Saturday, August 21, 2010

The other summer obsession: tomatoes

A fresh picked tomato is probably the world's best food.

A refrigerated, bad, supermarket tomato is probably the world's worst food.

I love good tomatoes almost more than anything. My perfect, ideal breakfast is a bagel (water-boiled, not from a package, from a good bakery) cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, Vidalia onion, and nice thick slice of a really good tomato. Grandma Foodie always remembers to sprinkle the tomato with some salt and freshly ground pepper and let it sit while the bagel toasts. It macerates the tomato a bit and makes it juicier and tastier.

No one person could ever write a comprehensive guide to eating and cooking with tomatoes. The uses for them are just too overwhelming to catalog.

My friend Deb has a fabulous recipe for a tomato tart. I liked it even though she uses cheese from a can. (Cheese from a can! Really, Deb, you're a decent cook, you should know better! Just think how delectable the tart would be with some real cheese.) To make the tart, slice the tomatoes and salt them lightly. Put them on a paper-towel lined plate (use several thicknesses) and put another layer of paper towels on top. Put a heavy plate on top of them and maybe even a heavy skillet on top of that. The idea is to weight them down well and press them. Leave them for an hour or two. Meanwhile, take a package of puff pastry and form it into a rectangular tart shell. You can cut off some strips around the edges and build them up on top of the pastry, or you can use your handy dandy rectangular tart pan with the removable bottom. (My friend does the former, I do the latter.) Then, prebake the shell for about 7 minutes at 425. When partially baked, but not brown, take it out, let cool slightly, then brush with olive oil. Layer the tomatoes, salt and pepper, thyme, and parmesan cheese. (not from a can, please!) Pop it back in the oven and bake until the pastry is done.

I may have a few details wrong, but hopefully Deb will correct me. After all, I am improving it by specifying that one should never use cheese from a can with something so delectable.

The other thing we have been eating all the time is a simple tomato salad. I slice big juicy beefsteaks into thick, juicy slices, sprinkle them with Hawaiian red sea salt (I forgot to buy some more when I was in California! I don't think I've ever seen any around here. What shall I do? Grandma Foodie? Anybody?) fresh thyme, pepper, feta, and a dressing made from 1 T brown sugar, 2 T red wine vinegar, and 3 T olive oil. Or just sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic glaze.

You must also make some BLTs. Get some good, crusty sourdough and some thick cut applewood unsmoked bacon. Toast the bread, spread liberally with mayo. Add some avocado to the sandwich if you like. Or a spoonful of basil pistou to the mayo.There is nothing quite like the crunch of the bread playing against the salty bacon and the explosion of juicy tomato. Simply fantastic.

The point is, eat ye tomatoes while ye may. They're going to be gone soon and they won't be back until next summer.


The Reader said...

LOVE this post. YUM. I think I can cook all of these, and lucky me, we have tomatoes all year long. YUM.

Well, of course I've never heard of Hawaiian red sea salt, but I only use real Parmesan, never from a can, so that should make up for that, right?

And my thick sliced bacon is to die for. You should come visit when you hit winter and need a tomato fix.

Totally bookmarking this recipe/post for frequent referral. Yum, yum, YUM.

The Mendon Foodie said...

Tomatoes and warmth in brazil in the middle of winter with incredible bacon, hmmm, no, sounds terrible. ;)

If I hit it big before winter break, I'll be there!

Another Suburban Mom said...

I love tomatoes. I like to chop mine up with a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh basil. Then I like to take some good crusty bread and spread it with herbed goat cheese and then put the tomoatoes on top and eat.

The Mendon Foodie said...

@Mom: great way to use tomatoes, as a matter of fact last night I did much the same thing, except I added garlic to the tomatoes and then took slices of toasted baguette and topped them with melted fresh mozzarella, but my daughter would love the goat cheese idea, she is obsessed!