Heirloom tomatoes: not in salad
I have three beautiful and very expensive heirloom tomatoes to use. Unfortunately our weather has turned cold (had to turn on the furnace!) and I really don't feel like my usual caprese salad. What else can I do that will suit my comfort food desire and respect these gorgeous specimens??
Bisque sounds perfect for this time of year, particularly if you have sauce type tomatoes. If you have delicately flavored tomatoes like a green zebra, I think they'd be better off as a fine concasse to serve with roasted fish.
Another idea would be take the mozzarella from your caprese salad and something else melty (cheddar, fontina, muenster) and make yourself a grilled cheese with tomatoes (or event a BLT). That's actually what I had for dinner last night.
Chop them, set in a colander and salt well. Let the tomato juices drain into a bowl for about 20-30 minutes, tossing them every now and again; add a bit of fresh basil if you have it on hand. Once juices are drained, cook minced garlic briefly then add in the juices, cook down the juice while swirling in some good butter. Toss the sauce with cooked pasta and top with the chopped tomatoes. Delicious!
Cut them in half, get rid of the seeds or not, cover with bread crumbs and cheese and herbs, broil for a few minutes.
I wouldn't cook them either, and am always mystified when people post looking for suggestions for cooking or baking perfectly-ripe fruits and salad-appropriate vegetables, as if anything could be better than consuming them fresh and as is.
How about stuffed tomatoes - tuna, chicken, or shrimp salad. With some quality crackers on the side. Save the tomato guts in the freezer and include in your next cooked tomato dish.
"I wouldn't cook them either, and am always mystified when people post looking for suggestions for cooking or baking perfectly-ripe fruits and salad-appropriate vegetables, as if anything could be better than consuming them fresh and as is."
I sorta feel the same way about a great piece of grass fed beef or a fish I catch. I mean, sure, I wanna eat some "as is", but I don't mind seein' how somethin' so special tastes when cooked "just right". The better the ingredients, the better the plate, no?
Face it, after a dozen or more "fresh and as is", you wanna try somethin' else.
One of my favorite things to do with really ripe and juicy tomatoes is to sauté a little garlic in a lot of olive oil over low heat to mellow it. Remove the pan from the heat. Add your diced tomatoes (no need to peel or seed), drizzle with a little red wine vinegar, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and toss with cooked angel hair pasta. Best at room temp.
Rick Bayless' Pork Tinga with either some corn tortillas warmed up in a cast iron skillet or a loaf of french bread. The version of the recipe from his "Authentic Mexican" book, not the slow cooker version you can find online.
So after going to grocery store to get a mini baguette and coming up empty, I remembered that we had 1/4 loaf of sourdough at home. I know I said no salad but a panzanella is pretty darn close to bruschetta. All beautiful tomatoes and bread a marinating now. I think it will be delightful!
A simple BLT with really good, fresh tomatoes! I live in a weird microclime, so my tomatoes are just starting to come in, and I'm finally getting my BLT fix this week.
Roasted tomato soup, garnished with basil. A simple pizza with sliced tomatoes, buffalo mozzerella, and basil (although that's pretty close to a caprese salad). A salad with chopped tomatoes, olives, feta and a very simple olive oil dressing. Depending on the variety and sized, baked stuffed tomatoes.
Ahh, the glory that is the first BLT of the season. I tend to approach it like some 50s era, TV housewife making dinner for her husband's boss - only with the near sadistic passion that a stinky old 'hound can bring to the project.
You know, maybe drive to that Butcher in the next county who has that perfect slab of bacon that you can have sliced to just the right thickness. "Set it at, seventeen, Earl . . . Ok?" Or maybe, you'll have had the forethought, triggered by the sight of the first of the Brandywines or Cherokees showing some blush of color, to have mail ordered some smoked jowls. After all, the "B" comes first.
Then, there is the bread. The unattributed, second "B" - the bass player, if you will, in the band. Oh, so much thought might, nay should, go into selecting just that right vessel to carry that first sandwich. You think, "What about that Bakery up by the highway? The guy who owns the place is an ass, but they sure put out a fuckin', solid brioche - and that baguette could make a funky 'sub' spin on this baby. . . .
You drive on.
The thought emerges, "Then again, that place in Belmar has fresh Cornrye and hard rolls. Should I go with the sunny, summer, Shore vibe and keep this sandwich 'True Jersey'? . . .
You drive on.
Then, troubled by the swellin' of the number of cars on the roads, you bitch, "Damn Benny's and their foul traffic. Can't I get my little part of the world back soon? How fuckin' long 'til Labor Day?" The anx'st builds, so you try to you calm yourself. Put Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' into the CD player* 'Local Summer' comes in September, Dude. The towns need the tourist dollars." Deep Breath. "Man, this is a great album."
Keep on drivin' on.
One way or another, you get the "right" bread for the goal. Driving back, choosin' to avoid traffic by travelling on the County roads, you realize that you just passed a hand-stenciled sign for "Fresh Local Farm Brown Eggs". Overlooking the weird syntax - or, perhaps, drawn by it - you turn around in some driveway and go back. "I'm gonna make my own mayo for this fucker. We've got that great olive oil at home after all. . . . I wonder if the green onions or garlic are ready yet?"
So, both B's have been taken care of, the T's are still at home on the vine - soakin' up the last of the late afternoon sun. After all, you continue to console yourself with the realization that it's only been a short matter of too many days since the nation celebrated its Independence with overcooked, previously frozen, burgers topped with plastic wrapped cheese and cans of Heinz Baked Beans to which gobs of sugary sweeteners have also been added before roasting in a four hundred degree oven. "Ol' Mr. Franklin woulda been so proud, huh?" You sarcastically contemplate. "That's not my Summer at all . . . ."
Then, it strikes you, there's the oft overlooked "L" in such a legendary American sandwich. "Shit, is that lettuce in the planter ready yet?" You ponder as you're passing the only other market on your way home. "Fuck it. I'll take what I can get from the shit I grew." You hit the gas and head back for "that moment" - the one you've been thinkin' about since the neighborhood kids came ringin' your doorbell for candy while you raked the yard.
So, finally. There you are. HOME.
You grab a tomato or two off the vine on your way int the house, carryin' a coupla bags. The bacon, immediately, goes into the over at 350 until the second flip and then you turn it up to 400 to finish. In the meantime, the Brandywines get sliced and lightly salted and peppered. You painstakingly whisk the mayo and then rest your arm to go out front to clip some baby lettuce leaves.
"Ahh, a beer would be nice right now." You think, as you have already drawn one from the fridge and are reachin' for the opener. After a coupla big pulls, you start puttin' together that first BLT of the Season. First a swab of the mayo on the bottom crust. Then the lettuce. Then a few slices of bacon . . . "C'mon, man, butch up, add two more." Then three or four slices of the magical fruit that transformed the world even when many thought 'em poison. Finally, you slather more of that funky mayo on the top piece of bread and close.
Ahh, that's it. Majesty! You grab the beauty timidly, at first, then squeezing gently like it's a present from that really pretty girl on a second date. Then you get THAT taste. . . . THE FIRST BLT OF SUMMER. You remember, instantly, "I shoveled snow for months, waiting for this moment. I laid the plants before Mothers' Day, waiting for this moment. I spent half the day in the car, waiting for this moment."
ANOTHER BITE! ANOTHER!
Tomato juices mixed with mayo runs into your hands. You lick your fingers after you put the sandwich down. You smile, and take a big pull off of your beer.
Eyes closed, you lean back. "Ahhh, Summer!"
*My truck's been with me for more than a decade, so forgive the Eight Track/CD player. I'd like to coddle it into those fancy, antique plates. Only sixty-some thousand miles, after all, I owe it to the old girl.
Looks like you have solved your dilemma, but just in case you still have one lone tomato, I love to chop the tomato, salt and let drain. Then slice or tear up some basil. Throw some pasta in boiling water. Heat some olive oil in a pan and sautee some garlic and hot peppers. When the pasta is done, toss with the infused oil, raw tomatoes, basil, and top with some slivered parmesan cheese.
You get the essence of that tomato in a comforting bowl of food.
Tomato gratin! Slice thick and layer in a gratin dish with salt/pepper/herbs, top with seasoned breadcrumbs and a little butter, and bake until hot and juicy.
Cut in half, sprinkle with your favourite dried herbs and bake till soft, but still with a little texture. Eat with, or on, bread or toast.
Any tomato is enhanced by this - even those hard , nasty ones from the supermarket.
Or, with some more effort, a tomato tarte tatin.
I would do a pan con to tomate. Toast drizzled with olive oil toasted and then scape half a tomato on the bread, drizzle with more oil and salt. It is very popular in Spain for breakfast or a tapas. This is great with fresh tomatoes, maybe not with a perfect heirloom variety.
I had the same thing this evening. Our tomatoes have popped up in the last week after a long, slow, cool summer, a very anti-tomato season ( we are in Melbourne Australia).
We have perhaps a dozen big fat lush purple-red toms from the whole planting. They are a lush. rich. cellular explosion on the tongue - not so much intensity of flavour (which was fine) as of texture (which was excellent)
We've done three things with them so far.
- sliced into sandwiches with quick grilled flank steak (or is it skirt steak in America, I forget)
- chopped up and served on bruschetta with some chiffonade basel and a little sherry vinegar
- small even slices with a little evoo, a little salt, some shreds of anchovy fillet, served as appetisers
I have about two tomatoes left and really want to do a great BLT for our Sunday breakfast. The South Melbourne Market ( http://www.southmelbournemarket.com.au/ ) is a half hour walk and apparently has fantastic bacon and good bakeries
Do any Chowhounds have brilliant simple recipes for homegrown heirloom tomatoes? We'd love to hear them.
Ecumer & Periguexse.
As you may be aware, I'm a bit of a fan of the BLT. I am currently in the dues paying part of the year - actually broke two shovels in the heavy, wet snow last week. Though it may be needless to say, I'm driving down my jealousy so that I may live vicariously through your good fortune. It feels good to absorb another 'hounds joy.
For other simple pleasures that may be derived from such a garden treasure, consider the humble glory that is the tomato sandwich. It's just good bread (toasted, if you like), a hearty swab of mayonnaise, and as many slices of salted tomato slices as you feel worthy to consume. Good stuff, indeed.
Another option would be a salsa. Cut the tomatoes into a dice, salt, and leave in a colander to drain. Add approximately half the volume of finely chopped onions, a minced garlic clove, diced jalepeno or habanero chiles (to taste - maybe one chile for each large tomato or so to start, if you're heat tolerance is average), chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) so as to add enough color to taste it, a squirt of lime (other citrus juice can be substituted, if need be), and stir.
Basically, salsa is a Mexican bruschetta. Instead of bread, fried tortilla chips* are used to scoop, but it also makes an excellent condiment. Try it on any seafood cooked in a straightforward manner. Personally, I like it on scrambled eggs as well, but I make mine with almost as much chile as I do tomato.
Regardless of the ramblings of this old dog, I hope you enjoy your bounty in whatever way best fits your palate. Just be a 'hound - if you have to, grab one and just eat it like an apple, perhaps with a sprinkle of salt before eat bite. It's still going to be a treat. My hat's off and "All Things Must Pass" is emanating through the speakers in the studio!
*Sorry if that came across as culturally ignorant or condescending, but I am American after all . . . .