Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Falling in Love Again -- with Tomatoes
What’s cooking? Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade

I didn’t grow up liking fresh tomatoes. In fact, for most of my life, I avoided tomatoes as tasteless and of a texture I didn’t like. And even when farmers’ markets began sprouting up all over New Jersey, I took a pass on the tomatoes.

Then on the trip south to deliver our first born to college, we left a few days early to check out the mountains of the Carolinas, where my husband envisioned retiring. (That would be before I convinced him that we needed to go to Austin.) We found a bed and breakfast that was straight out of a Tennessee Williams story, and I called for reservations. When I told the owner where we were coming from, he said, “New Jersey? I’ll give you a discount if you’ll bring me a cooler of Jersey tomatoes.”

That’s when I began to suspect there was something special about them.

I’ve since become a complete convert to the joys of fresh, garden-grown tomatoes. (I still refuse to buy those rubber ball tomatoes you get in the grocery store for most of the year. There’s just no comparison in the flavor, the texture, and even the look.) And in what is becoming a rite of summer, I've once again fallen back in love with them. So here in New Jersey, I’m luxuriating in recipes that feature all flavors of tomato: this week, I’ve made a BLT using a hearty red beefsteak tomato, a tangy corn relish made with mellow yellow tomatoes, a sweet-tart marmalade from lemons and green tomatoes, and, of course, my favorite gazpacho recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook. And all the while I’m cooking, I nibble on those lusciously sweet orange Sun Gold tomatoes from the farmers’ markets. I’m even growing a couple of massive Sun Gold tomato plants in my Austin garden – plants that amazingly re-seeded themselves from last year, and are starting to look suspiciously like Audrey Jr. from "The Little Shop of Horrors."

So while they’re cheap and plentiful, have a tomato – summertime is tomato-time!

Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade (adapted from The New York Times)

Kitchen Goddess notes: This recipe was adapted from one posted by Melissa Clark in The New York Times back in 2007. It is a bit runnier than most marmalades, but that just makes it fabulous as sauce over vanilla ice cream, or as a glaze for chicken or pork tenderloin. OMG, just thinking about these things makes me want to hurry so I can get back to the kitchen.

Be sure to get actual green tomatoes – as in unripe tomatoes  versus some heirloom varieties that are green when ripe. Otherwise, the cooking process will destroy the texture of the tomatoes and youll end up with sweet green tomato sauce.

1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
5 large green tomatoes (2-2¼ pounds), cored and thinly sliced
3¼ cups sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1. Bring lemon slices to a boil in a pot of water. Drain. (This process, called blanching, removes the bitterness from the pith in the lemon peel.)

2. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan along with ¼ cup water, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook at a low simmer until tomatoes and lemon slices are translucent and syrup thickens, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Cool completely and store in refrigerator. Or, if you have Ball jars and lids, process according to instructions on my post of August 29, 2012. (Click here.)

Yield: 5-6 cups.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lee! Just had a wonderful tomato salad tonight and want to join you in praising the great new world fruit. I agree--I never buy tomatoes out of season--not worth it. One trick I do with tomatoes I'm cutting for salads is to slice them across their equators and squeeze out the seeds and juice before cutting them smaller for the salad. It takes seconds and makes the salads less watery...