I continue to enjoy the beautiful tomatoes from the garden this season.
We have been eating them nearly every day and I’m not tired of them yet. I’ve canned a lot of tomato juice — perfect not just for drinking, but for making chili and spaghetti sauce during those winter months. I’ve canned and frozen marinara sauce. But eating them fresh when they are their best is a real treat. There is nothing like a good Ohio tomato!
One of my favorite things to make with fresh tomatoes this time of year is Caprese Salad. The tomatoes are beautiful and so is the fresh basil. It couldn’t be easier to make and you don’t need a recipe. Simply slice your vine-ripe tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick, and slice fresh mozzarella 1/4 inch thick. On a platter, layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, adding a fresh basil leaf between each slice. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You could add some grilled chicken slices to the platter if you want to make it a little more hearty. One time I even tried making my own fresh mozzarella cheese. It was not that difficult and it was delicious. But you will need some rennet tablets and some citric acid (like you use to keep peaches from darkening) to make it. Watching a YouTube video first helps!
Last night I made some pizza with fresh tomatoes. After I stretched out my pizza dough on the pizza pan, I drizzled it with some olive oil with minced garlic, and sprinkled on some mozzarella cheese. Then I arranged tomato slices in a single layer over the cheese, and sprinkled them with a little salt and Parmesan cheese. I put some beautiful fresh basil leaves on top, and drizzled it with a little more olive oil on top. I baked it in a hot oven until the cheese melted and edges were golden. It was delicious!
This weekend I’m going to make one more batch of my mother’s chili sauce. She used to make it for my dad — he loved it on everything. I made one batch a couple of weeks ago but my kids have eaten it and want more, so I’m making another batch for them to share. It has a pretty long cooking time, but a delicious flavor. You may want to add some hot peppers also if you like because this recipe is not hot.
Mother’s Chili Sauce
5 pounds (10 cups) fully ripe tomatoes, peeled, cut into chunks. Put in 5 quart non-corrosive saucepan. Stir often. Cook over medium heat until tomatoes are soft and almost completely covered with liquid, about 20 minutes.
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
Bring to boil. Stir occasionally. Boil gently 1 1/2 hours.
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 inch cinnamon stick & 3/4 teaspoon whole cloves — tied into cheesecloth
Bring to boil again. Stir often. Boil gently for another 1 1/2 hours.
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Stir often. Simmer 30 minutes until thick. Remove spice bag. Ladle into clean 1/2 pint jars. Seal. Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath.
Mix with mayonnaise for Thousand Island Dressing.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.