Tomato Jam

One of my favorite part of the summer are all the tomatoes at the farmer’s markets.  Living in San Francisco, I’m incredibly spoiled — I have a small farmer’s market  3 blocks from my house and a larger market only a 5 min drive away.

Last year, I bought Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  The book caught my eye given how vegetarian friendly it is for a Southern cookbook.  What I really like about this book is how Sheri Castle mixes traditional recipes with modern revisions of recipes.

My favorite recipe in the book is her tomato jam recipe.  Last year I made two batches and a couple weeks ago, I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for later in the year.  This tomato jam is DEELICIOUS and it’s a good condiment to have on hand.  I’ve had it schmeared on hunks of sour flour bread with fancy cheese, as a replacement for achaar as a condiment with Indian food, as a topping for crumpets and alongside Greek-style fava.

Tomato Jam (adapted from Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook)

(time required:  a morning or an afternoon although borrowing a friend will reduce prep work time)

(yield – 5ish cups)

  • 10 cups peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes**
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbs chai masala*
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 jalapeno chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey (can be omitted to be vegan)
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice (around 1 1/2 lemons)

* I use a homemade chai masala based on Tarla Dalal’s recipes but if you don’t have chai masala, use a mix of cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  I’m sure a little pumpkin pie spice would probably work in this scenario

** I accidentally used heirloom tomatoes which was a bad idea.  While they have a lot of flavor, they’re really watery so they’re not good for making jams.

  1. To peel your tomatoes, slit tiny x’s (just enough to pierce the skin) into the bottom of whole tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a few seconds and then put them in a bowl of ice cold water for a few seconds.  It should now be much easier to peel them.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 min.
  3. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  4. Add all the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add the tomatoes, salt, brown sugar and vinegar to the pot.
  6. After the ingredients have come to a gentle boil, reduce the head to medium low and cook until most of the water has evaporated and the mixture is thick and jammy.  For me, this took about 3 hours which was spent cleaning up and reading cookbooks.
  7. Stir in the pepper and honey and boil until the jam is shiny — about 2 minutes.
  8. Let the jam cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  9. Transfer the jam into clean glass jars with tight fitting lids.  The jam will keep a couple months refrigerated and up to a few months if frozen.

Sunshine Soup in a Culinary Terrarium: Golden Gazpacho

If you have been searching for liquid essence of the summer sun, this is the soup for you.  The yellow gazpacho recipe from Ana Sortun’s Spice cookbook has a vibrant tomato flavor and a velvety texture from bread and good extra virgin olive oil.  Since the summer sun also has heat, I added a quarter of a habanero pepper which gives it a lovely floral citrusy punch.  If there is any chance you get pints of high quality cherry tomatoes (sungold or even red), please make this recipe before the end of the summer.

Although the recipe is simple (throwing a few things in a blender or food processor), I want to point out a couple techniques in the recipe which are important in terms of texture and consistency:

  • Using bread as a thickener in the soup.  Gazpacho without bread will separate out into liquid and pulp.  The bread acts as a “body” keeping the pulp, juice and olive oil to produce a well-bodied, smooth texture.
  • Straining the soup (in my case, a metal tea strainer) to get rid of skin and seeds and larger bits of bread.
  • Use of contrasting textures between smooth soup, crunchy juicy peppers and crunchy dry home-made croutons

Golden Gazpacho with Habanero

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Cooking Notes: Pasta Pomodoro

A lot of what I eat doesn’t come with a formal recipe.  When I first started cooking, I could not understand how people could cook without recipes yet as I’ve cooked more (and perhaps, become more used to my mother’s cooking notes), more and more of my cooking repertoire are these recipe-less dishes.  In some cases, I will get around to converting these notes into formal recipes but in many cases, I’d like to save and share the dish.

Pasta pomodoro is all about tomatoes.  It’s incredibly delicious IF you have good tomatoes.  If you can’t get tomatoes from your backyard or a farmer, it won’t taste the same.  It’s a simple, quintessential summer dish that I like making during the summer when my bag of produce from the farmer’s market inevitably has tomatoes.  \If I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll have pasta pomodoro with a glass of milk.  If I’m feeling fancy, it’s with a glass of red wine.  Here are my notes:

Pasta Pomodoro

  • 1.5 cups peeled and crushed fresh tomatoes (plum, early girl or another meaty variety)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (approximately)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (approximately)
  • Capellini or another long skinny pasta, enough for one serving
  • Hunk of parmesan cheese for grating
  1. Set a pot of water, generously salted, to boil the pasta.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly and making sure that the garlic does not burn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook over medium-low heat until you reach a desired amount of cooked-ness.  Personally, I like my tomato sauce cooked at least for 15 minutes as I don’t like very raw sauce.
  4. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  If you are using capellini, it will probably take about 5-7 minutes or even less.
  5. Remove the pasta and add to a plate.  Top with sauce.
  6. Grate a generous amount of fresh parmesan cheese atop the pasta.