Andy Rooney quote: The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except that you can’t eat it. We should make every effort to make sure this disease, often referred to as “progress” doesn’t spread.
That’s why I grow my own tomatoes. Easy to grow in buckets, you can even throw down a bag of potting soil, split it open and plant tomatoes. I have my favorites, which can change with the last planting. This past year some of my winners were Paul Robeson, Caspian Pink, Dr. Wyche’s yellow and the assorted bumblebee and tiger series from Johnny’s. I still favor Aunt Ruby’s German Green, the true Brandywines and the Missouri Pink Love Apple. So do the tomato hornworms, but that is another story.
In the middle of tomato season one of my favorite go-to quick lunches is a platter of wonderful tomatoes, fresh soft cheese and basil.
A favorite quick “supper” is:
Tomatoes and eggs
Take rather large tomatoes and core them deep enough to hold an egg. Place the tomato in a muffin pan and break the egg in the tomato, season with salt, pepper and butter. Cook in a 350-degree oven until the egg is cooked to your taste.
This simple tomato dish, with variations that abound all over Italy, is an excellent way to use some of the ripest and juiciest ones.
Pomodori al Forno: tomatoes baked with herbs
Enough ripe but still firm tomatoes, halved and placed in bottom of large earthenware casserole
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
5 green onions, thinly sliced
3 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil or more to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or more to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange basil or parsley, mint, onions and garlic around the tomatoes. Then sprinkle the tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until tomatoes are tender but not mushy. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with crusty bread.
Cumin-scented carrot and tomato soup is better when made ahead, either earlier in the day or the day before. So it is a perfect choice when entertaining.
Soupe de Carrottes et Tomates au Cumin
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (some use butter)
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
Pinch of dried thyme or herbs de Provence
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In large saucepan over medium-low heat, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil or butter with sugar and cumin seeds until the vegetables are softened and lightly golden in some places, do not brown, about five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and wine and cook over high heat until it has reduced by half. Add tomatoes, stock, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until carrots are tender.
Cook’s tip: If you don’t have access to really good fresh tomatoes, using a quality canned product is often preferable to pasty hothouse.