Nothing tastes better than an end-of-summer, perfectly ripe tomato. Thickly sliced on a BLT, wedged between fresh mozzarella and basil, or diced and tossed with hot pasta and a drizzle of olive oil, the richness, meatiness and juiciness of a September tomato can’t be matched. Which must be why they’re such a crowd-pleaser with both the young and old.
Whether you grow your own, buy them at a local farmers market or pluck through the “locally grown” bin at your favorite grocery store, now’s the time to seize the moment and fill your baskets. I enjoy growing my own, which means we’ve been eating tomatoes daily for the past month or so.
Even though my family loves tomatoes, we can’t possibly keep up with the end-of-season harvest. That’s not a problem, though. I simply freeze the excess — either in the form of roasted sliced tomatoes or sauce — so we can enjoy a taste of the season, even when it’s not the season anymore.
A basic tomato sauce is an absolute must for any cook’s repertoire. During fall, winter and spring I use canned San Marzano tomatoes, but in the summer it’s nothing but fresh tomatoes for me. While a fresh, uncooked tomato sauce is wonderful, I often roast my tomatoes first, which gives a deeper, richer tomato flavor, and a sauce that’s perfect for the freezer.
Versatility is another reason to love a good basic tomato sauce. It can be used on pasta, pizza, meat and poultry. It can even be turned into soup in a flash. While the possibilities are endless, here are some of my favorites:
Roasted tomato sauce with herbs: Add a few tablespoons of fresh herbs to the sauce after it’s puréed in the blender.
Creamy roasted tomato sauce: For a more sophisticated sauce, add a splash of heavy cream to the strained sauce and reduce it to the desired consistency in a saucepan over medium heat.
Roasted tomato soup: Add a cup or so of vegetable or chicken broth to a couple of cups of sauce, then season to taste for a quick and easy tomato soup. A few tablespoons of cream and/or a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh herbs transforms a simple soup into something extra special.
Pizza sauce: Pour a couple of cups of sauce, along with a ½ teaspoon of dried oregano, into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat for a few minutes, or until thickened.
While you might think I’m crazy for suggesting you fire up the oven on a hot September day and roast those beautiful fresh tomatoes, you’ll thank me in January when the snow is high and summer is in the freezer.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.