I love the late summer and fall, when many fruits and vegetables are overflowingly abundant. As the nights get cooler the harvest begins to slow down a bit, but there are still plenty of delicious vegetables at my local vegetable shop, Shoku-no-eki. To hold on to the taste of summer for a little bit longer I decided to put up some of these yummy vegetables in my freezer last week.
I’ve been wanting to try Paul Bertolli’s recipe for tomato conserva, which I had seen in the LA Times a few years ago but had never gotten around to trying. I recommend that you only try this recipe if you have a food mill. I tried to strain the mix through an uragoshi (Japanese mesh strainer) but the mesh was too fine. After switching to a metal colander I was able to strain the puree, but it took over an hour. Then I slowly roasted the puree in a glass pan in my oven over low heat. In the end, I had transformed 1500 grams (3.5 pounds) of tomatoes into a scant cup of delicious tomato-ey paste. (although the tomatoes in the picture above are grape tomatoes, I actually used large round tomatoes to make the conserva). The recipe says that the conserva can be kept in the refrigerator with a thick layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation and discourage mold, but I decided that it would be safer and easier to keep it in the freezer. I packed the paste into a small lidded container, used a butterknife to cut it into tablespoon-sized sections and then popped it into the freezer.
The next day I made roasted red peppers by fire roasting the peppers on my stove until the skins blistered. Then I put the peppers into a covered bowl to steam. After that I peeled off the skins, removed the stems and seeds, and put the peppers into resealable containers in the freezer.
Finally, on the third day I made pesto. Basil is plentiful and cheap at Shoku-no-eki. I bought five bags for 80 yen each, which made a very generous amount of pesto. To keep the color nice and green and to make it easier to blend, I blanched the basil for a few seconds in boiling water and then shocked it in an icewater bath. After that I squeezed out the extra water, chopped it roughly, and blended it with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt. I also added a small squeeze of lemon juice to help preserve the green color. To save space in my freezer, I left out the cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano) which I can add later when I use the pesto.
Now my freezer is stocked up with some special treats that I can use to recapture the taste of summer all winter long.