tomatoes

when life gives you eggplants…

Invite friends over for brunch!

So, I didn’t join my neighborhood CSA this year. I didn’t love the quality last summer and wasn’t prepared to make that commitment again.

However, I’ve joined Basis: Good Food to You at the recommendation of a friend, and received my first shipment last Friday. Above, you’ll see too many eggplants for one household to consume in one week. However, my shipment came with a recipe card for “Eggplant Tartare.” Now, I’m not really sure why they called it a tartare–maybe because the finished product is soft and unctuous, earthy and creamy and with the addition of tomatoes and parsley also bright and herbaceous.

The recipe excited me because, while the shipment didn’t come with tomatoes, I’d just made an impulse purchase at Wednesday’s farmer’s market and wanted a fun way to showcase my ground husk tomatoes. Funnily enough, ground husk tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family–same as eggplants, tomatillos, etc. They’re little, not sticky when you peel back the paper and they pop in your mouth with a sweet grape tomato flavor, but as if infused with a tropical pineappley aroma.

To prepare: sear cubed eggplant, unsalted, in plenty of olive oil–don’t crowd the pan (work in batches, people). I used those two striated ones in the pic above. Once they were nicely browned, I salted them & thew them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes–until they were thoroughly soft. Then I tossed in the whole tomatoes–if you use cherries or grapes, you might want to halve them first–and plenty of black pepper. Since I used cast iron, the residual heat cooked the tomatoes just right, softening them, a few popped–I then stirred in a mess of parsley and plated, topped with a poached egg.

Toss back a bloody mary and butter a slice of toast (rustic fig and walnut bread if you’re lucky) and brunch is served.

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have you ever had a tomato?

I totally stole this picture. It's completely gorgeous and I couldn't resist. Click it to see the original. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

Unless you’ve gotten a farm fresh, peak of season one, preferably of an heirloom variety–my wager is that you have not.

Inspired by Season with Reason, and by the smell of ripe tomatoes that smack you in the face when warm days turn into warm nights, I made a sort of panzanella (that’s bread  & tomato salad for you ‘what the what is panzanella?’ lot).

Panzanella is best made with juicy, perfect heirloom tomatoes and leftover rustic bread. But when you have juicy, perfect heirloom tomatoes you can use leftover hot dog buns and it will still be delicious. Which is what I did.

Three hot dog buns, charred on my cast-iron grill, sat to dry out while I whipped up 1T olive oil, 2T sherry vinegar, 1t grainy mustard, 1/2t tomato paste, 2t honey, salt and pepper. Then I tossed in a menagerie of tomatoes either halved, quartered, chopped–whatever needed to happen so that they’d all be roughly the same size. I tossed them with 2T minced cilantro, a chiffonade of baby romaine (about 2 handfuls), and 5 minced calamata olives. Then, I folded in the bread, chopped. A simple, lovely, easy dinner for two: the tomatoes were sweet and tart, the charred bread added a bit of crunch and smokiness while the dressing gave a tang bolstered by the tomato paste that lended a lingering deep tomato flavor to complement the bright, fresh, herbiness of the salad.

But, as Rebecca (of Season with Reason) said, the time for great tomatoes fades fast. So find a farm stand, stat. You’ll thank me.