Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Tomato Summer

Strawberries are gone, blueberries past their prime and I can’t find a fresh local raspberry to save my life. So, in late late summer (ok maybe early fall) I’ve turned my love of jam to the tomato.

Mark Bittman, of the NY Times blog Bitten, featured a tomato jam this august. It was the mention of Barcelona which truly caught my eye (I’ll spend almost 7 months there early next year). I'm all about foods used out of their normal element, and I was quite tired of caprese salad. The jam delivered true tomato taste that and enhanced by the spices.

However, I have to disagree with Mr. Bittman that this is a good morning treat, I much prefer it in the afternoon with a piece of good sharp white cheddar and fresh crusty bread. Because of my affinity for the salty rather than the sweet, I reduced the 1 cup sugar in the recipe to less than 1/3 cup. The jam didn't suffer, in fact, the tomato's sweetness was nearly enough to balance the lime's acidity and jalapeno's heat. I also increased the amount of cayenne and added some seeds from the jalapeno to kick it to the next level. I think the two types of peppers give this recipe dimension and identity.

Side note about the type of tomato: you want something that will hold up alright late in the cooking process. Avoid mushiness and look for firm-ripe. Romas or plums are actually wonderful in this, but only if you can get the locally grown kind or the really thing from San Marzano.

This is my version of Late Summer Tomato Jam

1 1/2 lbs tantalizingly ripe tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar depending on your taste buds
2 1/2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger...oooh what a smell
3/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
1/2-3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Put all ingredients in a mediums sauce pan and stir to mix. Heat over a medium flame until boiling, stirring frequently.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes have deconstructed and yielded to a mushy goodness, about 75 min. Taste, season, cool and enjoy.

Other suggestions: its great with pork loin (as almost any fruit or chutney is). Try it with a side of scallion studded couscous. Killer, and great for your health too!