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GOOD COOKING

A Cool Way to Preserve Summer

October 12, 1995|ABBY MANDEL

Every year about this time, I get the same question: How do you extend the seasonal goodness of summer produce without resorting to the time-consuming process of canning?

The freezer and refrigerator are the quick and easy solutions to this perennial problem. Although they do not offer the long-term shelf life of canned goods, frozen preparations keep at least six months in airtight containers. Foods that are pickled last about two weeks or slightly more in the refrigerator.

With this in mind, consider the following recipes that use the freezer and refrigerator to stretch the seasons of tomatoes, peaches and tender carrots.

The tomato sauce freezes extremely well; it's versatile because it's thick enough to be used as a cooked salsa over fish and roasted or broiled vegetables. But it is also just liquid enough to make it a successful pasta topping. Freeze it in airtight containers. Once the sauce is thawed and gently reheated, taste it and adjust the seasonings, which tend to diminish in the freezing process.

The spiced Thai-inspired carrots and the peach-and-tomato chutney are recipes to be stored in the refrigerator. The sweetness of freshly picked carrots lends itself to spicy pickling, and they make a great alternative to the ubiquitous raw carrot sticks when served with drinks or as condiments with sandwiches.

The chutney captures the freshness of end-of-the-season peaches and tomatoes and, like a relish, enhances fish, poultry or grilled or broiled meats. Mixed with a little mayonnaise, it makes a great spread for sandwiches.

The recipes can be doubled or tripled. For the tomato sauce and chutney, I chose to use a saute pan, a skillet with straight sides; its wide diameter allows these mixtures to cook down more rapidly than they would in a narrow, deep saucepan.

FREEZER TOMATO SAUCE

In this tomato sauce, there is no straining or peeling, and you can use the food processor. This is the processor sequence so you won't have to wash the work bowl between steps: Mince garlic, mince onion, coarsely chop tomato, puree tomato base. When serving the sauce, add fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or oregano to enhance the taste.

6 large tomatoes, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 2/3 cups minced onions

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes

Stand tomatoes on cutting board and use sharp knife to remove outer shells of tomato. Cut shells into 1/4-inch dice to get about 5 cups and set aside. Cut remaining tomato insides crosswise, shake over sink to release seeds and coarsely chop to get about 2 1/4 cups. Set aside.

Heat oil in 3-quart non-aluminum saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in garlic and onions. Cook until onions are softened, about 4 minutes, stirring often to prevent garlic from burning. Add reserved chopped tomato insides, tomato paste, basil, marjoram, sugar, salt, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until sauce is thickened like marmalade, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove bay leaves and puree sauce in food processor fitted with a metal blade or blender. Return to saute pan. Stir in reserved diced tomato shells. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until juices are released from diced shells but essentially still intact, about six minutes, stirring often. Adjust seasoning.

Tomato sauce can be kept up to three days, covered airtight, in refrigerator or up to three months in freezer.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Each serving contains about:

36 calories; 205 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.62 gram fiber.

SPICED CARROTS

Use a non-aluminum saucepan (because the mixture is acid). The carrots should be completely covered by the cooking liquid.

1 large clove garlic

1 pound carrots

1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon minced cilantro

Split garlic clove in half. Peel carrots, then cut into sticks about 1/3-inch wide and 3 inches long.

Put carrots, garlic, vinegar, water, honey, cumin and cayenne into 2-quart non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, until carrots are just becoming tender but are still slightly crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool in liquid. Carrots will keep up to two weeks if refrigerated.

To serve, drain and stir in cilantro. Serve chilled.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Each serving contains about:

51 calories; 22 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.67 gram fiber.

PEACH-AND-TOMATO CHUTNEY

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