Q: Can you freeze tomatoes without blanching?
A: Yes, it is possible to quickly freeze raw tomatoes without blanching them first. They may be frozen without their skins or frozen whole with their skins. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion and herbs. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews as they become mushy when they're thawed.
The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers the following advice on freezing tomatoes:
Washing tomatoes: Tomatoes should be washed before cutting. To wash, wet each tomato with water, rub its surface, rinse it with running water, and dry it with a paper towel. After washing, cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and discard it before slicing or chopping the tomato.
Washing tomatoes in a sink filled with water is not recommended since contaminated water can be absorbed through the fruit's stem scar. The use of soap or detergent is neither recommended nor approved for washing fruits and vegetables because they can absorb detergent residues.
Freezing whole tomatoes with peels:
¢ Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. Sort the tomatoes, discarding any that are spoiled.
Wash and dry them as recommended above. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly.
¢ To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.
Freezing peeled tomatoes:
¢ If you prefer to freeze peeled tomatoes, you can wash the tomatoes and then dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skins split. Peel and then freeze them whole as noted above. Or, if you prefer to quarter, slice, chop, or puree the tomatoes, place them in zip-locked freezer bags (or other freezer containers), removing as much air as possible and zip closed.
¢ To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0 degrees or below. It is generally recommended frozen vegetables be eaten within about 8 months for best quality.
Q: Do you have an easy fresh tomato bruschetta recipe?
A: Here's one that quick and easy using both fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. It's great as a snack or an appetizer and is loaded with nutrients. This recipe makes approximately 12 servings.
Tomato basil bruschetta
8 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, Spanish onion or sweet onion, chopped
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 loaf Italian or French-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Set aside.
Arrange bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to brown slightly. Remove bread from oven and transfer to a serving platter. Serve the tomato mixture in a bowl with a serving spoon and let everyone help themselves. Or place some on each slice of bread before serving. If adding the tomato mixture yourself, add it at the last minute or the bread may become soggy.
Note: If you're short on time, the tomato topping (minus the basil) can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated. Wait until you're ready to turn on the oven for the bread before chopping and adding the basil. Set mixture aside at room temperature while the bread is toasting.
Q: Is there an online calorie tracking program?
A: The MyPyramid web site has an online tacking program to track food intake and calorie intake. It is free. You have to create a user ID to log in to the system. See the following web site: www.mypyramidtracker.gov. To look up nutrient content for specific foods, try using the USDA Nutrient database: www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.
Q: Where can I find a list of foods that contain a specific nutrient, such as potassium?
A: The USDA Nutrient database has several lists of specific nutrients and the foods that contain those nutrients. The reports can be downloaded in alphabetical order or numerically from highest to lowest. See this Web site: www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm
Q: Are you planning to share the rest of the Champion and Reserve Champion recipes from the Douglas County Fair in your news column?
A: All of the Champion and Reserve Champion recipes can be found on our K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County Web site at www.oznet.ksu.edu/douglas. If you do not have access to the Internet, please contact me and I can assist you.