When people ask me what my favorite vegetable is, I say tomatoes. When people ask me what my favorite fruit is, I say tomatoes.
BLT Pasta turns the sweetest cherry tomatoes into a comforting fall dish.
At the moment, I have too many tomatoes, and they are lounging on every free surface of my kitchen, as I refuse to refrigerate them. The tiny sweet cherry tomatoes are piled high on a platter of plum tomatoes, still coated with dirt from the farmers' market. My collection of splurge-worthy heirlooms are each patiently waiting their turn to become my favorite tomato recipe, which goes like this: Thickly slice a tomato. Drizzle with a fruity olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat.
Heirloom tomatoes: Summer on a plate.
I haven't always been obsessed with the intensely summery flavor of a fresh tomato. As a youngster, I turned my nose up at the tomatoes my mother had gone out of her way to buy direct from the farmer on the rural edge of town. Yes, she was ahead of her time. Now my kids do the same to me.
Next winter I will miss having platters of tomatoes decorating my kitchen.
As summer starts to slip through my fingers, I start hoarding tomatoes in earnest. If I was more organized, I would fill jars with tomato sauce and gloat over my resourcefulness. But I prefer to gorge on tomatoes in season--breakfast, lunch and dinner--until the farmers' markets shut down and the hoarding begins all over again next June.
Persephone bakery sells loaves of this heavenly brioche on Saturdays only at the Jackson Hole Farmers Market.
The most beautiful tomatoes of the summer were spotted at an outdoor market in Bolzano, Italy.
Black plum tomatoes at the Green Market in Chicago.
Soon I will miss strolling through the farmers' markets in search of perfect tomatoes.
Pristine tomatoes need only the simplest recipes. Here are few to get you through the last few weeks of your summer tomato bender.
With BLT Pasta, my favorite summer sandwich gets deconstructed into a cozy fall supper. The sweetest cherry tomatoes are quickly roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic and salt while boiling water for pasta. Bits of pancetta (less fatty than bacon) get fried in a pan until crispy. A few dollops of ricotta stand in for the mayo, and all gets smoothly tossed with hot pasta and a handful of end-of-season arugula. Reserved pasta water and grated pecorino cheese bind the pasta to the tomato sauce. Freshly ground pepper is a must.
- 1 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (one for the tomatoes, and another for the pancetta)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- generous pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 handfuls arugula
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, and toss with the olive oil, garlic and salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until they become soft and collapsed.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet until shimmering. Add the pancetta, stirring occasionally until almost brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Toss the tomatoes with the pancetta. Add the hot pasta. Make a well in the center of the pasta, and add the ricotta. Toss, adding the pasta water if needed, until the pasta is coated with creamy tomatoes. Add the pecorino cheese and toss.
- Just before serving, stir in the arugula and add freshly ground pepper.
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Tomato Bacon Butter
Tomatoes meet hot smoked paprika and bacon. Makes enough to slather on grilled fish for 4, with leftovers, which can dress up scrambled eggs the next day.
Inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light, August 2010.
- 2 slices smoked bacon, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- 2 plum-sized tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until almost crisp.
- Reduce heat to low, and add garlic, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes.
- Sprinkle paprika over the garlic and bacon, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and the salt; remove from the heat.
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Tomato Vinaigrette becomes my end of summer go-to dressing for a Grilled Steak Salad. Here's a neat trick: Grate half a tomato over the large holes of a box grater. Discard the skin and core that remain in your hand. You will have the perfect tomato pulp for whisking into vinaigrette, or anything that could benefit from a fresh zip of tomato.
Makes enough to top a grilled steak salad for 4-6 people. Rub a 1 pound skirt, hanger or flank steak with salt and pepper. Grill until seared, about 4 minutes each side. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice thinly against the grain. Toss with 8 cups of mixed summer lettuces and the tomato vinaigrette.
This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit July 2012.
- 1 medium tomato, halved
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Rub the tomato halves over the coarse holes of a box grater. Discard the skin and core. Place tomato pulp into a medium bowl.
- Whisk tomato pulp with shallot and red wine vinegar.
- Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking vigorously.
- Add salt and pepper, to taste.
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For one more perfect tomato idea, go to food52.com
, and check out how Amanda Hesser makes Brown Butter Tomatoes
. Clearly, everything is better with browned butter.