Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Canned tomatoes, we had a good run. In the dead of winter, when all the fresh tomatoes in the produce section tasted like wax, you were the superior product. Packed at the height of freshness, you consistently delivered vibrant color and fresh, sweet taste all year long. And, gosh, were you convenient. No peeling, seeding or dicing. Just pop open a can and get ready for action. And you were so versatile. From pasta sauces, to soups, to casseroles, to salsas, you stood in my pantry at the ready to liven up so many of our family's favorite recipes. And, wow, you were so cost effective. No fresh tomato could beat your price.

But, canned tomatoes, until you find a way to line your cans with something that doesn't contain, BPA, I have to bid you a fond farewell.

I now buy the cartons and the jars. My only complaint is that most of my recipes call for either 8, 14 or 28 ounce cans and these are 24 ounce containers. Also, they're a little pricier than the cans. Of the two, I prefer the taste of the Cento but Pomi is cheaper. I buy both and use the Cento for dishes with prominent tomato flavor, like pizza or pasta sauce and Pomi for dishes like my veggie chili where the subtle tomato flavors are overwhelmed by chili powder anyway.

On Sunday I found some organic Roma tomatoes on sale at Central Market for $1.59 a pound. I had been craving spaghetti pie, so I thought I'd try my hand at making my own version of the two 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce the recipe requires. I bought a little over three pounds and put two aside for my pimento cheese sandwiches.

I dropped the remaining tomatoes in boiling water, three to four at a time for about a minute. I like to do just a few at a time so I can watch them more carefully and so that I don't cool the water.

The tomatoes went directly from the boiling water into ice water to halt the cooking.

After they cooled, I peeled, cored, (mostly) seeded and chopped the tomatoes.

Then I took a little snack break.  My hands down favorite way to use exceptionally good tomatoes (homegrown or from the farmers market) is pan con tomate.  I am of the opinion that one should always have on hand at least two types of olive oil. The first type can be used for cooking but the second should be reserved exclusively for drizzling and dipping. I like to use Whole Foods 365 brand extra virgin olive oil for cooking. My current favorite for dipping and drizzling is Columela Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Pan con tomate is an excellent example of when to pull out the good stuff. The sweet tomatoes and fruity olive oil complement each other perfectly. Toast some rustic bread, lightly rub with a garlic clove, top with chopped, peeled, seeded tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with your best olive oil. It's one of my favorite things to eat.

Once my snack break was over, I warmed a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauce pan and sauteed a few teaspoons of minced garlic until fragrant. I added the chopped tomatoes and simmered for about 25 minutes until reduced and thickened. Here's the end result:

Just a little over two ounces short of the 16 ounces I needed for my recipe. More money and considerably more time than opening a couple cans of tomato sauce, but with these early summer tomatoes, it was delicious enough to motivate me to make it again. Seriously, it was so good I could have eaten it with a spoon.

1 comment:

  1. Update: A friend of mine just told me that Muir Glen has announced that as of their next harvest they will be bpa-free. That would be fan-freakin-tastic.