Putting up Tomatoes: The Easy Way

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Wash, trim, then dice enough tomatoes to fit your Dutch oven.

Here’s a no-recipe recipe for folks with little time and large palates. Tomato sauces are great to have hanging out in the fridge for impromptu meals. With their high acidic content, they have a lengthy refrigerated shelf-life, at the ready for spooning over, or incorporating into, grain dishes and proteins. The best bottled, freshest tasting tomato sauces, however, can be pricey.

Stir in olive oil, Kosher salt, wine and garlic, if using.

Stir in olive oil, Kosher salt, wine and garlic, if using.

So come September – when I can purchase local, off-the-vine tomatoes for a song – I make tomato sauce by the gallon, freezing it in small batches. I use to grow my own tomatoes, but now purchase them from local farmers for less money than it costs for me to “raise” them from seedlings. Think about it: plants, fertilizer, water, stakes…the plague of possible infestation? Rewarding, yes, but for the past few busy summers, not worth my efforts.

My mother made her own tomato sauce too, but her version took three times as long to make as mine. She’d place the tomatoes, each cut with a X, one by one into boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the skins. Then, with the precision of a surgeon, she’d slide off their casings. Then, bless her heart, she’d seed them, make her sauce, then ladle it into sterilized bell jars.

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Simmer several hours,stirring occasionally, until reduced to desired consistency.

Canning? Forget about it. Ball Jar also makes a plastic container for the freezer. In lieu of those, I use yogurt containers, avoiding potential freezer burn by encasing them in freezer zip-locks. Skinning? Do I really have the time, and seriously, do those tiny bits of skin justify the effort it takes? Nah. I dice my tomatoes small enough so the skins aren’t large. I even like their texture incorporated into the silkiness of the tomatoes. If I didn’t, I’d run them through my food processor after cooking them down.

I’ve included a recipe for my sauce below, but basically, all you do is dice enough tomatoes to fill an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, stir in olive oil and kosher salt and simmer for hours. There are a lot of optional extras in the recipe below, but here’s the hitch: You should use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven to cook your sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes will react  with an aluminum or stainless steel pot to lend a metallic flavor to the final product. Really. Been there.

Package in plastic containers and freeze.

Package in plastic containers and freeze.

I own a Le Creuset Dutch oven and three years ago purchased the Cuisinart brand for less than half of the Le Creuset price at T.J. Max. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Cuisinart brand, and would never consider purchasing a lesser brand, but I’ve found it measures up to the quality of my Le Creuset. Not dissing Le Creuset, just sayin’…

I will surely use this sauce base for quickie winter Bouillabaisse’s and Cioppino’s. Especially festive recipes for entertaining during the busy holidays – feeling the breath of September in the chill of December.

Tips: ♥ If you’ve a Trader Joe’s in your area, I recommend purchasing their Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil or their President’s Reserve Italian. Italian friends (with vineyards) have informed me that Trader Joe’s purchases first class oils, yet we don’t pay first class prices. The long simmer obliterates the nuances of Maserati extra virgins. ♥ When I’ve leftover wine, I freeze it. Certainly not to drink, but to use in sauces such as this. Or if you’ve a bottle of red that’s been out a few days, that would be a good candidate for the sauce.  ♥ By the way, you know not to ever, ever refrigerate tomatoes, right?

Recipe: Putting Up Tomatoes: The Easy Way

Ingredients

  • Home-grown or locally-grown tomatoes, ripened until juicy; enough to fit your enameled cast-iron pot (12 tomatoes fit mine)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Chopped onions, leeks or shallot, optional
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • Kosher salt to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (I used 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil)
  • Red wine (I used 1 cup)
  • Finely chopped garlic (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • Fresh chopped basil, optional

Instructions

  1. With a sharp knife, carve out stem end and slice off bottom end of each tomato. Cut into 1/2-inch diced pieces.
  2. Heat a tablespoon or two olive oil in the bottom of an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. (See above notes regarding importance of the cooking vessel.) Stir in onion, leek or shallot, if using. Stir in fennel seeds, if using. Cook over medium low heat, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic. Stir in tomatoes, olive oil and wine, if using. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to desired consistency. (I simmer my sauce 5-6 hours.)
  3. When sauce is room temperature, stir in basil, if using. Spoon into containers (see above notes) and freeze.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 4-6 hours

Number of servings (yield): 10-12 cups (40 ounces)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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An Elderly Weber Grill Repurposed into an Outdoor Bar Cart (plus a bushel of tomato, squash & corn recipes)

What do you get when you cross a 26-year-old Weber grill frame with boards, leftover deck paint, galvanized screen, and rope?

A party on a bar cart! Just in time for the Labor Day weekend. We got the idea from daughter, Greta. She’s developing a line of bar carts to complement her Coleman (bar) stools. Richard and I share her love of repurposing, particularly when integrating industrial aesthetics into the design. We came up with our own, easy-to-make, bar cart.

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Our new house came with a Weber gas grill, circa 1988. Although it still worked, we decided to update to a new Weber (natural gas) Spirit Grill, but decided to keep the original sturdy frame (pictured).

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We sanded a few of the rusty areas, wiped them clean, and painted the base with a rust-resisitant spray.

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To make trays for the cart, Richard inserted screws (with an electric screwdriver) into mitered corners of his prepared wood to secure them together.

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He finished the sides of the trays with outdoor (deck) paint.

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To make a bottom for the trays, he tacked two layers of heavy galvanized screening into the frame. Over this screen, for added stability, I placed two removable lucite trays.

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For decoration, we glued rope around the top tray lid; made rope handles for bottom tray; and wrapped remaining rope around two-thirds of each handle.

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The bar cart comes in handy when juggling several items to cook on our new Weber grill.

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We placed lucite trays on the top and bottom of the galvanized screening and VOILA! Instant bar!

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Our new, fixer-upper lake house came with a Weber gas grill, circa 1988. Even though the geriatric grill worked like a charm, we decided to upgrade to a natural gas grill, to complement our charcoal grill. The old frame was very sturdy, so we decided to keep it. It was easy navigate, and the base and wheels are in excellent shape. I’ve included a “recipe” below for making your own cart, if you’re lucky enough to have access to an old grill frame.

Side note: Here are favorite recipes for “repurposing” the plethora of fresh local produce that’s filling gardens and stands right now. In Michigan, we’ve got another 8-10 weeks to revel in the glory!

Fried Green Tomatoes with a Tomato-Corn Relish

Fried Green Tomatoes with a Tomato-Corn Relish

Appetizers: Fried Green Tomatoes with a Tomato-Corn RelishTomato-Cucumber RaitaTomato-Zucchini Tapas; Tomato-Mozzarella Bruschetta;  Super-Fast Caprese Canapes

Salads: Tomato Bulgur SaladPanzanella; Jerusalem Pita and Vegetable Salad; Quinoa with Black Beans, Corn and AvocadoRoasted Corn and Barley Salad; Corn and Coconut Salad

Soups: Tomato-Zucchini Soup; Chilled Zucchini Soup with Tarragon; Gazpacho; Cherry Gazpacho;

Tomatoes Stuffed with Walnut -Tarragon Chicken Salad

Tomatoes Stuffed with Walnut -Tarragon Chicken Salad

Main Events: Pasta with Fresh and Easy Tomato Sauce;  Sun-kissed Tomato-Basil Angel HairWhitefish with Tomato Caper Relish; Grilled Pork with Romesco Sauce;  Zucchini & Yellow Squash Gratin; Fried Green Tomato BLT; Tomato stuffed with Walnut-Chicken Salad; Corn and Tomato Farrasotto; Baked Peaches with Savory Ground Turkey

Sides: Butter Beans with Tomato Relish; Grilled Mexican Street Corn;  Southwest Corn and Zucchini Fritters; Blistered Baby Zucchini; Grilled Vegetables with Mediterranean Breadcrumbs

Desserts: Fresh Peach and Limoncello Sorbet; Ricotta topped with Honey, Blueberries and Fresh Thyme; Apricots stuffed with Mascarpone and Pistachios; Super-Simple Fresh Fruit Cobbler

Recipe: Outdoor Bar Cart

Ingredients

  • 1 (formerly used) Weber (or other) grill frame
  • Sandpaper, if needed
  • Rust-resistant spray paint, if needed
  • Enough 1×4-inch pine boards to construct two box side frames
  • Nails and screws as needed
  • Wood glue to secure corners of boxes and glue tile onto tray
  • Enough 1×2-inch pine boards to build one extending tray
  • Desired paint color (we used grey deck paint)
  • 1-inch wide wood trim, as needed
  • 1 piece of decorative tile to fit extending tray (we needed 9×13-inch)
  • Heavy galvanized wire mesh screen (comes in a roll)
  • Hot glue to secure rope trim
  • Decorative rope
  • Tacks to secure rope to top box
  • 4 hook eyes to secure rope handles to bottom box
  • Lucite trays to fit top and bottom finished boxes

Instructions

  1. If grill base is rusty, sand, wipe clean, then paint according to directions on spray can.
  2. Construct two box frames to fit top and bottom dimensions of cart: Miter corners to form a diagonal cuts on each end of the boards; glue sides together and secure with nails or screws, or use pneumatic nail gun. (Note that the top box frame will be secured to the top grill frame and the lower frame will rest on the existing bottom shelf.)
  3. Construct a new extending tray, to replace the extending wood tray on the original grill cart. Original grill cart had existing holes in the frame, which held original shelf. These holes were used to insert wood screws to hold new shelf secure.
  4. Paint the box frames, the extending shelf, and trim.
  5. Glue tile on top of extending tray to accommodate hot dishes.
  6. Cut screen to box frame size using wire cutter scissors. Stretch screen tight, then staple to the bottom of the wood frames. For added stability and strength, add a second layer of screen and secure in the same manner. (Note that you may substitute pine for the screen. We prefer the aesthetics of the screen.)
  7. Cover staple lines with a thin, 1-inch wide trim. (Note that we mitered the trim sides, as well.)
  8. To decorate, glue rope along top edge of the top box, then secure with tacks. For the bottom box, form rope handles on each end of  box: Drill two small starter holes and screw in hook eyes, and thread rope through hook eyes. Tie knots at the end of each rope hoop. Using hot glue, wrap rope 2/3’s along each handle of cart.
  9. Place lucite trays on top of wire mesh box bottoms.                                          *We drilled through the bottom of the grill’s frame into the bottom sides of the box. We secured this in place with wood screws. This was not necessary for the bottom, as our cart had a bottom shelf. We placed the bottom box on the shelf. ** The boards to form the top box frame to fit our grill frame were 27-inches long x 18-inches wide. The boards to form the bottom box frame were 23-inches long x 14-inches wide.

Number of servings (yield): 1  (49-inch long X 34-inch high) outdoor bar cart

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

 

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Lamb Burger Sliders with Beetroot Relish and Tzadziki

The burger – be it White Castle or Farmer’s Market Veggie-Grain – could be the most telling testimonial, the most apt memoir of the 20th and early 21st century American palate.  Little sis “Slider” drills into this hypothesis.

The Slider, especially, is suited to our national temperament and accommodates our multitasking lifestyle. It’s easily held in one hand while the other hand performs a variety of tasks. Be it holding a brew, tapping a screen, or guiding your steering wheel through traffic, The Slider understands the American temperment.

Rachel Ray, our own Slider Queen Miss USA, and her battalion of food marketing gurus must agree. About this time every year, and then again in Superbowl season, Sliders pelt us like BB’s. Why not? When properly executed, they’re delish.

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My new obsession are Lamb Sliders – been fine-tuning the following recipe through the summer. For mass appeal, I cut the gaminess of lamb by mixing with a bit of beef. The sweetness of the beetroot relish is the perfect foil for the garlicky, dill creaminess of the yogurt sauce. At first try I was messing up a pan by sautéing the onions and beets. No need. Grated raw beets soaked into the vinegar are a lovely texture.

A word about the bread. Back in the day I turned my nose up to Hawaiian rolls, those pillow-puff sweet buns. I’d choose a crusty artisan bun or roll everytime. But the Hawaiian rolls are quite wonderful as a slider encasement. Save the artisan for everything else. My soon-to be  daughter in law, Lucy Carnaghi, recently opened a diner  – Rose’s Find Foods – with her cousin Molly in Detroit. All of their breads are scratch made, including the  soft, subtly sweet, mashed potato dough bread. I’d like to see them, or some scratch-made similar, available in my local groceries.

Other great  slider recipes, and burgers  that can be adapted to sliders: Sliders with Pimento Cheese, My Favorite Turkey Burger, Bacon-Jam Burger, Black Bean Burgers, Caprese Pesto Burgers, Blue Cheese Burgers.

Note: The Beetroot Relish and Tzadziki may be made several days in advance.

Recipe: Lamb Burger Sliders

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 pound of ground beef (chuck makes the juiciest burger)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 16, 2-inch slider rolls
  • 1 recipe for beetroot relish (see below)
  • 1 recipe for tzadziki (see below)

Instructions

  1. Gently knead the lamb, beef, garlic, mint, cardamom (if using), salt and pepper together. (Cook a small bit of the batch, taste, and adjust seasonings to palate.) Divide and formn Oil grill grates, and heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes. Cook for 3-5 minutes longer for medium-rare burgers, or until desired level of doneness. Grill the buns until lightly toasted, if desired.
  2. Spread one side of bun with relish and the other side with relish. (Recipes follow.) Place burgers in buns and serve.

Cooking time: 35 minutes, if tzadziki and relish are made

Number of servings (yield): 16 sliders

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Beetroot Relish

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium-sized red beets
  • 1/2 medium-sized red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Wearing plastic gloves, trim greens* and both ends, peel and grate. (You should have about 2-plus packed cups of grated beets). Remove outer skin of onion. With a box grater, grate beets and onion.
  2. Whisk together oil, vinegar and sugar. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir grated beets and onion into vinaigrette. (May be made several days in advance.)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Tzadziki

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded, then cut into small (1/4-inch) dice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (dill or mint, or combination of both)
  • 1 scant teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup plain, strained, Greek-styled yogurt (I use Fage 2 percent)

Instructions

  1. Place diced cucumbers on paper towels or in a fine mesh sieve; lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Let drain 15-30 minutes, pressing into towels or sieve with spoon to release excess moisture.
  2. To make the tzadziki, combine cucumbers with herbs, garlic and yogurt; season to taste with kosher salt, if needed, and freshly ground pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

 

 

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