Post # 16 Tomatoes In A Different Way

July 6, 2012 at 9:11 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s summer.  It’s a hot summer.  Outside, even the sidewalks are melting.  The best part of a hot summer is that vegetables grow quicker and ripen faster.  The best part of that is fresh, vine ripened tomatoes.  I’ve met a few people who don’t like tomatoes, but I don’t hold this neurotic eccentricity against them.  I usually just make sure they have toys to play with quietly in the corner.  When they venture an opinion, I keep in mind their totally unjust and un-American bias toward that best of all fruits.

First, yes, the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable.  Everyone knows that; everyone accepts that; let’s just be done with it.  It’s a fruit.  It gets treated like a vegetable and that’s the end of the discussion.

When selecting a tomato from the produce section at your store, or from your garden if you’re lucky enough to have a garden with tomato plants in it, the first thing you want to look for is the color.  A red tomato should be fully red.  There should be no green or orange tinges to that tomato at all.  Same for those tomatoes that are ripe but a different color, ie, yellow tomatoes should be fully yellow, etc.  The fruit should feel firm but slightly giving.  The softer a tomato is, the riper it will be, and the shorter amount of time it will last in your home before going bad.  Very soft tomatoes should be used in soups and stews.  Firmer tomatoes should be used in salads, sauces, and garnishes.  Finally, smell the tomato.  It should smell like a tomato and make your mouth water in anticipation.  Always remember, when storing tomatoes cold will stop the ripening process.  If you need them more ripe than when you got them, keep them out of the refrigerator.  Chill them only when you need to if you need them riper.

During summer, there’s very little that’s better than a good chilled salad, either as the whole meal, or as a side with a meal.  Salads can be made up of garden vegetables, or various fruit, or different pastas and cheeses.  Salads are as varied as the number of chefs preparing them.  Tomatoes feature in most salads because of their color and remarkable flavor.  Typically, tomatoes are cut into chunks or wedges and tossed with the other ingredients.  It creates a bowl full of good stuff.  Dressed and chilled, it’s a horizontal (or nearly so) dish of goodness.

Now let’s think in a couple of different ways.   Have you ever stacked a salad?  You can layer the salad ingredients in between slices of chilled tomato and dress each layer individually, or the salad as a whole.  The components of a classic caprese salad (pic 1) lend themselves to stacking quite well.  Take a ripe tomato.  Slice a very thin section from the bottom so it had a level base to stand on.  Then slice the tomato across its width into several equal slices of whatever thickness you like.  Slice mozzarella cheese in thin slices and select several whole leaves of basil.  Stack the layers together starting with the tomato (pic 2).  Dress with good quality olive oil and your favorite vinegar.  Or dress with whatever else is your favorite salad dressing.  You can subsitute or add different vegetables in the layers.  Grilled eggplant is excellent in a stacked salad.  Be careful not to stack too high or you run the risk of it toppling over.  However, this can be avoided with the used of decorative skewers such as a lemon grass spear or large toothpick.

Another great way to serve a tomato is stuffed.  In many stuffed tomatoes, the top is cut off, the insides are scooped out and discarded, and something is put into the tomato.  Sometimes it’s cooked and sometimes not, depending on what the filler is.  My favorite way to make a stuffed tomato is slightly different.  I love the stuff inside a tomato.  It’s juicy, tasty, and refreshing.  I consider it the best part of the fruit.  What I do is make a good cold meat-based salad such as tuna or chicken.  I make the salad as flavorful as possible.   Then I take  a few very ripe and chilled tomatoes and slice them into wedges.  I don’t slice all the way through the bottom of the tomato so they are still attached at the bottom.  I put the tomatoes in salad bowls and spread out the wedges, salting them very lightly.  Then I put a scoop of cold salad in the center and gently press down, spreading the salad into the spaces between the wedges (pic 3).  Then you just serve with your favorite garnish.  Good stuff!


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