Boy, oh boy, the tomatoes are coming on fast, leaving most of us to wonder, “What do we do with all this abundance?”
There are so many things you can do, from a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing to slices sprinkled with bleu or feta cheese and topped with a bit of prosciutto and a basil leaf, or eaten like an apple ... one bite at a time.
The first thing we do at Cafe at Adele’s is to get busy canning, which has become an annual ritual and tradition.
Nothing comes as close to garden fresh during winter, than opening a jar of anything that has been home canned. Karen, the staff and I prepare for seasons Third and Curry Street Farmers Market isn’t open and showcasing all that amazing produce and homemade deliciousness provided to us by local growers and purveyors. These measures, as I have talked about in other columns, ensure our ability to prepare quality cuisine year-around.
Canning isn’t complicated, and step-by-step instructions can be found at Ball Canning’s site (www.freshpreserving.com).
On a side note, apparently, Kerr and Ball are now both owned by the same company. Progress ... Of course, an assortment of recipes are also available on the web and can be adapted to suite most any taste.
Here are my tips for making the perfect jar of tomatoes that yield beautiful sauces and soups in winter.
First, rinse fruit and fill a pot of water. Once the water comes to a boil, place tomatoes a manageable amount at a time in the boiling water for about one minute. Using a strainer, retrieve tomatoes from the boiling water and put them immediately in cold water. I usually just fill a clean sink. Then, remove the skins, which thanks to their hot water bath (blanching), will come off easily.
Next, handling the tomato with care, slice about a 1-inch cut in it and squeeze out any excess seeds and juice, gently so as to retain the shape of the tomato. Then place in a sterilized jar; repeat the process until the jar is full and place five large, fresh basil leaves in each jar. Tomatoes are packed in hot water, sealed and processed about 20 minutes in a hot water bath (a large pot or canner of boiling water), per regular canning instructions.
The reason for squeezing out the excess juice and seeds, is when you use these tomatoes as the basis of a red sauce, the result will be less watery and more flavor-filled. Adding the basil allows the tomatoes to be infused, which adds a nice note to your cooking, and is a simple, aesthetic touch.
Now onto how we can use some of those fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes for brunch or dinner! This is a multi-step process, with each step laid out in order.
Chicken or Shrimp Stuffed Tomato Salad
For the stuffing:
1 12-inch stalk of celery (1/4 cup chopped)
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and diced to 1/4-inch, (approximately 1 cup chopped; and preferably picked off your neighbor’s tree)
1 teaspoon Pommery (whole-seed) mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, optional
1 cup chicken (when making this recipe with chicken, I prefer boneless, skinless thigh meat. Cook ahead and let cool completely. Use a light seasoning of fresh ground pepper, sea salt (I prefer Maldon’s) and garlic). Or 1 cup shrimp meat (it’s extremely important you buy Bay Shrimp and ONLY American shrimp. NEVER use farm-raised or imported shrimp. Here’s why: The sustainability model isn’t in place. Raising ponds pollute the natural waterways and the shrimp are NOT fed their natural foods. Regulations at best are slack, and there’s no comparing that with a product that’s pulled out of the ocean and minimally processed).
When assembling the salad stuffing using chicken, I recommend not chopping the meat, but gently pulling it into thin threads and discarding any remaining fat or skin.
In a separate bowl add all ingredients and mix thoroughly, then gently add your choice of chicken or shrimp, gently folding everything together until thoroughly combined.
For the salad (bed):
5 cups artisan salad, hopefully from your own garden or from Third and Curry Street Farmer’s Market. Spinach will work fine, too.
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced
Wash all ingredients thoroughly, drain and pat dry. Place all ingredients in a bowl, toss gently and divide equally into four shallow bowls.
For the dressing:
1/4 cups white wine or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Pommery (whole grain) mustard
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped tarragon
7/8 cup (yes, it’s a thing) extra virgin olive oil
I like to place all ingredients in a jar, seal it, shake vigorously. Once dressing is made and you have completed the step below, Preparing the tomatoes, lightly dress the tossed salads. Any remaining dressing can be refrigerated and used later.
Preparing the tomatoes
Four 3 1/2-inch to 4-inch tomatoes (choose ripe but not mushy; you want them firm to the touch).
Now that all the prep work is done, take the four whole tomatoes and cut the green circle out, keeping the cut as shallow as possible. Next, (think of an opening flower blossom), cut halfway through the tomato from the top down and repeat again, in equal quadrants. The end result should be four opening slices (like a blossom), held together by the remaining half of the tomato, which is still intact.
You can gently drain excess juice and seeds from each tomato.
Assembling for presentation
Take the four salads which are now dressed, and one starred tomato in the center of each bowl. Add the stuffing into the tomatoes, filling equally.
A perfect pairing for this wonderful dish is a Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.
Chef Charlie Abowd co-owns Café at Adele’s with his wife Karen Abowd. Café at Adele’s is located at 1112 N. Carson St., Carson City, and is open daily at 8 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information or to makes reservations, call 775-882-3353, or visit adelesrestaurantandlounge.com.