Tomatoes in the kitchen

– Posted in: Recipes, Vegetables

Tomatoes the Old-Fashioned Way

I’ve been reading the The Little House on the Prairie series to my six-year-old at bedtime. We just happen to be on The Long Winter and were reading “Fall of the Year” just a couple of days ago, where the Ingalls were surprised by an early hard frost. Ma and Laura picked all the ripe tomatoes from the blackened vines and made “almost a gallon of preserves.” I wondered if this was just an old way of saying canned tomatoes, but later on it is referred to as sweet preserves by Mary. So did they have tomato jam on toast for breakfast? Does anyone know how people used tomatoes in the 1870s-1880s? Or canning and preserving practices in general back then?

Ma then goes on to make green tomato pickle. People still do this today; Frugal Upstate has a recipe for Fireballs–try them if you dare.

Pesto Pizza

Image of pizza with pesto on the crust, then cheese, then vegetablesI wonder if Ma Ingalls had ever heard of basil and Parmesan cheese, much less pesto, since she thought her green tomato pickles were going to be “a real treat” with their baked beans that winter. We consider this pizza a real treat.

Roll out your favorite pizza dough, or use a pre-made crust. (I think the inspiration for this pizza actually used a Boboli.) Slather your crust with pesto. Cover it generously with chopped fresh tomatoes. (If you’re using paste tomatoes, you can probably use slices, but other kinds of tomatoes have too much seed cavity and can make the crust soggy if you don’t cut them finer and lose some of the juice by doing so.) Then put your grated cheese on top: mozzarella or provolone is typical, but any cheese that isn’t too strong will probably work, especially if you’re hungry. Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Then sprinkle some chopped basil on top.

As you can see from the photo, we were experimenting with toppings. The peppers were only intended to get warm but remain crunchy, and the cheese was probably Colby-Jack that needed to get used up. It can be different every time.

Chickpea And Tomato Salad

This is easy, with an unexpected and sophisticated set of flavors. I love sopping up the juices with good bread.

1/4 cup scallions — sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
or parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 19 ounce cans chickpeas, canned — drained and rinsed
2 cups ripe tomatoes — chopped*see note

Place everything but chickpeas and tomatoes in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Add chickpeas and tomatoes; gently toss to coat and combine. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

NOTE: The original recipe specified chopped, seeded plum tomatoes. I never bother to seed them, and I don’t worry about what kind of tomato. I do try to chop them so they’re the same size as the chickpeas, however. The salad seems easier to eat that way.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

Comments on this entry are closed.

Yvonne @ Country Gardener August 20, 2010, 10:19 am

Yum, thanks for sharing those recipes. I’m definitely going to make that chickpea and tomato salad.

entangled August 26, 2008, 9:58 am

Did anybody happen to see the feature on tomato preserves in the Sunday NY Times? I just ran across it online while looking for something else.

Recipe Redux: Tomato Preserves

Candylei August 23, 2008, 12:33 am

Hi: I am new to your blog, but glad to have just found it through google. I made some tomato preserves with lavender and honey and lemon. I need to look up the recipe again. It’s from England.
I see you have clay soil, too. We are down here next to the Apalachian Trail and we have clay, too. I would rather have clay than sandy soil. (Oh who am I trying to fool?)

Talitha Purdy August 18, 2008, 8:12 am

As the maker of above pictured pizza, I have a few minor corrections to the recipe. I always pre-bake the crust half-way before I put anything on top, because I don’t like a soft, soggy pizza. It should be chewy and crunchy. So you have to let the pizza crust get firm before you start putting wet stuff on it.

I often don’t have enough basil on hand to make enough pesto for this, so I may have used a basil-garlic-olive oil mix without making pesto proper (which is much thicker and has nuts and cheese in it, as well as a lot more basil).

I always seed my tomatoes. I use whatever tomatoes I have on hand, but since I don’t like soggy pizza, they are always seeded. If I get enough tomato juice/seeds, I made homemade cream of tomato soup, which is very good.

This is also why I put the cheese down before the tomatoes—the cheese makes a bit of a moisture barrier, so even though the seeded tomatoes continue to leak juices, they don’t sog the crust.

A baking stone really takes pizza to the next level.

So, here’s what I do (and did for the pizza in the picture):

Put your baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven. It takes a while for the stone to preheat. The stone is one of the reasons you can use such a high heat (450)—-it really evens out the heat. I don’t think we’ve ever had a burnt crust with a baking stone, and they’re always much crisper. Also, you will be rolling the dough pretty thin, so it’s not going to take a long time to bake.

Make your dough.

Make pesto/basil oil. (Put whatever basil you have in the food processor, along with as much garlic as you’d like. Turn on the machine and keep drizzling in extra virgin olive oil until it looks right to you. I’ve never had a recipe for this, and I’ve always just winged it. If I can make it up, so can you!)

Grate your cheese and chop and seed the tomatoes (I use everything from yellow sungold cherry tomatoes to brandywines—whatever you have).

Roll your crust out nice and thin; it will “pop” up some in the oven. Actually, I often times just stretch my dough for this; it’s okay if it has lots of irregular bumps and dips, because then it has lots of nice pockets for the basil oil to pool up in.

Cornmeal your peel; slide your crust onto the peel, and then onto the hot baking stone. You want to bake this till it starts getting hard, but is still white (hasn’t started browning yet). I seem to remember that this is about 7 minutes, but I haven’t made this since last year. (With all the cloudy weather, the tomatoes are having a hard time getting red and ripe.) Keep an eye on it.

When it’s ready, pull it out and brush it quite generously with the basil oil, or smear the pesto about. Next the cheese, then tomatoes and whatever other vegetables you want to put on it.

After that, the pizza just needs the cheese melted, the crust browned and the tomatoes heated through—-all of which does not take very long at all. Another reason why I pre-bake the crust is because I don’t like cooked-to-mush tomatos or vegetables. I like my tomatoes just heated through and my vegetables to still have a bit of a crunch. If the vegetables all get cooked for as long as the crust needs to be cooked, they will overcooked. At least in my book.

There is a tomato-less section because, believe it or not, there are those who don’t like tomatoes, or at the very least, not warm ones. Rather than watch in horror as they pick all the wonderful, delightful tomatoes off their pizza—I left some without. More for the rest of us.

It’s an incredible pizza, but also hugely time consuming when you’re making it for a dozen people. (Ask me how I know!) Still, it’s very much worth it, once you have the tomatoes to do it with.

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate August 17, 2008, 10:59 am

Glad you liked the Fireball recipe!

Princess and I love sliced tomatoes on top of our pizza-we just slice into thin rounds and lay them on top of the cheese. i also LOVE broccoli, but you can’t use the frozen, it’s got to be fresh, cut into small florettes and then cooked in a hot oven so they roast a bit. Yum!

I have a “chili sauce” recipe that is Yankee Bill’s grandmothers-it is not spicy, but rather like a thick, sweet chunky ketchup. It has green pepper, a tiny bit of Jalepenos, sugar, vinegar, onion, mace, allspice etc in it. I bet that’s sort of close to what Ma was making. . .

Lynn August 15, 2008, 9:43 am

Looks yummy (and looks like all preferences are accounted for in the slices 😉 I used to live on Bobolis. Now my honey likes to make the pizza dough, which is great since I like to eat it. Still no fresh tomatoes to layer on though…I take that back. We had 6 grape ones ripen but they were less than special.

Susy August 15, 2008, 9:11 am

You should try grilling your veggies before putting them on the pizza. We grill up tomatoes, peppers & zukes and put them on our pesto pizzas. It’s adds nice smoky background to the pizza.

I’m also a big Little House fan. I read my set of books so much as a girl they fell apart. DH and I were just thinking of reading them again.

Ann August 15, 2008, 8:54 am

We’re about a week away from a big tomato canning weekend — I think we’ll make a basic sauce instead of canning them whole. I also think that Ma must have preserved something akin to ketchup. The pizza looks delicious!

entangled August 15, 2008, 7:53 am

My great grandmother would have been a little younger than Laura Ingalls, but she made something she called ketchup, which was a more chunky product than what we know as ketchup today. I wonder if the Ingalls’ tomato preserves might have been similar to that.

The Long Winter is one of my favorite Little House books. I read it over 40 years ago and still reread it from time to time, especially when I’m feeling cranky about winter.

Daisy August 15, 2008, 2:31 am

I never liked restaurant pesto pizza, but last year we made a bunch of our own pesto for pizza which was fantastic. I’m now a big fan.

Sweet tomatoes. Sounds iffy. I think I’ve heard of people cutting a tomato in half and sprinkling sugar on it before chomping down, but I could be mistaken. I grew up in a salt house. Everything was salted. I’m curious if anyone else sugars their toms…

Kathy Purdy August 15, 2008, 7:21 pm

Daisy, I grew up in a salt house (I remember my parents salting watermelon before eating it) and my husband grew up in a sugar house. His mother sprinkles sugar on her tomatoes, and on her salad, in lieu of salad dressing. If we serve spaghetti, she has to sprinkle sugar on her sauce. So I personally know one person who sugars her tomatoes.

Margaret August 14, 2008, 11:06 pm

I am glad to learn that you slather your pizza crusts w/pesto, as I do – again, giving credence to my theory we were separated at birth. So many similarities, yet such different lives! I love learning all these little details (and it looks yummy).