It's Tomato Time

Enjoy your harvest to its fullest with these juicy ideas for eating tomatoes big and small, red and green.

By Barbara Rodriguez

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Tomato Essence
To add an intense burst of tomato taste to soups, vinaigrettes, sauces, or juices, use "tomato essence." You'll find recipes for this in many cookbooks—I've adapted the following technique from several sources. It yields about ¼ cup of tomato essence for every pound of tomatoes.

In a food mill, puree 10 pounds of very ripe red tomatoes; discard the seeds and skins. Place the puree in a large nonreactive pot and reduce it by one half over medium heat, taking care not to scorch the liquid. Strain the reduced tomatoes through a fine sieve or a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Clean the pot and then return the strained liquid to it. Reduce the mixture again, until you have about 4 cups.

Let the essence cool, taste it, and if it seems at all weak or watery, reduce again by one-half. Cool and refrigerate for up to a week. You can also freeze this essence, so it's ready for you to use whenever you want to enjoy the incomparable flavor of home grown tomatoes.

Tomatoes by the Numbers:
1 pound = two 4-inch tomatoes = 1 1/4 cups diced = 2 servings

Tomato Terminology
Tomato sauce: tomato puree to which seasonings have been added. Marinara is a tomato sauce seasoned with onions, garlic, and oregano.

Tomato paste: concentrated tomatoes. You may substitute a homemade processed pumate spread (see below).

Puree: liquid from ripe tomatoes (not as concentrated as paste).

Pumate spread: dried tomatoes processed with olive oil to a spreadable consistency.

Ketchup: a thick tomato sauce flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt, along with other seasonings. Once defined as a "vegetable" in school lunches.

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