Pizza sauce, jam, gazpacho, pico de gallo, BLT, bruschettas – all these and other easy and hands-down preparations are made with one of the most beautiful berries that was born in Central and South America. Aztecs gave it its name tomatl that’s been transformed to Spanish tomate and later to the one we know today. Tomatoes are fruits (that’s why you shouldn’t have raised your eyebrow when you read ‘jam’ in the first sentence) but we treat them as vegetables from a culinary perspective because usually they have a lesser sugar content than, say, peaches. They are consumed all over the world and utilized in many cuisines in salads, soups, stews, condiments, drinks, pies, sweets.
Most people think that fresh is the best, and while we have absolutely no intention to doubt this notion, we urge you to try the canned version of tomatoes. It’s always good to know how something is made – and if you watch some videos of canned tomatoes being processed in the factories, you’ll be glad to realize that only the freshest fruits at the peak of their ripeness are destined for a can. Canning technique is called ‘preservation’ for a reason.
Canned tomatoes, particularly in the fall, when we start demanding more rich and hearty dishes, can become your pantry saviour. Search for the cans with the tomato variety specified on it, for the best experience. Chances are, you’ll find great meaty, almost seedless plum tomatoes. Choose them and try to make the easiest rustic pizza sauce ever. It’s chunky, it’s concentrated, it’s cooked like this: combine crushed garlic with olive oil in a pan and fry over medium-high heat until golden, then add red pepper flakes and oregano. Going Italian all the way. Then add 2-3 Tbsp of tomato paste for flavour concentration and rich umaminess. After it’s blended, but before it’s scorched, plop two cans of tomatoes into the pot, bring the mixture to a simmer and blend with a hand blender. Reach for consistency of your choice, leaving as many chunks as you prefer. Then leave the sauce on the stove for 30-40 minutes to let the water vaporize and flavour concentrate. After the time is passed, your pizza sauce is ready.
Don’t fancy a pizza? You can use the tomato sauce in many ways. Start your day by making a famous shakshuka dish for instance. You’ll need to gently saute one sliced onion, one sliced red bell pepper (with one chili for a hot kick) with some crushed garlic. Then add 2 tsp cumin and 3 tsp paprika, wait until everything softens and pour your sauce (you can also just use tomatoes straight from the can), make little wells with a spoon and crack open chicken eggs inside. Close the lid to cook everything until eggs are properly coagulated and enjoy with freshly baked bread.
Speaking of which, here’s a go-to bruschetta recipe with the canned tomatoes. Yes, those can be cooked in many different ways. This time you’ll need your oven to be preheated to 150˚C/300˚F, your tomatoes to be laid on a parchment paper inside a baking sheet, drizzled with some olive oil and roasted for 1 hour until dry on the outside but still moist inside. When this is done, chop tomatoes nicely and season with salt, pepper, sugar, drizzle with some extra olive oil. Stir in some sliced basil or other herbs of your choice, like tarragon, parsley and sage. Toast some thinly sliced bread, rub it with garlic, spoon tomatoes on top, drizzle with vinegar. Choose raspberry balsamic – a true crowd-pleaser. You’ll be happy too even if you eat alone.