Summer tomatoes all year round

Nothing tastes as good as a sun-kissed tomato. And certainly not a tomato bought at the grocery store in January. Don’t want to deprive yourself for long months of one of the most beautiful flavors of summer? Chef Fisun Ercan shares some ideas, and a recipe, to enjoy the abundance of harvests until the heart of winter.

Posted at 4:00 p.m.

Simon Chabot

Simon Chabot
The Press

“I harvest almost a ton of tomatoes every year! says Fisun Ercan, who has been growing her vegetables on a plot of land in Saint-Blaise, in the Richelieu valley, since 2018. At the beginning of September, she is overwhelmed with red fruits (or yellow or green or purple, depending on the variety). Impossible to serve all these tomatoes at his country table Bika, which will close shortly for the cold season.

Fisun Ercan is nevertheless a big fan of seasonal cuisine. She loves serving her customers lettuce leaves that grew a few feet from her kitchen, picked just two hours earlier and never refrigerated.

  • These days, Fisun Ercan's vegetable garden is overflowing with tomatoes.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    These days, Fisun Ercan’s vegetable garden is overflowing with tomatoes.

  • … of all varieties.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    … of all varieties.

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Also, she loves to feed according to the seasons. “Missing something is part of the pleasure of finding it when it comes back,” she observes. And following the season, it prevents me from having the impression of reliving the same day every day. »

But that’s no reason to waste everything that ripens in the vegetable garden! The Turkish-born chef therefore spends long hours these days potting tomatoes. “I’m going to enjoy my crops all year round,” she says, referring to the tomatoes, but also the aubergines, peppers and herbs that grow at home (and that are currently available at good prices in the markets).

Once processed, the tomatoes of course no longer have quite the same taste as when they left the vegetable garden. Nevertheless:

Every time I open a jar of sauce in the middle of winter, the smell takes me back to summer. A greenhouse tomato never has the same effect.

Fisun Ercan, chef

Not just canned…

Like many Quebecers, Fisun Ercan canned tomatoes. She prepares her sauces by variety, in order to revel in the flavors of each, and without over-seasoning them, so that she can then prepare them in different ways. “I prefer to add garlic or basil, for example, once I’m cooking with the sauce. »

However, there are also other ways to preserve tomatoes. Including dehydration, which the chef practices a lot.


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Dehydrated cherry tomatoes, like large raisins, can flavor salads all winter long.

After a few hours in the dehydrator, or in the oven at low temperature (around 65°C or 150°F), the cherry tomatoes take on the air of large raisins. Fisun Ercan keeps them as they are, or in oil, for many months. “The main thing is that they are really dry. I use it in salads, a bit like dried cranberries, or for stewing,” she says. Rehydrated with a little boiling water, they almost regain their original appearance.

Fisun Ercan also freezes tomatoes, well cleaned, cut or whole, in Ziploc type bags. “They are then easy to use for cooking,” explains the chef. Their skin comes off almost on its own as soon as they defrost a little. »

I also make tomato paste. Diluted with a little water, then tossed with olive oil on toast, it reminds me of my mother’s cooking in Turkey.

Fisun Ercan, chef

Over there, the tomato paste dries directly in the sun, but the star is too discreet here in the fall to content itself with its heat. Once the tomatoes have been through the vegetable mill two or three times to recover as much juice and flesh as possible, the preparation is then salted and then reduced by half on the heat, it is better to dry the paste on a baking sheet at 95°C C (or 200°F) for about 3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.

Like the sauce, the paste can easily be kept for a few months in the refrigerator. And at least a year if canned in sterilized jars.


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Lovage, verbena, peppers or green onions… Fisun Ercan dehydrates many foods and herbs to preserve them.

A book

Fisun Ercan details all these recipes in his book Roots, published last spring by KO editions. There are also tips for fermenting vegetables, and tomatoes… which are fruits, reminds the chef. “We can also do with tomatoes everything that we do with other fruits, such as syrups, sweet pies or sorbets”, she specifies.

And even jam, of which she offers you her recipe. Turkish food? “No, I had the idea of ​​doing that here, replies Fisun Ercan. I always try to go further in the kitchen, to know the personality of each food. More than preparing meals or gardening, my great passion is to learn. Then to inspire. »

Give it a try, it’s worth it!

Spicy cherry tomato jam

Tomato jam for breakfast? With fresh cheese on toast, it’s succulent, you can trust chef Fisun Ercan. Its recipe is slightly spicy, but everyone can dose the spicy side to their taste. Or add caraway, coriander or fennel seeds, “good friends of the tomato” for a jam that also goes very well with yogurt or cheesecake, for example.

Ingredients

  • 550 g (about 3 1/2 cups) whole cherry tomatoes
  • 250 g (just over 1 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp.) cider vinegar
  • 1/2 fresh red chili pepper (cayenne or gorria pepper), seeded and sliced

  • In a large container, combine the tomatoes and sugar.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    In a large container, combine the tomatoes and sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

  • The next day, add the pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the preparation has the consistency of jam.  Add the vinegar.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    The next day, add the pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the preparation has the consistency of jam. Add the vinegar.

  • Pour the tomato jam into glass jars.  Refrigerate until cold.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    Pour the tomato jam into glass jars. Refrigerate until cold.

  • The jam will keep for a few months in the refrigerator, or longer if you sterilize the jars using a canning method.

    PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

    The jam will keep for a few months in the refrigerator, or longer if you sterilize the jars using a canning method.

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Preparation

  • 1. In a large container (or saucepan), combine tomatoes and sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  • 2. The next day, add the chilli and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the preparation has the consistency of jam. Add the vinegar.
  • 3. Pour the tomato jam into glass jars. Refrigerate until cold.
  • 4. The jam will keep for a few months in the refrigerator, or longer if you sterilize the jars using a canning method.

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