Musings on Food and Life

Musings on Food & Life

Food is my passion. I create, read, write, breath, eat, photograph, love and live food. As a chef and culinary instructor, each day is a quest to learn something new about a food ingredient, recipe, history, or fact about all things edible. Three silly dogs share my passion for eating and I'm blessed to be married to my best friend Tracy. Tune in for my thoughts on food, recipes, dogs, travel, music and life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ripe & Ready!

Ahhhh, the face of summer has arrived. The tomato beckons in all of its shapes, colors, and beauty.  In our raised bed garden, a few plants have grown tall with small yellow flowers to produce this treasured fruit, that is if the deer decide the salad bar in the back yard does not include these luscious gems.  One of my favorite little darlings is the Sungold, a small, orange, delicate variety that is especially scrumptious whole in salads or on top of pizza.  I just can't resist them when I go to the local Farmer's Market; they practically dive into my bag! 

My mouth is watering with the thought of fresh corn and tomato salad with lots of basil (and shrimp!) or a simple lettuce and arugula salad with handmade feta or goat cheese, highlighted with a colorful tomato garnish.  Last night, dinner was gorgeous offering of a simple BLT with peppered applewood smoked bacon, thick slices of ruby red beefsteak tomato, vibrant green leaf lettuce, and a dab of Hellman's mayo.  Not to mention the toasted sandwich bread by Holeman and Finch (the BEST sandwich bread ever, made by a local bakery - thank you Chef Linton Hopkins!).   The BLT will be on my menu plan again soon!  Very soon. 

The versatilility of the tomato ensures its place on our dining table often.  Raw, cooked, pureed, baked, stuffed, you name it.  While living in Chile, the "Ensalada Chilena" became a treasured accompaniment to any entree.  It celebrates the marriage of ripe tomatos and onions with a little chopped hot pepper and a drizzle of oil and vinegar or lemon juice.  Homemade manicotti with marinara sauce uses either crushed tomatoes or fresh, whichever you prefer for your sauce. 

Baking the tomato brings out its delicate flavor and is almost as easy as, well, pie.  While tomato pie would be pulling out all the stops, this subtle scalloped tomato just might rock your taste buds.  Red and yellow tomatoes together are visually stunning - the look of sunrise and sunset!  I think you will make this one again and again.  Thanks to Gena Berry for sharing the original recipe.

Baked Tomatoes with Herb Crust
Yield:  6 -8 servings

6 large tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/3 inch thick (heirloom preferred)
kosher salt & fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil (about 8 leaves)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh-grated Parmigiana Reggiano is especially good)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Place the tomato slices in the prepared dish, overlapping the slices as necessary.  Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  In a small bowl, combine the Panko, garlic, thyme, basil and cheese.  Spread the topping over the tomatoes and then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tomatoes for 35 mintues until the tomatoes are tender and the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden.  Serve hot.