TOMATOES, who knew? Who was the brave soul who first bit into a succulent and ripe tomato … and lived to tell the tale? After all, according to many sources, including Peggy Trowbridge Filippone who wrote about tomatoes’ history in about.com, tomatoes were once considered poisonous. She writes, “A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous (although the leaves are poisonous) by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit.”
Now that we know tomatoes are not only not poisonous, but good – and good for you – there’s no better time than August to enjoy some homegrown tomatoes.
If you want something more elaborate than a simple salad of freshly picked and sliced tomatoes from your garden and garnished with salt, pepper and some basil, try these recipes. 10 line drop cap for t of these?
These tomato recipes come from “The New American Cooking” by Joan Nathan (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005).
Panzanella, a summer tomato and bread salad
1 loaf day-old farm or other rustic style white bread, torn into irregular pieces, including crusts (about 2 cups)
2-3 ripe, juicy tomatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and diced, seeds removed and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 cup torn greens, like frisee, arugula and watercress
3 tablespoons pesto (homemade or store bought)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white or other balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Toss the bread and tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Wait a few minutes while the bread absorbs the juices.
Using your hands, blend in the cucumbers, onions, greens and pesto. Remove to a colorful plate.
Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Makes four servings.
Skewered cherry tomatoes with olive oil and basil
1 pint cherry or pear tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
handful fresh basil leaves, preferably small leaves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
Place the tomatoes in a small bowl with the olive oil.
Roll the tomatoes in the oil, coating them well, then sprinkle with the salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Place on the baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes or until dried out a bit. Remove from the oven and let the tomatoes cool.
Just before serving, gently poke a hole in each tomato with a toothpick. Skewer each tomato on a wooden skewer.
Then thread a basil leaf (if small; otherwise, tear a larger leaf neatly in quarters) and a second tomato on the skewer, leaving about a half-inch in between.
Serve as a first course.
Makes 12 skewers of tomatoes.
Caramelized cherry tomato tart with olive tapenade
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
½ cup olive tapenade
1 baked 9-inch piecrust
¼ cup brown sugar
Preheat broiler and adjust the rack one-third up.
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan large enough to hold all the tomatoes in 1 layer, toss them in and sauté until they start to exude some of their juice, about 5 minutes.
With a spatula, spread the tapenade carefully over the baked piecrust. Carefully spoon the cooked cherry tomatoes on top of the tapenade with their juice and sprinkle them with the brown sugar.
Place the tart under the broiler for a few minutes until the tomatoes become slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and serve immediately as a first course or as a main course with a green salad.
Makes 12 appetizer or 4 main course servings.