Food column: These final days of summer

Any day now frost will end our gardening for another year. If you are fortunate enough to enjoy home grown tomatoes, here is a tasty, easy way to prepare them for later use. Also, a suggestion for having fresh herbs all winter long without growing them indoors.

Baked Tomato Puree

6 to 8 pounds ripe tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

Wash tomatoes, pare away any flaws and dry. Spread in a non-reactive baking pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Turn to coat. Bake at 350F for 3 to 4 hours until well done and lightly browned. Watch so they do not burn. Cool about 15 minutes and put through a food mill. Place puree in freezer bags of the size you will find most useful and freeze.

Freezing Fresh Herbs

Wash and drain fresh herbs of your choice Chop and place about 1 tablespoon in each section of ice cube freezer trays. Add water to just cover. Freeze and store cubes in freezer bags. They will retain their fresh flavor for winter use. If freezing basil, cut long way of the leaves and cover immediately with the water as you go, so they will not turn dark and develop a bitter taste. Basil is the most fragile of the herbs and must be cut just before using or processing. If cut across the leaf they darken much quicker. Make sure to label each package, as it is very difficult to tell the contents of the cubes.

Freezing Pesto

Basil blended with olive oil will also freeze in ice cube trays. When defrosted, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan can be added. However, I prefer to use small freezer plastic containers, and top them with olive oil to seal the basil so it will not darken. I also think it is easier to mix in the garlic, nuts and cheese before freezing. Other nuts may be substituted for the pine nuts, such as macadamias, almonds or pistachios.

Hot Fruit Cobbler

This cobbler makes a great dessert and is best served hot, though it will reheat in the microwave. If you prepare it before dinner and place it in the oven shortly before the family sits down to eat, you will have a perfectly timed dessert to serve plain or with a scoop or ice cream or topping.

4 cups of fruit*

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

Place fruit in a casserole. Mix flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until the consistency of coarse meal. Spread evenly over the fruit and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.

* The beauty of this dessert is the variety one can produce. Berries, peaches, apples or combinations such as apples with raisins or peaches with blueberries are nice.

Skillet Cornbread

Though it isn't essential, a large cast iron skillet gives cornbread a brown crispy crust that is especially tasty. For an added taste treat, fry up some bacon and use about 2 tablespoons bacon fat instead of butter in the skillet, and crumble bacon on top. Like it hotter? Use some jalapenos.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, 1-1/2 sticks softened

6 tablespoons sugar (I prefer only 2 tablespoons sugar)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

4 large eggs

1-1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-4 ounce canned diced green chilies

1-15 ounce can creamed corn

1/3 cup each grated jack and cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Reserve 2 tablespoons butter and beat remaining butter and sugar. Beat in cornmeal then eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to batter, stirring well. Mix in corn, chilies and cheeses. Just before baking, place an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet in the oven, and melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. As soon as it is hot and bubbling, pour in batter. Bake about 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean from the center.

Need a recipe? Have a cooking question? E-mail or write Ada Roelke, The Nevada Appeal, 200 Bath St., Carson City 89702.


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