With Summer starting a bit late this year due to a cooler July 2016, tomatoes are at their peak now in September when normally, the peak season would be August. Our crops at Forest Grove Elementary are doing really well under our hoop house which is also protecting them from late season blight. Even the random plants growing without being under the protection of the hoop house are also doing quite well.
We’ve been harvesting a variety of tomatoes including: pear, grape, cherry and a larger sized tomato. Sounds more like fruit which reminds me to say that tomatoes are in fact fruit as the come from a flower. Our crops have been really tasty and sweet too.
So what is the best way to enjoy tomatoes? I have two suggestions right from the mouths of our kids at Forest Grove. Our two most popular recipes to how to enjoy tomatoes, one using uncooked simple ingredients crostinniwithtomatobasil (link to video) and one using tomatoes in a freshtomatosauceforpasta.
Fresh Tomatoes on Crostinni
Harvest as many different kinds of fresh tomatoes as you can
Cut a baguette on an angle and spread out on a baking sheet to crisp up
Paint each piece of bread with olive oil and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 8 mins
Rub each piece of toasted baguette with a clove of raw garlic. NOTE: be careful not to rub too much garlic on each piece as it will taste quite “spicy” to kids.
Cut up fresh tomatoes into small pieces; small enough to fit on to each piece of bread.
Combine the cut up tomatoes, chopped basil, olive oil, salt & pepper with a splash of balsamic vinegar into a bowl.
When crostinni toasts have cooled, add the tomato topping on to each piece along with some grated Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately as a starter or appetizer.
Also try roasting peppers add instead of tomatoes.
If you can’t enjoy the tomatoes right away or have a bumper crop where you have an abundance, consider freezing some of your crops in a large ziploc bag. This works really well if you would like to make tomato sauce later in the year. We are doing this at Forest Grove since the tomatoes are ready faster than our cooking classes will start.
Speaking of cooking classes and cooking tomatoes, our recipe for a basic tomato sauce has been a real hit with the kids. My own daughter has perfected the recipe recently at age 9 after practicing several times over the summer. It’s made her feel super proud to be able to cook for her family !
Basic Tomato Sauce
The recipe I use stems from a combination of my Foods 11 and 12 classes in high school when I was taught by a young Italian teacher as well as watching other Italian cooking shows. I find using simple fresh ingredients and only a few ingredients helps kids remember too.
We also do a version with canned tomatoes which can be cooked down and reduced into a pizza sauce. Simply subsitute the canned tomatoes for the fresh and prepare the below recipe the same way.
For the fresh tomato version, start with peeling and slicing about 6 large cloves of garlic
On the same cutting board with the same knife, cut up 4 to 6 vine ripened tomatoes in 6 pieces per half tomato to transfer the flavour of the garlic.
Once your garlic is sliced, add the garlic to a cold pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil
As the pan heats up, add a few pinches of red chilli flakes
There is a debate about whether to allow the garlic to brown. To me, allowing the garlic to brown just slightly around the edges really improves the flavour of the sauce.
Once the garlic has started to brown a bit, add the cut up tomatoes. NOTE: this is the part where the pan will spit as the juice from the tomatoes hits the hot oil. This can scare some kids so warn them ahead of time.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt and dried oregano. If you have fresh oregano, add it closer to the end of the sauce.
Allow the sauce to cook and reduce slightly. When sauce has reduced a bit, add fresh chopped basil which should also be still growing nicely around BC. Amazingly, I found a huge bunch of basil at a local produce market for only $1.79!
This is when your pasta should be almost done. Instead of draining the pasta, I prefer to remove the pasta with tongs or a slotted spoon and add it to the pan along with some pasta water.
Toss the sauce together with the pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Kids will never go back to the jarred stuff again. I promise!