Ms. Colwin has a point there. After reading this quote, I started to think about all of the different cuisines, food products, and recipes that rely on this versatile vegetable, which is technically a fruit. Tomatoes are simmered and stewed in Rome, Italy, but battered and deep fried in Rome, Georgia. They’ll be roasted in a Paris, France ratatouille, but finely chopped in a Paris, Texas pico de gallo. Tomato paste helps to thicken our sauces, and summer just wouldn’t be the same without big red bottles of tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce. Breakfast omelets, lunch BLTs, dinner casseroles–all of our meals are tastier when these vine-ripened dynamos are involved. Heck, I’ve even heard of people mixing tomato puree into their chocolate cake batter (Disclaimer: I have not tried this, so I cannot endorse this method.)
This is a particularly great time of year for tomatoes, yes, even in the produce-challenged Las Vegas grocery stores. California must have had a bumper crop this year, because our bins were overflowing with crimson Roma, cherry, hothouse, vine-ripened, and heirloom varietals, all reasonably priced, might I add. With the inflated price of groceries nowadays, when I do find produce that is both beautiful and that won’t break the bank, I’ll buy it and then figure out what to do with it later. In this case, I decided to make a big batch of tomato chutney, which would last us most of the summer, and that we could use as a different condiment alternative during our outdoor cooking endeavors.
With the addition of dried cranberries, cinnamon, and brown sugar, this chutney would also probably work really well in the fall, if you are lucky enough to have great tomatoes year-round. The cumin, ginger, and mustard seed add a little bit of Middle Eastern flavor, and the cayenne adds some heat. The flavors will only improve over time, as they blend, so make a big batch to keep available for your next burger night! Here are some tips for this versatile summer spread:
- If you don’t have vine-ripened tomatoes, you can use romas, hothouse, or even grape, as long as they are ripe and finely chopped.
- The dried cranberries can be replaced with dark or golden raisins, chopped dried figs, or even dried cherries.
- The chutney can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months, tightly covered.
- This chutney is great spooned over burgers or grilled chicken, pork, or fish. It would also be good mixed with a little sour cream to make a dip for raw vegetables.
Vine-Ripened Tomato Chutney
Makes about 4 cups
3 cups finely chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for about 45 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Cool the chutney and then pour it into airtight containers.