One thing I love about summers in New Jersey is the abundance of sweet, flavorful homegrown vegetables. And this was going to be the year that I, a recovering black thumb, attempted my first vegetable garden. I was going to plant tomatoes, eggplant, all sorts of peppers, cucumbers, garlic, basil, thyme … oh, it was to be a a mad melange of nature’s bounty in the middle of my backyard. The area was fenced off, the ground tilled, and the recipes printed and ready to be called into action.
Unfortunately, nature’s bounty had to be put on hold. Blame it on the SHSS – Stupid Health Stick Syndrome. So there was to be no harvesting plump tomatoes and hot peppers, no chomping down on crunchy baby cucumbers, no garlicky grilled eggplant and zucchini, no “yeah, I grew those myself” remarks over vegetable crudites and homemade ranch dressing laden with fresh herbs.
But I’m not ticked off. Really, I’m not. Okay, maybe just a little. But I’ll get over it. Eventually.
Meanwhile, my husband’s co-worker who owns acreage somewhere in Pennsylvania was untouched by SHSS. (I am beginning to wonder if NJ might have something to do with SHSS. Shrew may have to help me investigate the validity of that theory.) So for the past few weeks, we’ve been the grateful beneficiaries of said co-worker’s generosity, and his overwhelming surplus.
Aren’t they lovely?
Now would not be a time to remind me that I’m allergic to tomatoes. I’ve decided that homegrown tomatoes don’t count because they’re ultra-mega-super organic. Yeah, that’s the official FDA designation for it.
First, we made sauce. Lots of sauce. But the tomatoes kept coming. Then we had tomato salad with mozzarella cheese. Lots of it. And still the tomatoes kept coming.
Then, my husband sharpened our favorite chef’s knife, and got to work.
Pretty, yes? No comments suggesting someone might possibly be OC about arranging tomato halves.
A light drizzle with olive oil, some salt and pepper, a 225 degree oven and six hours later ….
I never was a big fan of sun-dried tomatoes, but these? These luscious, flavor bombs that I made with my own hands? There are no words.
I made four trays of this. And now they’re stored in two large bottles in the refrigerator, along with the peeled roasted garlic cloves that continue to flavor these babies as they sit together. Our three favorite uses for them:
- As a salad condiment, like olives.
- Sandwiched between two slices of garlic-toasted crusty bread, with lettuce, red onion, and a thin slice of sharp cheese. Yum.
- Mixed in with slices of chicken breast, shitake mushrooms, crushed garlic, fresh basil, and a light cream sauce over pasta.
Or you could just pop them in your mouth, savor the concentrated flavors, and be thankful for the power to transform something straight from the earth into something short of heaven.