Another Year of Tomatoes, Come and Gone

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I absolutely LOVE tomatoes.

Which is why I say, “Viva la bella Pomodoro!” (Long live the beautiful tomato!)

20110601-bloody-mary=6Tomatoes, for me, are a fruit from heaven. They are the key ingredient in many of my favorite foods… pizza, lasagna, sloppy joes, chili, and yes, Bloody Marys! Give me a tomato and I will slice it thin, sprinkle it with salt and eat it right off the plate.

Give me a GLUT of tomatoes and I’ll can them for sauce and juice for the coming winter. I’ve written about it here and here.

Sadly, this year’s tomato harvest is over. A couple weeks ago, my daughter and two of her kids came up and helped me winterize my yard. That included pulling up the remaining tomato plants and discarding them. But my grand daughter Josey helped me pick the last of the green tomatoes to bring inside and see if they would ripen. And of course, many of them did! Look at this…

tomatoes 2015 end season

It was actually a funny tomato year for me. Last year I had planted some cherry tomatoes, which did quite well, and this year they re-seeded themselves. I didn’t plant a one but they were up and running by warm weather.

Who am I to argue with a volunteer tomato plant? The little cherry ‘maters went nuts!

Which meant I had to find some recipes to use them.

The first one I tried was a winner…

Mario Batali’s Spaghetti al Pomodoro.

This recipe is now on my favorite’s list because it was quick… easy… fresh… and divinely delicious! Check it out here.

But one can’t live on spaghetti alone…

So I searched for a sauce made of cherry tomatoes… and I found several.

Naturally, since one of my main hobbies is PIZZA – meaning I have spent YEARS perfecting various pizza recipes – it was only right that I used a sauce of cherry tomatoes to make a pizza.

Not only that… but it had to be a THIN CRUST pizza.

Back many years ago – when I didn’t know any better – I loved a thick, bread-y pizza. I was all about the bread. And the cheese. Gobs and gobs of cheese.

However, over time, I went through a transition. I had some stomach problems. I had some surgeries. As a result, my tastes changed. I could no longer tolerate large amounts of wheat products like bread. They blew me up like a balloon and made me miserable. But it was a good thing. I broke my dependence on carbs and sugar and began to really taste food for the first time. It was a revelation.

Now I’m all about real food. Like tomatoes. A fruit from Heaven, as I already said.

Plus… I spent some time in Italy several years ago. The land of pasta, pizza and wine. For me – the Mother Land. The place where I SHOULD have been born. The place that feels like home to me on this planet.

And guess what…

The pizza in Italy is THIN. Like a cracker. With a moderate amount of toppings and a minimal amount of cheese. This is no Gargantuan Pizza Hut overdose! No, no, no, no!

An Italian pizza is ordered – ONE per person! – and devoured in its entirety by normal, every-day, thin Italiano men and women. I was amazed to witness this with my own eyes but it is true!

So I have since been on a quest to make a perfect thin-crust pizza at home. I’m not to perfection yet, but I have a lot of good pizza recipes in my repertoire.

I just tried this one the other day…

Thin Crust Pizza Dough Recipe

basil-in-a-tube-1I used sauce made from my excess cherry tomatoes out of the garden. It was super-easy… just wash the cherry tomatoes and slice them in half. Heat some olive oil in a shallow pan, then simmer some onion until it is soft. Add some minced garlic and some chili (dried or fresh – whatever you have) and stir so it doesn’t burn. Dump in the tomatoes and let them cook down. Continue to stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Then add some basil. If you have fresh, chop it up and drop it in. If you don’t have fresh, use the stuff in a tube you can get at the grocery. I’ve read mixed reviews of this stuff, but I like it because it keeps a long time and adds the basil flavor you need.

Since I don’t take the skins off these small tomatoes, I DO get out my potato masher and help this mixture along. Some say you don’t have to do this, but it makes me feel good to stand and mash away. What can I say?

thin crust pizza 1This pizza was delicious, of course.

The crust was very thin although I had to make the edges thicker than I wanted with the excess dough. I also baked this one on a particular pan. In my quest for the perfect pizza, I have tried a lot of things.

thin crust pizza 2One of them is this heavy-duty pan with holes in the bottom. When you put this in the oven at high heat, it allows the crust to crisp up beautifully. In fact, in this case, the areas where the holes were turned black on the bottom. That is a very good thing as the “char” of cooking a pizza quickly at high heat is a grand thing!

OK….

I’ve gone all off-topic about my love of tomatoes here.

I’ve given you recipes for Spaghetti al Pomodoro and a delicious thin-crust pizza. Try them if you like. I guarantee they are in my personal cookbook to make again.

I also must tell you that tomatoes originated in the South American Andes. They aren’t even Italian! They were first used in food prep in Mexico and spread to the rest of the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Even in Italy they were originally only grown in flower gardens because they were considered an ornamental beauty. (Until someone took a bite!)

Now… here’s the largest tomato plant in the WORLD!

This massive “tomato tree” growing inside the Walt Disney World Resort’s experimental greenhouses in Lake Buena Vista in Florida, USA is regarded as the “World’s largest single tomato plant”. It is recognized as a Guinness World Record Holder, with a harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and a total weight of 522 k. The vine grows golf ball-sized tomatoes which are served at Walt Disney World restaurants.

largest tomato plant

Meanwhile, back at my homefront…

Here are a couple recent paintings of tomatoes from my personal collection.

tomato ptg 1

tomato ptg w garlic and onion

I do think tomatoes will always be part of my still life painting subjects. Besides being tasty they are beautiful!

Amari I miei pomodori! (love my tomatoes!)

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