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Jenise

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August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Jenise » Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:38 pm

The sweet tomato of late summer is one of those treats that some of us wait all year for, and which some of us, like Robin, have more than they know what to do with which is why he's promised to ship tomatoes by overnight air to any of us whose tomatoes haven't ripened yet. We wish. The real truth is that even for those of us not yet blessed, right now the best tomatoes of the year are arriving in stores and farm stands (my apologies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere) and that's why it's our Ingredient of the Month.

A Brief History of Tomato

Apparently it's not conclusive fact, but according to Andrew F. Smith's The Tomato in America, tomatoes are original to the west coast of South America. When the Spanish arrived, they fell in love with the fruit and took the seeds to Central America, Europe, the Carribean and the Phillipines. From the third, it's believed tomatoes migrated to the U. S. via the east coast, and from the fourth they spread throughout Asia.

Although no country's cuisine is more closely associated with the tomato than Italy's, it's apparently true that for a long time Italians believed tomatoes were poisonous and avoided them except as ornamental foliage. According to the Wikipedia entry on this fruit, the "earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources."

Health Benefits

A typical medium sized tomato has just 35 calories and 7 carbohydrates, and is fairly high in vitamins A and C. The news about tomatoes in recent years has been due to the presence of lycopene which is contained in the tomato's red pigment. And although the big buzz seemed to surround a Harvard study indicating that eating tomatoes at least twice a week lowered the risk of prostate cancer in men significantly, other studies have been indicating that lycopene may reduce the chance of developing lung, breast and stomach cancers, too.

Cooking releases the lycopene, but raw tomatoes are not without benefit, and oils used in dressings assist absorption.

Buy, Eat, Cook

But hey, some of us need no urging. Indeed, tomatoes are my personal #1 favorite food in the world, the food I can least imagine having to live without. Even a bad tomato is better than none at all, though between the hot house tomatoes of winter and the heirlooms of summer, there's nowadays there's no reason to settle for bad tomatoes even if they're not as good as what comes from the garden with the taste of the vine still lingering on the skin.

So, August. Tomatoes. Buy, eat, cook. Give them your full attention. Think of some tomato recipe you've always wanted to do, and do it with fresh tomatoes. I've long dreamed of a tart tatin kind of thing made out of semi-dehydrated tomatoes. Never had one, but no doubt someone's already figured out some form of that, and attempting it myself is going to be one of my missions over the next few weeks. If anyone has any recipe for same to offer, I'd love to hear from you.
Last edited by Jenise on Thu Aug 03, 2006 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Ian Sutton

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Ian Sutton » Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:44 pm

and what a fine ingredient it is.

We've only two tomato plants in the garden, though it's a bumper crop due to unseasonal warm weather. Sweet and juicy, they're doing a sound job on bruschetta (along with home grown purple and sweet basil together with home made bread ... All I need is the olive press for the oil now :oops: :roll: ).
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Niki (Dayton OH)

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Niki (Dayton OH) » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:57 pm

Our Roma tomatoes are ripening (hot weather is good for something!) and we've been making a version of caprese that my husband loves. I cut the Romas length wise, then take out the core, then lay a couple basil leafs in, then top with about a tablespoon of buffalo mozz, salt and pepper, then broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Yum!
Cheers,

Niki
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Jenise

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Jenise » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:23 pm

Oh you lucky guys! I have a huge crop, but only one that might get ripe in the next week. The plants sent out a decoy to determine if it was safe and he ripened a couple days ago, but the impatient worms got to him before I did.

Niki--you broil the caprese? Now that's a cool idea. Must try it!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Christina Georgina

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Christina Georgina » Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:54 pm

Ways to use fresh tomatoes ? TNTC . Too numerous to count. At the beginning of the season, the simpler, the better. If I miss one and it gets over ripe, I smoosh/ rub a cut half on a thick slice of good, crusty bread that has been grilled on an open flame, drizzle with exceptional olive oil and good sea salt. Great as is or as an accompaniment . Pan-amb for the Spanish.
The tomato season is so short here in the upper midwest that I never get my fill of having them sliced/wedged and dressed.
They are 3.00/lb now in the markets and not yet good. My grape tomato plants have given up a handful-much more tasty.
Looking forward to the posts
Mamma Mia !
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Howie Hart

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Howie Hart » Thu Aug 10, 2006 8:36 am

Years ago, when we used to plant a garden every year (I should do that again when my vineyard matures) my wife would take the over abundance of fresh Roma tomatoes, blanch them (in and out of boiling water to remove the skins) and pack them in cleaned out milk cartons and freeze them for use all winter in chile and spaghetti sauce. She would also freeze green peppers in zip lock bags and shredded zucchini, which she used to make zucchini bread at Christmas time. :)
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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Stuart Yaniger » Sun Aug 20, 2006 11:39 pm

Small firm green stripeys. Cut off the top, scoop out the pulp and seeds with a melon baller, stuff with chevre, then stick in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes until the tomatoes just begin to soften.
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James Roscoe

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by James Roscoe » Sun Aug 20, 2006 11:47 pm

Christina Georgina wrote:Ways to use fresh tomatoes ? TNTC . Too numerous to count. At the beginning of the season, the simpler, the better. If I miss one and it gets over ripe, I smoosh/ rub a cut half on a thick slice of good, crusty bread that has been grilled on an open flame, drizzle with exceptional olive oil and good sea salt. Great as is or as an accompaniment . Pan-amb for the Spanish.
The tomato season is so short here in the upper midwest that I never get my fill of having them sliced/wedged and dressed.
They are 3.00/lb now in the markets and not yet good. My grape tomato plants have given up a handful-much more tasty.
Looking forward to the posts


This is one reason I could never live in a place like Wisconsin. In Maryland the season starts at the end of June and goes until the first frost in October. The tomatoes love the heat and humidity too so it's been a good summer.
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Robin Garr

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Robin Garr » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:32 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:Small firm green stripeys. Cut off the top, scoop out the pulp and seeds with a melon baller, stuff with chevre, then stick in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes until the tomatoes just begin to soften.


That sounds great, and I know the Maillard Reaction is my friend. But that said, I took equal pleasure from an essentially similar dish that involves no heating at all, just cool, fresh summer enjoyment: Small firm Brandywines (or any flavorful, smallish heirloom, really). Cut off the top, scoop out the pulp and seeds with a teaspoon. Chop the innards, drain a little (the tomato water is worth saving, even if only for the cook to drink), and mix the resulting lazy-man's <i>concasse</i> with some <I>fromage blanc</I> and chopped green Greek olives. Stuff the tomatoes and serve.

Actually, you'd skip this step, Stewart, but for omnivores, I brought the combination home by lining each tomato shell with a slice of pistachio-studded <i>mortadella</i>, the original Bologna sausage, and stuffing that. It's good either way, though.
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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Stuart Yaniger » Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:10 pm

No Maillard here, you just want them to soften slightly- they're VERY firm, Robyn. :wink:
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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Robin Garr » Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:18 pm

The jokes just write themselves ...
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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Stuart Yaniger » Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:57 pm

Robin, this is a perfect time for you to either repost or at least put up a link to your caprese recipe; the tomatoes are starting to peak out here. You gave me a couple of hints that took mine several steps better and if it can help anyone else, it's worth a little bandwidth.
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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Robin Garr » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:22 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:Robin, this is a perfect time for you to either repost or at least put up a link to your caprese recipe; the tomatoes are starting to peak out here. You gave me a couple of hints that took mine several steps better and if it can help anyone else, it's worth a little bandwidth.


Sho' nuff, although I pity you poor Inuit with your ridiculously short summer. :twisted:

Here's a quick copy'n'paste of a caprese reprise (that almost rhymes!) from a July 10, 2003 FoodLetter:

Caprese revisited

It's too darn hot. Too hot to cook. Too hot to eat much. But fresh local tomatoes are coming on at last, so let's revisit one of my favorite summer recipes: Caprese ("cah-pray-zeh"), a simple but delicious composition of fresh, juicy tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, topped with creamy mozzarella and garnished with finely shredded fresh basil. Add a loaf of crusty Italian bread and a glass of wine, and it's all you need for a light summer dinner.

This is no time for those pale-pink supermarket softballs: For this summer treat, pick from your own garden or choose the best tomatoes your farmer's market has to offer; snip a few fresh basil leaves and treat yourself to a moist and tender round of fresh mozzarella.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 large, fresh tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, fresh if possible
1 medium sprig basil, or to taste

PROCEDURE:

1. Prepare a large plate. Smash the garlic clove and rub it all over; then drizzle on about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.

2. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and cut them into thick slices. Arrange them on the plate. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. If your tomatoes are bland, you might add a drop of balsamic vinegar to each, but this shouldn't be necessary with fresh local tomatoes in season.

3. Slice the mozzarella into thin rounds and put one round on each tomato slice.

4. Cut the basil into very thin strips (chefs call this a "chiffonade") and sprinkle it over the mozzarella and tomatoes. Or, for an appetizing variation, spread a little basil pesto on each tomato slice before you put on the cheese.

MATCHING WINE: Thanks to the snappy acidity of fresh tomatoes, the creamy mozzarella and the fresh herbal flavor of basil, caprese is one salad that will work with the right red wine - specifically, a fruity Chianti. (Go with a simple young wine, though - save your big Chianti Classico Riserva for more hearty fare.) If you prefer a white, Sauvignon Blanc is a natural with herbal veggie dishes; or try a crisp Italian white such as a Gavi or quality Soave.
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by Mike Filigenzi » Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:10 am

Stuart Yaniger wrote:Small firm green stripeys. Cut off the top, scoop out the pulp and seeds with a melon baller, stuff with chevre, then stick in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes until the tomatoes just begin to soften.


Had a few tomatoes sitting around so I just tried this. I added some finely diced fresh jalapeno to the cheese, mostly because it was sitting on the counter. Very good with some olive bread and a nice refosco.


Mike
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James Roscoe

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Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by James Roscoe » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:28 pm

Why do you do anything with fresh tomatoes other than slice them up into wedges and dab them with mayo or garlic salt and toss them back? It seems to me that is all that's required to enjoy one of summer's greatest treats.
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TimMc

Re: August IOTM: The Mighty Tomato

by TimMc » Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:51 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Stuart Yaniger wrote:Robin, this is a perfect time for you to either repost or at least put up a link to your caprese recipe; the tomatoes are starting to peak out here. You gave me a couple of hints that took mine several steps better and if it can help anyone else, it's worth a little bandwidth.


Sho' nuff, although I pity you poor Inuit with your ridiculously short summer. :twisted:

Here's a quick copy'n'paste of a caprese reprise (that almost rhymes!) from a July 10, 2003 FoodLetter:

Caprese revisited

It's too darn hot. Too hot to cook. Too hot to eat much. But fresh local tomatoes are coming on at last, so let's revisit one of my favorite summer recipes: Caprese ("cah-pray-zeh"), a simple but delicious composition of fresh, juicy tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, topped with creamy mozzarella and garnished with finely shredded fresh basil. Add a loaf of crusty Italian bread and a glass of wine, and it's all you need for a light summer dinner.

This is no time for those pale-pink supermarket softballs: For this summer treat, pick from your own garden or choose the best tomatoes your farmer's market has to offer; snip a few fresh basil leaves and treat yourself to a moist and tender round of fresh mozzarella.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 large, fresh tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, fresh if possible
1 medium sprig basil, or to taste

PROCEDURE:

1. Prepare a large plate. Smash the garlic clove and rub it all over; then drizzle on about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.

2. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and cut them into thick slices. Arrange them on the plate. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. If your tomatoes are bland, you might add a drop of balsamic vinegar to each, but this shouldn't be necessary with fresh local tomatoes in season.

3. Slice the mozzarella into thin rounds and put one round on each tomato slice.

4. Cut the basil into very thin strips (chefs call this a "chiffonade") and sprinkle it over the mozzarella and tomatoes. Or, for an appetizing variation, spread a little basil pesto on each tomato slice before you put on the cheese.

MATCHING WINE: Thanks to the snappy acidity of fresh tomatoes, the creamy mozzarella and the fresh herbal flavor of basil, caprese is one salad that will work with the right red wine - specifically, a fruity Chianti. (Go with a simple young wine, though - save your big Chianti Classico Riserva for more hearty fare.) If you prefer a white, Sauvignon Blanc is a natural with herbal veggie dishes; or try a crisp Italian white such as a Gavi or quality Soave.


We do almost the same thing at our humble abode.

We slice the tomato, season with sea salt and fresh cut basil, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top.

Serve with goats cheese and water crackers.


A Syrah or fruity Pinot will pair nicely...if I may be so bold.

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