Written by Chef Alan Zox, Ph.D, email@example.com Friday, 15 August 2014 00:00
Tomato season is here in Oyster Bay and you might be in a position where you have more batches of this delicious crop than you know what to do with. And while the fragrance, colors and flavors of tomatoes lead us to value the abundance of their harvest, your appreciation may not be enough. There are so many types and culinary uses for tomatoes that we oftentimes are at a loss as to what to do. Friends and relatives and neighbors are only too enthusiastic to take some of these fruits off our hands but only to a point. After this threshold is reached we are left to our own devices. And of course the quality is heads and shoulders above the grocery store varieties which are usually round and red as can be with thick skin and virtually no flavor. Visually, these store-bought tomatoes are beautiful and exceptional to look at but less than ideal to eat.
Recently a member of my family sent away for mail-order New Jersey tomatoes based on her experience eating these wonderful beauties. Unfortunately, they were like winter grown tomatoes in Florida that were sent out of state— lovely to look at but not very tasty, lacking in culinary brilliance. But that still leaves the bounty of our backyard or the wonder of buying fresh and delicious at the farmer’s markets.
Here are a few of the many ways we can enjoy this wonderful vegetable which is technically the fruit of the tomato plant. For example, beefsteak tomatoes are magnificent for slicing onto sandwiches —made with thick white bread, mayo, salt and pepper. It is one of my absolute favorites. Simple, sublime, and almost decadent. Plum or roma tomatoes are terrific for sauces. Heirlooms are wonderful for those special Saturday afternoon salads with a glass of Fumé Blanc. Or sweet cherries are terrific for snacking, appetizers and decoration. Here are some specific recipes that may assist in cleaning up your gardens.
1) Roasted “Sun Dried” Tomatoes — This simple process gives you scores of dried tomatoes to cook with or snack on at a fraction of the cost you would pay at the market. Further, you can control the amount of juice you allow to be left in the tomato by drying your own instead of purchasing a bag of overly-dried, virtually scorched and blackened tomatoes.
Ingredients: Romas or Plum tomatoes are so plentiful this time of year that you can expect prices to be plummeting. They can be kept for over a week in your fridge. Buy about five pounds and set aside half of them. Wash those you are using and cut each one in half from top to bottom. Using parchment paper or spraying with vegetable oil place each half on a sheet tray. Expect to be able to dry about 24 halves.
Procedure: Heat your oven no more than 180F-200 F. Leave the oven door ajar with a wine cork for about 2-3 hours. Check them every 30 minutes after 1 hour. These little morsels are delicious, good for you and a wonderful addition to roasts, braises and sautés. They are easy to make and fun to do with your family and friends. Bon Appetit.
2) Red Or Golden Tomato Gazpacho — This was usually only known as a simple soup, created in Andalusian Spain. Cookbook author Alissa Green tells us that originally in the 15th century, the dish was primarily made of mashed-up bread, garlic, and vinegar which is not too shabby either. Today it’s more frequently a refreshingly cold soup made of 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads; chopped-up vegetables, like the New World tomato brought to Spain from Peru. Not surprisingly the Aztec name sounds familiar, Tomatl.
Here’s one particular list of ingredients to include which makes 2 quarts. It’s also good to know that there is no one correct recipe here:
1/4 cup croutons
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 1/2 lbs golden or red tomatoes—cored and chopped
1 seeded and chopped yellow bell pepper
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tsp. smoked paprika (Pimenton)
6 tbsp. EVOO
2 Kirby cucumbers peeled, deseeded and chopped
Procedure: Soak the croutons in the red vinegar and set aside. Combine tomatoes, EVOO and the rest of the ingredients in a blender. Add sea salt and ground pepper. And add croutons on top. I like to sometimes add a cup of V-8 to the other ingredients in the blender and then chill for 2 hours. Delicious!
3) Roast Beets, Avocado, Heirloom Tomatoes, Pear Slices, And Watercress
This popular salad provides wonderful mouth appeal and is appreciated by all. It’s a bit time consuming but worth the trouble.
Procedure: Thoroughly rinse the beets, remove a thin slice at each end, and carefully cut them into quarters or eighths if large. Cover the slices with aluminum foil. Roast the beets in the oven at 450F for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to see if a knife easily pierces the vegetable. Return to oven for another 15-20 minutes if not. Remove from oven, open the foil and place in a small bowl in the refrigerator. Slice the heirloom tomatoes 1/2-inch wide and set aside.
Next open a can of pears in their juices. Make a pear vinaigrette by pouring the pear juice into a small bowl, while placing the pears in a separate bowl. Combine 2 parts EVOO, 1 part pear juice and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix the oil, pear juice and mustard together and taste. Add a pinch of sea salt if too sweet. Plate a small handful of watercress in the middle of each salad plate. Place the tomato slices on top of the greens overlapping one another. Disperse two or three slices of pear, avocado and beets on each plate. To gild the lily, you might want to bit ofof gorgonzola or saga cheese on each salad—a 1/4 pound in total. Do not dress the salads until you serve your guests or simply place the dressing on the table for guests to dress their own salads. Enjoy.
These several recipes can enable you to take advantage of all that extra tomato produce you can’t give away or may not want to, given the options you may not have considered. Each recipe employs another type of tomato or another way to prepare delicious sauces, condiments, salads and possibly entreés you hadn’t considered. Enjoy, and send me your special way of capitalizing on your bumper crop of tomatoes so we can all benefit.