Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

I Say Tomato

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I just returned from our annual trip to Maine—where, among many other delights, we picked wild berries, swam in the salty waters of a granite quarry, consumed probably one too many lobster rolls (if that’s possible), ate ice cream cones from a roadside truck in front of one spectacular sunset after another, kayaked between lobster boats and buoys, and spent afternoons spying on a local osprey nest—and I will be sharing some of my favorite photos and food finds very soon; but in the meantime, I thought I’d pay brief tribute to the beginning of tomato season. One of the consolations of returning from a wonderful, soul-satisfying vacation is knowing that a tomato orgy will be waiting…
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The first haul from my CSA was magical and epic, and since you may also be dealing with a large quantity of heirlooms, beefsteaks, sungolds, and the like, I thought I’d share by TOP 3 favorite ways to eat a summer tomato and here they are:

1. BLT. I really don’t have to elaborate on why this is #1, right? But since you asked, I like mine on toasted white Pepperidge Farm bread. Yes, it’s gotta be Pepperidge Farm. Hellman’s mayo on both slices, followed by the ripe and juicy tomato slices first, fresh ground pepper on top of the tomatoes, then several strips of very crisp bacon (center cut, thick slices if possible), top the bacon with a couple of leaves of butter leaf lettuce, and then the BONUS layer…a slice or two of sweet, bread & butter pickle. Trust me.

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2. A deluxe-raw-summer-vegetable sandwich which can start off as just a  lazy/vegetarian’s close cousin to the BLT (layer slices of fresh tomato on generously buttered toast, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with a vinegar of choice and very good olive oil) but then reach new levels of deliciousness if you are so inclined: Perhaps you have some pesto in the fridge (which I try and always have during the summer), use that as your condiment, or if things are getting crazy, add it to softened butter and slather that on the warm toast. Also, if you have a spare ear of corn in the fridge, cut off the kernels in sheaths, layer it on the tomato (yes, raw), sprinkle it with lime juice and perhaps some sriracha. From there keep going: Sliced radishes, a slice of sharp cheddar, smashed avocado…some variation of this raw tomato-veg sandwich is basically what I eat for breakfast every morning during tomato season.

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3. Next, is a fresh tomato One-Bowl Summer Spaghetti. We did a simple no-cook version in KEEPERS that is perhaps the most satisfyingly quick and delicious summer weeknight meal you can whip-up:

In a large bowl, add several chopped tomatoes (about 3 large or the equivalent) along with their juices, add 2-3 minced garlic cloves, a handful of torn basil leaves, 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella (I like the tiny balls you can find in the store, but you can also cut a large ball into cubes), several glugs of good olive oil (summer is when I always invest in a bottle of high-quality olive because I use so much of it for dressing salads and raw vegetables, you don’t want the drecky stuff here), a handful of pitted black olives (this being optional), and salt and pepper to taste  (be generous with the salt since the tomatoes and pasta will absorb all of it). Let the tomato ingredients comingle while you cook a box of spaghetti (or your preferred pasta, cavatappi is also a good option for all the folds and ridges), and then place the drained, still hot pasta directly on top of the tomatoes. Toss to combine (tasting for more salt and adding more olive oil if you think it needs it) or if you’re bringing the along to a BBQ or picnic, keep it untossed until ready to serve. I also like to drizzle some really good balsamic vinegar on my serving.

*OK, and a bonus dish worth making is the tomato-zucchini gratin recipe also from KEEPERS. Tomatoes and summer squash baked with garlic and olive oil and topped with parmesan breadcrumbs…then eaten with a salad or over pasta or grains. It’s a wonder.

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