friend once told me that his favorite food is a perfect,
ripe tomato. Itís hard to argue with that. A tomato has it
all: a startling amount of flavor packed into a drop-dead
gorgeous package. Soft, but not too soft. Firm, but not too
firm. Just juicy enough. And when cooked, it goes great with
spaghetti. For that matter, you donít have to cook
tomatoes for them to go great with spaghetti.
dicing one raw, tossing it with olive oil, red wine vinegar
and balsamic vinegar, and serving it with basil leaves over
are perhaps best enjoyed in very near their purest form: in
a tomato sandwich. Popular throughout the Southeast, tomato
sandwiches are a couple of slices of juicy tomatoes and a
slice of sweet onion on squishy white bread (such as Wonder
Bread) slathered with plenty of mayonnaise and seasoned with
salt and pepper.
bread has to be squishy to soak up the juice and to provide
a subtle sweetness to balance the tomatoesí acidity. And
to be appreciated to its fullest extent, the sandwich should
most properly be eaten while standing at the sink. Trust me,
it tastes better that way.
tomato recipes are just as good, but before we get to them
we first have to clear up something. Yes, a tomato is
technically a fruit. It has seeds. It comes from a flower.
Therefore, it is a fruit.
letís face it. You donít put it in a fruit salad. You
donít serve it with whipped cream for dessert. You donít
put it in a smoothie with pineapples and mangoes.
you slice it and stick it on top of a hamburger. For all
intents and purposes, a tomato is a vegetable.
put it in a tart. But not a sweet tart; that would be the
sort of a tart you would make with a fruit fruit, instead of
a vegetable fruit.
was marvelous, well worth serving to company. Admittedly, it
took a bit of work because I made my own crust (and to be
perfectly frank, I made my own crust twice because I am not
notably deft at making crusts or, apparently, following
directions). But it was well worth the time and effort. Even
the two crustsí worth of effort.
tart combines a small amount of shredded Gruyere cheese and
Dijon mustard, which is topped with rounds of tomatoes and
slices of camembert cheese. But I couldnít find the
camembert at two stores, so I just gave up and used brie.
way, it was wonderful. You canít go wrong with brie.
as wonderful was the big batch I made of tomato soup.
Naturally, youíd think that any soup made with fresh
tomatoes would have a particularly fresh taste, but everyone
who tried this version was amazed at just how fresh a taste
so good, a grilled cheese sandwich next to it would feel
appear to be three main reasons why this tomato soup is so
stunning. The first, of course, is the fresh tomatoes, and
lots of them ó I used 8 to make 10 cups of soup. The
second is the use of a lot of onion and a few cloves, giving
unexpected depth as a counterpoint to the brightness of the
the third reason is that it uses a roux. Nothing like a
hearty infusion of fat, carbohydrates and calories to pep up
a soup. You donít taste the roux, and the soup does not
even seem all that rich. But it tastes so much better than
ordinary tomato soup, and Iím guessing the difference is
making two dishes that required some work, I turned my
attention to a fast and easy side dish that brings out the
best in a tomato.
have long known that tomatoes and balsamic vinegar are a
natural pair, like gin and tonic or like chocolate and
bananas. With this dish, you just sautť wedges of tomato in
butter until they start to soften, and then add balsamic
vinegar and some minced shallot. The vinegar blends with the
butter ó and tomato juices ó to form a rich glaze that
is not too sweet.
tomato slices still taste fresh and vibrant, but they are
tempered by the balsamic vinegar. Itís an elegant dish
that takes almost no work to make.
finally I made Moroccan stuffed tomatoes, which are simply
tomatoes that are stuffed with cooked rice, then topped with
a Moroccan sauce called chermoula, finished with bread
crumbs and then baked.
the chermoula that makes the dish. It is an intriguing
sauce, often used as a marinade, that I had not heard of
this: Mashed garlic blended with cilantro and parsley,
spiced with a bit of paprika, cumin and cayenne, all
immersed in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice.
used with fish, chermoula also goes well with vegetables,
particularly sweet vegetables such carrots and beets.
vegetables. In other words, vegetables that are like fruit.
No wonder they are perfect with a tomato.
the tart dough
tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into
salt and black pepper
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
tablespoons ice-cold water
tablespoon Dijon mustard
cup grated Gruyere cheese
tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices, seeds removed
ounces camembert or brie cheese, sliced into 1/8-inch strips
cup extra-virgin olive oil
tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
clove garlic, finely chopped
the dough: Combine the flour, butter and some salt and
pepper using a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture
resembles coarse meal. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the oil and
the water just until the bottom of the mixture begins to
cling together. If necessary, add 1 more tablespoon of oil.
Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap
the disc in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
the tart: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the chilled
dough into a 14-inch circle and place into a 12-inch tart
pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Chill in the
refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Spread mustard over the bottom of the tart shell. Sprinkle
the Gruyere evenly over the mustard and alternately place
the tomato and camembert or brie slices over the Gruyere.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes.
While the tart is baking, mix together the olive oil, basil,
parsley, thyme and garlic in a small bowl. When the tart has
baked for 30 minutes, brush the top of it with 3 to 4
tablespoons of this mixture and return to the oven to bake
an additional 5 minutes. Reserve the rest of the oil mixture
for future use.
Allow the tart to cool briefly before serving. Serve warm.
serving: 533 calories; 37 g fat; 17 g saturated fat; 69 mg
cholesterol; 12 g protein; 38 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 252 mg sodium; 168 mg calcium.
adapted from Bobby Flay, via the Food Network
medium firm, ripe tomatoes
cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
cup finely chopped cilantro
cup finely chopped parsley
teaspoons sweet paprika
teaspoon ground cumin
cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
of 2 large lemons
cooked rice (from 1/2 cup uncooked rice)
cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a gratin dish or
baking dish (do not use aluminum, which may pit and give the
tomatoes a metallic taste). Cut the tomatoes in half around
their equators and gently remove the seeds with your
make the chermoula, a Moroccan sauce, pound the garlic with
the salt in a mortar until smooth. Add the cilantro and
parsley and pound a little more to bruise the leaves and
release their flavor (if you donít have a large enough
pestle, transfer to a bowl and lightly pound with the mortar
or a wooden spoon). Stir in the paprika, cumin, cayenne,
olive oil and lemon juice.
Fill the tomatoes with the rice and spoon the chermoula over
the top. Alternatively, mix the rice and chermoula together
and fill the tomatoes with that mixture. Place in the gratin
dish and sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the top. Drizzle
with more olive oil and bake 30 minutes. The tomatoes will
be soft, so remove them carefully from the dish.
serving: 561 calories; 16 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no
cholesterol; 10 g protein; 94 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 4 g
fiber; 646 mg sodium; 72 mg calcium.
adapted from "The New Vegetarian Cooking for
Everyone," by Deborah Madison
GLAZED WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR
pounds ripe but firm tomatoes
tablespoons balsamic vinegar
plump shallot, finely diced
and black pepper
Core the tomatoes, then cut them into wedges about 1 1/2
inches across at the widest point.
a skillet large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single
layer, heat the butter until it foams. Add the tomatoes and
sautť over high heat, turning them over several times,
until their color begins to dull, about 3 minutes. Add the
vinegar and shallot and shake the pan back and forth until
the vinegar has reduced, leaving a dark, thick sauce. Season
with salt and plenty of pepper.
serving: 93 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg
cholesterol; 2 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 12 mg sodium; 22 mg calcium.
from "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by
FRESH TOMATO SOUP
5 (2-cup) servings
chopped fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, about 8 medium
large onion or 2 small onions, sliced
clove garlic, crushed
sprig fresh thyme or pinch dried, optional
chicken or vegetable stock
tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
cup (4 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
teaspoons granulated sugar
This recipe can easily be cut in half.
a stockpot, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, thyme (if
using), cloves, and chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a
boil, lower temperature to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes.
Remove sprig of thyme, garlic and as many of the cloves as
you can easily find. Blend (in batches, if necessary) or run
through a food mill. Put mixture in a large bowl.
the empty stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir
in the flour to make a roux; cook while stirring until the
roux is a medium brown, about 10 minutes. Gradually whisk in
a bit of the tomato mixture, so that no clumps form. Stir in
the rest of the tomato mixture. Season with salt and sugar,
and adjust seasonings to taste.
serving: 256 calories; 12 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 30 mg
cholesterol; 9 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 15 g sugar; 4 g
fiber; 1,223 mg sodium; 53 mg calcium.