Tomato Fest Coming and Tomatoes Are Here Now!

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

Let the upcoming Tomato Festival August 22 at Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville be enough inspiration to tell you-It’s Time for all things TOMATO!

 Following in Deborah Madison’s footsteps I decided I would only spend my kitchen gardening time growing abundance-that means those sweet tiny tomatoes. The larger and heirlooms I would leave up to the masters and just purchase at a farm market.

Given our intensely hot, humid weather that was a wise idea as the small tomatoes grow easily if they simply get sunlight and a little water now and then.

No problem finding a multitude of uses for these tiny guys. I always loved to make “Busted Cherry Tomato Sauce” and I have given that recipe on this blog in the past. This season I got into caramelizing them by a quick roasting in the oven. They are doused with olive oil, salt and at the finish tossed with minced garlic and more oil. Store in the refrigerator or add olive oil to cover and freeze. This is a much more efficient method of preserving than canning.

Caramelized Tiny Tomatoes

You see there are just a few ingredients that give the dramatic results. I use these caramelized beauties in and over just about everything. The smaller tomatoes contain more sugar than larger varieties so caramelizing briefly via roasting is very effective. If you freeze them with additional olive oil, you’ll have the fresh tasting tomatoes (which don’t freeze to a brittle chunk) and the flavored olive oil to use in the chilly months.

  • 2 pints cherry or grape small tomatoes, cut in half
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves fresh minced garlic
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the baking rack on the highest position.
Place the halved tomatoes on a flat baking pan. Drizzle with olive and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Remove from oven and while still hot, toss with garlic. Serve at once or let cool before placing in a jar, bowl or crock in the refrigerator.
To freeze: Place the tomatoes in a freezer container and add more olive oil to cover.

Two Tomato Panzanella

Serves 6-8

As simple as this salads looks to be, the various textures are interesting along with the depth of the flavor combinations. This season we see many more duos of different textures of tomatoes-such as caramelized and raw in one dish.

  • 1 1/2 cups tiny caramelized tomatoes (recipe above)
  • 6 heirloom tomatoes, different varieties about 3-inches in diameter, about 2 pounds
  • 2 cups multigrain bread, cut into cubes and lightly toasted
  • 3 sprigs oregano, leaves removed from stem
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 ounces Asiago cheese curls (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar reduction (available at Trader Joe’s and supermarkets)

Place both versions of tomatoes in a big bowl. Add croutons, oregano, basil, olive oil and onions; toss until the ingredients are combined.

Just before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with Asiago curls and balsamic vinegar reduction.

Tomato Tonnato

Serves 6-8

Tonnato is tuna in Italian and this creamy luxurious puree is often served over veal in Italy. However, to keep it simple and summery, it’s super as a dip or in this case, blanketing heirloom tomatoes. Mark Bittman (NY Times) came up with this inspiration.

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 three-ounce can imported tuna packed in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 anchovy fillets, optional
  • 1 fat garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed basil leaves, more for garnish
  • 2 pounds mixed tomatoes, large ones cut in slices, small ones cut in wedges
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Crusty bread, for serving

In a blender, combine olive oil, tuna, mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic and 2 tablespoons basil and purée until creamy.

Lay tomatoes out on a platter and spoon sauce over the tops. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with bread.