Tomatoes of Summer

Tomatoes are everywhere now. Stunning, juicy orbs in a rainbow of colors shapes and sizes. Pick one up and inhale the amazing fragrance. It makes you feel like you are far away, lying in a field of fresh cut grass with the sun beating down on you. Now take a bite. A burst of sweet and tart hits your palate like an explosion. This feeling is fleeting in the Northeast – or at least that is how I feel. Tomatoes like this come in early August and stay with us for only about a month. Sadly it seems that it’s impossible to eat these amazing tomatoes fast enough. I have them sitting on a tray in the kitchen and try to incorporate them into everything. Sometimes it’s just not fast enough.

Case in point: I had these two lovelies yesterday and they were on the verge of going bad. Two pretty significant soft spots appeared and the beginning on a little black mold spot. Don’t despair .. and please, please don’t toss them. These are perfect tomatoes for sauce or soup. After just a little bit of surgery on them I went for the chilled soup option.

Cut away the really soggy spots, black marks and the core. Then dice them up and place in a big bowl. Give them a little squeeze to release their juices.

I also had a chunk of semolina bread left over. I cubed that up the night before and let it dry out over night. Toss the cubes into the tomatoes and set the bowl aside for about half  an hour.

While your tomatoes are rehydrating the bread you have a little time to make a quick pesto. My preference is to have a pesto that is a little chunky. If you prefer smooth simply let the food processor run for a bit.

This pesto is about as traditional as it comes: garlic, pine nuts, basil, parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil.

Once you have that done go back to your tomato concoction. The bread should be sufficiently soaked. You can use your food processor, which I did for the first go-around. However, the high speed blender gave me a far better creamy texture. It’s all a matter of taste, but I highly suggest the blender.

All told both of these recipes came together in less than 40 minutes, but the active time was much less. Maybe just 15 minutes total. Both are done quickly with a little bit of prep: dry bread and toasted pine nuts.

This is a great way to use your tomatoes and bread on the “verge.”

Buon appetito!

Chilled Tomato Soup
Makes 1 quart

2 – 2 1/2 lbs. of very ripe cut up tomatoes
3 cups of dried bread cubes or stale bread
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of water, and more to thin out
Basil-pine nut pesto, recipe follows
Maldon salt for garnish

1. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix in the bread cubes and set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Place the tomato-bread mix into a high speed blender and puree. Drizzle in the olive oil and water. Process for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add a little more water to thin to your taste, but do it a little at a time. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Chill until ready to serve.

4. Add a dollop of pesto and a sprinkle of crunchy salt and serve.

Basil-Pine Nut Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
4 cups packed basil leaves
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

  1. Place the garlic cloves in the bowl of your food processor and let it run until the garlic is broken up and crushed. Scrap the garlic from the sides and add the pine nuts. Pulse three or four times to break them up. Using a small spatula scrape up the garlic-nut mix from the edges.
  2. Add the basil and give it 4 or 5 long pulses. Scraping and mixing up the nuts. Add the lemon juice and a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Pulse a few more times.
  3. In a stream add the olive oil while the machine runs for about 15 seconds. Try to not let it go longer, unless you want a really smooth pesto. I go the pulsing route to keep the texture a little chunky. Season to taste.
  4. If not using immediately place in an airtight container and drizzle a layer of oil over the pesto to prevent oxidation. Alternatively you can put the pesto in an ice cube tray and freeze it.

 

 

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