I love my small but powerful front yard garden. It captures a blazing sun all summer, while we languish in the deep shade of the back yard (or more likely, inside in the A/C) and transforms it to food more delicious (and better for both my family and the world) than I can buy.
My learning curve has been pretty steep (Oh! You need to water plants when it is 105 degrees out) and in this third year of vegetable gardening, the garden’s output has been exponentially greater than in my two previous years. I’ve learned what grows well in my conditions, and it if doesn’t grow well, I rip it out and plant something that does grow well. Take that, bolting cauliflower! I also am learning about ways to capture the season’s bounty for later in the year.
I do a little canning, yes, but man, is that a production. Plus, I really like my vegetables on the snappy side, and the canning process overcooks things like green beans, to my taste. Green beans get blanched in salted boiling water, shocked in ice water, and packed into quart-size freezer bags. I also use the blanch-and-shock method for summer squash and snow peas. Sugar snap peas get eaten raw, faster than my plants can produce.
Hearty greens, like swiss chard and beet greens, I sauté with onions and garlic, add some feta cheese and an egg, and layer between olive oil slicked sheets of phyllo in disposable cake pans. After scoring the unbaked phyllo into serving sized pieces, I wrap tightly with foil, then plastic wrap, and stash in the freezer for easy weeknight spanikopita, or as gift-dinners for new moms and grieving friends.
And then, there are tomatoes. These jewels of the garden need a little TLC; they are high maintenance to grow organically, so I take special care to preserve them in a way that captures their sunny-sweet flavor for the darker months. This year, alongside my enormous and craggy heirloom breeds and a stand of sugary orange Sun Sweets, I grew a very prolific hybrid: the Juliette tomato. It is basically a small sized Roma tomato, thick-fleshed and meaty and perfect for sauce. Today my kiddo came in with close to 40 of them, bright red and bursting with flavor. A little internet research led me to David Lebovitz’s roasting method, rich and aromatic with olive oil and rosemary. The smell of these tomatoes as they roasted was insane….something like sticking your nose in the bag of brown sugar as a pot of rich tomato sauce simmers nearby. I roasted 3 whole heads of garlic alongside the tomatoes because I am married to a guy who always moans softly under his breath when he comes across a clove of roasted garlic in his food.
I can’t wait to puree these lovelies with stock and a splash of cream for a quick fall soup supper. Or to warm them with olives to spoon over roasted fish. Or to saute them with eggplant and serve over polenta, with a few nuggets of soft goat cheese.
Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Suitable for Freezing
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Each full tray of halved tomatoes will yield 2 scant pints of concentrated tomatoeness
Your surfeit of tomatoes, especially romas and their progeny
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 heads of garlic
3 stems rosemary
Several pinches kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Arrange the tomatoes, cut side down, in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil. Slice the top of the garlic heads off to expose the tops of the cloves, and place cut side down on the baking sheets. Tuck rosemary sprigs here and there, and season with a few pinches of salt.
Roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until tomatoes smell jammy, and their skins have blistered. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Gently squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins.
Pack roasted tomatoes into pint containers, tossing dividing garlic cloves between the containers, label, and freeze for up to 6 months.