Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The distracting power of the powder

Today, I had the first really tedious day at work in a good long while; the kind of day where I found myself eyeballing the clock a bit and mentally counting up the hours and minutes between right now and quitting time. It was intellectual enough to require that I keep paying attention (dammit!), but at the same time mindless enough that my mind kept wandering.

And then I’d have to pull it back to what I was trying to do. Wait. Did I note ALL the columns, in the joins too? or did I JUST pick out the ones in the SELECT statement…?

It’s like getting to work and then wondering if you’ve left the garage door open…only way to know for sure is to drive back home and check. (Or call a neighbor who happens to be home, I suppose, but that has never worked out for me.)

I was working from home today, which ordinarily is a tremendous help when I’m dealing with things like this. Our office has an open floor plan, no cubicle walls to provide even an imaginary sense of privacy, and a lot of the people right around me spend their whole day on the phone; add one highly distractible database analyst and you’ve got a recipe for never being able to focus on any-oh look, a squirrel!

I spend so much time actively trying to ignore conversations around me, it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

But today, being home didn’t help that much.

Because I kept thinking about tomato powder.

I know.

That is quite possibly in the top ten most random things I have ever said. What the heck is tomato powder, you are probably asking yourself. And, does this woman need psychiatric help?

#2: Probably.

#1: Tomato powder is, um, well…powdered tomatoes. And as it just so happens, I am starting to have a tomato problem. It’s like, now that the nights are getting no really colder and the days are shortening, the tomato plants suddenly went, “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S RIGHT! We’d better get these babies reproducing, and FAST!!” and now I’m walking out there every other day to find another dozen or so have gone from queasy-looking green to firecracker red.

Or purple with faintly green tops.


black krims…which aren’t actually black but rather a kind of funky pink-purple

Which reminds me: wanna see some funky-lookin’ tomatoes?!


accordion tomatoes

These are called “Costoluto Genovese” tomatoes. They’re an Italian heirloom tomato, and they are IN-tense in flavor. Like, wow. Like, I don’t like them on a salad because they overpower everything else around them so that you’re just sitting there going, Dang. I thought this was a spinach salad, but no! It’s a tomato salad, with extra tomato and tomato dressing and tomato sprinkles on top.

So after having decided that they were a little much as a slicing tomato, I said to myself that they would, however, make an unbelievable sauce tomato.

And then I read about tomato powder (you see how this is coming full circle now?), which is basically making a thick puree, pouring it onto fruit leather trays (or plastic-wrap lined regular trays), drying the heck out of it and then grinding it into a powder using a mortar and pestle (because who doesn’t love repetitive fine-motor activities that just keep going, like, forever?!) or a food processor (for those of us with lives they’d like to get back to).

So having brought in approximately three million pounds of tomatoes (or twenty) (details), and having cored and quartered them (which took about three years), AND having swept all the quarters into my next-biggest stock pot, I had this.


which does NOT look all that appealing, actually, but it smelled amazing…99.5% Costoluto with a couple Black Krims that didn’t duck fast enough and about five Romas that waggled their tongues at me and I do NOT put up with insolence from tomatoes…give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, guys.

And then I put that on the stove for about fifteen minutes – just long enough to heat things up and get the skin loosened a bit from the flesh and the juice ready to come out.

Meanwhile, I did battle with set up the food mill. This little contraption separates the pulp and juice from the seeds and skins. It’s like a magic trick.


pulp and juice in one bowl, skins and seeds in the other

skins n seeds

hi, my name is Compost!

And then begins the really long and tedious process of boiling down the juice. What you want is something that looks like…ketchup. What you start out with is something that looks like really cheap tomato juice.

juicy juice

but the flavor of this stuff is like a punch in the face…these are some REALLY tomato-y tomatoes!

{fast forward about five hours (!!!!) of gentle-simmering time}


I have fruit leather trays, so I used those – the puree gets ladled and spread evenly at about 1/8” depth.


and it looks almost exactly like strawberry fruit leather…you can imagine the Denizen Disappointment™ when this bright red substance turned out to be a VEGETABLE thing instead of a FRUIT LEATHER thing…

Then the dehydrator goes on its highest setting and then…well. You wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It takes about fourteen hours to get to the first “flip” – where you gently peel the leather off the tray, turn it over, and put it back on.

Then another fourteen hours of drying.

Then, if it’s still not powderably dry…another flip and yet more drying.

Then, you break it into pieces and give it another four hours or so.

I’ve flipped it twice, and I think it should be done by the time I’m leaving for work tomorrow. From what I’ve read about it, it can be used as a thickener in soups, or in lieu of ‘regular’ canned tomato paste – add 2-3 parts water to each part tomato powder, until you have the consistency you want.

I tried a nibble of the leather that had broken off while I was flipping it, and man…it’s going to be good no matter what I use it in. In general, when you dehydrate things they tend to intensify in flavor; I’ve used dehydrated tomatoes all year from last season’s harvest and they’ve been killer flavor-additions to otherwise boring foods.

Which of course means that I will be spending the whole day tomorrow thinking about what-all I can make using tomato powder. Instead of thinking about what-all columns we're using from which-all sources in wherever-all processes and procedures.

The distracting power of the powder: it is mighty, yo.


JustGail said...

Make your own tomato powder? Huh, somehow I thought that would take industrial equipment or something. I wonder if this would work for any fruit or vegetable?

Steph B said...

You do the darndest things....and yet, somehow, from you, it all seems so reasonable and fun and "hey, I wanta try that!". Until I walk away from my computer and your magic wanes and I think "What the heck???" And the universe goes back to normal.

You are a dangerous woman, Tama.