Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Are you a summer tomato canner? I’m sad to say I didn’t grow up with that tradition, but I do love tomatoes, especially summer ones, so I understand wanting to make the most of the season. Last summer I even bought up 15 pounds of tomatoes from my farmer’s market and set out to make Kenji’s summer tomato sauce. It was a lengthy and involved process, but the end result was delicious.

My only qualm with the whole deal was having to spend so much time inside my hot kitchen with my oven on, reducing tomato juice to paste, and my stove on, reducing tomato pulp to sauce. It was a really good learning experience, and the end product was truly tasty, but I feel like big batches of summer tomato sauce are just logically made for the slow cooker.

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

So I threw together a recipe for tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes and a slow cooker. I think it’s pretty bomb, but I’m neither Italian nor a seasoned summer tomato putter-upper, so if you have a tomato sauce recipe you like better, try it in the slow cooker and tell me what happens.

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

 

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
about 4-5 pounds of fresh, ripe summer tomatoes (if your slow cooker is huge, you can probably double this easily)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
salt, to taste
2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
optional: 1/4 cup white wine
optional: a pinch of sugar
about 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
your favorite pasta
for finishing: crushed red pepper, parmesan, or pecorino

Method:

1. Set your slow cooker to high and pour in your olive oil with the diced onion and sliced garlic. Let the onion and garlic cook while you prep your tomatoes.

2. If you have a food mill you can simply cut your tomatoes into chunks and run them through the food mill until the skins and seeds are separated from the tomato pulp and juice.

If you don’t have a food mill, you’ll want to blanch your tomatoes after cutting slits in the skins, peel them, seed them, and strain the seeds from their flavorful juice. It’s a bit of a process, but if you have made tomato sauce in the summer before, you get it. What you want is as much of the tomato pulp and juice as possible without the gross seeds or skins. This is a great tomato peeling and seeding tutorial, my only beef with it is that they don’t strain the juice from the tomato seeds and put it back with the tomato pulp because it adds a lot of freshness and flavor to the sauce. So you should do it.

3. When you are finished with the tomatoes, turn your slow cooker to low and add the tomatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, tomato paste, and wine (if using) to the cooker.

4. Cook on low 4-6 hours with the lid cracked to allow steam to escape, or until you reach the consistency and flavor you want. Longer cook times result in a sweeter, more concentrated sauce while shorter cook times preserve a bit more of that ripe tomato freshness. Taste, add salt as necessary and give it a few more hours if you want more sweetness (you can also add a pinch of sugar for extra sweetness if you like).

5. If you didn’t use a food mill to prep your tomatoes, decide if you want to leave your sauce chunky (like the second picture) or if you want to blend it (I sort of half-blended mine for the finished version). Immersion blenders are perfect for this. Finish the sauce with the fresh basil. Serve with your favorite pasta, crushed red pepper flakes, and parmesan or pecorino.

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Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tortas

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

Have you ever had a torta? It’s basically all the best things about a traditional Mexican taco but in sandwich form, and with mayo (which means I’m going to be into it, don’t judge me). Tortas can be really simple, with just some carnitas or carne asada, onion, cilantro, jalapeños, and mayo. Or they can be these crazy mile-high amalgamations of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one with things like beans, eggs, hot dogs, steak, cheese, avocado, salsa, pickled onions, ETC. It can be intense. I’ve loved every torta I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on, but if I have some freshly cooked pork butt on hand, this simple version is likely the first thing I’m making.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

I don’t have easy access to a bakery that makes proper torta rolls (bolillos) so I just use a soft-ish sandwich bun and it works. My understanding of carnitas is basically that it’s crispy pulled pork. I’m sure experts will tell me there’s much more to it, but whatever, this is simple and it is delicious.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

 

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tortas
makes two tortas

Ingredients:
about 1 1/2 cups cooked and shredded pork butt (a.k.a. shoulder (prepared in the slow cooker like this))
1-2 Tbsp pork fat (from the slow cooker butt roast)
2 rolls – bolillos if you can find them and want to be authentic, brioche or kaiser if you aren’t up to that (I wasn’t)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 small clove garlic, grated or minced (or a pinch of garlic powder)
2-3 Tbsp finely diced white or yellow onion
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
avocado
lime wedges
Cholula hot sauce

 

Method:

1. Make a slow cooker pork butt. It takes time (about 8 hours), but the rewards are incredible. Read about that here.

2. In a sauté pan, heat 1/2 Tbsp pork fat over medium heat. Split and toast your rolls in the fat and set aside.

3. In the same pan, still on medium, add the rest of the pork fat and pile in the shredded pork. Break it up if necessary to heat through, taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary, then spread the pork in an even layer over the pan and leave it for a about 5 minutes to get crispy.

4. While your pork is cooking, mix together mayo, cumin, and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

5. Dice your onion and mince your cilantro and combine. Slice an avocado and a few lime wedges.

6. Assemble your tortas with the split and toasted buns, a pile of crispy shredded pork, a generous dollop of cumin garlic mayo, a pile of onions and cilantro, some avocado slices, a squeeze of lime, and a few drops of Cholula. Eat.

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Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

When you love soup as much as I do, you miss it in the summer. So, you gazpacho. The only problem with gazpacho is that if you do it wrong it tastes like eating a jar of salsa. When it’s good, however, it is it’s own distinct and delicious thing.

This version riffs on the Spanish flavors of romesco sauce (red peppers with almonds and garlic) and combines them with the tomatoey, cucumber-y freshness of gazpacho. I feel like the red peppers and almonds lend richness and sweetness to what can otherwise be an overly acidic dish. Top with avocado and a little sour cream, tear up some crusty bread, and you’re ready for a healthy, light lunch on a sunny patio. Make it with your immersion blender and your mixing bowl can double as your blending bowl and triple as your serving bowl. Fancy.

Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

 

Easy Immersion Blender Gazpacho With Almonds and Red Peppers
serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 lb ripe summer tomatoes
1 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
4 inch chunk cucumber
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2-3 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt (plus more, to taste)

for topping:
sliced green onion
chopped fresh parsley
diced avocado
sour cream
hot sauce
black pepper

Method:

1. Dice tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber and onion. Chop almonds and mince garlic. Put everything in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add paprika, red wine vinegar, olive oil, cayenne pepper, and salt.

3. Using your immersion blender, pulse and blend the chopped vegetables and seasonings until smooth. (OBVIOUSLY, a regular blender will also do the trick.)

4. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate at least 20 minutes to let the flavors develop, and up to overnight. Before serving, taste the gazpacho and add extra salt, cayenne, or vinegar as necessary.

5. Serve topped with green onion, parsley, avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, and black pepper (or any combination).

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