Friday, August 30, 2013

Seasonal Cook :: Tomatoes

Courtesy of The Land Connection

Tomato Quartet

Tomato Medley"A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins," according to the writer Laurie Colwin. Of course she was talking about backyard garden and farmers' market tomatoes--all those luscious local tomatoes that provide a bright symphony of flavors. And now is the time to seek out every theme and variation on tomatoes: hybrids, heirlooms, cherry, pear, plum, even the diminutive currant tomatoes. The rainbow names of the heirlooms are enough to set your mouth watering: Sun Gold, Green Zebra, Pink Accordion, Prudens' Purple, Striped Roman, Purple Calabash, Orange Oxheart, Black Trifele, Great White, and the ever-popular Brandywines (pink, red, and yellow),to name just a few.

An Orchestra of Flavors

Tangy, bright, and explosively ripe, an in-season tomato is any cook's dream. You can do almost anything, or almost nothing, and either way, the result will be mind-blowingly delicious. To celebrate the season, we propose a tomato trio, starting with a garden-fresh bloody mary, moving on to a big herbed heirloom tomato salad, and ending with a pizza (or bread) topped with oven-roasted tomatoes.

The Melody of Summer Year Round

And after you slice 'em, dice 'em, sauce 'em, salad 'em, and slurp 'em down shamelessly, be sure and put some up for winter. Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables that you can simply wash, cut into chunks, and slip into a zip-lock freezer bag. Nothing could be easier, or more rewarding come winter.

Garden-Fresh Bloody Mary Mix

6 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons hot sauce, optional
2 teaspoons minced fresh horseradish
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Herbs for garnish (we love lovage), nasturtium and other
Blend the tomatoes, lemon and lime juices, Worcestershire, garlic, hot sauce, horseradish, salt, celery seed and pepper until smooth. Cover and chill until needed. This recipe makes 6 to 7 cups, depending on the size of the tomatoes; the mix will keep for 1 week.

Herbed Heirloom Tomato Salad

Tomatoes this good deserve your best extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and even some highfalutin salt because each of this salad's few ingredients defines the final flavor. Of course, the most important element is ripe, beauteous tomatoes, so hunt some down at your local farmers market.
  1. Gather up 2 pounds of the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes you can find, choosing a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Cut them into wedges or thick slices. If you have cherry tomatoes, leave them whole. Arrange them on a chilled plate and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Top with a sprinkling of fresh, torn herbs like tarragon, basil, chives, and/or Italian parsley. Serve immediately.

Fresh-Roasted Tomato Pizza

Pre-roasting the tomatoes for an hour or more in a slow oven (about 275 evaporates the water and concentrates the flavor, making powerful little flavor packets.
makes 1 pizza or 3-4 pizza-breads
For roasted tomatoes
6 to 10 tomatoes (any size or color)
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh oregano, thyme, or parsley
For pizza
1 pizza dough (or 3-4 toasted slices of bread)
2 Tbs melted butter or olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or other hard cheese
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano, basil, or other herbs to garnish the pizza after it comes out of the oven

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Cut small tomatoes in half, and larger ones into wedges. Mix tomatoes in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and herbs. Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and slow roast in the oven for an hour or more.
Stretch the pizza dough and put on a pizza stone or cookie sheet. Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) 3-5 minutes until dough has started to crisp slightly. Remove crust and use a fork to pierce any air bubbles.

Use a brush to spread the melted butter or olive oil on the crust. Scatter the roasted tomato pieces on top, and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until crust is crisp. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Enjoy!

When tomato season is in full swing, fill your oven with baking sheets full of tomatoes, and use them on any pasta or toasted bread of your choice. You can freeze any extra for winter

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers' market or CSA nearest you, visit
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

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