Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she grows vegetables, eats tomatoes, shovels snow, and rarely wears a watch. You may not be jealous of the Canadian winter, but summer is another story.
All this talk about Valentine’s Day and chocolate inspired me to write about my one true love. Tomatoes.
We have the equivalent of a long-distance relationship, tomatoes and I. We can’t spend nearly as much time as we like together, but when we do meet up, it’s an orgy of indulgence.
I live in Ontario, Canada. Where right now several feet of snow is blocking access to my tomato patch. Because I love tomatoes in all their forms and shapes and sizes and colours, I pretty much refuse to eat what you get in the supermarket. If I can’t have my true love at his (his?) best, I’ll save myself.
Since moving to the country three years ago I’ve become a fan of heirloom tomatoes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about do yourself a favour and seek them out. Heirloom tomatoes are, as the name says, the original tomato. Not the mass-produced stuff you buy at the grocery store whose value is in longevity and easy transportation, but a real tomato valued only for its flavour. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes from the size of the nail on your little finger to the size of your head, and every colour from pale yellow to deep purple.
A farm near where I live called Vicki’s Veggies (no relation) specializes in organic heirloom tomatoes. Every Labour Day they have a tomato tasting. Long tables are set up in the farmyard full of bowls of tomatoes. Vicki’s also sells seeds and seedlings and last summer I ventured for the first time into growing two of her seedlings, as opposed to the normal variety from the garden store or seed catalogue I usually cultivate. Wow, they grew so much they almost took over my deck! And plentiful! They were late to ripen though and by early October I had to pick the last to bring into the house. They ripened very slowly well into December, and I was able to nibble on a cherry heirloom tomato several times a day. Bliss.
September at Chez Vicki is cooking month. I prepared tons of tomato soup and tomato sauce to freeze and see me through the winter. So these days, I’m having tomato sauce with shrimp over pasta for dinner or tomato soup for lunch. In the soup in particular the flavour of the fresh tomatoes is still outstanding.
Vicki Delany’s Tomato and Pepper Soup
You can use as many tomatoes as you have, and adjust other ingredients accordingly. Don’t worry too much about being exact.
4 lbs ripe red tomatoes
3 sweet red peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp hot red chilli pepper, chopped and seeded
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Large handful of torn fresh basil leaves
Put large pot of water on to boil. When at a full boil add tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from water and cool. Then peel and chop, discarding as many seeds as you can.
Grill sweet peppers under oven broiler for about 15 minutes, turning until charred on all sides. Cool and then peel and finely chop, again discarding as many seeds as you can
In saucepan heat 2 tbsp. oil; add sweet peppers, chilli peppers, salt. Cook about 5 minutes, stir in garlic, cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, salt and basil. Cook 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Add stock and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes.
Cool soup and puree in blender or food processor. If serving immediately reheat gently. Can add more basil for decoration.
The newest book in Vicki Delany’s acclaimed Constable Molly Smith series, Among the Departed, will be released on May 3rd 2011.
Vicki is also the author of the Klondike Gold Rush series (Gold Fever) and standalone novels of psychological suspense(Scare the Light Away, Burden of Memory).
The fourth Molly Smith book, Negative Image, is currently up for a CBC award for best mystery.
Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com or catch up her on Facebook and Twitter @vickidelany. She's open to all tales of tomatoes.