Tomato resort

“You know,“ I said to my husband when he helped me fill tomato soup into freezer bags at 11 o’clock at night, and my eyes fell on a basket of cherry tomatoes, “I am getting a little sick of all this processing.” “You say this every year,” he responded, “and I give you the same answer every year.”

When I started planning a garden, the first book I bought was The Food Lover’s Garden by Angelo M. Pellegrini. M.F.K. Fisher called it a classic when it was published 40 years ago so I thought it had to be good. Indeed, the book is packed with excellent, no-nonsense garden advice about growing organic vegetables.

I remember that when I first read The Food Lover’s Garden, I smiled about sentences like the one that wraps up the chapter on tomatoes: “When your first tomato is ripe (…) pop it, a quarter at a time, into your mouth. I shall be listening for your sighs of sweet contentment!”

I also remember sighing over the fact that the author, located in the Pacific Northwest, could grow vegetables year round and I couldn’t. Six years later, I admit that I am grateful for the break that the Pennsylvania winter forces me to take between November and March. Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t get antsy by mid-January, making planting lists and crop-rotation blueprints when the first seed catalogs arrive in the mail.

So back to tomatoes… Cherry tomatoes are plentiful this year and I needed to find a way of turning them into something that a) did not require buying additional ingredients, b) was quick and easy to make, and c) keeps for several days or longer. So I cooked up this tomato spread. It tastes good with crackers or wholesome fresh bread, or as part of a sandwich.

Cherry Tomato Spread

1¾ pounds ripe cherry tomatoes

6 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

You also need:

A small cast-iron Dutch oven

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Coarsely chop tomatoes in half, saving all of the the juice. Chop garlic. In a bowl mix tomatoes and juice, garlic, olive oil, pepper and cayenne pepper.

3. Put mixture in a small cast-iron pot and cook covered in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

4. Remove the lid and cook for 1 more hour, or until the juice has thickened. Stir occasionally and scrape down the tomatoes from the edges to prevent burning.

5. Cool and transfer to a tall bowl if using a stick blender for pureeing, or a food processor bowl. Puree finely. Fill in an airtight container, pour a little bit of olive oil on top to seal, and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups

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