Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pig Food

Jennie comes back with her son John.

Grammie's mother Jenny Cafarella Cincotta went back to Italy just a few years after bringing the family here to the US. Anerio, her husband, returned as well. In the fullness of time, she became and elderly woman, widowed and alone on the island. Clearly she would have to return to the US if she was to be near her children. Grammie's brother John went over to Salina. He stayed nearly a year. When he returned, he brought Jenny with him.
Unfortunately, she was and old world matriarch in a new world filled with her children that were not going to take s--- from anyone including MOM!
I guess havoc followed her wherever she went. She lived with her son Jake and his wife Rosina for some time. When Rosina put potatoes on the table the first time, she was horrified. She was not going to eat food that was only fit for feeding the pigs. Certainly there were few potatoes eaten in Salina. Grammie would not eat cows milk either as it was totally unfamiliar where goats reigned supreme.
In any event their lives together were eventful...some of the stories I have heard! I will have to wait till all the current crop of relatives are dead to tell the stories so no one will be offended. I will have to outlive you all!

I grew up in Aroostook County in Maine. Potatoes were big there, and when food was scarce, Mom and Dad could always go across the road and dig some potatoes. Idaho was not in the picture in Maine at the time. There were also tons of potatoes left in the field after the harvest. The pickers and machinery could not get all of the tubers. When McDonald's opened it's first few restaurants in Maine, there was an enormous row when it was discovered they used Idaho potatoes.

Also, one of the things you have plenty of on a little farm was butter from your cow. It was Elsie in this case.

So, to honor all these factors, I will offer this tribute that is my favorite use of the tuber.

This is soooo simple to do, and even easier with the update I have given it for the modern kitchen.

Wash eight small rather round potatoes. Yukon Gold would be wonderful, but anything of a moderate size and flattened sphere shaped would be fine.

Poke a hole through each potato with a skewer or a small knife.
Place the potatoes on the turntable of the microwave in a circle. Microwave on High for about five minutes. Turn them over and microwave for a further four minutes.
Place the potatoes directly on the rack of a 400 degree oven and bake for about 45 minutes or till the skin is crisp.

Place them in a bowl and cover tightly to steam briefly. Then coat them with butter by tossing them together in the bowl. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, pepper and/or a blend of dried herbs and paprika.

Cover till cool enough to handle.

Preheat a large frying pan(Cast iron is the very best) melt half a stick of butter or whatever is necessary to get a very generous coating on the bottom of the pan. A bit of browning is OK but do not get it too hot. Add a little olive oil to the butter
Cut each potato in half in such a was as to make the largest area of white exposed and immediately press the cut side into the butter. Don't touch it again till you are sure they are ready and just short of burning. Do this with all the potatoes that will fit. Allow them to brown heavily. You may give the potatoes a push to squash them slightly. You can turn them over carefully to brown the other side, but it is certainly not necessary.

Do not use garlic on these except as a very late addition because it will burn and turn bitter. Do not cover while they brown.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Aunt Jo’s Peas and Dumplings

Thanks to Rosanna Cafarella Greco and Janice Crossen for making sure I got this family favorite.

Aunt' Jo's original recipe for Peas and Dumplings

2 T. olive oil

1 small to medium onion chopped

1 clove chopped garlic

1 can (14 ½ oz) fat free chicken broth

1 can (15 oz.) large peas

¼ C. tomatoes

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. parsley

1 tsp. basil

Dash cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Pour the olive oil into a non-stick pot. Sauté the onion until soft. Add the chopped garlic and cook for one minute. Add all the other ingredients, and cook from 20 to 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the dumplings.

Note from Bill: You can make most pans pretty much non-stick by pre-heating the pan till you can feel the heat a bit uncomfortably when your hand is held inside but not touching the pan. Then add whatever fat you plan to use. The fat should be cool to cold. (Do not heat a pan that you plan to use olive oil in high enough to cause smoking. You lose many of the good attributes of olive oil when it is taken to the smoke point.) This is not foolproof, but it significantly reduces sticking.


Beat 2 eggs in a dish. Add 1/3 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs. Mix together. Add more crumbs, if necessary, so that the mixture will stick together. Using a spoon and your finger, form the mixture into the shape of the spoon making sure that it will hold together.(This is called a canelle) Drop into the pea soup spoonful by spoonful until you have used all of the mixture. The dumplings will swell as they cook so be sure not to make them too large. Simmer the soup 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

Serving size: 2 servings.

I would think that if this is an old recipe, it would likely have been made with fresh(or on our case frozen as a substitute) peas originally, and that there would have been freshly made broth as well.

This is Janice Cafarella Crossen's variation.

1 clove garlic

1/2 medium size onion

2 Tablespoons Olive oil

1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

Dash of the following herbs:

Basil, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper to taste and simmer.

(Sorry, I have no specific amounts of herbs)

Add a #12 size can of peas and gently simmer.

To make The dumplings:

2 eggs

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. Garlic powder

Black pepper

Dash of the following herbs:

Cinnamon, nutmeg (heavier on the nutmeg)

1/2/tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried basil

3 or 4 Tbs. grating cheese (use less if it's Romano as it has a stronger flavor)

In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to mix. Shape the mixture into tablespoon size balls and drop into the gently simmering tomatoes. Make sure that the tomatoes are only gently simmering so the dumplings do not break up in the cooking process.

Cook 5 minutes until the dumplings are done.

A note from Janice:

As a small child I remember visiting Aunt Jo and Uncle Tony. Most of the time we just popped in on them without calling ahead. Aunt Jo would run into the kitchen and whip up this delightful recipe. It doesn't take much time to cook this recipe. It brings back wonderful memories of visiting Aunt Jo and Uncle Tony. I hear other family members are looking for this recipe also. It was difficult getting specific amounts for recipes from Aunt Jo. She would say just a pinch of this or that ingredient. When Aunt Jo was telling you how to cook a recipe she would say “If you got it you put it. If you no got it you no put it”. I was too young to watch her cook these recipes and to get more specific details about measurements. I have very fond memories of the days visiting Aunt Jo and Uncle Tony.

Thanks for your contribution Janice Cafarella Crossen

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cold Oil French Fries

 Peel 2 pounds of  large russet potatoes. 
Cut them into long, thin shoe strings. 
Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Place the fries into a large pot that is quite deep.  I think an old cast iron pot or deep frying pan would be ideal.  They should be only a couple of fries deep on the bottom of the pan. 
Add oil till they are covered by about an inch.
Turn on to medium heat. 
Cook for 15 minutes till just bubbly. Scrape the potatoes off the bottom of the pan with a spatula a few times.  The potatoes will be very tender in 25-30 minutes.
 Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until well colored and crisp, perhaps 15 minutes longer.   The oil should be bubbling quite well by now.

Transfer and drain the fries on to paper towels to drain. Shake the salt of your choice over them.  If you grind your salt in a food processor, a clean coffee mill or herb grinder the salt will stick well.  If you include your own dried garlic and herbs in the grinder, so much the better.  Sage or Rosemary would be great!

Just take a few garlic cloves that you will not get to soon.  Peel and slice them.  Place in the hot sun or in a low(200 degree) oven till dry.  Agitate several times.

Bill's Potato and Cauliflower Gratin

Bill Mitchell and Mary Mitchell Burrill
On top of Monte Fosse Delle Felci in Salina.
The highest point in the Aeolian Islands.

Who knew a Gratin was easy.  Well it is, and it is an easy way to do something that looks spectacular, and gets compliments with very little effort.

I have mixed emotions where it comes to cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.  Wonderful and healthy as they are, they have that bitter edge to them.  I remember as a kid, seeing a recipe for cauliflower on some TV show.  Maybe it was the Galloping Goumet or something.  I watched that as much as possible...What a lunatic, but he was fun to watch.  I do not remember the order, but they placed a whole head of cauliflower in a baking dish and frosted it with sour cream, then added a layer of cream cheese, then another layer of white sauce and crumbs or something.   Then they baked it...if I remember correctly.  Wow, how to change healthy into a heart attack bomb! 
Any time you try to mitigate those flavors that you(I) dislike, all the healthy benefits are gone and fat and calories replace them.  Well, there is a bit of that here, but I do try to use fat free products when possible.  Fat free sour cream, fat free mayo and fat free cream cheese when called for, and white sauces work quite nicely with olive oil instead of butter.  Avoid most vegetable oils for sauces however, unless they are heavily seasoned, because you can get a rather distinct fishy odor and taste from them. 

This is my own creation, but one must remember that there are dozens of easy gratins.  They can be made with a cheese sauce, or with any classic sauce from the old school, like Hollandaise, Tomato, Bearnaise or Supreme sauces. Just seasoned cream is an option, as is Alfredo or a Vodka sauce, you know that creamy version of tomato sauce.

This easily multiplies to make larger versions.  I can serve two with this one.  It is both vegetable and starch, so it does not go as far as it initially appears to.

1. Two cups of Cauliflower florets.  Microwave for 6 minutes covered with a few tablespoons of water. or steam till just short of tender.  Do not over cook, they should still have a little bite to them. Set aside.

2. Peel and slice two baking potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.  Shingle them in the bottom of a pie plate or shallow baking or Gratin dish.(lightly greased or sprayed)  Be neat in your arrangement as the texture may show.  Microwave for about five minutes covered.  (Longer as you multiply the amount you are cooking.)  Remember that this is not meant to be a heavy layer of potato, a single layer "shingled" is all you want.  You could parboil a lot of potatoes to make a very large casserole like a Lasagna pan etc..

3. Chop one medium onion coarsely.  
Saute in 3 tablespoons (I know this seems like a lot, but it is necessary) of a flavorless oil or butter at low temperature to avoid color.  Taste the oil!

4. When the onion is soft, add three tablespoons of flour and stir to combine.  Cook at low for a minute or two, but avoid coloring the flour.
Add 1 1/2 cups milk and stir over low heat till the sauce thickens.  If it is very thick, add a bit more milk till it becomes a rather thick White Sauce consistency.
Add a pinch of Cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in about 3/4 of a cup of  sour cream(this will certainly work if you wish to use a plain Bechamel or add Parmesan or even cream cheese.  A bit of milk may be necessary if you use the cream cheese.)
when all is smooth(with lumps of onion of course) allow to cool briefly as you assemble.

5.The pie plate with the shingled potato is neatly topped with cauliflower florets, then the onion sour cream sauce is poured over the top.  I use half the sauce and save the rest in the refrigerator for a baked potato or to top a cut of meat or poultry.

6.Place in a 375 oven till bubbly and top is browned in spots.

This would also be great with slivers of ham shingled in with the potato, crumbled bacon in the sauce or on top, or with butter sauteed croutons or large fried bread crumbs or Parmesan on top.  How about cooked peas in the sauce?  Chopped chives on top to serve would be great.

If you hate Cauliflower, this is the meal for you.  It mellows out considerably.

Potato Crusted Savory Tarts

You may remember seeing my tart made from eggs, spinach and onion posted elsewhere, but I will repeat this slight variation along with a potato crust. 

Wash 6 medium to large potatoes.  If they are thin skinned they may be prepared un-peeled. 
Slice the potatoes very thinly, nearly into potato chip slices. 
Grease a 9x12 baking dish or other similar decorative uncovered casserole dish with butter, olive oil or baking spray.
Begin lining the pan with the slices of potato, starting on the sides of the pan overlapping them like fanned cards.  The top of the potato slices should be near the top rim of the pan, and extend down into the corner to the bottom of the pan.  If you are using butter for greasing the pan, it will help to hold the slices in place as you work.  Continue in concentric rectangles around the pan on the bottom. overlapping the first row.  Continue till the entire pan is lined.  You want a neat pattern on the rim, but the bottom will never be seen.  Repeat this again till the entire pan has at least two layers.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with foil.  Bake about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven till the potatoes become slightly tender.  Remove from the oven and pour in the filling posted here, or your favorite quiche recipe made with slightly less milk so it is less likely to seep in between the potato slices. 
Bake 45 minutes uncovered.  Remove from the oven and brush the exposed potato slices along the edge of the pan with olive oil or butter, mixed with seasoned salt and sprinkle the top of the tart with Parmesan or other cheese appropriate for the filling you have used..
Return to the oven for fifteen to 20 minutes or till the potato edges are brown and the filling is set.

My favorite filling:

Cook and squeeze dry, one package of frozen chopped spinach.
Slice two onions about the size of a tennis ball and caramelize in olive oil till thoroughly brown and soft.  Salt and pepper them, and add water a couple of times to hurry the process allowing the water to evaporate and the onions to fry again each time.
Place the spinach and onions into a bowl to cool about five minutes.  Grate in a bit of nutmeg and add garlic powder(you may also use roasted garlic or add sliced garlic to the onions as they cook.) over the vegetables.  Add about 3/4 cup of milk or Half and Half and six eggs.  Beat all together with about half a cup of Parmesan or feta cheese.
Pour into the half baked potato crust.  Top with your choices of sausage, ham, precooked crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes with the liquid squeezed out, black olives, mushrooms, roasted red pepper strips, etc..

Serve a sauce of fresh, pureed tomato pulp (mixed with Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper), marinara, onion bechamel(posted elsewhere), or other favorite on the side.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Roasted Potatoes 1

The wonderfully scenic land was mostly potato fields. the picture is my father in Littleton Maine. This was potato land full of Irish long before Idaho became famous.

This is an easy potato dish except the cutting process. Lots of Butter. I am of Southern Italian stock. I do not understand my obsession with Butter. Perhaps is is all those years being obsessed with bread, as we all are in my family. The butter certainly got slathered on all that bread, and we did not have the habit of dipping bread in olive oil. Perhaps my father's Canadian genes(nature) are too powerful to overcome nurture.
Of course, as stated elsewhere, potatoes are not a big part of the southern Italian diet. That was the influence of Aroostook county.
Anyway, this is a wonderful and impressive dish to serve with plain meats. It is my consolation for not being able to make the oven browned potatoes that were so wonderful whenever my mother made a roast. I feel so inadequate! I will try to describe those elsewhere.
The cutting process may be hard to carry off, but the recipe is very simple.

Use smallish baking potatoes. Growing up, there was little distinction, and we might use any potato variety that was available.

Peel as many potatoes as you need, keeping in mind that these will be a little rich with butter,

Lay the potatoes on the cutting board and allow them to roll and come to a rest where they would naturally sit in the pan.
Slice across the narrow axis of the potato about nine tenths of the way through every 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch apart. You should make every effort to keep them from breaking at the slices. An extremely thin and sharp knife is best.
Arrange the potatoes in an open baking dish. You could also arrange these around a partially cooked roast, but leave room around them.

Salt and pepper them well and drizzle with melted butter to coat. Keep in mind that if you are doing this alongside a roast there may be salt and pepper in sufficient amounts already in the pan juices. Use a brush to help with coverage if necessary.

Place in a 400 degree oven and bake till tender all the way through and the cut edges become very crisp. Baste with butter occasionally and sprinkle with herbs and/or garlic when nearly cooked.
You may have to experiment with the temperature and time for your oven.
These should fan just slightly and basting should reach between all the layers. The finished potatoes should be a dark golden brown and crispy all over the top two thirds at least. If this is in a pan with a roast, you will use some butter, but the basting will be with some of the drippings and fat from the roast.

Roasted potatoes 2

Mom, my sister and my brother on a short walk down the road through the potato fields in Littleton, Maine. I can never do the potatoes as well as she could.

Using half boiled potatoes that were cut in quarters. Lay the potatoes around a roast in their roasting pan. Brush them with melted butter and salt and pepper them, keeping in mind that there may be plenty of salt from the pan juices. Return the roast to the oven. Every 10 minutes or so, baste the potatoes with the pan juices, each time depositing and drying a layer of meat juice on the surface making a crust. This can also be done with carrots and sweet potatoes. Be careful not to over cook the potatoes. You want them to crisp on the surface, not fall apart when you touch them. If you fail at this, you may try removing the roast to rest wrapped in foil on the counter, arrange the potatoes in the drippings, raise the temperature of the oven and bake till crisp and well coated.

Roasted Potatoes 3

This is Dad in front of the Stillman farm in Littleton, Maine. Nothing but farm animals and Potatoes as far as the eye could see. The Canadian border is just a hundred yards to the right in this picture.

This is a bit more in the Italian vein than others I have posted.

I cut potatoes in 1 to 2 inch cubes. These may be peeled or unpeeled. I will sometimes add chunks of carrot, onions or peppers as well. Carrots tend to whither rather than crisp, but that is good too.

Place in a large bowl or plastic bag.

Douse the vegetables with a generous amount of olive oil. Add whole peeled garlic cloves, salt and pepper(Seasoned salt works well also) Cayenne or paprika, rosemary or other herbs that strike your fancy, depending upon the meat to be served.

Turn everything to coat.

I line a cookie sheet or baking dish with foil and put the veggies in a single layer.

Place in a 350 degree oven and bake till all are beginning to brown. I turn them and add oil or butter if necessary.

Return them to the oven till all are tender and browned at least along all the edges.

These are also good with sweet potato though like the carrots, they will not crisp as much.

Bill's Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes

This is just a variation on what my mother did. It was pretty unusual for Mom to gild the lily. I do not think that she would have even considered putting Parmesan cheese with potatoes, much as she loved the cheese. The big issue was cost. Potatoes were pretty cheap where I grew up, and when Dad was sick and dying, there was probably that field of Potatoes across the road from the house to keep us all going. There was the cow I guess, so milk and butter was not an issue for the most part...Elsie was her name. Though it may be the second time on this site, I will post her picture with Sis and Mildred. This was a potato field sometimes, especially in later years.

Grease or spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
Slice four medium potatoes into 1/4 inch slices.(Not Russets)

It occurs to me to ask myself now, just how much potato are we talking about here. I guess the only real answer is: enough. I peel four or five roundish potatoes and end up having to do three or four more by the time I am done. Suffice it to say that the milk should not quite cover the potatoes in the baking dish.

4 tablespoons of butter in bits
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk Whole milk is best but I do it with skim as a rule. For company, include at least some proportion of cream or half and half.
1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan depending on how generous you want to be...more is always better.
Grated nutmeg(optional)

Put one layer of potato in the bottom of the pan. If you overlap, do it just slightly. Voids from overlapping make it hard to judge how much milk to use.
Dot with butter, sprinkle with some of the flour and sprinkle all with salt and pepper.
Do additional layers till the potato is gone, but the top should have no flour.
Pour the milk mixed with just a pinch of nutmeg over the entire dish. The milk should not quite cover. If you have over estimated the potatoes and need more milk, make sure to whisk in a proportional amount of flour when you do, so it will thicken as it should at the rate of one tablespoon per half cup of milk. Over do the flour and you will have glue, over do the milk and you have Vichyssoise.
Place in a 350 degree oven for one hour.
Test for done with a toothpick. They should yield but not be mushy.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 15 minutes. If the top is dry, dot with more butter when the cheese is added.

You could certainly add grilled onions, roasted garlic or tons of cheese in the layers of potato. Any cheese will do of course. Gruyere comes to mind right off, but cheddar would be great.
Top with crisp crumbled bacon if you like.
Savory bread crumbs would be good on top as well. I like to saute coarsely processed fresh bread crumbs in butter. Mix them with powdered mustard and cayenne when they brown a bit.

Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes

I made this up myself, years ago, based on something I had in a restaurant in the 70s. This seems to be something you might find in the South of France, but definately that area near the Italian border where I had the original. This is not for the diet conscious or the cholesterol challenged individual, but on occasion, how much harm could a cup of butter do to you?
I exagerate for effect. There is not that much butter in this, but I suppose you could do this with a very fine extra virgin olive oil to avoid some of the worst effects of the butter. My philosophy when it comes to butter is: Why whould you use margarine or any of the substitute butters if there are a ton of calories in the sustitutes and they mostly contain Hydrogenated Oils! There is one substitute butter that I feel is safe at this writing, but it has a suspicious seaweedy aftertaste that I do not like and it is not a good substitute butter for cooking and baking.
This is extremely simple, just a bit time consuming. Fortunately I enjoy the fussy parts of cooking. I get in the zone I guess.

Prepare a deep ceramic or glass baking dish. Oil or butter it lightly.

Using a mandolin or a nice sharp knife, slice your desired number of potatoes into very thin rounds across the potato. I would go less than a quarter of an inch and perhaps as low as one eighth.

Melt a stick of butter and have more ready if you run out. One is more than enough for a dish the size of a pie plate.
Have on hand:

Dried or fresh Rosemary leaves. Mince the fresh and crumble the dry.
Several minced cloves of garlic to your taste.
Salt(sea salt preferred).
Freshly ground pepper.

Arrange a single layer of potato slices on the bottom of the baking dish. These may ovelap very slightly in order to get good coverage, but do not make this more than one layer.
With a spoon, drizzle melter butter over the potatoes, and sprinkle with garlic, Rosemary, salt and pepper.
Arrange another layer on top of the first, and continue till the potatoes are used up. The top layer shoudl be beautifully arranged for presentation.
End with butter salt and pepper. I find it is better not to put the herbs on top as you get a scorched taste after baking.

Place in a 350 degree oven and bake till the potatoes are soft when punctured with a skewer or toothpick and the top is browned. If you like a browner top crust(And I do), you may run this back under the broiler for a few moments or raise the temperature to about 450 for ten minutes at the end. Watch it carefully though. You may wish to drizzle or brush the top with butter or olive oil...Grammie would use olive oil, of course.

Cut the "cake" in wedges or simply spoon out like scalloped potates.

This is great with any meat, but I am especially fond of this with Roast Pork with similar seasonings.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Big Bag of Peppers or the Individual Peppers.

It is nice when peppers go on sale.  I buy a ton, and chop them up, put them in plastic zip lock bags or plastic containers, and stick them in the freezer.  Good deal!

However, and this applies to all produce, you should be wary of the big bags at discount prices outside the bumper crop time period.  You have to remember that THESE BIG CORPORATIONS ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING FOR FREE....
Do not be shy when buying these packages.  Poke a hole in the bag, and take one out. Weigh it in your hand, and do the same with the expensive peppers. 
Many times the big bags of peppers are either different varieties of pepper, or harvested at a different stage of development.  Often, those little peppers have much larger seed masses inside.  They may fill the inside, when the expensive pepper seeds are a small proportion of the weight.  Also, the flesh of the pepper may be thinner and less engorged with moisture.
You will have to let trial and error be your guide.  The little peppers may not be as good a value as they seem.  There may be less pepper per pepper so to speak.
The other side of the coin is that though there may be less pepper, what is there, may be more intense in flavor, and more like the garden peppers that you grow at home or you remember as a child.
The Italians are very practical when it comes to food, and they demand very high quality.  As a result food is expensive in Italy.  That does not always stop them from serving you really terrible and overcooked food once in a while.  I once had broccoli with pasta in Rome that I just could not get down after the first half dozen bites.
Of course they use fresh produce as much as possible, and they often use fresh produce to can or jar their produce for later.  Italians have no issues at all with buying canned tomatoes for instance, especially when they are in cans lined with enamel instead of plain metal.  Also, buy puree or crushed tomatoes, instead of diced or similar.  The diced and chunkier textures are often loaded with chemicals to preserve that texture.  Don't buy them!!!!!
If you want chunkier textures, buy tomatoes!!!!  Cut them up and cook with them.
Tomato paste is also a good deal.  They are cooked down to concentrate, or if they are really good, they are evaporated in the sun to make the concentrate.  I have a recipe for Pasta Alla Amatriciana in this site, that makes a sauce for a number of people with nothing but a small can of paste and a quantity of broth or water.  You do not have to do the entire recipe, but you can use the technique to produce a very inexpensive and quick sauce.
Best of all, is to buy local produce and can the produce for yourself.  It is not hard to do, and you will have a very superior product.  My parents froze their tomatoes in vacuum seal bags.
It is also best to grow your own produce if you can...I realize this is impractical for many people, but at least you can support local agriculture by frequenting local farm stands and farmer's markets.
If you do your own canning, do not throw the skins out.  They are filled with nutrients that you will not get in the rest of the tomato.  This is also true of many vegetables.  Juice them or puree them.   Forcibly strain out the moisture from the seeds as well...use this in soups or return it to your canning.