Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Here's my article for this month from The Petaluma Post

If you are in Sonoma County, then you know that August starts our tomato season. Although we look at tomato plants at the garden center as early as March or April and plant them in the Spring looking forward to the tomatoes of summer, unless you live in a hot spot in the county your real crop does not start till the middle or end of August. But when it does they just keep coming.

In my own yard I planted three types of tomato this year. I would happily have a dozen different types, but it is only my husband and I, and we can only eat so many. I chose a Hillbilly Deluxe; I bought it last year from Soda Farms just for the name and fell in love. It is a great meaty slicing tomato with orange variegation, with each one weighing in close to a pound. Then I chose the Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, from Cottage Garden Growers, such a great sweet cherry tomato that produces like crazy and ripens quickly; perfect for popping in a salad or just eating out of the garden. Lastly I got a Mr Stripy, yes that is the name. It is a Roma variety and should be great for cooking. I am already keeping my fingers crossed.

Over the winter months when the tomatoes are not the best I came across roasting cherry tomatoes- WOW. You cannot believe the flavor pack they have. Roasting them for just a couple of minutes brighten up sugars and balances the acidity.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Rosemary
2 baskets of cherry tomatoes of any variety
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 inch of rosemary
Pinch of salt and pepper

Remove the rosemary from the stem, then place all ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly. Pour onto a lipped baking pan or dish and baked 5 to 7 minutes at 350 degrees, just until the skins burst. Serve immediately or cool and store in fridge. They are a bit delicate, so add them at the last minute to whatever you are serving. Try them in a pasta salad or just enjoy with a great crusty French bread.

I love making Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches while working in the garden, a great quick sandwich that is at its best in the summer. I like the simple classic, but I am a chef and feel compelled to upgrade them from time to time. A couple of my favorite upgrades: Mix your mayonnaise with a bit of Pesto, Try using arugula for a peppery bite instead of regular lettuce, Add lightly sautéed red onions, or for a hand held version wrap in a tortilla (one day when I was out of bread it worked great!) I have also made finger sandwiches mixing the sundried tomatoes with cream cheese, thin slices of bacon and a few leaves of arugula. One trick that I do at home is purchase the pre cooked packages of bacon- yes a bit of a treat, place in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds to crisp up and you get more time back in the garden.

An all time favorite of mine is a Tomato Tart. Also know as a Croustad, it is a rough made tart filled with tomatoes and basil topped with just a sprinkle of cheese. Very simple, very easy and very good. This recipe makes two 9 inch tarts and should serve 6 people per tart for lunch.

Tomato Croustad (filling)
8 to 10 roma tomatoes
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbl basil, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Pate Brisee (basic butter pie dough)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (If salted omit salt) cut into small pieces and well chilled
4 to 8 Tbl ice water

Place the flour, salt and butter in food processor, pulse until you get a small pebble texture, then begin adding the water till it just comes together to a soft dough. Do not over mix, you do not want a ball, that is too much. Remove it from machine and split into two even balls, then form each of them in to a flat disc. Wrap and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes or over night.

Remove the dough from fridge and allow it to warm till pliable. Lightly dust rolling area with flour and roll out the dough to about a 10 inch circle. Using rolling pin move dough gently to a baking sheet.

Slice tomatoes to approximately a ¼ inch thick. Place the slices on the dough round starting 2½ inches from the edge make overlapping circle layers, overlapping approx 1/3 of each tomato. Fold the pie dough back up over the edges of the tomatoes, sprinkle with basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degree until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or allow to cool. This does not hold well due to the wet nature of the tomatoes.

No mater how you enjoy them, tomatoes are the king of the summer crops!


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