We only have a short time left for the end of the season tomatoes and bell peppers--two important ingredients in Cajun and Creole cooking.
This is the season when farmers' markets, your neighbors, and your own garden have an overabundance of tomatoes and bell peppers. And you just couldn't resist buying them, or saying "no" to your vegetable-producing friends.
This abundance can mean a real bargain if you are able to use all the tomatoes and peppers while they are still fresh or, at least, before they spoil. Chin up, mouth open. You can capture summer by preserving this ripe produce at its prime, and you don't have to know anything about canning. You can freeze your summer produce in a way that will retain its goodness, and with almost garden-fresh taste.
Freezer tomatoes can be substituted for canned tomatoes in the winter months. They taste better, and are not loaded with sodium. They can be frozen whole, chopped, or pureed and used as a sauce.
Pepperonata is a combination of bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Again, all are important ingredients in Cajun and Creole cooking. The pepperonata freezes well, and combines with the freezer tomatoes to give you an instant base for spaghetti sauce, soup, stew or winter vegetables. Unlike most pepperonata recipes, this is cooked for a short time since it will be frozen.
Packaged in zip-style freezer bags, the tomatoes and pepperonata may be laid down flat to freeze. They take up very little space this way, and may be stacked. Having them on hand for quick dinners will bring a touch of summer to the produce-deprived months of winter. And these simple methods Pepperonata and Freezer Tomatoes require only a short investment of kitchen time. And it's well-spent time, preserving fresh summer flavors that you can pull out of the freezer to use as the base for homemade, quick week-night dinners.
Tomatoes should be cooked to freeze successfully, as the ice crystals formed during freezing will cause fresh tomatoes to collapse, leaving an undesirable texture. Freezer Tomatoes produce the type of tomatoes you would purchase in a can, but these are much better and closer to fresh in taste. Serve them warm as a vegetable, chilled as a salad, or as an ingredient in any recipe calling for tomatoes. Tomatoes are essential in Cajun and Creole cooking, and this is an easy way to have almost-fresh tomatoes year-round.
Bell peppers should be frozen chopped rather than whole, for the best texture when thawed. They are fine in any cooked dish, but will not be as crisp as fresh, raw peppers. Wash and core peppers, and remove seeds and pith. Chop peppers, place on baking sheet and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Pack loosely into freezer containers or zip-style freezer bags, pressing out air. Pepperonata has endless uses in cooked dishes, can be added to cooked pasta, and can be used as a garnish for sandwiches, or as part of a salad or antipasto plate.
Also see the following links for early-fall vegetables: