Let’s use more tomatoes

My boxes this month have contained many, many tomatoes. And I have finally used them all! It helped that the last two boxes’ worth of tomatoes didn’t start to mold the day after arrival, but I also consider it a great personal triumph that for the first time this summer I didn’t have to compost a single rotten tomato. The secret to my tomato salvation? A chance email from Cook’s Illustrated.

Cook’s Illustrated is a luscious magazine full of little hand-drawn illustrations of how to chop an onion and how to form gnocchi, and beautiful color charts of peppers and mushrooms. The magazine is made by the same people who do a show on PBS called America’s Test Kitchen (or so I’ve read in the magazine – I don’t have a TV so I’ve never seen the show), and both are based on the same principle. They take a dish, French onion soup, maybe, or vanilla sheet cake, and they make it over and over again, testing different ingredients and techniques and equipment, tweaking every variable, until they come up with what they feel is the “master recipe” – the very best way to make that particular dish. Most of their recipes involve either meat or wheat, so I can’t actually make them, but the magazine is, for me, food porn at its very best. I subscribe to their website so I can have access to their very thorough archive of kitchen equipment testing results, and consequently I get emails from them. Called “Notes from the Test Kitchen,” these recipes and tips and menus are also usually centered on meat and wheat, but occasionally I’ll read one that is just exactly right.

Like last week’s “All About Tomatoes” feature, containing a whole passel of recipes designed to help me take care of the pile of heirlooms, Shady Ladies, Romas, and cherry tomatoes crowding my kitchen table. I decided to try the Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil, a soup with a base of pureed roasted tomatoes that then has fresh tomatoes and basil added to it. Interestingly, when I followed the directions exactly (this was a many-times tested “master recipe,” of course) the roasting tomatoes started burning with half an hour of cooking time still to go. But I once I rescued them and scraped them off the (fortunately lined with foil) roasting pan, the rest of the recipe came together with ease, and the end result made for a truly delicious summer meal.

The combination of sweet, concentrated tomato flavor from the roasted tomatoes and bright, clean tomato flavor from the fresh tomatoes was fantastic, and many notches above your average can of Campbell’s. I used heirlooms and Shady Ladies for roasting, and a multicolored assortment of cherry tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes. It was such a relief to use up what was probably my last batch of endless tomatoes for the season (I’m putting my box on hold for a few weeks while I figure things out) that I am celebrating by contributing this post to Croatian food blogger Maninas’ blog event Eating with the Seasons. Soup recipe follows… Continue reading

Tomatillos and Chard: Week of August 20th

My post last week about wondering why my box doesn’t have the allure it used to received more comments and emails than any other post I’ve written. It seems I am not the only Eatwell subscriber to be feeling like the boxes have been of diminishing quality. This week was another routine box of tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini, with the nice additions of chard and tomatillos. I have an idea of how hard it is to farm in a way that tries to keep variety in the boxes each week, so I don’t begrudge Eatwell the long summer of repetition. But I have to acknowledge that my box is neither exciting not particularly useful right now.

In this week’s box:

Cherry tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Shady Lady tomatoes
Basil
Zucchini (2 large ones)
White nectarines (1 large, 2 medium)
Potatoes
Tomatillos
Chard
(There were supposed to be Gypsy sweet peppers – actual ones this time – but I traded them into our trade box for more basil)