Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent way to concentrate that jammy summer tomato flavor. But when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, take advantage of the sun and use your car.
A car dashboard makes the perfect substitute oven.
Simply slice fleshy tomatoes (plum tomatoes work well) into quarters. Lay them out on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt. Place the baking sheet on the dashboard of a car parked in direct sun (put the baking sheet on top of a towel to help keep it level). Close the car windows and let stand for about eight hours. Voilà: sun-dried tomatoes (and a very delicious-smelling car).
For a more traditional approach to storing them, try blanching and then immediately freezing tomatoes to lock in the flavor. Start with a stockpot filled halfway with boiling water and a large bowl filled halfway with a salty ice-water bath (salt helps pull the heat out of the fruit). Carefully place clean whole tomatoes (the pot will hold a lot) into the boiling water for about two or three minutes. Once the tomato skins begin to break, gently remove them with tongs and dunk them in the ice bath to stop the cooking.
Once they are cooled, remove the fruit to a clean bowl and use your hands to slip the skins off, placing the naked tomatoes into plastic freezer bags or other freezer-safe containers. The whole tomatoes can also be run through a food mill or chopped in a food processor.
Date the large plastic freezer bags with a marker and fill them full with the tomatoes, which will reduce when cooking. The remaining tomato water in the bowl is very flavorful and delicious on its own. Just use a sieve to separate out the skins.
When cooking, you can sub in the frozen tomatoes for canned plain tomatoes.
PRODUCE REPORT: Cucumbers are looking good now and are in large supply. The fall squashes are maturing and will soon be ready, along with new crops of spinach and kale.
EAT WITH THE SEASON: Accept those zucchini gifts from your neighbor’s garden with a smile. Slice them into half-inch discs, blanch and freeze immediately in labeled and dated freezer containers. Then bring them out in the winter to make zucchini bread or a garden-fresh side dish.
Self-taught gardener Michael Blakeney enjoys his Bedford, N.Y., garden all year: working in it, watching it grow and eating it through every season. A visual artist and arts educator, Mike has been gardening for 25 years. You can find him at mikegrowgarden.com and on Instagram at mikegrowgarden1.