18 July 2012

From the Gardener and Chef ~ 10 Ways with Summer Tomatoes

The tomato, luminary of the earth,
repeated and fertile star,
shows us its convolutions, its canals,
the illustrious plenitude and the abundance
without pit, without husk, 
without scales or thorns,
the gift of its fiery color
and the totality of its coolness.  

-Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Tomato"
So, how are your tomatoes?  My cherished Brandywine, Speckled Romas, and San Marzanos are getting close, which means loads and loads of these garden jewels.  I’ve shared many tomato-based recipes throughout the years.  Here is an anthology of some of my favorite preparations.  Asterisked preparations are Casa Fiore favorites and complete recipes can be found below!

#1:  Bruschetta*. Grilled bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil, topped with garden tomatoes and basil. 
#2:  Simple salad of tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and tossed with any combo of cucumbers, basil, or dried oregano. 
#3:  Quick ‘n’ sassy sauce to enjoy with pasta.
#4:  Salmorejo*. Impassioned and exotic Andalusian specialty. A sultry sister of gazpacho that will keep you wanting more.
#5:  Insalata Caprese. Famous Italian dish of mozzarella (make it high quality whenever possible!), tomatoes, and basil.
#6:  More tomatoes than you know what to do with?  Take The Lazy Man’s Approach to Canning and throw them in the garage fridge in gallon zip locks.  However unromantic this may sound, these will be this winter’s tastiest sauce tomatoes.
#7:  Salsa*!  Lots of easy recipes out there.  Check out these Pico de Gallo and Salsa Chipotle recipes from Cesar of Tacos Guyamas on Green Lake.
#8:  Throw some beefy tomatoes on the grill with fresh garden veggies like zucchini and peppers and seasoned meats.  Slice them up and let all of those savory juices mingle!
#9:  Oven-dried tomatoes*.  Unfortunately, we don’t get Southern Italian summer heat.  But slice your tomatoes 1/4” thick, set the oven on low, and you’ll be singing O Sole Mio.
#10:  The best way to eat tomatoes?  In the garden right off the vine.  Plunge into the fruit and devour it whole!

Oven-dried Tomatoes
Exclusive CasaFioreOnline.com Recipe!
1. Rinse and dry tomatoes.  You can use an assortment of varieties or choose just one type  of tomato.  Using just one variety will result in more evenly-dried results.  While this is a great way to store an over-abundance of home-grown tomatoes, I've even purchased decent Costco tomatoes in the winter and turned them into something truly memorable.
2. Slice into roughly 1/4 inch thick slices.  Rub a cookie sheet with olive oil.  Place in oven at roughly 250 degrees.  Oven temperatures vary, so you will have to watch this a bit and dry to desired level.  My rule of thumb with my gas oven is 250 degrees for 2 hours.
3. Allow to cool.  Drizzle with olive oil, dust with salt and enjoy immediately as an antipasta.  Conversely, these can be preserved in the fridge for up to a week or stored in the freezer and enjoyed as a ray of sunshine once winter kicks in.

From the Kitchen of TACOS GUYAMAS  ~  Cesar’s Salsas
Casa Fiore #7, June 2004
In 1992, I spent a summer as a volunteer English teacher in Cuautla, a tiny pueblo in rural Jalisco, Mexico.  I taught students ages 4 to 74 that summer and had one of the most unique experiences of my life.  Skip ahead to 1998, back at home in Seattle, as I walk into a new Mexican restaurant in my Green Lake neighborhood.  I step up to the counter, ready to order, and there, behind the register, to my astonishment, is Cesar, one of my former students all the way from Cuautla!  Now an adult and speaking magnificent English, Cesar had opened a restaurant in my own backyard.  Today, Tacos Guyamas is one of the most popular spots along Green Lake and one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  Try Cesar’s special salsas—they will really make your tomatoes sing!

Cesar’s Salsa Mexicana (or Pico de Gallo)

1. Chop the following into corn-size pieces:  3 medium garden fresh tomatoes; 1/2 cup onion; 4-6 serrano peppers or a milder pepper of your choice; 1/2 cup of cilantro; juice of two lemons; 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. Mix all ingredients and serve with guacamole and chips.

Cesar’s Salsa Chipotle

1. Boil the following ingredients for 7-10 minutes:  1 cup water; 2 large, peeled, homegrown tomatoes; 12 dried chipotle chiles; 1 clove of garlic; 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. When done, puree all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with chips and your favorite cerveza mexicana.
 Casa Fiore #8, July-August 2004

Fresh, fast, and sublime, try this for easy “al fresco” dinning!
1. Heat grill to medium.  (Instructions for toasters/broilers below.)  Peel 1 LRG. CLOVE GARLIC and set aside.
2. Dice 2-3 LARGE GARDEN FRESH TOMATOES and mix in a bowl with A HANDFUL OF SHREDDED BASIL and set aside.
4. Grill bread until toasted—a few blackened spots add a touch of flavor and aesthetic character.  Alternatively, the bread can be toasted under a broiler or in a toaster.
5. Rub one side of toasted bread with garlic and then set on a plate and drizzle with good quality OLIVE OIL.
6. Spoon tomato/basil topping over toasted bread, sprinkle with SALT, and serve immediately.
 Casa Fiore #9, September 2004 
***Please scroll down to my September 23rd, 2011 posting 
of my daughter and I preparing this tasty dish!

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