Monday, August 27, 2007

Guest Post: Tomato-Rama!

Listening to my friend Susana wax poetic about her tomatoes, I said, "Write that down and I'll post it on the blog." So she did, along with a few of her favorite recipes. Her musings follow:

Yes, it’s that time of year, kids; when the tomatoes are so abundant that, instead of bothering yourself with coring, you just cut the tops off to be thrown in the compost. Or when a couple fall to the ground, instead of jumping to the rescue, you just pick the other 12 you see still on the vine! Ah, behold the glorious tomato.

It is, in fact, my favorite time of year, as the late summer sun is at that gorgeous golden hue and the tomatoes are bursting with flavor. There is nothing like the taste of a ripe, homegrown tomato. It's sweet yet tart and juicy to the point where you have to assume the "tomato stance"…feet apart and bent at the waist as you bite into your favorite variety like an apple, juice dripping down your chin and onto your tanned little toes. So here we are in the last few weeks of summer with our counters, tables, chairs and card tables full of tomatoes.

What on earth to do with the abundant harvest? As much as I love tomatoes, after awhile things do get monotonous around my house. I have the standby, which I actually served last night (again). It’s a favorite around my house, but does get old. "Pasta ala I Have Too Many Tomatoes!" is just cooked pasta with olive oil, garlic, parmigiano reggiano cheese, fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar tossed in a bowl.

At a loss for ideas? How about these:

Bread and Tomato Soup
In a large pot combine 1 med. loaf of cubed, day old bread (something dense that isn’t sold sliced, like como); 1 head (yes head) of garlic; as many fresh tomatoes as you like. I generally dice up about 6 or 7 and about two quarts of chicken stock. First, sauté the garlic in about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the cubed bread. Toss in the tomatoes, give a few stirs and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, take off the heat and enjoy! This is a very quick soup and should be eaten immediately, as the bread will soak up too much of the stock if left for any longer than an hour or so.

Fresh Tomato "Lasagna"

"Lasagna" because this fabulous dish does contain layers of yummies, but untraditional in the true sense of what most of us think of as lasagna. I’m addicted to my pasta roller and have made a lot of fresh pasta this summer. So, if you like making your own fresh pasta sheets, go for it, or buy them at Pastaworks. I find that fresh pasta is much more delicate and works very well in this dish, but you can use dried lasagna noodles as well. As when building a lasagna, simply layer pasta, olive oil, lots of sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper and some caramelized onions or chopped olives in any size baking dish you like. The beauty of this dish is that you can add all sorts of your favorite goodies: capers, artichoke hearts, whatever! The juice from the fresh tomatoes will be enough liquid for the pasta whether it’s fresh or dried.

Some other great ideas or classics you’ve forgotten in your tomato-induced high:
  • Salsa: Are you still buying salsa? Shame on you!
  • Oven-dry slices and layer them with olive oil and herbs in mason jars.
  • I tried that chutney from Chef Dan Brophy on some grilled salmon and I about fell out of my chair!
  • Classic tomato soup
  • BLT’s: extra "T," of course!
  • Panzanella salad (I like just tomatoes, bread, garlic, red onions, fresh mozzarella and basil)
There are, of course, a myriad of ideas, this being only the tip of the tomato iceberg. Bite in, wipe your chin and relish in the pomodoro because, before you know it, all you’ll get are those red-on-the-outside, white-on-the-inside yuckaroos in December.

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