Monday, August 6, 2007


And, so I waited. Finally, after a year of insulting mealy, flat tasting spheres the true thing has arrived. As, I mentioned with peaches (July 24 entry) I cannot eat a tomato that is not grown locally. Once they are put in their refrigerated trailer-home, to make the long distance journey to your generic market, the enzyme that facilitates ripening is rendered inert. And, since they are harvested under-ripe they never deliver the sweet, juicy pleasure that has allowed this vegetable to conquer the kitchens around the world.

Probably a native of South America early explorers found it being cultivated in Central America and the Caribbean, and from there their global voyage began. Initially, the northern Europeans thought this versatile vegetable poisonous as its distant European cousin, belladonna another nightshade plant, was toxic. It is thought the Italians were the first to brave the possibilities of sickness to discover the sensuous, tender delight of the tomato.

There is one particular variety I crave, pine for and wait (sometimes not so patiently) for – Aunt Ruby. This German variety is large and misshapened not what we would consider a conventional beauty, but as the adage goes – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And my eye holds her dearly. She is a green tomato that can weigh in excess of a pound, and when she is ripe her bottom blushes crimson expressing an endearing humility while similtanstly, coquettishly signaling she’s ready. The interior is dense with enough juice to satisfy the driest of mouths. My desire for he is great but simple – sliced, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil.

Though don’t just stop there try ever oddly shaped and colored tomato your find. When ripe the tomato will have a gentle give to its flesh, and if variegated its strip should be orange, red or deep yellow. Don’t refrigerate them unless they are absolutely ripe. I take ripe ones, and place them in freezer bags, whole, for a winter long supply of August sunshine. These squirreled away tomatoes replace any canned tomato that is called for all winter long – use them in soups, stews and sauces, and see if the Italian canned version stills holds the number one spot.

Yellow Gazpacho - yields 8 to 10 servings

6 yellow beefsteak tomatoes (approximately 1 3/4 pounds)
4 ribs celery - diced
6 scallions - diced
1 large cucumber - cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed; diced
1 medium red onion - finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves - roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves - chopped
1 to 3 Serrano chilies - seeds discard and finely diced
1 lime - juiced (about 1/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves - crushed to a paste
2 tablespoons sherry or raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tomatoes in half through its circumference to expose the seed pocket. Gently squeeze the seeds and pulp in a strainer. Push down on the seeds and pulp catching the juice in a large bowl. Discard the seeds. Dice the remaining tomatoes meat, and add all the ingredients into the strained tomato juice. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper as well as additional lime juice or a shot or two of Tabasco sauce. Serve iced cold with a dollop plain yogurt or sour cream.

This soup has about a two day shelf life.

Whole Wheat Berry Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings

1-1/2 cups wheat berries - uncooked
6 Roma tomatoes - quartered
1 Heart of Celery - diced
1 small red onion - diced
1 English hothouse cucumber - pulp scooped out and diced
2 tablespoons mint - chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsely leaves
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the wheat berries to a boil over a high heat in 6 cups of water; then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the wheat berries for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off any excess water, and cool.
Remove the pulp from the tomatoes, and push the pulp through a sieve to collect the juice. Discard the seeds. Dice the tomatoes. Mix the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, celery, onion, cucumber, mint, parsley, vinegar, oil and berries together. Season the salad with salt and pepper. Serve the salad at room temperature.

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