Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Fest 2010: Week 5 -- Tomatoes

Finally! It's tomato week for Summer Fest 2010! And in San Diego it's only appropriate that we've kept this for last because until now this has been a weirdly overcast and chilly summer. Last week, the weather finally broke and we're in full-fledged schvitzy heat wave. Which means, of course, that tomatoes are finally ripening. Our gardens and the farmers markets are now filled with the gorgeous fruit (which actually is legally a vegetable, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling back in 1893 -- don't ask; it has to do with taxes of all things).

So, now we've got a bumper crop of tomatoes just like the rest of the country. The question is what to do with this bounty. In my kitchen, the biggest and ugliest of the heirlooms get sliced up,  then sprinkled with Tajin and olive oil, and eaten. They're the most delicious and deserve to be devoured in their most natural state.

Back in July, I was invited to join in a tomato picking and canning party at a friend's house. Michelle  has a stunning garden and went crazy planting tomatoes. Despite the funky weather, we got quite a haul (see the photo above), including this crazy green heirloom that looked like three conjoined tomatoes.

Michelle doted on that heirloom for much of the afternoon until we finally consigned it to a platter, in slices with salt, pepper, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.

In the meantime, I made a Tomato Tarte Tatin for our group from a Melissa Clark recipe I'd been wanting to try for a long time. You can find it here in her New York Times column. The vinegar, the kalamata olives, the caramelized red onions combined with fresh cherry tomatoes just off the vine? It's swoonable.

Just be very careful with the skillet you've had in that 425-degree oven. Instead of covering the blazing hot handle with a towel when it was pulled out of the oven and onto the stove, I instinctively reached for the naked handle to move the skillet and got quite a bad burn on my hand. It's fine now, but I'm just saying...

When it gets too hot to cook, my go-to summer recipe -- particularly for dinner parties -- is my mom's gazpacho. I've been making this for years. It's really a chopped garden in a bowl and easy to make. So easy and so quick, in fact, that I've now made it several times with the kids and some adults at Olivewood Gardens in our breakneck 25-minute classes. This, along with my corn tortillas with pressed flowers, has become something of an institution already. This is why:

And all it is is a whole variety of veggies, combined with broth, V8 juice, and a few other ingredients -- really whatever you have. For Olivewood Gardens, it means tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, peppers, garlic, green onions, radishes, and herbs -- all from their garden.

Evie's Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 8 – 10

5 - 8 large tomatoes, quartered
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ English cucumber, roughly chopped
1 or 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 scallions, roughly chopped
6 - 8 radishes, roughly chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and chopped
½ bunch parsley with major stems removed and/or 1 bunch cilantro
2 tbls lime juice
2-6 tbls red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 regular-sized can beef broth
1 can low-salt V-8 juice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned – if fresh is unavailable, I like the frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s)
1 pound pre-cooked bay shrimp, lump crab or cooked chunks of chicken or pork
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Pull out the food processor and a very large bowl. Process each of the vegetables until the pieces are small -- but before they're pureed -- and add to the bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the proteins and dairy, which I keep on the table separately for guests to add as they wish. Refrigerate until cold and then adjust seasonings to taste. Top when serving with sour cream or Mexican crema. Serve with fresh tortillas or even hearty sourdough bread.

To make the flowered corn tortillas, simply prepare the masa according to the directions on the package (water, masa, and salt). Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. On your tortilla press, lay an edible flower (we've used nasturtiums, pansies, society garlic, and the flowers of herbs that bolted) right side down. Then put the dough ball on top of the flower and press.

Place the uncooked tortilla flower side up on a hot skillet. When the edges curl, flip it over and cook just a minute or so more. That's it. The kids love this. It looks cool and they were shocked that they could actually eat flowers!

So, let's see what the rest of the Summer Fest 2010 folks are cooking this week:

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: Heirloom Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust

Nicole at Pinch My Salt: What to do with slow-roasted tomatoes

Alison at Food2: Heirloom tomatoes

The FN Dish: Tyler's Ultimate Tomato Salads

Margaret at A Way to Garden: More than one way to ripen a tomato

Gilded Fork: Celebrating summer lusciousness with a tomato dossier and recipes

Diane and Todd at White on Rice Couple: Sun-dried tomatoes (actually made in the sun!)

Paige at The Sister Project: 3 substantial, healthy, vegetarian tomatoey main dishes

Liz at the Cooking Channel: Easy Tomato Tart

Kelly at Just a Taste: Tomato Jam

Alexis at Food Network UK: The seven deadly tomato sins

Michelle at Healthy Eats: Top 10 Things to Do With Tomatoes

Marilyn at Simmer Till Done: Cherry Tomatoes and Maytag Blue Beignets

Alana of Eating From the Ground Up: Roasted Green Salsa

Tigress of Tigress in a Pickle: Over 50 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes in Jars

Judy of Divina Cucuina: Tomatoes the Italian Way

Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Savory Tomato Crumble

Now It's Your Turn!
This collaborative effort won't be much fun without you! The more info we all give, the more we'll all enjoy summer's harvest. Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays through 8/25 and possibly longer, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.
  • Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
  • Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog any upcoming Wednesday, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and then we're all cooking with some great ideas. Or go big: Publish entire posts of your own if you wish, and grab the big red tomato Summer Fest 2010 badge above (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites). We'll also be tweeting using #summerfood as our hashtag. Here's the schedule:
  • 7/28: cukesnzukes
  • 8/4: corn
  • 8/11: herbs, greens, and beans
  • 8/18: stone fruit
  • 8/25 tomatoes
  • more to come if we all want it — stay tuned!
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