by Cynthia Graber
Your baby's all grown up. It's true. Remember when I was little? When I thought raw tomatoes were, to be frank, disgusting? Maybe that was because you weren't yet growing your own, and I had only taken bites of those flavor-free red shiny lumps that masquerade as tomatoes. Or maybe, in a past life, I lived in Colonial America and agreed with the general populace that tomatoes were poison.
Remember back when I was an exchange student in Switzerland, and I crowed to you that I'd forced myself to eat an entire raw tomato stuffed with tuna salad, when I was a guest at someone's house? I was so proud that I'd managed to force it down. Remember that?
How times change. I'm now addicted to these love apples, in all their colors and sizes: tiny ones, voluptuous ones, in flirty yellow, sexy magenta, cheery orange, and refreshing green. I probably shouldn't admit to a favorite (how to choose when they're all so enticing?) but I think I might love Green Zebras best. They have a slight citrusy tang that I can't get enough of. But that doesn't mean I ignore the rest; I bought a deep purplish variety that was perfect for a yoghurt-based gazpacho (recipe to follow).
I've heard farmers say that this summer, full of languid, sunny days, is one of the best for tomatoes in recent memory. So I'm standing by the maxim I told you last year, that a day without a tomato (in season) is a wasted food day.
I'm wasting no time. I just wonder if I can eat enough to satiate my tomato desire. I'm going to have to start freezing: roasting them, cooking some down into sauce, and I hear you can even just chop and freeze uncooked tomatoes to use in future dishes.
And, Mom, you know what else? I'm going to be a judge Monday morning at the Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week kick-off tomato contest on City Hall Plaza. That's right - it's true. I'm going to be judging raw tomatoes.
Like I said, your baby's all grown up.
- Just do it. With olive oil, salt. Maybe some cheese.
- Eat them like the Spanish do: Slice them in perfect rounds on a plate, drizzle a bit of olive oil, and drape oil-packed anchovies over top, one by one, about one or two per piece of tomato.
- My favorite: Tomato toast. Cut thick slices of a tomato. Put on top of bread, and scatter a bit of cheese (cheddar, feta, whatever) on top. Slide into the toaster oven until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are hot. Take it out, sprinkle with salt, some fresh herbs, maybe a drizzle of olive oil. I've discovered that lavender salt (a gift from a friend) tastes sublime with tomato toast.
This might be my favorite soup so far this summer. I adore gazpacho, and I love the creaminess of the soups served in Spain. But that creaminess comes from left-over bread, and I haven't wanted to buy the right bread just to have left-overs. That seemed silly. So I was intrigued by this recipe from the New York Times, which Melissa Clark devised as a cross between a smoothie and gazpacho. It's amazing. I doubled the recipe for a dinner I made for four people. We did have some left-overs, but I slurped those down the next day for lunch. Find the original recipe here, and I'll write it out for you below as well.
- 6 tablespoons grated pecorino romano (for the crisps to crumble on top)
- 2 large tomatoes, about a pound
- 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yoghurt. She suggested sheep's milk, and I used it, and it was great. I'm sure it'll work with regular yoghurt as well
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 12 basil leaves - she says to roughly chop them, but I didn't bother and just threw them in the blender
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts, roughly chopped
- 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste (that's her original amount, I think I just tossed some in)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, more to taste
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2 ice cubes
As I said, I doubled this all. If you do double it, remember that it won't all fit into a blender at the same time.
For the cheese crisps, heat a large skillet (I used cast iron, with a tiny bit of oil on it, or she said you can use a nonstick skillet). Spread about two tablespoons of cheese into a thin layer, and let it brown and crisp up on one side. It should take about a minute. Then flip it over, and let it cook on the other side until equally toasty. My pan was big enough that I could make a few of these at a time. Move them onto a paper town, and keep going until the cheese is all gone. Break the cheese into pieces for serving.
For the soup, put all the remaining ingredients into the blender. Add more salt, or vinegar, or cayenne, as necessary.
Here's what I did for dinner: I put everything except the ice cubes into the blender. My friends arrived. Once we were ready for soup, I went back into the kitchen, and I put the ice cubes in, and whirred everything together until smooth. Then I poured it into bowls and garnished with the cheese crisps. She says to garnish with extra basil and olive oil, and I'm sure that's lovely, but I didn't bother. Everyone asked for seconds.