Heirloom tomatoes seemed to reproduce on my kitchen countertop this week. Between the entire contents of a CSA produce box (normally split with a friend who's out of town) and a boxful of tomatoes from a client's garden, supply far exceeded demand. Cherokees, green zebras and German Johnsons graced fresh green salads, topped pizzas, and played a starring role in homemade soup. Sliced, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, the ripe, fragrant fruits helped make the summer heat (almost) bearable. But eating them at breakfast, lunch and dinner wasn't enough.
It was time for tomato-onion jam.
This isn't a jam in the traditional sense. Thick and rich, it's summer tomato intensified, made even better with caramelized onion, garlic and spices. More traditional tomato jam recipes exist — they often include much more sugar and are processed in a boiling-water bath, which means they'll last up to a year.
Tomato-onion jam is a seasonal favorite, though I don't stick to a particular recipe each year. I look to my pantry, consider what flavors I'm craving, and go from there. Last night's version featured the heat of hot red pepper flakes, ginger's zing, and the earthy goodness of caramelized garlic and onion. I'm going to enjoy a spoonful with roasted chicken (served room temperature in this latest heat wave) and a spinach salad for dinner.
Smear tomato-onion jam on bread and serve with cheese, use it with roasted or grilled meats and poultry, or make it part of a sandwich. It's also pretty terrific consumed directly from the jar (this is allowed if you live alone). Consider adding ground cumin seed, cardamom, or a freshly chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper to the recipe. Make it your own.
Makes about 3 heaping cups
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
freshly ground black pepper
To peel tomatoes: Make a small "x" on the bottom of each tomato. Drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove, then plunge into an ice water bath. The skin will slip off easily, pulled from the flesh with a paring knife.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, shallot, garlic and cook over low for about 20 minutes, with the pan covered. When the vegetables are soft, remove the lid and allow the vegetables to caramelize over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. This will take another 15-20 minutes. Add peeled, roughly chopped tomatoes, red wine vinegar, hot red pepper flakes, cumin, ginger, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings as necessary.
Tomato-onion jam will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about one week.