The less food I waste, the better I feel -- it's more economical, and it is better for The World At Large. Saving energy by buying less. It's so difficult, though! It takes strength of will, organization, and some ingenuity to keep yourself from buying too much. Whole corporations are built to strategize how to get us consumers to purchase more food. Those tricks sure work on me. What a weird problem we have in this country--so many of us have so much food we don't know what to do with ourselves, or it. I'm by no means an expert conserver-of-foods, but it gets better the more I work at it. Someday I will be the proud owner of a fridge with no science projects lurking in the crisper. At the moment, though, I've still got things like the tired lime wedges, some mopey moldy strawberries, and the leftover oatmeal that "could" become fodder for future pancakes.
So, here we are, at the end of fresh tomatoes for the year. On one of the last warm days of fall, I celebrated with a round of gazpacho. The heirloom tomatoes from Billy's Gardens at the farmers' market were way redder and readier than my own garden's, so I bought a bunch of seconds and got to it. As I blanched and peeled the tomatoes, though, I started thinking about the tomato tops and skins. They were beautiful and gemlike, in their various colors. Sure, they would go into compost, but what if I could do something with them?
This time, I put them into a vegetable stock to see what would happen. I used chopped carrots, celery, onion (including the toughest-yet-edible outer shell of a red onion), thyme sprigs, and yes, the tomato tops and skins. The tomato flavor definitely dominated the stock, probably because there were so many of them, but maybe sometimes that's okay, depending on the stock's purpose. I could use the stock in a tomato based soup, for example, or maybe in a pasta dish or risotto that had lots of related flavors.
At any rate, it felt good to use the whole thing, and the leftover cooked parts will compost all the quicker.
Last week in school our teacher taught us about making proper stocks, using the best part of fine ingredients. He said, "If you want to make garbage stock, then make stock with scraps." That really made me think. It's a good point, especially for a restaurant. Meanwhile, back here at the house, I'll go with the modified philosophy of, If I would eat it anyway (and I usually do eat tomato skins), then it's good enough for a home stock.
Next I'm going to try to make tomato-skin powder. Apparently you take your just-peeled tomato skins and either put them in a food dehydrator or a low-heat oven until they are dry and crumbly. Then grind them up with a spice or coffee grinder. I've never had this powder before, but it sounds like it would look and taste wonderful. Tell you later if there's anything to report on that.