Say Tomato . . .
devouring—the fruits of summer’s end
upon a time you could press baskets of overripe tomatoes into
service by hurling them at horrible performers, but with the
death (or dearth, I suppose) of live entertainment, that excess
fruit now is relegated to trash or compost.
our house, late summer started with a trickle of ripening
cherry tomatoes, a trickle that soon became a flood. We keep
them in a bowl on a kitchen counter and pop them like candy,
which is what they might as well be classified as, so sweet
and flavorful are the little boogers. But we can’t nibble
them fast enough, so they’re migrating into any number of
Most of which require that they be cut in half, a duty I perform
with a razor-like Japanese chef’s knife. The tomato halves
can be lightly salted and tossed with balsamic vinegar and
chopped fresh basil, which is enjoyable enough right there.
Throw in some fresh mozzarella balls and you’ve got a classic
appetizer—but, as we’re discovering, they can be paired with
plenty else, and much of what I suggest below applies to these
cherries as well as their larger counterparts.
My favorite breakfast is a sauté of halved cherry tomatoes
(salt, pepper, basil and oregano) folded into a dish of scrambled
eggs touched with sharp cheddar. If that sounds too healthful,
throw in some sautéed pepperoni slices.
We planted some standard-issue seedlings early in the summer,
and the bounty from just those few plants has turned spectacular.
The small red balls look like Christmas lights, and not only
are the large tomatoes plump and ripe, they’re also relatively
unmarred by the surface crust that too often grabs hold.
Which means that they look great in salads. One of my favorites
is also the simplest: slice the big ones, halve the slices,
then toss them with thinly sliced Bermuda onion in oil and
vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper and, optionally but
deliciously, basil. To my palate, that basil-tomato pairing
Every dinner I prepare is preceded by the question: How many
of these damn things can I persuade my family to eat tonight?
I use sliced tomatoes in place of melon on a dish that also
includes thin-sliced prosciuto or a similar cured meat. I
served a plate of burgers with sliced tomatoes alongside.
Being in a rush, I grabbed pesto from the fridge, thinned
it with olive oil, and spooned it atop the tomatoes, which
turned it into a stand-alone dish that was consumed quickly.
Any vegetable that crosses the stove now gets its measure
of added tomato. I recently steamed a head’s worth of cauliflower
florets, then gave them a quick sautée with rough-chopped
tomatoes and ponzu, a version of soy sauce that includes lemon
A curry of potatoes and peas got a tomato juice base, while
farfalle with pesto was tossed, at its finish, with a bounty
of red ripe chunks.
Of course, the monarch of summer soups is gazpacho, which
celebrates its variety of fresh ingredients. Tomatoes need
to be peeled for this dish, and there are two methods. Best-known
is the plunge, in which you throw a bunch of tomatoes into
a pot of boiling water long enough to loosen the skin. This
has the undesirable effect of heating the tomatoes too much
for my taste, so I use the singe. Spear the tomatoes, one
by one, on the end of a long-handled fork, and thrust them
into the open flame of a gas stove until they crackle and
the skin starts to blacken and separate. Cool the tomato a
bit and the skin peels off easily—and the tomato remains cool
A purée of gazpacho components is not for me. I’m of the rough-chopped
camp, so I hand-cut the tomatoes, onion, garlic, red and green
peppers and cucumbers. Add chopped fresh cilantro and season
with salt and pepper and cumin. Although the tomatoes you
chop will supply a goodly amount of the liquid, you’ll want
to dedicate several more to juice production alone. Or go
in the other direction: Make it without excess liquid and
serve it as a salad.
For all their culinary ubiquity, tomatoes had a bad rap for
a while. First grown in South America, probably in Peru, they
traveled the world as imperialist explorers literally enjoyed
the fruit of their pickings. They were a big hit in Spain
and Italy in the 16th century, but when they hit England they
were judged poisonous, probably because of their resemblance
to other members of the nightshade family. Not entirely erroneous
logic: You don’t want to nibble the tomato plant’s roots and
A canard that persists is that tomatoes reacted with the pewter
off which many ate their meals back then, leaching lead into
the food and doing in the diner—but lead poisoning takes too
long to indict any single food.
In any event, by the mid-18th century, tomatoes gained enough
of a footing in Great Britain and its colonies to become part
of daily fare by the end of that century.
So, you decided to make the salad version of the gazpacho
and now have all this lovely fresh tomato juice at hand. I
think we know what to do.
In a tall glass, pour about a half a cup of chilled tomato
juice. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add a tablespoon
of Grey Poupon mustard, a couple of dashes of Worcestershire
sauce, a healthy shot of Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste;
add a jigger of vodka and garnish with a fresh celery stalk.
That’s the flavor of summer.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
tenth annual Saratoga Wine and Food Festival
takes place Sept. 10 through 12 at the Saratoga
Performing Arts Center, and features a joint celebration
with the Fall Ferrari Festival. Friday’s big food
event is a 7 PM “Live on Stage” gala replete with
food and wine experts. Day two has a trade tasting
and seminars from 11 to 1, a Grand Tasting and
Ferrari Auto Show immediately thereafter, and
a 7 PM after party. Then there’s Sunday’s 11 AM
jazz brunch, featuring the presentation of “best
in show” a70 wards for automobiles, food and more.
The full package is $250, and various events are
variously priced. For dinners and live on stage
events, call 584-9330, ext. 122; for the Grand
Tasting, call 587-3330 or go to spac.org/tickets.cfm.
. . . The fifth annual Little Italy Streetfest
takes place from noon to 9 PM, Sat., Sept
11., in Schenectady’s Little Italy on North Jay
Street. Singer-actor-winemaker Gianni Russo (of
The Godfather fame) will sign bottles of
his wines at Cornell’s and then sing a set with
the band Happy Daze that evening. The event also
features a homemade wine tasting competition,
an Italian cookie-baking contest, and food from
seven area restaurants, from pasta and pasta fagioli
to panini, pizza, and Italian pastry. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland.