early girl tomato chutney.
This tomato chutney is a fresh version of the preserved tomato 'pickle' that I grew up on. In India, when you hear the word 'pickle', it doesn't mean that it's been pickled (in the American sense of the word) with vinegar, spices, and sugar. (Also, drink every time I say 'pickle' in this post.) An indian pickle (in South India, 'pachidi', and in North India, 'achaar') is more of a preserved relish, or condiment, usually taking a fresh ingredient such as lemon, tomato, mango, and preserving it with oil, chili peppers, and a variety of spices. The technique varies from fruit or vegetable, often including the rind, and sometimes involving drying or cooking. Pachidis are deep rooted in the south Indian sense of identity - I brought mango pickle, or rather, 'avakaya', to college with me to assuage homesickness. And although there was no opportunity to cook, I spread avakaya on bagels, and even pizza (it was freaking delicious).
This fresh tomato chutney is based on the same elements of our pickle, and the flavor is definitely enhanced by the abundance of fresh tomatoes and sweet red chili peppers available at the farmers' market right now. When picking your tomatoes, look for a beautiful red color, some density and firmness, and if you can taste before you buy, the sweeter the better. If you can find a dry-farm, early girl varietal, spring for it! Some of the ingredients in this dish (urad dal, or white matpe beans) can only be found at Indian markets, but now easily online.
This is really one of my favorite dishes I've made of late, so I highly, highly recommend it! This is real deal Indian flavor. It takes time - 5 1/4 hours - but for five of those hours, the tomatoes happily bake in the oven while you go about your day. Enjoy as a dip with bread or crudite, cheese or charcuterie, as a base for a roasted veggie (like my carrot steaks + early girl tomato chutney), or as a condiment on meat or fish. Try not to think of it as something that can only be eaten with "indian food" - the best thing about pickles and chutneys is how versatile they are, and they amp up everyday cooking.
Also, since baking the tomatoes takes time, double or triple the recipe and save some for later! It will last about a month in the fridge.
10 early girl tomatoes
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal (white matpe beans)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 long sweet red italian frying peppers (Jimmy Nardello peppers)
2 teaspoons aleppo pepper
2 dried chiles de arbol
1/2 cup of cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Either on the day of, or day before, place 10 early girl tomatoes on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Remove stems. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. No need for the addition of any oil, you will bake these dry, so the flavor concentrates and they dry out just a bit. The longer you bake, the more of an intense flavor will result. I would bake for at LEAST three hours, but up to six. I usually do five hours for a fantastic result.
After 3-6 hours, remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or until you can handle them. Chop each tomato coarsely into four pieces. Chop sweet red chili peppers into coarse pieces, about 8-10 pieces per pepper. Heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat in the pan until shimmering. Add mustard seeds and stir to coat. Wait until mustard seeds are popping (literally they will pop out of the pan) for 10 seconds. Add the dal and cumin seeds, and turn heat down to low-medium. Stir until urad dal is lightly browned, but not burnt.
Add chopped tomatoes and aleppo pepper into the pan and stir well. Add chopped peppers and stir again, raising the heat to medium. The chutney should have a healthy simmer going. Let bubble, stirring often for five minutes and then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Taste, and add pinches of salt per your preference. (I usually stick to barely more than 1/4 teaspoon.) Let bubble on medium heat for another five minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices are absorbed and the chili peppers are braised and tender. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Enjoy as a dip, spread, or condiment.