Thursday, September 10, 2009

LA TIMES: 30 days of ripe tomatoes

1 Pa' amb tomaquetPa' amb tomaquet: Split a baguette in half and cut it into 4- to 5-inch lengths. Toast the bread and while it is still hot, rub the cut side with a cut clove of garlic. Rub half of a seeded tomato against the bread, cut side to cut side, as if you were polishing the bread with the tomato. The bread will absorb a lot of tomato juice and soften slightly but stay crisp around the crust. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season to taste with salt.

2 Pasta with fresh tomatoes: Pasta with fresh tomatoes: Cut cherry tomatoes in half and season with salt, pepper, olive oil, a little red wine vinegar and minced garlic and a pinch of dried red chile flakes. Cook bucatini, penne or another chewy dried pasta until tender. While the pasta is still steaming hot, dump it over the tomatoes. Stir quickly so the hot pasta will lightly cook the tomatoes. Stir in a bit more olive oil or, if you prefer, some fresh goat cheese, which will melt into the pasta.

3 Pasta with quickly cooked tomatoes (true marinara): Pasta with quickly cooked tomatoes (true marinara): Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté a whole peeled garlic clove until lightly browned. Add peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes and cook until they begin to melt into a sauce. Cook spaghetti or another long dried pasta and when it is almost tender, add it to the tomatoes along with a ladle of the cooking water. Increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Remove the garlic clove, sprinkle with shredded basil, and serve.

4 Pasta with tomato sauce: Pasta with tomato sauce: Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat with minced garlic and diced carrots, celery and onion (half as much carrots and celery as onion). When the vegetables start to soften and turn color, add peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes) and cook until they've thoroughly melted into a sauce. Pass the mixture through a food mill (or purée in a food processor) and return to the skillet. Serve with fettuccine or another fresh pasta topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

5 Tomato butter: Tomato butter: Heat a stick of butter in a skillet with minced shallots and torn fresh tarragon. Cut cherry tomatoes in quarters and put them in a mixing bowl with salt to taste. If the tomatoes lack acidity, stir in a bit of red wine vinegar. When the shallots have softened, pour the butter into the tomatoes, stirring briskly to break up the tomatoes. Serve this over grilled or sautéed fish or gnocchi.

6 Tomato and white bean salad: Tomato and white bean salad: Halve cherry tomatoes and put them in a mixing bowl with minced garlic and capers. Season with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. Set aside for a half-hour to macerate. In another mixing bowl, combine a can of rinsed, drained white beans and some slivered red onion. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Top with slivered basil. To make this a light main course, stir in a drained can of good-quality tuna.

7 True gazpacho: True gazpacho: Soak bread in water to soften. Purée the bread and a clove of garlic in a blender until smooth. Add seeded, chopped tomatoes, a little peeled, chopped cucumber and a little seeded bell pepper and purée. Season with salt, white wine vinegar, a little cumin and either a little black pepper or smoked paprika. With the blender running, add olive oil in a stream until the mixture turns from bright red to orange. Pour the mixture into a bowl and whisk in just enough ice water to make a lightly creamy texture. Chill until ready to serve.

8 Crostini with goat cheese and tomatoes: Crostini with goat cheese and tomatoes: Cut a baguette in 1/2 -inch slices and place them on a cookie sheet. Toast at 400 degrees, turning once, until they are well-browned on both sides, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately rub each slice lightly with cut garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle seeded, diced tomatoes with salt and pepper and just enough olive oil to barely moisten. Spread the crostini with fresh goat cheese and top with a generous spoonful of the diced tomatoes. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

9 Tomato salad with pickled shallots and goat cheese croutons: Tomato salad with pickled shallots and goat cheese croutons: Slice a couple of shallots thin and cover them in a bowl with red wine vinegar to pickle for a half-hour or so. Cut tomatoes (a mix of colors and shapes is best) in thick slices and season them with salt, pepper, olive oil and the strained vinegar from the shallots. Spread crostini (No. 8) with fresh goat cheese. Arrange the salad in a low mound on a platter with the goat cheese crostini around the outside. Scatter the pickled shallots over top.

10 Tomato summer pudding: Tomato summer pudding: This is adapted from Judy Rodgers' "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook." Make a highly seasoned tomato salad (see No. 9). Oil a soufflé dish and arrange a solid layer of crostini (No. 8) in the bottom. Spoon some tomato salad over that. Arrange another layer of crostini and spoon in more tomatoes. Repeat until all of the tomatoes are used, finishing with a layer of tomatoes. Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top and place a plate just big enough to fit inside the soufflé dish. Weight the plate to compress the ingredients (a can of tomatoes works well!), and set aside until the crostini are well soaked with tomato juice, one to two hours.

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