t take long. I placed the tomatoes in the roaster and added a couple of roughly chopped onions, two or three red and green bell peppers (I’ve since used poblanos, too.), a handful of fresh chopped garlic and some dried basil and oregano — maybe a tablespoon each. I threw in a little kosher salt — not too much because this concoction is going to be a base used in other dishes. About a teaspoon. I then drizzled some good olive oil, just enough to coat the vegetables, and put the pan in a preheated 350-degree oven.
Note that if you bought a cheap disposable pan, then consider putting it on a cookie sheet so that you can lift it without the pan bending and causing a calamity in the kitchen.
After a couple of hours, I ended up with a beautifully roasted mixture. My vegetables had caramelized and reduced drastically, leaving almost no liquid, which is how I wanted it. I figured the end result would have a more concentrated flavor that way.
I then pulled the ridiculously fragrant mix from the oven and pureed it in the food processor. I had just created the most delicious tomato paste. I froze it in small batches by putting it in 1-cup plastic containers, then popping them into the freezer. After they looked like Popsicles, I used the FoodSaver to wrap them individually — airtight. Can’t live without my FoodSaver. Now they’re ready to flavor sauces, soups and even as a base for pizza sauce when I bake pizzas on the grill.
I’ve been making this paste ever since. And if you don’t want to make paste, just pull it out earlier while it’s still juicy, and you can make sauce. Either way, make sure to blend it really well so that the tomato skins completely disappear. Personally, I hate finding curled bits of tomato skin on my tongue.
And while the fragrance was divine, I decided that I didn’t need the house to smell like an Italian restaurant for two days. Even though it is one of my favorite fragrances, it was clashing with the scented candles. So, I no longer use the oven, instead I roast the tomatoes on the gas grill. It’s easy to keep an eye on it, and I don’t have to heat up the house.
The video below gives you a good idea of the process and what the tomatoes look like while they’re cooking on the grill. And you get to see the end result. Notice that a demi-bushel (I made up the word and can’t seem to stop using it.) of tomatoes doesn’t yield much after they’re cooked down, so don’t be stingy with the tomatoes when you make this. Also, feel free to use your favorite herbs. And if you don’t like peppers, leave them out. Improvise with the flavors. I’m sure it’ll be delicious. I’ve been known to throw in a chipotle pepper or a big pinch of dried red pepper flakes.
Now, go make it. And, please, tell me how it turned out. I’m dying to know.