Tomatoes are the reward for a hot summer: Nothing tastes better than a fresh vine-ripened tomato with anything. Tomatoes are the basis for many summer salads, sides, sandwiches and sauces.
Tomatoes are best when purchased locally, and most flavorful when allowed to ripen on the vine. Select tomatoes that are firm, glossy, smooth, plump, heavy for their size, and free of bruises. Fragrance is a better indicator of great taste than color. Sniff the stem end and it should smell of the garden aroma of the plant itself.
Since fresh tomatoes are summer fare and off-season tomatoes are rarely flavorful, substitute good quality canned tomatoes in the off-season and for cooked tomato dishes.
Technically the tomato is a fruit. In 1893, because of a newly enacted import tax on vegetables and not on fruits, the Supreme Court declared the tomato a vegetable.
The tomato originated in Central America and was brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadores. Originally grown as an ornamental plant and believed to be poisonous, (the tomato is a member of the deadly nightshade family),
the tomato was not widely eaten until the 19th century.
Always store tomatoes at room temperature, stem end down. Storing stem end down prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting its scar, increasing shelf life. Never refrigerate tomatoes. Cold temperatures make the flesh of a tomato pulpy and destroys its flavor. Adding a pinch of sugar when cooking fresh tomatoes enhances flavor.
Helpful Tomato Measures:
1 Cherry tomato is approx. 1 oz. = 1 tbsp
25-30 cherry tomatoes = 2 cups chopped
1 plum tomato is 2-3 oz. = 1/3 cup
1 small tomato is 3-5 oz. = 2/3 cup
1 medium tomato is 5-6 oz. = 3/4 cup
1 large tomato over 7 oz. = 1-1/4 cups
1 lb. fresh tomatoes = 3 cups pureed
2-1/2 lbs. fresh tomatoes = 3 cups, chopped and drained
BLT Sandwich (with variations)
2 slices of bread of your choice
Bacon, cooked crisp
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast bread, and spread lightly with mayonnaise. Place tomato, lightly salt and pepper. Place bacon slices and lettuce leaves. Cut sandwich in half on a diagonal.
Add ripe avocado slices. Spread avocado on bread slice opposite tomato. Assemble sandwich with lettuce and bacon in center.
Add a third slice of toasted bread and sliced ham, turkey or chicken and cheese of your choice. Place meat and cheese on third slice of bread. Add to sandwich, making a 3-layer club sandwich. Slice in half. Pin with toothpick if needed.
Classic Gazpacho – Spanish Cold Tomato Soup
2 cups peeled tomatoes or 16-oz. can diced
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped or 1 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. chives or green onions, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
3 cups tomato juice (or 2 cups tomato juice and 1 cup V-8 to add a little zip)
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, pitcher or jar. Stir to mix completely. Or, place all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Cover and chill for several hours before serving.
Do not chill or store in a metal container. Keeps well in the refrigerator up to one week. Serve ice cold. A small celery rib with leaves or bread sticks is a nice garnish. To store cold soups, purchase a case of 2-quart canning jars. The jars make inexpensive perfect containers for storing acidic foods. Serves 8.
8 ripe plum tomatoes of similar size and weight, (about 3 oz.)
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup Planko bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set wire rack inside sheet. Using a serrated knife, cut 1/4-inch slice from one long side of each tomato. Turn tomatoes onto the cut side so they lay flat. Then slice tomatoes crosswise at 1/4 inch intervals, leaving bottom 1/4-inch of each tomato intact.
Process 3/4 cup shredded Guryere cheese, basil, oil, Planko, and garlic in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and preheat broiler. Combine 3/4 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper in a bowl. Carefully open tomato slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper mixture. Using a small spoon, spread the Gruyere mixture evenly between tomato slices, about 2 tbsp. per tomato. Arrange tomatoes on prepared wire rack/sheet pan.
Sprinkle remaining shredded Gruyere cheese over tomatoes.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over tomatoes. Broil until cheese is golden brown. You may use any type of tomato. The plum tomato is chosen for its shape. Be sure the tomatoes are similar in size and weight to broil evenly. This recipe is a riff on the famous Hasselback potatoes, or even squash or eggplant. Hasselbacking is nothing new. Back in the 1950s chefs at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden were peeling and partially slicing large potatoes, brushing
them with butter, sprinkling them with bread crumbs and baking them. Customers loved them for their striking looks and also for the range of textures this process produces. They are still on the hotel’s menu today.
Charleston Summer Tomato Pie
1 pie crust for a 9 inch pie
4 or 5 medium large ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 medium yellow or Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. olive oil
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Prepare pie crust and chill. Preheat oven to 350℉. Wash and slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Each tomato should yield 5 slices. Place on doubled thickness paper towels and cover with another double layer of paper towels. Pat to absorb as much tomato liquid as possible. Peel and slice onions into thin rings. Saute onions in 1 tsp. olive oil until soft and golden in color. Place all sauteed onions in bottom of prepared pie crust. Place tomatoes in a tight circular pattern layer in pie crust on top of onions. Usually 7 slices will work well. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Place a second layer of tomatoes in a tight circular pattern. Again sprinkle with 1/3 cheddar cheese. Place a third layer of tomatoes on top. Again sprinkle with salt and pepper and remaining shredded cheddar. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated 350℉ oven for 45 minutes, until pie is bubbly and tomato liquid is absorbed. Serve hot, warm or room temperature. Serves 4.
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 water. Set aside. Mix 1-1/2 cups flour with salt and sugar. Add Crisco and mix together to form a shaggy dough. Add water/flour mixture and finish mixing pie dough. It will be very sticky. Chill for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into three equal pieces and roll out each to fit 9-inch pie tin. You may use lots of flour to roll out pie dough. Because the dough is so soft and sticky the extra flour to roll out the dough will not affect the crust. Place in pie tin and flute. Do not overwork. Prepared pie crusts may be frozen if well-wrapped for up to a month.