Friday, August 11, 2006

The Love-Apple Season

Well, my friends, it has begun. The time that all gardeners dream about in the longest, darkest days of January, what we imagine when we start those little seeds under grow lights in February and when we're transplanting them in March. It's the payoff that keeps us rototilling and digging in April, planting, planting, and more planting throughout May and even into June, and then there's the incessant watering and weeding for two more months until the first blush appears on the (literal) fruits of one's labor. And then? THE DELUGE! When they come, they come hard and fast like quintuplets at 32 weeks (ok, I confess...tonight finds me sucked into the Discovery Health Channel and a multiples marathon!).

So once you've had those gorgeous, fresh, garden-ripe tomatoes every way that you can think of. and there's still a ton more cluttering up your counters and windowsills, what then will you do? Turn to Lindsey's Luscious, of course, for a few more great tomato recipes!

My absolute favorite way to eat garden tomatoes is to make bruschetta. Truly, we have it for a pre-function before dinner almost every night during the high holy season (August-September). I can't even offer a proper recipe, but I will share general guidelines. First, acquire a delicious baguette. Slice it up and brush one side of each slice with some olive oil, then broil until golden-to-caramel-brown. Finally, rub each slice vigorously with a cut garlic clove. (Ok, cheaters and corner-cutters, listen up. Second-best choice for bruschetta-bearing vessels are Nonni's Garlic Parmesan Panetini. I like to buy mammoth bags of them at Costco.) For the bruschetta itself, dice a couple-to-few pounds of tomatoes then drain for a bit in a colander or strainer. When most of the excess juice is drained, add the tomatoes back to a bowl, coat them with a few swirls of olive oil, a good splash or two of balsamic vinegar, at least two cloves of garlic, finely minced, salt and pepper to taste, and at least one fresh herb of your choice, finely chopped--basil is traditional, but I prefer thyme, especially my favorite, lime thyme. Serve on the garlic toasts. (Remember the Lindsey's Luscious motto: NEVER too much garlic!)

My second favorite thing to make during the tomato rush is an absolutely delectable tomato tart. It is so elegant and quite the showstopper when shared with guests, and yet, it's really quite easy. Again, I offer a basic methodology. Prepare a pie crust according to your favorite recipe (or even one of those prepared refrigerator-types). For this, I really love the very short pastry from The Greens Cookbook that is the base of another beloved recipe, their leek and mustard pie, but we'll save that recipe for another day. Pre-bake the crust of your choice it in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes (covered in tin foil or parchment and lined with weights/dry beans). Remove the beans and the foil or parchment and smear a goodly amount of pesto (homemade from the bounty of your herb garden, naturally, but if you must, use some from a jar--Classico brand is pretty good) in the bottom of the crust, then add a generous layer of shredded aurrechio cheese on top of that (a sharp/aged provolone, but mozzarella would be fine, too--ooh, or fontina would be yummy). Then place thick slices of tomatoes that have been drained on paper towels for an hour or so on top of the cheese, arranging and fitting them to completely cover, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Bake the tart for a half an hour in a 350 degree oven. Serve hot or even at room temperature (if you can wait that long!). Look at it! Is it not the most gorgeous thing?? And wait until you taste it! Heaven, sheer heaven!

Lastly, I offer a fairly simple but scrumptious recipe for homemade Cream of Tomato soup. This can be made with canned tomatoes in the off-season, but in the late summer and fall, I recommend that you use fresh tomatoes and roast them. Place two or three pounds of tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the outer skins are caramelized and the tomatoes are soft. Then proceed with the following recipe, substituting the roasted tomatoes for the canned ones:

Creamy Tomato Soup
(Source: How to Boil Water)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 slice bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
3 parsley sprigs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the pan. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Tie the parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Remove and discard the herb bundle. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth (I used my stick blender instead!). Return the puree to the pot and reheat over medium heat. Whisk in the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, to taste. Divide among warm soup bowls and serve immediately.

No comments: