Canned tomatoes make simple meals uncommonly delicious
When well into fall meets the hint of winter, I know that's the cue for stepping up my domestic duties -- canning. The once beautiful red tomatoes turned a little bug eaten are starting to feel the change in weather as well, which makes it a perfect time for me to scour the road side stands and farmer's markets for the last of the home-grown beauties.
In a perfect world, I would absolutely take the time to search high and low for my beloved heirloom tomatoes which, by the way, are making a huge come-back. In fact, I missed the convention on the West Coast this past week. Yeah, a perfect world is hard to come by, but finding the last ruby red gems of the summer isn't, and that is how I'm spending this week -- canning my new found supply of fresh home-grown tomatoes.
There are a lot of good reasons you should "put away" as my granny used to say, tomatoes: You have a pile of sad tomatoes that have reached their life expectancy. You are sick of the fruit flies that are multiplying by numbers you're unable to count. You like meals that are uncommonly delicious. You're into recipes that you can make in one pot that will warm the souls of many. You love the fact that you know if grocery stores shut down nationwide, you have a little something something to savor while the world scrambles for food.
I could go on and on, but those are my reasons and while just eye balling the fruits of my labor is quite satisfactory, nothing beats the smell of freshness springing forth when I open a Mason jar packed with a little summer I had the forethought to bottle when the sun was still shining and the birds still singing. If ever a smell could paint a picture of summer abundance, home-canned tomatoes accomplishes just that.
I have many recipes in which I include these wonderful tomatoes. However, one in particular seems to make repeat appearances on our table throughout the fall and winter. There is nothing fancy about this recipe and I believe that is where the genius lies. The tomato flavor takes center stage and soothes my senses like nothing else. It's my mom's recipe and while goulashes seem to vary greatly, we like ours soupy without a heavy load of spice. I know, can you believe I'm pushing a subtle spiciness kind of dish? Whenever I eat this I'm instantly reminded of Mommy.
11/2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small green peppers, chopped
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1 quart canned tomatoes (crushed is fine)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package
1 T. red pepper flakes
fresh grated parmesan cheese for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Cook your pasta according to the package. While you're waiting on the water to boil, place the beef in a large skillet and sprinkle with garlic and onion powder, then brown the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green peppers. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain the meat mixture just a little. Add the tomatoes and bring to boil. Add the macaroni and let stand to allow the flavors to combine. Top with parmesan cheese.
Janet McCormick is the owner of The Tea Room Cafe in Proctorville, Ohio, and the author of "10-Minute Meals." She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.