Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tomatoes Galore

"And now for your delectation, the delicious Tomatoes Galore will tickle your fancy with her juicy rendition of 'On Top of Old Smoky'…"

Forgive me, dear readers, but I'm in head-down tomato processing mode. I've got two baking trays of chopped tomatoes in the oven that need to come out in 30 minutes, so this is going to be quick. They're the tail end of 60 pounds of the red-ribbed beauties known as Astiana tomatoes from Ayers Creek Farm, the first round of the 150 pounds I plan to process (I know, crazy, right?) this year and squirrel away in the freezer for the winter.

Astiana tomatoes at Ayers Creek Farm.

Those tomatoes, with just the right balance of tart-to-sweet, the product of more than a decade of selecting for flavor, plant health and field-hardiness on the part of Carol and Anthony Boutard, began with a meal that the couple had in the Piedmont region of Italy. There they tasted a fresh tomato that Carol said they had to bring back to their organic farm in Gaston—Anthony would remind me that Italy's Piedmont is on roughly the same latitude as Oregon, meaning that the seeds could be adapted to our climate—and the story goes that she ran out to the dumpster behind the restaurant, diving in to gather enough seeds to bring back.

Roasted tomato soup (recipe below).

My method of roasting is super simple: preheat the oven to 400°, chop the tomatoes into quarters, load onto two sheet trays skin-side down and roast for an hour. Cool enough to pull most of the skins off (easiest by hand if you like chunky sauce; a food mill smooshes them too much for our uses), load into quart freezer bags and you're done.

Speaking of done, it's time to pull those tomatoes out of the oven. Here's a recipe for a fabulous tomato soup I made last year, one that I think rivals the best you're likely to have.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter
2 med. onions, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. flour
2 qts. (8 c.) roasted tomatoes or 3 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes with their juices
2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. kosher salt plus more to taste
1 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and translucent. Add garlic and continue to sauté 2 minutes. Add flour and stir, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, salt, celery salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove soup from heat and, using an immersion blender,  purée the soup thoroughly until smooth*. Add more salt to taste, if needed. Serve.

* I don't mind a little texture from any bits that don't get totally blended in, but if you want a completely silky smooth finished product, you can press it through a fine mesh sieve, which will catch any remaining seeds or other bits.

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