From storage tips to new recipes, put your bountiful harvest to good use.
Written by Kevin Revolinski
Tomatoes have invaded your countertop. Or maybe your neighbor’s car is locked and you have no place to throw 10 pounds of zucchini. Don’t panic; there are many ways to take advantage of nature’s boon and not go crazy with monotonous meals while waiting.
Keep it fresh a little longer
Start mapping out your meals throughout the week, at your own pace, and eating whatever spoils first. Slow down the ripening process; paper bags, summer heat and fruits that give off a lot of ethylene gas only speed it up. Slow down the clock by keeping bananas and apples away from your other vegetables, and don’t store onions with your potatoes. If you can’t eat them in time, you can and should refrigerate fully ripe tomatoes in the vegetable drawer to store them for a few more days; just let them warm to room temperature before eating for all the flavor. Ripen the partially green leaves on the counter upside down with the stems pulled out.
If you haven’t already, try the caprese salad: sliced tomatoes, basil, olive oil, fresh mozzarella and salt. Be rebellious and add a dash of aged balsamic vinegar. A batch of salsa fresca is also easy and great for fries or taco night.
Throw diced tomatoes into your scrambled eggs or omelettes or learn how to make Turkish menemen. You can knock down 2 pounds of tomatoes, a large cucumber, and a bell pepper by making a batch of Cold Spanish Soup Gazpacho. The Spaniards drink it by the glass like tomato juice, and wine or sherry vinegar prolongs its life in a jar in the fridge.
The Greek salad takes more cukes and wedges of vine tomatoes (or halved cherries) with feta, red onion and kalamata olives. Keep the dressing and cheese separate until ready to serve, and you can prepare the vegetables in a large container in the refrigerator for a few days.
Besides zucchini bread, try a side dish of sautéed, grilled or even roasted zucchini slices, seasoned and topped with grated parmesan.
Dry your herbs for the winter. Make batches of Genovese pesto with your excess basil (or even cilantro), and store it in small jars in the freezer. But Italy second the most popular pesto is Sicilian pesto made from tomatoes trapanese pesto. Fresh tomatoes and blanched/peeled almonds with basil, garlic, salt and EVOO are all ground into a paste with a mortar and pestle and tossed with parmesan cheese. Boil the pasta al dente, drain and stir the uncooked pesto into the hot noodles.
Throw the cherry tomatoes in a saucepan and sauté them until they burst. Add salt, garlic and basil and you have a simple and delicious pasta sauce. Play around with the ingredients if you prefer: red onions, smoked or other flavored salt, mushrooms, other herbs. Save a cup of starchy pasta water, then drain but do not rinse the noodles. Stir the sauce into the hot noodles until the sauce thickens and coats them. Add a little cooking water if necessary and maintain a little on the heat, stirring all the time.
Fast or not so fast conservation
Canning and pickling requires a bit of effort and preparation, and if you are canning foods with low acidity, with a pH above 4.6 – i.e. most vegetables, even some tomatoes – you have to use a pressure cooker. Otherwise, like with pickles where you add vinegar, you can stick with the double boiler method. If you haven’t tried pickled cherry tomatoes, check it out! An explosion of flavors in the mouth.
But there is also the quick pickle option. Slices of cucumber, zucchini, cabbage, red onion, jalapeños, radishes, beets and more can be packed in a sterilized jar with a brine (usually 1 part water, 1 part vinegar, with sugar and salt to balance flavor) for a few hours or a day or two before eating. It’s a great option if you don’t have enough of something to merit multiple quart jars and a double boiler, and they can be ready for dinner the same day. Most will keep for weeks or even months. I often have a jar of do chua in the fridge, a Vietnamese relish made with julienned carrots and daikon (radish) used for sandwiches and noodle dishes. Another amazing option is the Italian style melanzane sott’olio – eggplant strips marinated and soaked in olive oil. It is known to convert eggplant enemies.
And perhaps the easiest solution for some tomatoes: freezing them in pouches for later sauces. Although it’s faster than canning, don’t keep them too long or the freezer burn will spoil the flavor. Pesto freezes well in small jars or in ice cube trays – grab a cube or two for each serving. In a few months, you’ll be happy to pull out this delicious reminder of summer.
Creamy scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes and zucchini
1 medium or large tomato
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (1/8 inch)
1-2 tablespoons of cream
Salt and pepper
Diced onion (optional)
Crushed garlic (optional)
Zucchini seasonings: soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, paprika or whatever you like
Prepare the zucchini. Deseed the tomato and cut it into small cubes. Scramble a few eggs per person with a tablespoon or more of half and half or heavy cream. If adding onion, sauté first in a nonstick or well-oiled skillet over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low and stir the eggs and tomatoes in the pan, using a spatula to gently lift the set eggs from the edges towards the center. Cover and lower the heat to low, but keep stirring and keep them from drying out while you finish the zucchini.
Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet or similar over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. Season the zucchini slices with a little paprika and sauté them, possibly with red onion or crushed garlic, until they begin to brown a little. Try to keep the cooking to about 3 minutes so the slices don’t get soggy and stay a bit crispy. Finish them off with a splash of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and maybe some hot sauce (I’m a fan of a citrusy yuzu hot sauce), then stir quickly, as a lot of that will reduce pretty quickly on the hot pan. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately with the eggs with toast. And maybe a glass of gazpacho.