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What do I do with an Abundance of Tomatoes?

By July 7, 2014 Uncategorized

What do you do in the summer when you get your hands on 30 pounds of cosmetically challenged tomatoes? Make fresh tomato juice, of course!

IMG_2938Photo by Amanda Orser

I created this recipe last summer when my friend Amanda and I got our hands on a surplus of tomatoes. I have already had people asking me this year for recipes to assist in doing something with an abundance of tomatoes that they have coming out of their garden.

I am a bit of a beverage junkie. I like fresh vegetable juice a lot! I cannot think of many drinks more enjoyable in the summertime than a glass of fresh tomato juice. You can drink it all on its own or spice it up with different additions that I will include in the following recipe.

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What do you need to get started?

Equipment:

– a good blender (I use a Vitamix brand blender)

– a fine mesh strainer

– a gallon size pitcher

– a mixing bowl

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Ingredients:

– 12 cups quartered fresh tomatoes

– Sea salt or kosher salt

– 2 celery stalks

– juice from 3 limes

– juice from 2 lemons

Optional Additions:

– 1 T Worcestershire sauce

– Pickled Calabrian Chilies (or other peppers) to your taste for spiciness (I use 4 chilies per recipe, which creates a subtle spicy kick to my juice)

– 1 T fresh grated or prepared horseradish

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Preparation steps:

1)    Core and cut the any blemishes from your tomatoes

2)    Put the quartered tomatoes in a bowl

3)    Sprinkle the quartered tomatoes with a couple tablespoons of sea salt and toss the tomatoes thoroughly with the salt (this will bring the juices out of the tomatoes)

4)    Let the tomatoes sit for 5-10 minutes

5)    Fill your blender 3/4 full of tomatoes and their juices, blend on high until completely pureed

6)    Place your strainer over the pitcher

7)    Pour the tomato juice through the strainer into the pitcher (you may have to stir the tomato puree a bit for the juice to go through the strainer)

8)    Continue doing this in batches until all of the tomatoes have been pureed

9)    With your last batch of tomatoes in the blender, add the celery stalks and puree with the tomatoes

10)  After you have pureed and strained all of your tomato juice, add the lemon juice and lime juice

11) Add additional salt to your taste

Optional additions – Stir in your additions as you like, to taste. I pureed the chilies that I added in the blender with the seeds. Play with the recipe to customize it to your liking. The options are endless!

*Note* Since this is fresh juice, the shelf life is short. I suggest consuming the tomato juice within 48 hours.

Lesson: I will assure you that this fresh tomato juice will invigorate your senses! It will take a bit more time to make this juice compared to picking a bottle of prepared tomato juice from the shelf at the grocery store.

You are worth the time it takes to create something special for yourself.  Can you think of it as a refresher? What are ways that you refresh yourself already?

 

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Cultivating Summer Veggies and Friendships with a Side of Squash Casserole

By June 16, 2014 Uncategorized

I get nostalgic in the summertime. My grandparents always had a summer vegetable garden. There was never really a discussion about the vegetable garden. It was a way of life for them. My grandmother made pickles, canned tomatoes, and “put up” beans in the freezer. That’s what they did. No question. No discussion.

I remember that food seemed to taste better in the summertime. My grandparents knew what they were doing. It was no secret to them. Food does taste better and more vibrant straight from the garden, no matter the season.

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Summer suppers have been a favorite meal of mine for a long time. I learned that in the summertime you don’t really need meat on the table, although you might add a bit of pork to your beans for flavor.  The straight-from-the-garden veggies are the stars of the meal.

One of my favorite summer dishes is squash casserole. I grew up eating squash one of two ways – either fried in an iron skillet with onions or in a casserole. I loved them both and still do. Yellow crookneck squash has a delicate flavor. Adding some other ingredients to a dish really brings the squash flavor to the forefront.

I did a profile on summer squash in my previous post, if you want to find out about the nutritional benefits and other ways squash can be prepared. I added a bit of history for the fun of it!

When thinking of which squash recipe to share with you, I had to turn to my good friend, Fran Moore, for her excellent squash casserole recipe. It is her family’s recipe. Fran is more exuberant about squash than anyone I have ever met. She gave me permission to share the Moore Family Squash Casserole recipe with you. Like many old family recipes, it was never written down – I appreciate Fran putting her interpretation in writing!

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The Moore Family Squash Casserole, as told by Fran Moore

 I usually get 6-8 yellow squash. I prefer crook-nosed as opposed to straight neck. Smaller ones are more tender; if you have only small ones to choose from, then get about 8-10.

I usually use one whole onion for that size of a batch. If you double the recipe, use two onions.

Dice onion (I prefer mine small, but you could do a large dice as well)

Slice squash (about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick)

Boil onion and squash until soft. Strain and put into large mixing bowl.

Add about 1 cup PROGRESSO® Italian style bread crumbs

Add 1-2 eggs (beaten)

Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese – depending on how much cheese you like

Add several dashes of TABASCO® sauce

Stir all with wooden spoon or spatula.

Spray glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread entire filling into dish and bake approximately 30 minutes in 375 degree oven.

Top casserole with grated cheddar cheese, sprinkle with paprika, and bake until melted to your desired doneness of cheese (I like mine almost dark and bubbling, not merely melted)

ENJOY!

PS: Fran tells me that her aunt uses RITZ crackers instead of bread crumbs; you could add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or some paprika if you wanted to for color.

Lesson: Good friends are as important in my life as good food. Fran and I have been friends for many years, in this life and beyond. Like the summer vegetable garden, friendships call for care and nurturing. I am very appreciative that we have nurtured our relationship for so many years. What is a relationship that you have cared for like a summer garden? What have been the benefits for you?

 

 

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