Does it ever seem like you have tomatoes coming out of your ears? Each fall, my family pulls in the last of the half-green tomatoes and sets them on the front porch to finish ripening. It never seems like much, until pail after pail is unloaded and eventually we realize we overplanted once again.
Typically, this means we have a wonderful salsa-making session in store, along with making a bunch of spaghetti sauce. The whole family gets involved in the tomato prep process, and it’s great to involve even itsy bitsy children. Our little guy has the very important job of making sure the tomatoes are clean. We give him a couple of big bowls of water, a wooden spoon and some towels. He sticks some tomatoes into one water bowl, dunks them with the spoon, and then transfers them to the next bowl of water to rinse, dunking them again with the spoon before moving them to the towels. We found that one of our twins is naturally persnickety, which makes her a perfect tomato skin peeler. Her twin sister loves getting messy. Her job is to take the skinned tomato, shove her thumbs up inside the walls of it, and scrape the seeds down into the sink.
Last year, our autumn got away from us, so I simply washed those tomatoes, stuck them in zippered freezer bags, and froze them until we had a free weekend later in the year. Sure enough, as they thawed, the skins slid right off, saving us a step of having to par-boil in order to remove the bitter skins.
A few years ago, our neighbors were trading jars of salsa, everyone sampling the others and enjoying the variety of flavors. We discovered that our next door neighbors’ salsa tasted remarkably similar to ours. A comparison of “family” recipes revealed that our recipes were nearly identical – the only difference was that ours included carrots! We all had a good laugh over that and both adjusted our recipe cards to say “Neighborhood Salsa.”
This year, we’re freezing a bunch of tomatoes again for salsas and sauces, but not before pulling out a handful of the reddest cherry tomatoes out for my favorite lunch dish: Tabouli. This fresh meal originates from Lebanon and is very healthy and delicious (it’s sometimes spelled Tabbouleh). It’s full of parsley, tomatoes, onion, herbs, lemon, quinoa and bulgur wheat, which is a rich source of protein, fiber and minerals, and yet is low in calories and fat. I like to serve it in pitas and while it may look pretty earthy, even my meat-loving family enjoys it.
Below are the recipes for my favorite Neighborhood Salsa and Tabouli. Enjoy!
- ⅓ Cup Sugar
- 8 Cups Tomatoes, peeled and seeded
- 2½ Cups Onions, chopped
- 1½ Cups Green Pepper, chopped
- 1 Cup Jalapeño, diced
- 6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. Cumin
- 2 tsp. Ground Pepper
- ⅛ Cup Canning Salt
- ⅓ Cup White Vinegar
- 15 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce
- 12 Oz. Can Tomato Paste
- 1 Cup Carrots, shredded (if you need to mellow out the heat of the Jalapeños)
- Combine all ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes.
- Taste test. If it’s too hot, add a half cup of shredded carrots and let cook for another 10 minutes.
- Taste test again. If it’s still too hot, add another half cup of carrots and look for 10 more minutes.
- Seal in jars and cook in a hot bath for 10 minutes. (I follow the Ball canning instructions exactly for food safety.)
- 2 Cups Prepared Quinoa/Bulgur Blend (Full Circle brand in the Natural Foods department)
- 1 Pinch Salt
- ¼ Cup Olive or Grape Seed Oil
- ½ tsp. Pepper
- ¼ Cup Lemon Juice
- 3 Medium Tomatoes, diced
- 2 Bunches Green Onions, diced
- 1 Bunch Fresh Parsley, destemmed and chopped coarsely
- 2 tsp. Fresh Mint, chopped finely
- Combine all ingredients and cover tightly.
- Let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for a couple days.
- Serve in pita pockets, in lettuce wraps, or on crackers.
• Some chefs mince the parsley up very finely, but we prefer ours a little heartier. It stays fluffier – more like a salad and less like a dip.
• If your tabouli is not flavorful enough, add more salt and more lemon juice. My family prefers the recipe as listed above, but I always set aside some for myself and then I sprinkle a lot more lemon juice over the top of it.
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