Seasonal Goodness

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Seasonal Goodness

Before I get to the real subject of this post (tomatoes), I wanted to mention the wonderful St. Libory, Nebraska melons. They are the best and have just now come into season. My dear friend, Rose (her husband is a 2nd generation melon farmer), who had no idea I was writing about seasonal goodness today, stopped by with melons for me. I am so blessed by her kindness. We will enjoy every morsel. Thanks, Rose!
Now, on to the main event, lol!


In my world, there's no such thing as too many tomatoes. I cannot get enough of them when they are in season. Once tomato season is over, I’m hard pressed to buy them because they simply don’t taste like tomatoes. Because of that, I try to preserve some of that summer goodness for the dreary days of winter. Tomatoes show up in all sizes, colors and varieties these days. We have especially enjoyed the varied heirloom tomatoes that are now available although I have to either grow them myself or, if I’m lucky, find them at the Farmer’s Market.

Here are a few ideas to get the most of the season's bounty:

My favorites include BLT’s (they appear often for lunches and suppers in late supper) and sliced tomatoes on toast (my all time favorite breakfast).

Use sliced (or diced or wedged, etc.) tomatoes in omelettes, risotto, quiches, salads and on pizza, sandwiches and just on a plate with a little pepper.

Make bruschetta, salsa, gazpacho, stuffed-tomatoes (either baked or caprise), tomato salads, tomato soup, etc.

For preserving, the obvious choice is to can or freeze them. Home-canned tomatoes are wonderful. But don’t stop there. You can also can/freeze tomato juice, homemade ketchup, chili sauce, marinera sauce, salsa, tomato jam, tomato soup, etc.

A couple more ways I like to preserve that wonderful tomato flavor is to make:

Roasted Tomatoes:
Core tomatoes; cut round ones in half horizontally; cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet, cut sides up. Drizzle with ¼ - ½ cup of good olive oil and a slight sprinkling of sea salt. Roast in a 250°F oven for 1-2 hours. Cool and refrigerate along with the oil. These freeze well and are a great addition to sauces, salsas and pizza. Use the oil for dipping bread into.

Dried Tomatoes:
I “sun-dried” tomatoes years ago and decided it was more trouble than it was worth. After all, all dried tomatoes pretty much taste the same, sun or no sun. Now I either use a dehydrator or if I have tons, I use my oven. I also stick with Roma type tomatoes. Very meaty and less moisture to dehydrate. Just cut in half, sprinkle with a tad of sea salt and dry in a low oven (I set mine on the “warm” setting), watching that they don’t brown. Store in the freezer.

When all else fails, pick them green and make fried green tomatoes!

Below is a recipe for a Tomato Tart this is out of this world good.

Roasted Garlic Tomato Tart

1 head garlic
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese
ripe tomatoes (about 4), sliced 1/4 inch thick (use different colored ones if you have them)
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves
Pastry for a single pie

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast the garlic with 1 tbsp of oil in a foil package for about 45 minutes. Garlic will be golden brown and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside.

Rise oven temp. to 450'F. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out of their skins and mash them in a a bowl, set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out your pastry dough to a 13 inch round, about 1/8 thick. Fit the dough into a 10 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom, pressing the edges. Using a rolling pin or a sharp pairing knife, trim the dough flush with the top edge of the tart pan; chill tart shell until firm, about 30 min. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can do this rustic fashioned. Just roll out, and assemble as below, keeping the ingredients in the center 2/3rds. Fold over edges and bake as instructed.

Spread roasted garlic on the bottom of tart shell. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese. Arrange tomato slices in a overlapping circular pattern on top of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and drizzle with 2 tbsp oil.

Reduce oven temp. to 425°F and bake for 45-55 minutes. Tomatoes should be soft but still hold their shape. Cool for 20 minutes, sprinkle with torn basil leaves.