Rachel's Table

Tomato Addict

I’ve been craving tomatoes. Not just any tomato, but a sun-soaked red or yellow cherry tomato fresh from the summer garden.

Alas, winter is upon us. All hopes of a summer tomato are deferred until at least July. Like an addict needing a fix, I found myself wistfully looking through photos of these summer beauties.

Kauffman's offered these beautiful hot house tomatoes grown in Lancaster County, PA

Beautiful tomatoes from Lancaster County, PA

Grown the hydropotic way in Dover, Delaware

Grown the hydroponic way in Dover, Delaware

John picked these cherry tomatoes for me ahead of time. My favorites!

My favorite cherry tomatoes straight from John’s garden


I want one right now

Naked tomatoes waiting to be dressed

Tomatoes + Basil = Perfection

Summer tomatoes from Rehobeth Beach, DE

Summer tomatoes from Rehoboth Beach, DE

Summer Beauties

The very Roma tomatoes I oven dried

Some of the best tomatoes I ate all summer. Thanks, New Jersey!

Some of the best tomatoes I ate all summer. Thanks, New Jersey!

What dreams are made of

What my dreams are made of

After wiping the drool from my chin, I exclaimed, “THAT’S IT. I WANT TOMATOES AND TOMATOES I SHALL HAVE!” I even shook two fists at the gray winter sky as I uttered the words.

Firm in my resolve, I went to the pantry to find the tomato goodness that would satisfy my craving. Jackpot! I scored a jar of local canned tomatoes–a Christmas present from thoughtful friends. Then I remembered the Roma tomatoes I oven-dried and stashed in the freezer for just such an occasion. I held them like precious jewels, imagining their concentrated sweet tomato flavor.

Tomato Sunshine, oven-dried in September

Tomato Sunshine, oven-dried in September

Marrying summer and winter was easy. I used the crock pot–a decidedly winter appliance in my house. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but since I had quality ingredients preserved at their peak of freshness, I wasn’t disappointed.

Locally grown, canned tomatoes

Locally grown, canned tomatoes

I’ll make this again and again, especially when I’m jonesin’ for a tomato fix!

Four Tomato Chicken Pasta

1 pound boneless chicken thighs (or breasts, whichever you prefer. Oh and if you’re a veggie, just add a couple cans of chick peas to the crock pot instead of chicken.)

Kosher salt and pepper

1 jar canned summer tomatoes with juice (or 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, if you have that on hand)

1 cup tomato sauce

6 tablespoons tomato paste

8 oven-dried tomatoes (or jarred sun-dried tomatoes)

3 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano (I used thyme because it’s the fresh herb I had on hand)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons red wine (or use water)

Sugar, to taste

Thin spaghetti or your favorite pasta shape, cooked according to package directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper generously. Place in the crock pot. In a medium bowl, combine jarred/diced tomatoes,  tomato sauce, tomato paste, oven-dried tomatoes, red wine, and garlic. Pour over chicken. Add thyme/oregano to the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Ready to cook low and slow

Ready to cook low and slow

When ready to eat, cook pasta according to package directions. Remove chicken and thyme sprigs from the crock pot. Shred chicken with fork, set aside.  This is where I tasted the sauce and added a teaspoon or so of sugar. You may think the sauce is perfect the way it is or you may want to add salt or sugar. Just make sure to taste it to check on those seasonings.

Chicken, shredded, tender and flavorful

Chicken, shredded, tender and flavorful

Turn crock pot to high, remove the lid. and cook uncovered until the sauce thickens up a bit (I did this for as long as it took the pasta to cook).

The oven-dried tomatoes were the star of this dish

The oven-dried tomatoes were the star of this dish

Return the shredded chicken to the sauce. When heated through, turn the crock pot off. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano if you have it! (I didn’t, but it was still delish.)

A taste of summer in a winter dish

A taste of summer in a winter dish

What’s your favorite summer produce item? How do you get through the winter without it?


      • Cali is, for the most part, but when they bring them in from elsewhere… well, you know it’s just not the same! The ripeness is wrong until summer time for peaches. This is a good time for produce in Florida. The strawberries are coming soon, and there are still citruses for another several weeks. I used to live on Madeira Beach. If you have never tried them, see if you can get loquats The grow wild in Florida and Cali. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loquat

  1. Oh man. Sun (or oven)-dried tomatoes, when done right (like this, apparently! YUM), are just magical. Would you still like Peppermeister if I told you he doesn’t like tomatoes? …Because he doesn’t. I’m pretty sure every time I say that, Mother Nature cries. Is it raining where you are?

    • What??? Say it ain’t so!! Incidentally, I’m already making plans for those seed babies he sent me. Only I WILL be eating mine with tomatoes. Pico de gallo is my favorite summer salad. (And tell him I still love him anyway.)

    • I’m going to have to consider how I feel about this new Peppermeister development. I feel like I don’t even know him anymore. Doesn’t he eat salsa with all of those peppers he’s always going on about?

      It’s raining here, Jules. And there’s tears on my keyboard.

  2. This post should have come with a warning: May Make Your Mouth Water. How dare you put an un-truncated post of beautiful, luscious, SCRUMPTIOUS tomatoes in my inbox at this time of year! I was forced to scroll painfully up and down, eyeballing every little curve and plumpiness (I feel naughty, like a teen looking at at Playboy centerfold!). Delicious they are. Your pictures, that is.

    Our grocery tomatoes? Notsomuch. I’ve pretty much avoided them altogether (with the exception of the grape variety from Mexico — egads!) which have only 75% of the sweetness of the ones coming from our garden. We savor them in our lunchboxes, one might think we were eating candy. I’ll splurge for a $8 jar of sundried tomatoes just to slice onto our pizzas, which is mostly greens, onions, and squash, just to give it a little bite.

    Oh…spring can’t get here soon enough. Nice post Rachel, as always. I’ll be dreaming of maters tonight.

    • I found locally grown tomatoes at Whole Foods from a nearby far. They are grown indoors so they are not nearly as flavorful as a sun-soaked garden tomatoes. But they’ll do the job. I will NEVER buy a grocery store tomato again. They are mealy and disgusting.

      You should def grow some Romas and then oven dry them–to die for! And so very easy.

      Yeah, this post contained some naughty, naughty food porn. And I’m addicted.

      • Pithy. That’s the word my friend uses to describe those nasty tomato wannabe’s. Mealy is good too. Either way, they’re just plain gross! I might have to oven dry some Roma babies during peak season this year. What about a dehydrator? Any luck with one of those ever?

      • I’ve never used a dehydrator. The oven works great for these tomatoes. I wish I made more because I only have eight left in the freezer. They are like gold now.

  3. What a crock! LOL

    We’re still eating fresh heirloom tomatoes out here in California! Although I have a feeling that will end abruptly with our current cold snap — 30s at night, mid 50s in the day!!!!

    I find canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy to be a good band-aid to get you through the winter, as well.


  4. Ok, here is where I make a confession . . . while I absolutely adore a good tomato sauce, I cannot stand tomatoes. Hate them. Will pick them out of things, or not eat something if it contains too many of the seeds/juice of the tomato. I just can’t do it. However, if it’s all blended up in a sauce? Especially over pasta? Yep, I’m there.

    I am kinda weird, I admit.

    However, I am not adverse to making things with tomatoes in them. I make a mean summer pasta salad with grape tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and italian dressing. It’s basic but yummy. I just eat around the tomatoes is all.

    That recipe looks scrumptous. I would probably make it with everything BUT the romas. Mostly because I don’t have any. It actually looks a bit reminiscent of a chicken cacciatore, but with pasta.

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