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Eat the Seasons: Roasted tomato sauce and soup base

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Small tomato varieties — such as grape, cherry and yellow pear — get typecast as salad fare. Harvest some greens, throw in these little tomatoes, BAM! Done.

Last year I had way more little tomatoes than salads in my future. I experimented with ways to cook and preserve the bounty.

My favorite was to roast the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and garlic, and then puree the mixture for pasta/pizza sauce or as the start to a delicious tomato soup. These are guidelines rather than specific quantities.

To make, spread tomatoes in a single layer in a pan or on a cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then stir. You want enough oil to coat the tomatoes, but not so much that the tomatoes swim in the pan. If desired you may also add garlic cloves and herbs, although I like to throw the fresh herbs in at the end of cooking. Don’t chop garlic, because the smaller the pieces, the more likely they will burn.

Cook in a 350 degree oven, checking after a half hour. You want the tomatoes to be wrinkled and release their juices, but only barely start to caramelize and show a bit of brown on the skin. Once they reach this point they can burn quickly. Behold, the pan of tomatoes that was almost there, and for which I decided to turn off the heat but leave in the oven when I picked up a child from school:

Oops! In the oven too long.

All the juice and olive oil cooked away, and the skins were papery. It was a mess! Not good.

In contrast, here’s what you want the cooked tomatoes to look like:

Ah, perfect.

Roasting tomatoes will fill your home with the most tantalizing aroma. Puree in a blender or food processor to make the sauce. You may choose to run the sauce through a strainer to remove seeds and larger skins. I list this as an option, for if I plan to use the sauce on pizza I don’t bother to do the straining step.

For sauce: Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Some sauces made from larger tomato varieties benefit from the addition of sugar, but I have found that the grape tomatoes especially impart just the right amount of sweetness.

To make soup, add more liquid (water or broth) to desired consistency. Depending on how fine your strainer is, you may find it easier to strain the seeds AFTER adding more liquid instead of pushing the initial puree through a sieve.

When your soup start is nicely blended, season to taste with salt and pepper; place in sauce pan to warm. Add chopped fresh basil and a touch of cream (about a 1/4 cup per quart of tomato mixture) and serve as soon as cream is warmed through. OK, this makes a fine soup all by itself, but the cream sends it over the top on the yummy scale.

The roasted tomato puree freezes well.


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