Cooking Cove: Summer tomatoes are here!

Cooking Cove: Summer tomatoes are here!

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By Barbara Beltrami

I think if my husband and I had a family crest it would be the tomato! They are as necessary a staple as flour, sugar, or salt; as indispensable as onions, carrots or celery for the foundation of so many recipes and menus.

In the winter we have to rely on canned San Marzano tomatoes and fresh camparis, but come May we stick a variety of plants in patio pots and lovingly fertilize, water and stake them. By August we are happily picking a few a day but they’re not nearly enough to satisfy our tomato appetites nor do many even make it to the table because we eat them while they’re still warm from the sun. So we supplement our modest little crop with field tomatoes from the farm stand.

Although we sometimes chop them into a fresh tomato sauce for pasta or sauté them with other summer vegetables, most often we just slice them, top them with fresh basil or parsley or scallions, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle them with olive oil and enjoy their exquisite flavor. Or sometimes, we take just one of our nice ripe tomatoes, cut it in half and rub it on toasted slices of rustic bread with a little shot of extra virgin olive oil for good measure.

Cherry Tomato Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pastry crust

3 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/4cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, bruised and chopped

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1/2 cup extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line bottom and sides of tart pan with pastry crust; cut to make even with top edge; gently pat a piece of foil on top of crust and spread pie weights over it. Meanwhile in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme, basil, and salt and pepper and garlic. Spread the mixture with the tomatoes, cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until tomatoes blister and dry up a little, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, set tomatoes on paper towels and blot to remove excess liquid. Bake pie shell in preheated oven until set, about 30 to 35 minutes; remove pie weights and foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until golden. In small bowl, mix the sour cream and mustard, then spread on pie crust; sprinkle with cheese. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, in two layers; add salt and pepper between layers. Bake until tomatoes just start to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a green salad.

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound penne or similar size pasta

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

6 to 8 fresh Roma tomatoes diced

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in medium-large skillet warm oil over medium heat; add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic releases its aroma, about 30 seconds; add tomatoes, stirring frequently, and cook until barely softened, about one minute. In large bowl toss tomatoes with basil, hot pasta and salt. Serve hot or let cool to room temperature and serve with an arugula salad.

Greek Tomato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 pounds ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings

1 green bell pepper, peeled, seeded, julienned

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 ounces feta cheese, broken into chunks

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Wash, core and slice tomatoes 1/4” thick and arrange on a platter. Scatter onion, pepper and cucumber over tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper; let sit 15 minutes; scatter feta cheese and dill and douse with olive oil.  Serve at room temperature with toasted pita and hummus.

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