Early August marks a favorite time of year. Tomatoes are making a splash at the farmers markets now. I cannot encourage you enough to seek them out. Unless your supermarket carries something other than the tasteless ethylene gas ripened variety, now is the time to taste the real deal. They might be a little more expensive than the unflavored variety, but consider two things: they have been vine ripened in the season they are meant to be eaten, and you always have the option of passing by the bag of chips you were going to put in your supermarket basket.
OK, enough preaching, I know it’s to the choir! Let’s explore this fabulous fruit. Yes, tomatoes, a member of the nightshade family, are a fruit in the botanical sense. However we treat them as a vegetable. The first mention of the tomato, or “tomate,” was during the Spanish colonization of South America, cue Christopher Columbus. However, the tomato actually dates back as far as 500 BC with the Aztecs in Mesoamerica. Tomatoes made their way to Italy in the mid 1500s and North America by the early 1700s.
There are as many varieties of tomatoes as there are ways to make them. The most ubiquitous would be in a salad, but truly the sky is the limit. Raw or cooked the variation of flavor is amazing. I have been playing around with a several recipes this week. My fabulous friend Cindy gifted me a bunch of cookbooks recently, and I have been having a ball trying out some new recipes.
But before I get to my cookbook inspirations, I have a couple of my own that I came up with. First, up something I am calling a “spoon” salad. Basically it’s a play on a Greek and Panzanella salad. You can add whatever you have on hand, but mine is a combination of tomato, avocado, lettuce and day old bread that I cut into cubes.
Let the tomato get a little juicy with salt, pepper and lemon zest, then mix it all together. The bread will soak up the juices and get soft. A spoon will be your friend here.
My next idea comes from something I ate in Greece. It’s a play on a Greek salad, but slightly upscale.
Cucumbers and red onion are uniformly diced. I added avocado again mainly because I love them, and always have them in the house. On top I used something called a bread rusk I picked up at Titan Foods, in Astoria, NY. You can achieve the same idea by completely drying out a thick slice of Italian bread in a pinch.
In Greece I had the salad with a thick slice of fresh tomato, but here I used an olive oil poached tomato, inspired from One Good Dish by David Tanis. Poaching brings out a deliciously intense flavor of the tomato. Don’t toss the olive oil! Use it for your vinaigrette.
Next up is a stuffed version. This inspiration comes courtesy of Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook. Hollowed out tomatoes are stuffed with couscous and feta. As I was removing the centers I strained out the juice, then added it to the baking dish. Waste nothing kids!
My last inspiration comes from one of my favorite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen. This one is a play on her potato frittata. I skipped the bacon and added cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. Absolutely delicious, and by the way, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
I hope you get inspired too during tomato season. The farms and farmers markets are the place to be right now. Support and eat local – it’s the best thing for your soul.
Ripe tomatoes, cored
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the tomatoes in a uniform thickness, about ½ inch and lay them in a ceramic baking dish, in one layer. Season them with salt and pepper on both sides. Carefully add the olive oil into the dish not quite submerging them.
Add 1 garlic clove for every tomato you slice and some basil leaves. Place the dish in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes carefully flip the slices and place back in the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove and let cool in the olive oil for a final 30 minutes.
Slightly adapted from One Good Dish.
6 medium tomatoes, about 5 ounces each
1/3 cup finely diced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and basil chopped
½ cup couscous
¼ cup feta
¼ cup tomato juice, from the tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a small baking dish large enough to hold the tomatoes comfortably. They should be somewhat close to each other.
Using a serrated knife cut off the top and carefully hollow-out the tomato over a strainer. You will use the juice later. Try not to break into the sides of the tomato.
Pull out some of the chunks from the inside of the tomato and the tops and roughly chop them. You should have about 2/3- 1 cup. Pour all of the strained juice into the baking dish reserving ¼ cup. Leave that in the bowl and add the chopped up tomatoes, couscous, olive oil, herbs and feta. Mix well and stuff into the hollowed tomatoes.
Place in the baking dish and into the oven. Bake for a total of 45-50 minutes, basting halfway through.
Remove from oven and drizzle a little olive oil over the top and any remaining sauce from the dish. Serve warm or room temperature.
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day
Potato and Tomato Frittata
1¼ lbs. Adriondeck potatoes, purple and pink if you can find them
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 oz. feta, crumbled
2-3 scallions, finely sliced, about ¾ cup
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, divided
6 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the potatoes ¼ inch and toss with ¼ cup of olive oil and a really good pinch of salt and pepper. Remember, potatoes love salt! Place on a sheet tray in a flat layer and bake for about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and pour the olive oil from the pan into an 8” cast iron pan. Carefully remove the potatoes and spread evenly in the pan. Top with the feta, tomatoes and scallions. Sprinkle half of the parsley over the top and reserve the rest for garnish.
Carefully drizzle the eggs evenly in the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continut to bake another 10 minutes. The frittata should be slightly brown around the edges and set up.
Let the frittata cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. That will allow it to firm up a bit and make cutting easier. Serve warm or room temperature.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook