Malcolm McDowell Woods
Pantry Raid

Yes we can

By - Aug 1st, 2009 12:01 am

Photo by Stephanie Bartz

So we were thinking it may seem a little odd that we’re writing about canned tomatoes during August, when we’re all up to our ears in fresh ones – from your garden, the neighbors’ garden, the co-op or the farmer’s markets, they’re everywhere! But obviously, our column is called Pantry Raid! and we really don’t recommend keeping fresh tomatoes on hand in your pantry for very long unless you’re cooler than we are and have canned them yourself.

The big reason we’ve got canned tomatoes on our minds is the upcoming 3rd annual Outpost truckload sale. We’re pretty darn excited. The last two years we loaded up on cases of these pantry necessities and we were just tickled with all the great uses we discovered – or invented from necessity. Aside from always having a quick pasta sauce or pot of chili just a few ingredients away, we’ve also added the stuff to chicken soup, made endless batches of salsa and for sure have upped our intake of lycopene. Speaking of, we’re actually doing ourselves a favor by using canned tomatoes – unlike many other canned foods, tomatoes retain most of their nutritional value. In fact, cooking or canning tomatoes actually increases the amount of lycopene – a super anti-oxidant that’s shown to protect against certain types of cancer (for men and women).

While there is no recommended dietary allowance for lycopene, studies have suggested that about 30 milligrams daily is beneficial. That’s about 1 cup of tomato sauce – which will also pack a healthy dose of vitamins A, C, and E, potassium and folate (not to mention fiber, we love that stuff). Our penchant for adding olive oil to tomatoes increases the absorption because lycopene is fat-soluble.

Have we justified writing about canned tomatoes during tomato season yet? That cup of tomato sauce has as much lycopene as 10 medium raw tomatoes – not that we can’t easily eat 10 farm fresh tomatoes a day this time of year. If you’re using just a little from the can, transfer the rest to a jar and it’ll keep in the refrigerator for about a week – or up to six months in the freezer. More storage than that, and you’ll start to lose the potency of vitamins.

We stock our pantries with a mix of canned tomatoes (yes, we each bought four cases of tomatoes at the truck load sale – and ran out before the 3rd annual sale was put on our calendar). The diced tomatoes come closest to being used fresh – toss them in a pasta salad, guacamole or use as the base for salsa and gazpacho. With a few cans of tomato sauce on hand, no-brainer dinners fall out of your pantries: spicy tomato-poached eggs over polenta, curried chickpeas and cauliflower and of course, pasta sauce! We love whole peeled tomatoes for soups, stews and Diana’s “gravy” (an all day pasta sauce featuring Outpost’s Italian sausage). Tomato paste, crushed tomatoes with basil and fire roasted tomato cans also hold court in our pantries when we need a boost of flavor in our recipes.

As always, we’re looking to devour quick, healthy, refreshing recipes that require the least amount of oven time possible – especially this month as we’re wondering how summer slipped away so fast. If you find yourself backing a truckload of canned tomatoes into your pantry, a few of our favorite recipes will lighten the load on your pantry shelves. We’ll see you at the truckload sale!

Super Quick Salsa

Hands down, our favorite salsa. This makes a healthy batch of salsa that disappears quickly – makes a great host/hostess gift. This is even more delicious with an additional 14.5 oz can of Muir Glen adobo seasoned fire roasted tomatoes added.

1 (28 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes (diced or whole)
6 slices pickled jalapeño (or fresh)
1 tablespoon liquid from pickled jalapeño jar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 bunch of cilantro (or to taste)

1. Drain liquid from tomatoes and reserve.
2. With an immersion blender or blender combine all ingredients until desired consistency, adding reserved liquid if you like a thinner salsa.
3. Season with salt to taste – depending on the batch, sometimes a pinch of sugar is needed to balance the flavors and bring out the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes.


Perfect for entertaining and as versatile as can be, gazpacho is one of our summertime favorites. A welcome addition to any Labor Day feast or summer evening, this garden-in-a-bowl chilled soup is fresh, vibrant and outrageously nutritious. It can be made with just about any summer veggies you have on hand, including a few fresh tomatoes as garnish. We start with a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, a starting point for your own ventures through gazpacho territory. Make a few hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend and ripen.

Serves 8-10

2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 reserved for garnish
1 yellow or red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 yellow or red pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine canned tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, garlic, jalapeno and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a blender or food processor until desired consistency.
2. Transfer to a large serving bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, revitalize with a splash of red wine vinegar and drizzle with olive oil. For guests to add as they desire, serve on the side: croutons, chopped veggies, cold cooked shrimp and avocado slices.

Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower
This is a fast stovetop dinner that’s great with a dollop of plain yogurt on top, served with basmati rice or pita bread. Lycopene, protein and flavor packed!

4 – 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 inches of ginger root, grated or finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons chili flakes
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce (fire roasted diced tomatoes work great too)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped (or to taste)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté olive oil, onions, garlic, ginger, curry powder and chili flakes. Stir frequently until the onions are tender.
2. Add the cauliflower florets and about 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and let steam for 5 minutes until the cauliflower starts to become tender. (If using diced fire roasted tomatoes, just use the liquid from the tomatoes for this stage.)
3. Add the tomato sauce and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.
4. Stir in the lemon zest, juice and cilantro before serving.

For a deeper, earthy flavor try roasting canned tomatoes.
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees
2. Drain tomatoes and reserve liquid.
3. Put in roasting pan (halve if using whole tomatoes) and drizzle with olive oil.
4. Roast until lightly browned about 30 minutes, turning once or twice.
5. Add a little of the liquid at the end to get the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

-Diana Sieger and Carrie Rowe

Click here to subscribe to the Exchange.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us