I just returned from touring vineyards in the Morellino di Scansano DOCG district in southwest Tuscany, and once in a while I had to stop to eat. One of the most memorable meals was at Trattoria Verdiana (Ponticello di Montemerano on the road between Scansano and Montemerano, tel: [011-34] 0564-602-576). It’s open nightly except Wednesday, and uses the produce from a 10,000 square meter garden as the basis for the menu. There, as here in New England, the growing season is coming to a close. So I was surprised and delighted when the amuse-bouche pictured above appeared in front of me. It’s a grape tomato (upside down) cut in half, filled with a dab of creamy burrata and a tiny basil leaf. The whole composition was then drizzled in a great local olive oil. It summed up summer in a bite.
Archive for the ‘Tomato’Category
The last time I was in San Daniele del Friuli, I was traveling with the restaurateurs of Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani (GRI) on one of their annual pilgrimages to Italy to research products, find new sources, and generally take inspiration from the regional products. Since we were a fairly large group, we booked a meal at Prosciutterie DOK dall’ Ava (via Gemona 47, tel. 0432-940-280, www.dallava.com, open daily 10-10), one of the town’s full-service restaurants with a prosciutto-oriented menu.
It’s a funny place, since it’s outside the main village and near one of the prosciutto factories. It looks like a tourist trap, to be honest, and bus groups stop here. But the service and the food are both terrific and the prices, while not cheap, are pretty reasonable for top-quality prosciutto. We shared lovely plates of sliced prosciutto, prosciutto and melon, and prosciutto and asparagus, and we each ordered a small individual plate. Mine was as simple as it gets – fresh pappardelle tossed with prosciutto and hastily sautéed tomatoes.
Normally I reserve this dish for the summer months when I have a surplus of sweet, fresh tomatoes. I dip them in boiling water and slip off the skins, then chop them coarsely, and sauté in a little olive oil with shredded prosciutto. Tomatoes this time of year are nowhere near as good, so I’ve taken to using the Pomi brand of boxed diced tomatoes instead. A 750 ml box drained and three slices of prosciutto works out just right for two people. (Save the juice for making minestrone.) To make a really easy dish at home, I like to use Colavita brand dried pasta. The rigatoni 31 cooks up nice and plump to support the tomato and flecks of ham.
The last tomatoes hanging in the garden are assorted cherry types–some Sweet 100s, some Sungolds, and mostly some mongrel crosses that volunteered last spring. During our August visit to the Okanagan Valley, we had many good inspirations for using tomatoes (see the last three posts). But only mixologist Gerry Jobe at RauDZ Restaurant in Kelowna turned turned tomatoes into a terrific mixed drink.
RauDZ (a great locavore restaurant that’s a collaboration between Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao) focuses on local-grown food whenever possible, which means that Kelowna tomato guru Milan Djordjevich of Stoney Paradise Farm brings in boxes and boxes of Sungold tomatoes. When chef Butters challenged Jobe to make an Okanagan Bloody Mary, he created the Killer Tomato.
It’s fairly simple. Here are the ingredients:
KILLER TOMATO COCKTAIL
4 muddled Sungold cherry tomatoes
0.25 ounce balsamic vinegar
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Cointreau
3 ounces of lemonade
Jobe muddles the Sungold tomatoes, adds a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, an ounce of local Spirit Bear vodka, an ounce of Cointreau, and three ounces of lemonade. He shakes over ice and double strains into a coupe rimmed with crushed Szechuan peppercorns and gray salt.
It’s a real wake-up for the appetite.
Executive chef Jeff Van Geest of Mirodoro (see Tomato glut #2) also gave us a really good idea for a salad that is so simple that we have been making it ever since. He combines several kinds of ripe heirloom tomatoes with chunks of cantaloupe, some house-made ricotta (we buy a good ricotta salata), a few leaves of mint, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and some extra-virgin olive oil. The combination of the tangy tomato with the cool, sweet melon really pops.
We enjoyed it with Tinhorn Creek’s pinot gris, which has great citrus notes and crisp acidity, thanks to fermentation on the lees in stainless steel. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield stirred the lees twice a week for two months, giving the finished wine just a hint of toast.
One of the most deceptively simple tomato dishes we enjoyed in the Okanagan Valley was served at Miradoro, the glass-walled restaurant hanging off a hillside at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards along the Golden Mile in Oliver, British Columbia. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield makes some terrific wines from the steep vineyards, but the folks at Tinhorn Creek sensibly went into business with restaurateur Manuel Ferreira, who also operates the celebrated Le Gavroche in Vancouver. Executive chef Jeff Van Geest’s menus mate perfectly with Sandra Oldfield’s wines.
Pat was looking for a light dish at lunch and Manuel suggested that she try the garganelli with charred heirloom tomato, basil, lemon, and asiago. It was … a revelation. It’s hard to believe that such simple ingredients could create such a sophisticated dish. As Manuel explained, the tomatoes are quickly roasted in a hot oven, then topped with fresh hot pasta, a few basil leaves, a squeeze of lemon, and some shavings of Asiago cheese. It really doesn’t need a printed recipe.
The diner gets to participate in completing the dish. Pulling the skin off the tomatoes creates a sauce that coats the pasta. We’ve been trying it with various pastas and various tomatoes. A firm-fleshed, dead-ripe tomato works best, and a delicate pasta (no whole wheat!) lets the flavors sing. We enjoyed the dish at Miradoro with Sandra’s Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé, which she makes from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes. It’s a real West Coast rosé, fresh and crisp with striking strawberry notes. At home we opt for a Pinot Grigio delle Venezie that’s harvested a little early to preserve a bracing acidity.
It’s that season of mixed emotions as the garden starts shutting down and we’re swamped in a sea of wonderfully ripe produce. No matter how we stagger the plantings and the ripening season of different varietals, we’re faced with a tomato embarrassment of riches at the end of August and early September.
We just returned from one of the great agricultural regions of North America, the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where the explosion in grape-growing and fine wineries in recent years has also led to an explosion in great dining options and in boutique agriculture to support the chefs.
Mission Hill Family Estate, the leading winery of the region, showcases the Okanagan cuisine at a stupendous fine-dining restaurant called, simply enough, the Terrace Restaurant. It’s an all-outdoors spot under a classical loggia with sweeping views of the lake and vineyards. Executive chef Matthew Batey oversees the entire dining program at the winery (there are lots of private dinners and catered events), while Chris Stewart oversees the Terrace.
Chris’s answer to a glut of great cherry tomatoes is to make this exquisite salad of peeled cherry tomatoes, paper-thin toasts, prosciutto, Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, and a dribble of aged balsamic vinegar. He peels the tomatoes by cutting an X on the bottom, then extending the cuts to the stem. Using a surgically sharp blade, he then cuts an equator on the tomatoes, dipping them for a few seconds in boiling water before plunging them into an icewater bath. The skins peel up toward the stem in a beautiful way.
Even if we don’t have the time or ingredients for such a fine dish, we find that taking a few minutes to prepare the cherry tomatoes and setting them out for guests next to a plate dusted with sea salt for dipping makes a nice presentation for finger food.
We’re in the midst of the tomato and basil harvest–lots of Costoluto Genovese tomatoes and lots of Genovese basil. Most nights that means slicing up some fresh mozzarella cheese and enjoying giant plates of insalata caprese.
But what do you do with the tomato shoulders and irregular bits left over when you make a pretty plate of caprese? We took a little inspiration from Sicily and added lemon and ground pistachio nuts for a solid pasta plate that takes full advantage of the harvest.
FARFALLE WITH TOMATOES, LEMON, AND PISTACHIOS
Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as pasta course
2 cups farfalle (bowties)
1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup pistachio nutmeats, coarsely ground
1/3 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra Parmigiano Reggiano for the table
1. Heat 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add farfalle and cook al dente (about 10 minutes).
2. While pasta is cooking, carry out other steps. Place chopped tomatoes in sieve and toss with salt. Let drain over bowl, reserving liquid.
3. In heavy-duty skillet, heat olive oil until smoking hot. Remove from heat and add grated garlic and grated lemon zest. Stir until lightly browned.
4. Place skillet back on medium heat and add lemon juice. Cook until reduced by half. Add juice that has drained from tomatoes and reduce by half, stirring frequently to emulsify and get creamy texture.
5. When pasta is done, add to juice mixture in skillet. Add ground pistachios and stir well. Add chopped basil and stir well, cooking about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese.
Serve with additional cheese for the table.
The Boston Globe recently published our abbreviated tale of taking a cooking class with the wonderful Dutch and Moroccan folks of Souk Cuisine in Marrakech. You can find the piece on our Sample Articles page. It was some of the best cooking instruction we have experienced because it enabled us to get intimately involved in the life and rhythm of the city and its inhabitants.
Even if your goal is to bargain your way through the souks (Pat was told she bargained like a Berber), it is hard not to work up an appetite when you keep encountering vendors like the back-street fruit man (above) or the citrus juice truck that stands on the main square, Jemaa El Fna. Everywhere you look, there is food. And if you don’t see it, then you are bound to smell it. Even before the charcoal braziers come out in the evening, the sweet scent of freshly bruised mint tempers the acrid dust of city. Marakshi drink an enormous amount of mint tea, which could explain why fresh mint is sold not by the bag, but by the armload.
Whenever we go someplace for a week or more, we often try to rent an apartment with cooking facilities, but the riad system in Marrakech was too enticing to pass up. Fortunately, Souk Cuisine filled the gap for us. As we describe in the Globe article, we made our reservation, met our guide in Jemaa El Fna, and set off through the markets with a grocery list, shopping bags, and a modest number of dirhams. With the aid of our guide, we selected ingredients and shopped for a meal. Not only did we dicker with the herb vendors, like this gentleman with fresh coriander, we also visited one of the city’s better spice shops for all the essential seasonings.
The hands-on instruction was first-rate, with a Souk Cuisine guide explaining in English (they also teach in French, Arabic, and Dutch) while Moroccan women demonstrated and literally held our hands to make sure we understood the techniques. We were taking the class, as it turned out, with a young Dutch couple and a Dutch family of mother, father, and three grown children. Everyone pitched in. Here you can see Anne-Mieki Móll mixing up the Moroccan tomato salad (see recipe below).
Sitting down to eat the fruits of our labors after an hour of shopping and a couple of hours of cooking might have been the greatest satisfaction of all. In a nod to western (i.e., non-Islamic) taste, Souk Cuisine even pops a few bottles of cold Moroccan rosé from the Atlas Mountains. As good as the meal was, we could not resist the lure of the open-air restaurants that set up every evening on Jemaa El Fna (below).
Souk Cuisine, Zniquat Rahba, Derb Tahtah 5, Medina, Marrakech, Morocco; 011-212-673-804-955; www.soukcuisine.com. Classes held daily, reservation required, 45 euros (about $62US) per person.
As we described in the Globe article, we were in charge of making couscous for the group. But Moroccan cuisine includes a number of salads that use the wonderful fresh local vegetables and herbs. They are less exercises in cooking than in cutting, which made them perfect for the cardiovascular surgeon in our group. Here are Souk Cuisine’s recipes for three of our favorites that we make at home. Note that most measurements are by weight rather than volume.
Moroccan tomato salad
2 pounds tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into fine dice. Mix all ingredients and then add the vinegar and olive oil.
1 pound small zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/2 tablespoon fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Remove the ends of the zucchini. Cut in half lengthways. Place zucchini and unpeeled garlic cloves in pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain the zucchini. Peel boiled garlic and mix with spices, herbs, olive oil and vinegar. Pour marinade over cooled zucchini and arrange on platter.
Carrot salad with almonds and raisins
2 pounds carrots
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 ounces raisins
4 ounces almonds, unpeeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange flower water
2 tablespoons argan oil (walnut oil makes an acceptable substitute)
Peel the carrots and slice lengthways. Remove the inner core of the carrots and cut the remaining lengths in cubes. Boil carrots in salted water. Drain after 15 minutes and leave a small quantity of water in the pan. Place again on the stove over low heat. Add the remaining ingredients to carrots in pan. Simmer until carrots are well cooked. Serve the salad lukewarm or cold.
Every cook has a different way to cope with the end of tomato season. In June, Brian Aspell was lured away from the Equinox in Vermont to bring his brand of culinary passion to the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, N.H. He was still getting his feet under him when we visited in August, but on very short notice he managed to whip together a chef’s tasting menu that swept us away. It was a harbinger of great things to come at this grande dame of the White Mountains. (The fall menus will be pure Aspell.) The opening salvo of the dinner was an amuse-bouche of a New England gazpacho. Aspell served our portions in tall shot glasses, but on a warm day we could eat a whole bowl for lunch. He was kind enough to give us the recipe, and while we haven’t had a chance yet to make it with our Costoluto Genovese tomatoes, we thought we should pass along the recipe for all those gardeners with a great harvest.
CHILLED BRANDYWINE HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND CILANTRO COOLER
4 cups, seeded, diced, overripe Brandywine tomatoes
2 cups, seeded, peeled, diced cucumber
6 large shallots, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions
3 cups V-8 juice
1/8 cup aged sherry wine vinegar (if necessary to adjust seasoning)
10 drops of Tabasco sauce
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups uniformly diced yellow bell peppers
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
In a blender combine the tomato, cucumber, shallots, garlic, serrano peppers, olive oil, scallions, V-8 juice, sherry vinegar, Tabasco, and lime juice. Puree for 30 seconds or long enough to achieve a slightly thickened juice.
Fold in the cilantro, bell peppers and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight and serve.
From Brian Aspell, executive chef of the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, N.H.
When we were working earlier this summer on a New England burger roundup for the Boston Globe (see Sample articles), we had no idea that we would discover a partial solution to the late-August glut of tomatoes. When we dug into the basic hamburger served at Christie’s in Newport–the casual restaurant of the luxurious Hotel and Marina Forty 1º North–we just knew that chef Kim Lambrechts’ tomato jam was the perfect complement to the rich beef burger. With a little cajoling, we found out how it’s made.
Chef Kim Lambrechts is the director of all food and beverage operations at Hotel and Marina Forty 1º North in Newport–including the casual restaurant, Christie’s. He serves this brilliant ketchup substitute on beef burgers. We find it captures summer in a jar. We pressure-can ours, but the jam is acidic enough to be preserved with the boiling-water method.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
5 large red vine-ripened tomatoes (about 2 1/2 lb.)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds; remove them quickly and place in bath of ice water. Once they have cooled, remove the core and skins and chop flesh roughly.
2. Heat sauté pan over medium flame. Add olive oil, shallot & ginger, and sauté for a few minutes until shallots are soft.
3. Add remainder of ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook until liquid is largely evaporated, yielding a consistency like kechup. Let cool and reserve for use.