Torrent of Tomatoes

September 28, 2011

Can anything compare with picking fresh vegetables out in the kitchen garden, bringing them in and then cooking them for your next meal? Doubtful, especially if its luscious bright red tomatoes you’re plucking off the vine. Something happens to tomatoes within hours after harvesting, and they are never the same. I have always wanted to have at least one tomato plant in my garden, but since I am not the gardener, the flowers always trump the vegetables.

Visiting my daughter in New Mexico my dream came so true it almost became a nightmare a la Little Shop of Horrors.  Her gardeners had planted tomatoes everywhere it seemed and I could not quite believe my eyes when I saw so many promising bushes. But I had not reckoned with the fecund combination of New Mexico’s dry hot weather and every day brilliant sunshine. Before I knew it, I was bringing in bushels of tomatoes, and doing anything that would capture the perfection of just harvested Roma, Beefsteak, Big Boy beauties, you name it and it was there. Many large sweet Beafsteak specimens were washed, sliced, covered with slices of even fresher mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sprinkled with chopped red onion and fresh basil and consumed at historic speed.  Cauldrons of tomatoes were blanched, skinned, mashed, chopped, reduced into pasta sauce, preserves, chutneys, every recipe I had on the subject was put to use.

Initially it was euphoria, but human nature being being, well, human, it became too much of a good thing. I had hardly brought in 20 lbs. of tomatoes ripe and ready when another 20 lbs suddenly appeared awaiting dispensation. This started off amazing and ended up defying me. For another person it might not have meant much, they would have gone on their way and let the tomatoes find their way to the ground. For me that was tantamount to blasphemy. I had carelessly prayed too hard for a plenitude of something and now I had to deal with an answered imploration.

It was fine in the end though, even if our lips, like the leaves on the trees, had turned a little reddish by the time autumn rolled around.

One of the most popular results of the Torrent of Tomatoes was my Tomato Basil Soup.

I like it well enough but it seems to have struck a deeper chord with my daughter and her friends and since they want to know how I make it I thought it best to put it up here.

Just a passing thought: Basil is another Sun Lover, and perhaps that is why it makes a good marriage with Tomato.

 8-10 medium-large plump ripe unblemished tomatoes
 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 

3 shallots diced

5 large cloves of garlic diced

2 cans of chicken broth

tiny pinch each thyme and oregano
good pinch each black and white pepper
salt to taste

half a cup of heavy cream

bunch of fresh tender basil leaves, chop them at the last minute just before you serve the soup

Blanch tomatoes in a large saucepan by simmering in boiling water for a couple of minutes, remove from heat, run cold water over them until the skin peels off easily. Discard skin, and as many seeds as you can, an impossible job. Chop up the tomatoes to the smallest size you can.  I cut them up with kitchen scissors kept expressly for this purpose. Set aside.

In another large saucepan, heat butter, saute shallots and garlic for a minute or two, add tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, oregano, both peppers, salt if you must, pour in cream stirring all the time, bring to a slow boil, and continue to simmer at low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree. Pour through strainer if you like a smooth creamy texture. I prefer to keep a little pulp in the soup, which then might cause it to be called a bisque.  Not very sure, but adding it makes it look and taste interesting. Just like life.

Sprinkle basil on hot soup and serve immediately.

I think I’m done with my Tomatoes in My Garden Fantasy for a while. The Farmer’s Market down the road, held every Saturday, will do nicely for the foreseeable future!

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