Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Things to do with Tomatoes- Part I: Salsa Fresca

Its tomato time!! Tomatoes are a big favorite in this house-- even the 5 year old has been popping cherry tomatoes in his mouth practically from the time he learned how to chew. (usually spraying juice and seeds everywhere-- but that's another story). Our old house had a great spot in the backyard where any tomato plant was guaranteed to turn into a gargantuan, jungle-like growth with more tomatoes than would ever be possible to eat.

I made the mistake the first year I set up the garden at the old house and put something like 6 tomato plants in the planter (10' x 5') that we'd built. They quickly overwhelmed the bamboo supports I had given them and formed a wild riot of tomato vines. I particularly remember spending a few hot summer days hacking away at those things desperately trying to get at the crop underneath (with a baby strapped to my back no less).

I wisely resolved to plant only 2-- just 2-- tomato plants the following year. These were primarily small cherry/pear type tomatoes. The larger slicer/beefsteaks we discovered did very poorly-- growing so fast they split their skins and exposed the inside of the fruits to a lot of insect activity. The new plants each still exploded with growth and provided all the tomatoes we cared to eat. Our top favorites were 'Sweet 100' a sweet red cherry tomato and a meaty savory yellow pear tomato.

This year, in the new house, we've started allotting corners of the yard to various garden items. But, I don't think our tomato corner is doing very well. We have 3 small, lightly fruiting plants. Happy? yes. High producing? no. We're still getting to know the new house (and the assorted wildlife in the neighborhood-- don't get me started on squirrels right now!) and we're still discovering what works well and where. I *think* maybe they got too much water. I'll try cutting back a bit and doing less watering overall next year (drip mist maybe?) to see if I can get them to fruit more. I know alot of people have great success with dry farming but I don't know if it gets too hot out here for that (its averaging over 100 right now with near 0 humidity)

Thankfully my lovely mother-in-law also has a big love for tomatoes (and an even bigger yard and garden). She didn't mess around and planted well over 2 DOZEN of assorted varieties. As expected, huge crops are coming in and there is a bounty of tomatoes to be had! (Thanks Mom!) I brought home a big box (probably over 10 lbs) of several varieties of tomatoes last week and I've been enjoying pulling out all my favorite tomato recipes and trying out some new ones!

Here is the first big tomato user-upper project I did-- for the Hubby-- who LOVES salsa (more than anything except me and the kids --maybe). I kept things simple and fresh (cuz that's the way we like it). I made about a quart of that stuff on Saturday and its already gone. Yep. The whole thing. I guess I'll be making more of this soon!

Recipe: Salsa Fresca

Tomatoes (about 6 cups chopped, roughly)
Onion (1-2, peeled & chopped roughly)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 lemon
1-2 cans diced green chiles (can sub in fresh, we just didn't have any!)
splash of hot sauce (I like Crystal but any will do)

1) Wash, stem and roughly chop tomatoes and throw into work bowl of food processor.
2) Peel & roughly chop ONE onion and throw into work bowl of food processor.
3) Pull out about 8 stems of leafy cilantro. Rip it into chunks and throw it into the work bowl....
4) Dump in 1 can of diced green chiles (or 2 small/1 medium stemmed/seeded jalapeno)
5) Squeeze in juice of lemon.
6) Pulse until tomatoes and onions are chopped finely and well combined.
7) Taste. Add more chiles, cilantro, onion or hot sauce as needed. (I ended up with 1 1/2 medium brown onions, 1 can of chiles and a good 4 or 5 splashes of hot sauce.)
8) Let sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours for flavors to fully develop. Enjoy!

Feel free to comment below! I'd love to hear what you thought or if you tried the recipe!!

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