Recipes for summer's most colorful fruit.
You say, “Tomato.” I say, “Yeah! Summer is here!”
Take your pick — cherry, plum, vine-ripe, heirloom or a host of other types — for tomatoes are the stars of any Okie’s summer (especially mine!). Big or little, grooved or pear-shaped, striped or solid and with hues spanning the rainbow — green, yellow, pink, orange, purple and classic tomato red. Served raw or cooked, warmed or chilled, tomatoes are by far the seasonal fruits (yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable) of summer, lending themselves to be prepared in a myriad of ways. I’ve given you a selection of my favorites, plus a super-easy tomato sauce for taking advantage of summer’s bounty.
Pappa al pomodoro
This version of Italian tomato-bread soup hails from my favorite little trattoria in Florence, Italy, Il Cibreo. Thickened by adding stale bread to the pot, this tart soup is delicious served cold, room temperature or hot … depending on the weather and your mood.
- 1 pound loaf of crusty, day-old Tuscan bread, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 quart homemade tomato sauce (see below) or one 28-ounce can good-quality crushed tomatoes
- Good pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black
- pepper, to taste
1. Place bread in a bowl and pour cold water over it until soaked through; let sit while preparing soup. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
2. Squeeze the bread with your hands until all water has drained out, break it up and add to the soup along with the garlic. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in basil and remove soup from heat. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Easy tomato sauce
Makes 1 quart
This easy method yields the best fresh tomato sauce — better than anything you can find in the supermarket. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled, depending on how big your harvest, and is ideal to pull out of the pantry for pasta dinners all winter long. You will need a food mill, a cross between a sieve and a food processor, with a hand crank and adjustable disks used to puree fruits, vegetables and sauces to a desired consistency — it is available at most kitchen supply stores.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 celery stalk, halved lengthwise
- 5 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 6 sprigs fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Sea salt, to taste
Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until softened (do not brown). Add carrot, celery, tomatoes and any juices, basil, sugar and a generous pinch of salt. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until all vegetables are very tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove carrot, celery and basil sprigs and pass sauce through a food mill. Season with salt to taste.
Editor’s note: For canning information, visit www.freshpreserving.com.
The perfect tomato sandwich
This is my ultimate summer meal, one thing that I look forward to all winter, and the reason I attempt to grow my own tomatoes! Don’t bother with fancy loaves, bacon or lettuce — in this case, I think plain white bread and homegrown tomatoes make the best sandwich. Have paper towels handy because a good tomato sandwich should drip right down your arm.
- 8 slices white bread
- Mayonnaise, preferably homemade (see recipe below)
- 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spread bread slices generously with mayonnaise. Arrange tomato slices on half of the bread and season well with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread slices and serve.
Makes 3 cups
Homemade mayonnaise tastes nothing like its jarred counterpart — you may never go back! Olive oil gives the mayo a heady kick, but I like to dilute it a bit with a lighter-tasting vegetable oil. Mayonnaise will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to a week.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup light olive oil
- 1 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1. Place eggs, salt and lemon juice in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse until well combined.
2. In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil and the vegetable oil. With the food processor running, pour in the oil mixture in a slow, steady stream. The egg mixture will become thick and creamy.
Editor’s note: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly or anyone whose health is compromised.
Serves 6 to 8
Why limit cobbler to sweet peaches and berries when this savory tomato version serves as the perfect summer dish? Try to resist the urge to eat this straight from the oven, for the tomato filling is best when allowed to cool.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds assorted cherry tomatoes, or chopped large tomatoes
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
- 1 package prepared buttermilk biscuits
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
2. Place tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with flour, salt, sugar, pepper and basil. Add onion mixture and toss to combine. Transfer to a deep 9- or 10-inch pie dish and set aside.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap biscuits from tin and arrange in a single layer over the tomatoes. Brush biscuits with cream and place dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until crust is golden and tomatoes are bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes, covering with foil if biscuits start to brown. Let cool before serving.
Heirloom tomato, peach and corn salad
This fresh salad combines three of my favorite Oklahoma summer favorites — homegrown tomatoes, Porter peaches and Bixby corn. If you are feeling a bit daring, crumble in some good-quality blue cheese, such as the one from Maytag Farms in Iowa. When you use fresh corn, there is no need for cooking.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large peaches (about 1 pound)
- 2 large red tomatoes
- 2 large yellow tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes
- 2 to 3 ears freshly picked sweet corn, kernels cut from cob
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
- 4 ounces blue cheese, optional
1. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Halve and pit peaches. Cut each half into quarters and set aside. Core out stem end of large tomatoes and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange peaches, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and corn on a platter. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with basil leaves and blue cheese, if desired, and serve.
Tomato and goat cheese tart
Serves 4 to 6
Add this quick and easy recipe to your summer repertoire, for your friends and family will be asking for it over and over. For a yummy Mediterranean variation, switch the tomatoes with zucchini, the goat cheese with feta and the basil with oregano.
- 1 package puff pastry, defrosted
- Good extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus some shaved with a vegetable peeler for garnish
- 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves
1. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11-inch-by-11-inch square (save the extra sheet of pastry for another use, or prepare a second tart). Place the pastry on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet, 15 to 20 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, wine and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around the edge of puff pastry. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, staying inside the scored border.
4. Cover pastry with the onion mixture, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a layer of sliced tomatoes over the onions, brush the tomatoes lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper. Finally, scatter the top with shards of Parmesan. Bake until pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- NEVER refrigerate fresh tomatoes! Cold temperatures make the flesh of a tomato pulpy and completely destroy the flavor.
- To enhance their flavor, add a pinch of sugar to tomatoes when cooking them.
- To keep baked or stuffed tomatoes from collapsing, bake in greased muffin tins, which will give them support as they cook.
- Tomato “water,” the clearish liquid that dribbles out of a sliced tomato, can be used as a low-acidity stand-in for lemon juice, and is delicious for marinating fish or chicken.
- Use a sharp serrated knife when slicing tomatoes to avoid tearing apart the skin and flesh.
Scooped-out cherry tomatoes make great edible cups for fish or egg salad, or herbed goat or cream cheese, as an appetizer. Turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain for about 10 minutes before filling.
- Do not use an aluminum pot, pan or utensil when cooking tomatoes. The acid in the tomato reacts unfavorably with the aluminum, making the cooked tomatoes more bitter and fading the color. The acid in the tomatoes also can pit and discolor your aluminum cookware. A nonreactive pan, stainless steel, enamel-coated or glass, should be used instead.