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Tuh-MAY-to, Tuh-MAH-to

August 15, 2011

No matter how you say it, Tuh-MAY-to or Tuh-MAH-to, right now is the season to enjoy this wonderfully versatile fruit.  There‘s nothing more delicious than eating a tomato at peak of ripeness, whether it’s picked straight from your garden, or the local farmer’s.

Tomato plants are commonly found in home gardens today and, luckily for us, many heirloom varieties have been rescued and revived through heritage seed organizations and families that pass seeds down through the generations.

Even without a green thumb, tomatoes propagate with little help and are ideal for stuffing, roasting or simmering to produce a flavorful sauce.  Eat them right off the vine with a smidgen of sea salt, or slice and serve with peppery olive oil, fresh basil and mozzarella.

Here are several tomato-based recipes, two from urban gardener and food writer Jeanne Kelley’s most recent tome, Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes.  “Named for the pretty, pale-blue eggs that my Araucana chickens lay and the juicy yellow heirloom tomatoes that grow in my garden, this cookbook is mostly a collection of ‘keeper’ recipes that can be enjoyed repeatedly.  I derive as much pleasure from collecting freshly laid eggs and picking vine-ripened tomatoes as I do from cooking.”  For more simple yet sublime recipes, using tomatoes and other fresh seasonal ingredients, visit www.jeannekelleykitchen.com

Burrata Cheese with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Pesto Drizzle

8 servings

Pesto:

2 cups basil leaves, lightly packed
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine first four ingredients in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add olive oil and roughly puree; season with salt.

Assembly:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1 pound Burrata cheese*
1 cup yellow and red grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Basil sprigs
Baguette, sliced

In small bowl, combine ½ cup of pesto with olive oil.  Thin with 2 to 4 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Season with salt.  Drain cheese, if necessary, and place in a serving dish.  Gently break open the cheese and drizzle with the pesto.  Surround decoratively with tomatoes.  Sprinkle with sea salt, garnish with basil sprigs and serve with fresh sliced baguette.

*Burrata cheese is soft and creamy—basically fresh mozzarella stuffed with curd and heavy cream—with a milky-sweet flavor.  If you can’t find, drizzle the pesto over fresh, soft unripened goat cheese.

Tomato Gazpacho

6 – 8 servings

3 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 (1/2-inch thick) slices crusty white bread
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper, finely diced

To peel tomato:  Using a small knife, cut a shallow “x” into the smooth bottoms of tomatoes.  Fill large bowl with ice water and set next to your stove.  Bring a medium-size saucepan of water to boil. Drop tomatoes, 3 at a time, into the boiling water for about 20 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomatoes to ice water.   Repeat with remaining tomatoes.  Peel tomatoes and discard the skin.

Working over a bowl to catch the seeds and juices, quarter the tomatoes and remove seeds.  Return quarters to ice water.  Strain juice from the seeds into a large bowl.

Cut bread into ½-inch cubes (about 1 cup) and add them plus 1 cup of ice water to tomato juice.  Let mixture stand for 20 minutes to soften bread.  Add tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and oregano to the mixture.  Using an immersion or standard blender puree mixture (in batches, if necessary) until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chill for at least 3 hours.  To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with bell pepper and drizzle of olive oil.

CHEESE BAKED TOMATOES

CHEESE BAKED TOMATOES

Cheese Baked Tomatoes
4 – 6 servings

Roasting tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness.  Serve this baked tomato dish with a fresh baguette or wild rice, as a side to roasted or poached salmon, roast chicken or beef.

8 large tomatoes
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 ounces balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Jarlsberg
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
8 sprigs fresh thyme

Peel tomatoes (see Tomato Gazpacho for instructions).  Cut tomatoes in half.  In a large bowl whisk oil with vinegar and garlic.  Gently toss tomatoes in vinaigrette, adding salt and pepper, to taste.  Transfer all to a large baking dish with tomatoes cut side down.  Bake 15 minutes at 425o. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese, pine nuts and thyme.  Bake another 5 minutes until cheese melts.

Creamy BLT Pasta Salad

4 – 6 servings

Cook 8 ounces fusilli pasta until al dente, drain and toss while it’s warm with:

  • 1 4-ounce log, soft unripened goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1⁄4 pound chopped cooked bacon
  • 3 cups cherry tomato halves
  • 1 packed cup fresh chopped romaine lettuce (you can also use butter lettuce, fresh basil or spinach)

Finish with:

  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • Grating of coarse fresh black pepper, sea salt and Jarlsberg cheese
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