Years ago I wrote about tomatoes, pleading for more people to join me on the Tomato Police. Well, things have certainly improved—so all you tomato-ripening deputies have been doing a good job!
Are you wondering what I am talking about? For a time it was common practice for chefs, restaurateurs and home cooks to—gasp—refrigerate their tomatoes!!! But that is not routine these days.
More vine-ripe varieties are available at the grocery store now—in fact they are almost commonplace. And, in season, we see tomatoes everywhere—from farmers markets to grocery stores—touting local delights! Look for yellow pear and yellow plum; teeny tiny, red currant tomatoes the size of peas; Lemon Boy, the color of its name; Green Zebra; and red-and-yellow-striped Tigerella. And don’t miss the large, purple, beefsteak variety. There is definitely a large assortment to choose from.
If you have a bit of a green thumb, Sweet 100’s are super-easy to grow in flower beds or in pots on the deck. My friend Joani calls them yard candy!
Tomatoes have a plethora of uses—straight from the garden, eaten like a peach; made into relishes, salsas, homemade ketchups … I’ve even seen them used in cakes. Now, I don’t know about that!
And since not all our tomatoes have reached their fully ripe color by the end of the season, I have grown to love them picked green, sliced, coated in a little cornmeal and fried.
And you just can’t have enough salads in the summer! My recipe for Super Summer Tomato Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Sundried Tomato Herb Vinaigrette is a true tomato-lover’s fest. It’s dressed with a piquant, sundried-tomato-enhanced vinaigrette for a double tomato whammy.
For those of you with way too many tomatoes, try my recipe for Toss in the Pot Tomato Sauce that is easily frozen.
Here’s a few recent fun tomato posts from my Twitter Friends:
Melissa from @Dinette66 is doing: Sharlyn melon w/ serrano, Halibut w/ curried corn chowder & tomato jam, ricotta gnocchi w/ spicy chic sausage, basil, sweet 100’s!
@qafarmersmarket Love the gazpachos (galzpachos!) by @chefreinvented and @ChefRobinL www.qafma.org/recipes
@lornalee how fun! I’ve been slicing, sprinkle of Secret Stash chorizo salt, pepper, good olive oil. Simpler the better w/ heirlooms!
If you would like to share your tomato comments too, tweet to me at @kathycaseychef
Here’s to lots more tomatoes while the season’s ripe! ©2009 by Kathy Casey
Super Summer Tomato Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Sundried Tomato Herb Vinaigrette
Serves 4 — Makes 1 cup vinaigrette
4 medium or 2 very large heirloom tomatoes, preferably Green Zebra, Mr. Stripy or Tigerella, about 1 1/2 pounds total
1 1/2 cups gourmet greens
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup assorted red or yellow currant or tiny teardrop tomatoes, cut in half or kept whole if very tiny
2 Tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl mix together the sundried tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and red wine vinegar. Then gradually whisk in the olive oil. Stir in herbs and refrigerate until needed.
To assemble the salad: Cut the tomatoes into nice fat slices, about 1/3 inch thick. Divide between 4 large salad or dinner plates. Drizzle each salad with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. (Be sure to whisk together well before each use.) Then scatter gourmet greens across the tomatoes. Next, scatter the blue cheese over the salads and then the tiny tomatoes. Drizzle each salad with about 1 tablespoon more of the dressing and pass any extra if desired. Serve immediately.
Extra dressing can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Recipe © 2009 by Kathy Casey.
Toss in the Pot Tomato Sauce
Makes 7 cups
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic
2 small onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, cored and cut up in large pieces (optional)
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (use less if you like less spice)
1/2 cup red wine
4 lb fresh tomatoes, cored and cut in half
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 – 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
2 tsp kosher salt (adjust seasoning more or less as desired)
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and add garlic, onions, bell pepper and chili flakes. Slowly sauté for about 5 minutes, add the wine and let cook about one-half minute more, then add the tomatoes and basil leaves. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours while you go about your business. Every once in awhile, go by and stir it. (If making a doubled batch, you may need to simmer the sauce an extra 20 to 30 minutes or so.)
Once sauce is nicely reduced, then set it off the stove to cool. When reasonably cool, puree in batches in blender. If desired, blend in the final olive oil after sauce is totally pureed. Season with salt, adding more or less to taste. If freezing sauce, place in freezer containers, label, date and freeze until needed.
Chef’s notes and other options: Sauté some chopped mushrooms with the onions, or try adding other fresh herbs such as a little fresh thyme leaves, oregano and marjoram for an herby sauce. For a Southwest flavor, add a little jalapeño and some coriander and cumin seeds in the sautéing process. Or just use your imagination and create your own signature base sauce. Recipe © 2009 by Kathy Casey.