Between our garden and our green market sprees of late, J and I have found ourselves overwhelmed in the kitchen at times. It can be difficult to keep up with the coolers crammed full with produce that we schlep into our kitchen twice a week. Last week we went crazy at the Union Square green market (that's another post) and brought home a mess of farm fresh (not hothouse - I love this time of year!) tomatoes and jalapenos and cilantro. My intent, of course, was salsa - the first fully-fresh salsa of the year. After a couple of months of canned tomatoes, fresh tomato salsa would be light and fresh and sweet.
When we got home, we discovered our garden had been thinking the same thing.
Jalapenos and tomatoes abound! We harvested a couple of small colanders of grape tomatoes and a few larger tomatoes, with plenty of ripening fruit still on the vine.
It's no surprise, then, that I went a little crazy-obsessive about using these beauties up before they started to soften and go bad. I stuffed my food processor full of farm fresh onions (red and yellow), cilantro, jalapenos, and tomatoes then seasoned it all with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Okay, I may have overdone it with the tomatoes. I crammed them in, squishing down chunks of one tomato to make room for the next one and the one after that. The result? A very tasty fresh tomato salsa filled and overflowed my food processor. I grabbed a big bowl to transfer the salsa and, while the salsa sat, pink-tinted clear tomato water began to seep out of the bottom of the Cuisinart bowl and rise to the top as well. Of course! I hadn't created an emulsion (no oil), so the tomato water was naturally going to separate. Since I had used an awful lot of incredibly juicy tomatoes, you can imagine the quantities of tomato water that were struggling to pour out of my food processor.
I slammed a strainer over a very large bowl and dumped out my salsa. I ended up with a wonderfully tight salsa without the extra liquid in which my chunky vegetables would normally swim about. I also ended up with a quart and a half of tomato water. I'm not one to waste anything in the kitchen, especially anything that I've worked so hard to schlep from Manhattan or coax out of my own soil, so I knitted my brows together and did my best Winnie-the-Pooh impression. Think! Think! Think! What can I do with this tomato water? I tasted it and discovered that it was highly seasoned with the other salsa ingredients - lots of fresh onion, lime juice, essence of jalapeno and cilantro.
I could freeze it and add it to a tortilla soup I'll cook this winter. Sure. I could add it to tomato juice for a lovely spicy kick in a Bloody Mary. Yum. Mother Inspiration struck - the perfect use for this spicy flavorful tomato water was one that highlighted it's Tex-Mex flavor profile - Tomato Margaritas!
Oh yes, add some more lime juice, some hot sauce, and tequila and flavorful tomato water becomes a fantastic savory and spicy cocktail. It's the perfect drink for a snack of homemade tortilla chips and farm fresh salsa or oven fried jalapenos (another post) or a dinner of kale and cheese enchiladas. Perhaps I could serve it as a brunch cocktail with my nearly-perfected huevos rancheros recipe. So much potential.
Of course I was rather pleased with myself. I had not only saved a big bowl full of tomato water from being poured down the drain, I had created a tasty cocktail at the same time.
I spent the next day processing greens and greens and more greens (yet another post) and I neglected the fresh carrots, celery, and daikon we had brought home with the bounty of tomatoes. I should have cut off the leafy tops to stop the veggies from losing moisture. I should have stashed them in the chill chest but it was overflowing with veg that had to be kept cold and carrots and daikon could keep for a couple of days in my kitchen. After all, don't they keep in root cellars for weeks? I was wrong. When I got to them, the carrots and daikon were rubbery imitations of themselves. I could tie a long thin carrot into a knot. The celery smelled wonderfully fresh, but it too was rubbery. Sigh.
These veggies would not go to waste. I washed and roughly chopped them up then threw them into a pot of water with some onion, black peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves and boiled away. Veggie stock would be mine. I stole a cup of stock to help me saute down a stubborn batch of greens and bagged up the rest (about a gallon) for the freezer. I tend to make a soup and bread supper at least once a week in the colder weather (heat up the house with the stove and oven and my body with hot soup and warm bread). This veggie stock will give me a couple of pots of soup. I'm dreaming of white beans and escarole, vegetable, three bean, black bean, and Tuscan white bean soups. I hate cold weather, but this gives me something special to look forward to later this year.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying this warm weather bounty. I'm headed back to the green market tomorrow for more tomatoes because I'm out of salsa and I need a nice spicy cocktail too!