Pasta, anyone?

I do believe this summer will go down in family history as the Summer of the Tomatoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I do love me some tomatoes. But thanks to my husband’s plant selection and what must be a particularly optimal growing season (can you believe I haven’t seen a single tomato horn worm this year?) (knocking on wood; crossing myself; throwing salt over my shoulder; spitting twice), my tomato cup runneth over.

And so the course of my days has changed.

The weird thing is, I really kind of like it.

I used to get up, have coffee while dealing with email, and get right to work. I would work all day (minus fifteen interruptions from Monkey wanting to know what I was doing now, and did I want to play Wii with him instead, and was it time to go swimming yet?) (answers: still working, yes but no thank you, and just a few more minutes) and try to knock off early to swim with the kids and otherwise actually be present with my family, and then eventually it would be evening and then bedtime.

But now, that’s all changed.

I get up early and have my coffee, and then Licorice and I go outside to gather tomatoes.

Back inside, I do a little bit of work and then go deal with the tomatoes, cutting them up to roast with garlic and onions. I work for a few hours while they cook down, then take a break to pluck the withered skins off right after I pull them out of the oven. A little more work, and then they’re cool enough for the blender.

Poor Monkey; he loves the blender part. I think he’s spent a little too much time watching Will It Blend?; he seems to believe that if he watches me closely enough, maybe one day I’ll decide that my tomato sauce really needs a little bit of iPhone or lightbulb to finish it off. I am constantly disappointing him.

Eventually I put up the sauce and get everything labeled and put away. It tastes like summer and I’m already dreaming of pulling it out on cold, dreary days when the garden feels like a distant memory.

The kicker, of course, is that NEITHER of my children will eat pasta with sauce on it. Monkey’s issues mean he is not a food mixer; he will eat sauce, just not ON the pasta. He’ll eat it if you put it on the side, though. Chickadee just isn’t a huge fan of tomatoes, and claims she doesn’t like sauce at all. (Except on pizza, because pizza gets a pass for being pizza, one assumes.)

And I can’t eat wheat pasta, so even though I’ve been known to buy the gluten-free stuff, I don’t really eat much pasta, either.

Which kind of makes all of this tomato-labor seem a little… dumb. But I’m thinking… soups, chilis, etc. We’ll use it up somehow.

And there’s something about spending a portion of every day using my hands to preserve what we’ve grown that’s very soothing. I find that the closer the start of school gets, the more slowly and carefully I work, the more I savor the scent that hangs in the kitchen for the rest of the day.

There is meditation in a process I can follow, repeat, and that yields an unfailing bounty. I’ll miss it when fall arrives.

44 Responses to “Pasta, anyone?”

  1. 1
    Average Jane July 18, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    How exciting! So far I have been getting a bounteous crop of grape tomatoes, but none of my larger varieties have started ripening yet (although I think I spotted one reddening Roma tomato this morning when I went out to water). I’m hoping to be able to make lots of pico de gallo, which will also help me use up my bumper crop of jalapeño peppers.

  2. 2
    Holly July 18, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Do y’all like salsa? That might be a good alternative tomato using/preserving option.

  3. 3
    suzie July 18, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Spaghetti squash is amazing with sauce.

  4. 4
    Sally July 18, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I can’t eat wheat, either, but I love sauce dumped over a chicken breast.

  5. 5
    RuthWells July 18, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I am green with envy, as the $#^%&* squirrels are once again decimating our tomato crop. But back in the day when I actually got to pick some of my own tomatoes, I made batches and batches of tomato bisque for the freezer. Nothing like a warm bowl of summer on a frozen February afternoon…

  6. 6
    Sheila July 18, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Mir, you just nonchalanty slipped a little ‘school starting soon’ reference in there and made me sigh. My Wisconsin tomatoes are nothing but flowers and little green orbs, and yet you’re right: school starts sooner rather than later. Wah. Summer in these parts is such a fleeting thing…

    Glad you’re enjoying the bounty now. Happy canning!

  7. 7
    Anthony from CharismaticKid July 18, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    YUMMMMM. Tomatoes and broccoli were my favorite veggie as a kid.

    My dad used to make me tomato sandwiches, which is what I make for the kids these days.

    You slice up a tomato, put it on whole wheat bread. Then slather on mayo and salt and pepper. Now you got yourself a sandwich!

  8. 8
    joanne July 18, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Argh!I found 2 little bitty tomato worms yesterday! I have inspected the remaining plants very closely every few hours, desparate to find the horrible creatures before they do too much damage.

    And… nothing else has born fruit…not a single zucchini yet, the hints of a few peppers… I thinktheproblem with the Zucchini is that I also threw pumpkins seeds out there, and I think the pumpkins may have cross-polinated and taken over.

  9. 9
    Jen July 18, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks to wonky weather this summer here in San Diego (Look! It’s summer! It’s 80 degrees! Haha, fooled you! 60 degrees for the rest of the week! I am wearing a sweatshirt this morning and seriously considered turning on the heater in my office.), my tomato plants, started from seed in April, are still tiny. I bought a few plants, one of which produced some tomatoes then dropped dead; the others are slowly thinking about maybe growing tomatoes at some point. It will probably get hot once school starts, and I’ll get some tomatoes then, when I have no time to do anything with them. Fortunately, it stays warm enough here that I can grow for pretty much the entire year – I have two tomato plants and a bell pepper plant still alive from last year and producing meager amounts of fruit.

  10. 10
    Laura July 18, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Did you know that jars of home-made red sauce makes great gifts? :-)

  11. 11
    diane July 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Mmmm, homemade tomato sauce. Sauce makes everything better. When we were kids (and heck, I still do it when I make sauce) we would have a “sauce sandwich” to test it – just spread a little sauce on squishy white bread. I suppose you could do the same with gluten free bread? The only thing sauce may not improve is rice cakes…

    Chicken/turkey baked in sauce, covered with cheese. Eggplant, ditto. Meatballs quickly browned, then left to simmer in sauce for an hour or more to cook them through. A family favorite is the Sicilian verion of Germany’s roulanden – flank steak pounded thin, rolled around a stuffing of breadcrumbs, parmesan and spices held together with a little olive oil. Tie with string to secure. Brown, then simmer in the sauce for as long as it takes to be done. Remove string, slice into pinwheels and devour.

    Annnd – I realize most of your family can’t eat varients of these. Dang. But even the side dish of sauce sounds yummy.

  12. 12
    Nimble July 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    It sounds like a good routine to me. Enjoy your gentlewoman farming! I recommend polenta for your tom. sauce. I am quite astonished at how much I love polenta. You can add cheese or not, it comes premade in tubes or you can stir it for 20 min on the stove. So good.

  13. 13
    Holly July 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    My one goal this summer was to steal as many tomatoes as I could from my parents garden and make spaghetti sauce and tomato soup…Unfortunately, California has had another coolish summer so tomatoes are kind of a bust out here…Post more about tomatoes and I’ll live vicariously through you!

  14. 14
    hollygee July 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Trader Joe’s GF pasta ain’t bad (and is a LOT cheaper than Tinkyada) if it’s prepared correctly, which is not the instructions on the pasta package way.

    Bring the water to a boil, put in pasta, return to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, drain and rinse.

    Not great for pasta salads.

  15. 15
    Liz July 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I got tired of waiting for our tomatoes and went and got some from the farmers market. We tried the most awesome recipe from Food Network for grilled lasagna. The best part was the grated sauce. You grate a tomato into a strainer. Pour it into a bowl mix in some garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and salt. That is it. My kids were practically drinking it.

  16. 16
    Sarah July 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Did you know you can freeze tomatoes and use them throughout the year like canned tomatoes? Wash them then flash freeze them whole. When you’re ready to use them in a recipe just rinse them in hot water or let them sit in hot water for a minute and slip the skins off. Then use them like a jarred tomato. Less work than canning but oh so tasty!

  17. 17
    Katie in MA July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    You get points for not just diving into the roasted garlic tomatoes with a bag of tortilla chips. :)

    And I would beware any sounds of blending on Monkey’s dinner night… just sayin’. ;-)

  18. 18
    TC July 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    a) I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you’re using that recipe! Even though I didn’t write it or have anything to do with its creation. I put the link in your comments, and that’s enough for me!

    b) My husband DESPISES cheese; won’t eat it, period. Except…? Yes. Pizza. WTF? I do not know. But he and Chickie would enjoy a meal together, is what I’m saying. (He also doesn’t like pasta. Which means there is something deeply, deeply wrong with him. Not being able to eat it is one thing. Not LIKING it is another entirely.

  19. 19
    kopi-susu July 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Roast an onion and a couple peppers at the same time and have Huevos Rancheros!! Mmmm, tortillas with sunny-side up eggs, black beans, tomato sauce, and guac and mexican sour cream.

    That same slant on tomato sauce can make an enchilada sauce, or you can make rice with tomato sauce…..

    “Salsas that Cook” by Rick Bayless has great basic keep-on-hand sauce recipes that he extrapolates into full dishes – it’s on my kitchen counter all summer for dealing with the tomato overload. I can send you a recipe with my comments if you like rather than post here, since they’re not my recipes…

  20. 20
    Jamie July 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    After my husband roasts the tomatoes with onions, garlic and a bit of seasonings, he blends it and adds roasted corn. Wonderful warm with Fritos or other tortilla chips. Lucky you have the abundance; our garden did squat this year in the heat.

  21. 21
    Little Bird July 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    My mother and I can tomatoes every summers end. We get a 25 pound box for about $15 and spend an entire day canning the suckers. We get about 15 or so jars which last us all winter long. I make chili out of ‘em. One or two jars goes to making pasta sauce and two or three jars are still left over from last year! And whoever suggested that jars of home made sauce (or home canned tomatoes in general) make good gifts is right! They make great gifts!! People will even offer to PAY you if you make a few extra jars for them!!

  22. 22
    Meri July 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    I often chuck cored tomatoes into my dutch oven with a little salt and cook them down into soup for a hour. So good.

    I’m still waiting for them to come in up here…

  23. 23
    Karen July 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Would it be too much to ask for the recipe/preparation of that tomatoe sauce, step by step? Please? we have 2,000 tomato plants out in Mr. Type A’s garden in the back, and I will be expected to do something important with them.

  24. 24
    Stimey July 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    We didn’t put in a vegetable garden this year and the only thing I miss about it is no tomatoes. Perhaps you could start substituting tomatoes for apples?

  25. 25
    ememby July 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    And at the very least you can give it away to houseguests and visitors – slap a fancy label on it and call it good :) Or pair with handmade pasta and give as a teachers gift. Win them with food, right?

  26. 26
    Carolyn July 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Some of the best gluten free pasta we’ve found is the HEB brand penne pasta. If you have HEB there, you should give it a try. It’s passed the 14 year old picky eater test! AND it’s affordable!!!

  27. 27
    Brenda July 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Build a basket or box with sauce, dry pasta, maybe a bottle of wine — perfect gift for many occasions. Or homemade salsa, chips and margerita fixins — That’s what my sister does when the garden takes off at her house.

  28. 28
    Lulu July 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    That sauce ought to make a great base for vegetarian minestrone. I use the minstrone recipe from my ancient “Diet for a Small Planet” cookbook. (It calls for tomato juice, but this sauce would be awesome!) You could cook GF pasta on the side and stir it into the bowls of those who want pasta in their soup…

  29. 29
    ramblin red July 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Dude….so many great ideas! Enchilada sauce is another good usage of tomatoes :)

  30. 30
    Lylah @ WriteEditRepeat July 18, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Tinkyada makes a really good GF lasagna noodle — seriously, it’s so good that my non-GF kids eat it without thinking twice. So, there’s another option for all that lovely sauce! Also: Roasted tomatoes, unblended, makes a lovely chunky topping for polenta (if you’re in the North) or grits (if you’re in the South).

    OK, now I’m hungry.

  31. 31
    Gloria July 19, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    “maybe one day I’ll decide that my tomato sauce really needs a little bit of iPhone or lightbulb to finish it off ” – OMG i’m laughing out loud))))))

    I love tomato pasta, I actually love tomatoes in any condition))

    Thanks for the post!!

  32. 32
    Chris in NY July 19, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    I call the tomato, garlic, onion concoction “soup” base (I add whole basil leaves that can be fished out at the end and don’t cook it down until it is thick, just a couple of hours to meld flavors). I use it to make soup all fall and winter. The clear winner for this base in our home is to add frozen corn, 1 tsp sugar and and 1/2 c. sour cream. Once that is warm add one smallish package of frozen salad size shrimp and heat until warm. Makes a yummy shrimp corn chowder.

  33. 33
    elz July 19, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Mmmm, pasta sauce. I can support that! We had this delicious fresh bruschetta type of thing on vacation- fresh tomatoes, garlic, a bit of pepper, a bit of onion. So good. Maybe the kids woudl go for that?

  34. 34
    Tracy B July 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    My mouth is watering for chili. My favorite dish of all time. I would love some of that homemade sauce. =o( I’m buying a batch of tomatoes this weekend.

  35. 35
    Jenn July 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    How do you roast and then blend the tomatoes? For the last couple of summers, I’ve cooked tomatoes down and then water-bath canned them, but I have a full-time job and don’t have the time for all of that. I was going to get a vegetable strainer and do the tomatoes that way (rather than skinning them and then taking the seeds out and blah blah blah) but roasting…. huh. Sounds very tasty…

  36. 36
    laura July 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    No tomatoes at my house yet. I am picking a dozen cucumbers every evening out of my garden. I’m dropping off bags of them at the neighbor’s houses. I’m to the place that I really don’t care if they want them.

  37. 37
    aem2 July 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Okay, this is not really canned-tomato-related, but I saw this today and felt you should know about it. Bacon. Jam.

    http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/do-it-yourself/2011/06/how-to-make-bacon-jam/

    You’re welcome.

  38. 38
    Daisy July 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Soups, chilis, and salsa. You can always wrap up jars and give them away as gifts. I do that with jams, and if we have enough salsa, I might gift those, too. That’s a big if, though. My daughter and husband love salsa.

  39. 39
    Joan Murray July 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Gluten intolerant also, I love baked potato, smashed up on plate with spaghetti sauce and lots of cheese, and mushrooms. odd, but the (wheat) alternative is not worth it.

  40. 40
    liz July 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Pizza, chili, gazpacho, chicken cacciatore. Mmmmmm

  41. 41
    Brigitte July 20, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Mmmm, already fantasizing your roasted tomatoes mixed with a little chicken stock and crumbled, cooked Italian sausage, with a side of crusty bread. Oh wait, your roasted tomatoes aren’t making it to MY freezer!

  42. 42
    Andrea July 20, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Tomato sauce over green beans with a smattering of parmesean cheese. Yum…really!

  43. 43
    Headless Mom July 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    I’m thinking my kids will love the blend website. They already think the “will it blow up in the microwave” youtube channel is the best thing since sliced bread.

  44. 44
    Lady of Perpetual Chaos July 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m intrigued with how you can your sauce. I’ve done salsa & plain tomatoes but this is the first year I’m making sauce. I would love your recipe/instructions…if you’re willing to share. ;o)

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