Ingredient SpotLight

It's September and that means that I'm up to my armpits in tomatoes! Every year, I add another variety to my favorite tomato patch and end up with more than I know what to do with. Inevitably, I end up roasting pan after pan of them and freezing some to be added to everything from sauces to relish to hot pasta when the winter weather has made finding a good tomato next to impossible!

While tomatoes are often associated with Italian cooking, they weren't introduced until the early 1500s when Spaniards brought them back from their adventures in the New World. They are actually native to the Andes region of Chile, Columbia, Bolivia and Peru, although they were likely first domesticated in Mexico. Today, they are featured in cuisines from all over the world and the typical American enjoys over 80 pounds a year!

And they should be enjoyed. A typical cup of chopped tomatoes contains a mere 35 calories and a lot of nutritional content ... everything from vitamin C to lycopene, a nutrient thought to help ward off prostate cancer. Enjoy them fresh, roasted, sautéed, braised, baked and broiled ... and everything in between! This time of the year, perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy them is right off the vine and over the sink so the warm juices don't make a mess on the floor!!!

Roasted Tomato Soup

This wonderful soup is a perfect mate to a hot grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy its sweet, smoky flavor as fall starts to show its colors.
  • 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes -- cored, halved and seeded
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 red onions -- chopped
  • 1 garlic clove -- minced
  • 3 c. vegetable stock
  • 3 T. fresh basil -- chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the baking sheet, cut side down. Broil the tomatoes until their skins are blistered, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Slip off the skins and chop the tomatoes coarsely.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until the onions are very soft, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the prepared tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth (or transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth; return to the saucepan). Stir in the stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Season with the salt and pepper. The soup can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Simple Tomato Relish

This relish features roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic and is divine when spread over toasted bread.
  • 1 pint red grape tomatoes
  • 1 pint yellow grape tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion -- cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 12 cloves garlic -- peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, basil, or marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two shallow roasting pans with parchment paper or foil. Arrange the tomatoes in one pan and the onion and garlic in the other. Drizzle both with the oil and vinegar, season with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast until the tomatoes split and the onion and garlic have softened, about 25 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and some of the juices to a bowl. Adjust seasoning, if desired. Add the herb and toss. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.

  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time
Enjoy the remainder of the tomato season and remember that when you have too many, it’s a perfect time to toss them in the oven, roast them until perfect and pop them into plastic containers or resealable bags and freeze them to enjoy during the winter months when a good tomato, much less a homegrown roasted one, is hard to find.