Tomato Art Festival 2018
August in Middle Tennessee – it is hot and the tomatoes are here! All varieties: sun gold, cherry, roma, heirloom varieties & all are delicious. Locally grown tomatoes have the deepest flavors as they come out of the ground and are sold right away at local farmers' markets. Like most summer produce that is seasonal and locally sourced, tomatoes require very little to turn them into a meal.
The classic tomato sandwich: your white bread, mayo & thick sliced tomatoes. You can dress it up with fancy bread, fresh basil, thin slices of red or Vidalia onions, or add a thick slab of bacon, but for me the simpler the better to taste the essence of summertime in the tomato.
Tomato Gazpacho is a simple cold soup made in a blender, no oven, no heat and barely any chopping. Making this soup a day or two before eating helps the flavors to come together more completely, but if time does not allow, making and eating immediately will do just fine too.
Place chopped tomatoes, peeled cucumber, onion, garlic, spicy pepper, olive oil and vinegar into the blender. Blend until smooth. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt & pepper. A different version would be to puree half of the ingredients in the blender until smooth, the add the other half and blend until coarsely chopped to leave some texture to the vegetables.
Approximate amounts used today at Tomato Art Festival: 4 medium red tomatoes, 1 peeled cucumber, 1 vidalia onion, 1 jalapeno pepper, ½ c olive oil & 2-3 T. of red wine vinegar (champagne, white wine or white can be used as well)
Garnish either version with chopped fresh chives, chopped cucumber, chopped spicy pepper, or a dollop of plain yogurt or cream fraiche.
Pasta & sauce, sauce for pizza or the base for a white bean soup all start with a simple tomato sauce. Using a large skillet, place olive in the pan to coat at medium high heat. Add to that 1-2 onions that have been finely chopped, 2-3 garlic cloves chopped roughly, fresh oregano & a bay leaf. Saute until onions are translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Time is less important than looking at the onions for their color as each skillet reacts differently to heat & each person's stove set to medium high heat is slightly different. Once the onions are clear, add the tomato paste, abut 2-3 tablespoons, and incorporate completely into the onion & herb mixture. Add the chopped tomatoes, 3-4 pounds. These can be roughly chopped and use a variety or just one type. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour or until sauce has thickened.
For both recipes, I do not peel or seed my tomatoes, rather use them as they are. As well, both recipes can be made in bulk, frozen and saved for future meals. Another option for tomato season is to quarter tomatoes and place in a freezer bag with basil and/or garlic cloves. This can be defrosted and used for soups or sauce. These are wonderful ways to get the taste of summer in the winter.