First pass through the box (Wednesday afternoon): Oven Ratatouille. 2 pounds softest tomatoes cut up and tossed in roasting pan with two week-old Rosa Bianca eggplants begging to be used, 6 white zucchini (same), red peppers (same), an onion, also all roughly chopped. Olive oil, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme and parsley sprigs. 1 hour in 400-degree oven, no stirring. Time investment: 10 minutes. Equals: 2 quarts menu versatility (Wednesday side dish with roast chicken, Friday tossed with farfalle pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sunday omelet filling, Monday lunch with cheese).
Second pass (Friday evening): First batch oven-dried tomatoes. 3 pounds halved, tossed with bit of olive oil and salt, roasted cut side up in 300-degree oven for 3 hours. Time investment: 5 minutes. Equals: 3 cups concentrated flavor.
Third pass (Saturday afternoon): Crushed tomatoes. 10 pounds processed according to master canner Kevin West’s instructions on Saving the Season. Time investment: 2 hours. Equals: 8 pints vermillion jars best canned tomatoes for winter sauces.
Fourth pass (Monday morning): Tomato-Chile Chutney. 5 pounds peeled and cut up, cooked with onions, sweet and hot peppers in brown sugar and cider vinegar. Time investment: 2 people, 3 hours. Equals: 16 1/2 –pint deep burgundy jars for ready-made gifts and condiment for goat cheese crostini, sausages, roast chicken, or sandwiches.
Last pass (Tuesday): Roasted Tomato Sauce. 4 pounds plus onions roughly chopped, whole garlic cloves, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper. 1 hour in 400-degree oven, no stirring. When done, mashed with back of spoon, thinned with veg stock. Equals: 1 quart sauce, frozen in two 2-cup containers.
And, second batch oven-dried tomatoes. 3 more pounds, this time no olive oil, no salt (mmmmm). Time investment for both: 10 minutes.
Total time over one week: 6 ½ hours. Total yield from 1 box: 8 pints crushed tomatoes, 8 pints chutney, ¾ quart oven-dried tomatoes, 1 quart sauce, 2 quarts ratatouille, 1 batch self-satisfaction. Nice.