Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Delicious Tomato Salad; A Delicious Gazpacho! Same Tomatoes!

The picture just shows some goodies from the Farmers' Market, some citrus (important during summer cocktail season!) and some dried Hydrangea from our garden plants - I just like the way they look.  Dig those Heirloom Tomatoes - I hope to have some Brandywine Pinks in September, but these Heirloom babies are gorgeous, aren't they?

Without a doubt, we are lucky to live in a region with access to the best tomatoes in the country. South Jersey, Lancaster County, Northampton County, some areas of Delaware, and of course, our own urban farmers here in Philadelphia all grow amazing, delicious and very varied types of tomatoes.  The bins are beginning to fill up at all of our Farmers Markets and at Fair Foods Farmstand. I don't know about you, but it is so hard to resist these gorgeous orbs of juicy flavor.  In other words, I over buy!  Now, come September, we will be over in South Jersey buying our flats of Plum Tomatoes, which we will "put up" (can) for fabulous sauces all winter long.  And we'll freeze our own Sun Golds and other tomatoes from our garden, smashed in freezer bags - another great sauce base. But right now, as they sit there in front of us, and while it's a bit hot for big pots of marinara sauce, what do we do?

Here are two of my all time favorite summer tomato based recipes.  The first is courtesy of Jamie Oliver - it's in his great book about growing and cooking your own, "Jamie at Home".  The second is one I have been working on, using the left overs from Jamie's recipe.  I think you will find them both easy and delicious and a great way to satisfy your tomato cravings.

The Mothership Tomato Salad
Ingredients:  1 - 2 pounds of tomatoes, different shapes, sizes, and colors if you can; sea salt; freshly group black pepper; a tablespoon or more of dried oregano; red wine vinegar; extra virgin olive oil; 1 clove of garlic, peeled and grated; 1 fresh red chili, deseeded and chopped.

Slice, chop, halve your tomatoes.  How you cut them will depend on what types you are using but varying style, color and size just makes the recipe all that much better. Put the cut tomato pieces in a colander - I put the colander over a bowl because I love tomato water - salt the tomatoes, toss them once and salt them again.  They won't be overly salty, the salt will actually draw out the excess moisture.  Let them drain for about 15 - 30 minutes (I have let them drain for up to an hour with no problem).  
Put the tomato pieces in a bowl and sprinkle the dried oregano over top.
Make a dressing of one part vinegar to three parts of extra virgin olive oil, the grated garlic, and the chopped chili.
Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes - use enough dressing to fully cover all of the tomatoes.
This salad is amazing and is even better with grilled bread and some fresh made mozzarella.

Note: now what pretty much always happens when I make the above salad is that there is some left over; I usually refrigerate it - even though I never actually refrigerate tomatoes, with this salad, I like to keep the whole mixture cold.  You don't have to refrigerate it if you are going to use it in a day or two.  The following is what I have discovered using left over "mothership tomato salad".

Easy Mothership Gazpacho
Ingredients:  Left over mothership tomato salad; red wine vinegar; a cucumber; extra virgin olive oil; Worcestershire sauce; hot sauce; and croutons and optional diced celery and cucumber. 

Peel the cucumber, chop it and add it to the left over tomato salad.  Add a bit more vinegar - you can add more at the end too, so go light the first time.  Pour the mixture into a blender or a food processor.  Add a few drops of hot sauce - really to taste. Add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce - again to taste.  Add some extra virgin olive oil to give the mix a bit more of a liquid nature.  Not too much to begin with, you can always add more later if it is not thin enough. Process the mixture until it is liquid.  I process it until smooth (it will be pink) - you can add diced celery and/or more cucumber diced, along with your croutons, to each serving.  Adjust seasonings to your taste.  Chill. To each serving, you can add a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche along with the diced veggies, hot sauce and croutons. 

This is the easiest gazpacho you will ever make and you will not lose any of the fabulous tomatoes you enjoyed as a salad!

Try it.

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