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Turn Less-Than-Perfect Tomatoes into a Spicy, Smoky Relish

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Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. This one comes from community member Niv Mani, who shares a spicy, smokey relish that takes advantage of August's abundant tomatoes.

This happens to be one of my absolute favorite recipes to date. In the true spirit of "nothing ever should go to waste," my thrifty grandmother would buy up the less-than-perfect "yesterday" tomatoes from the vendor, striking up a good bargain. Invariably, this haggling session would be followed by the heavenly aroma of tomato chutney brewing from the kitchen in the afternoon.

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Spread it on toast or roti, or mix into hot basmati rice for a spicy kick.
Spread it on toast or roti, or mix into hot basmati rice for a spicy kick. Photo by Julia Gartland

The smokiness of the toasted arbol chiles complement the tartness of the tomatoes. In addition to the dried arbol chiles, my variation includes roasted jalapeños for an extra kick. Omit curry leaves if you can't find them—the flavor profile will not change drastically, and adding curry powder will kill the dish. It’s a complex spice blend by itself!

Although this would work with a can of crushed tomatoes, nothing compares to making this with ripe heirloom tomatoes fresh from Hillsboro farm around the corner from home. They sell tomatoes by the bushels in late summer, so I can the relish by the bottle for the entire year.

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7 Extraordinary Ways to Cook with Fresh Tomatoes by Food52

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19 Tomato Salads You've Been Waiting For Since January by Sarah Jampel

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True to my grandmother, no part of the tomatoes go to waste. Thanks to a Food52 article about making tomato salt, even the peels are dried up and are repurposed into my spice blends for sambhar and rasam.

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This particular relish is extremely versatile. Growing up, I slathered it on toast or roti as a snack. Now, I fold it into hot basmati rice to make a last-minute tomato rice (adding cooked peas or corn for a textural contrast). I've even tossed roasted potatoes in the relish as a flavorful side.

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Tomato Relish with Smoked Jalapeño and Arbol Chile

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Makes 1 1/2 cup
  • 3 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 dried arbol chiles
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves (20 to 24 leaves)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Kosher salt, to taste (about a tablespoon)
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Tags: relish, spicy, chili pepper