margaret on wnyc radio: making 'tomato junk,' a 'last chance food'
I CALL IT ‘TOMATO JUNK,’ and it’s my last-dash, mad-stash remedy for everything that’s still edible in the garden when frost threatens, or when I’m just too tired to keep at it, and ready to pull it all. I talked about Tomato Junk today with Amy Eddings of NPR’s New York City affiliate, WNYC (listen in now!)–about how to transform the final, precious hauls from garden or farmer’s market into colorful bricks of frozen goodness. Use it in the offseason as a base for soups (such as minestrone); chili; stews, or in any other recipe that calls for the usual can of tomatoes, assorted vegetables and water. I’ve even made curries and an improvised tikka masala-style dish with Tomato Junk as the starter. Like this:
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LISTEN IN to my chat with WNYC’s Amy Eddings, on their “Last Chance Foods” segment that aired today. Their whole season of “Last Chance Foods,” part of WNYC’s version of “All Things Considered,” is archived here.
tomato junk recipe
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon to 1 ton anything edible left in your garden or at the farmer’s market, including herbs such as parsley and basil
- tomatoes, equal to at least one-third the total volume of ingredients
- salt and pepper to taste
Especially good vegetable choices include: summer squash such as zucchini; green beans; brassicas such as kale or broccoli; chard.
Trickier choices: cabbage, or beet or mustard greens, and other distinctive-tasting vegetables, including roots such as turnip; hot peppers; or eggplant, that might overtake the flavor or texture of the Junk.
Celery and carrots work well in batches that will become soup. Include spicier peppers in one batch and label its container with a Sharpie as such, for use in Mexican or Indian recipes later.
In a soup pot, sauté plenty of chopped garlic and onion in olive oil.
When the pieces are soft and the onions clear, dump in cut-up tomatoes, either halved (for average plum types) or in wedges.
Start chopping again while those simmer, covered.
When you have cut everything else you’ve scavenged into bite-sized pieces, and the tomatoes have begun to go moist and bubbly, start adding the vegetables in the order of their cooking requirements—so leafy greens would go last, for instance. Cover.
Juice released from the tomatoes should provide moisture to get other things softening.
Add water, between one-third the total volume and just enough to cover the mix. (Remember: If freezer space is at a premium, you can always dilute more later, when defrosting for use, plus some recipes are better with a more concentrated Junk.)
Cool and freeze in containers that are roughly the size of large cans of tomatoes, or about a quart.
Note: As with wine, each vintage is a little different.
Is even this informal recipe too much to manage, and the last tomatoes coming at you much too fast? Simply freeze whole ones in tightly sealed freezer bags with the air expressed for later use.