For this week, we are featuring the most vibrant tomatoes, the heirloom. They are the new stars. Each one of them is like opening a surprise package, with all the dazzling colors of the most magnificent sunset. Long gone is the tasteless and out of season tomato we have been accustomed to. We will probably never eat a tomato out of season again. They are the essence of summer.
I really had a hard time remembering all the names, and there are plenty more to come. Pick your favorites and make your own special salad, sandwich or just eat them like an apple.
Backing up the heirlooms are plenty of squash, eggplant and peppers. This is the middle of summer and we can enjoy all of it right now. I have two recipes that are similar: the Italian Caponata and the French Ratatouille, both sharing tomatoes and eggplant. Both are great as side dishes to fish and meat or even by themselves. They both can be served on a bed of lettuce, or stuffed in a large tomato, hot or cold. You can vary these dishes by adding your own secret ingredient, such as fennel root, or a special herb you grow in your garden….it really has no boundaries, just experiment.
Grilled Caponata w/ Heirloom Tomatoes
1 medium eggplant cut in ½ inch slices
1 red onion, cut in ½ inch slices
3 medium heirloom tomatoes cut in ½ inch slices
Salt and pepper
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Heat your grill to high. Brush the eggplant, onion and tomato slices with olive oil. Grill the eggplant 6-8 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Grill the onion for 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and just cooked through. Grill the tomatoes for 2 minutes per side or until barely soft.
Remove the vegetables from the grill to a cutting board and cut into ½ pieces. Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl and add the olives, capers, raisins and pine nuts.
Mix together the garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar and honey in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of olive oil and whisk until emulsified.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables, add the parsley and gently combine. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.
Serves 4-6…this is the long version for maximum flavor development which cooks each vegetable individually with a brief commingling at the end. Lusty with depth.
1 pound onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with back of knife
2 pounds zucchini, unpeeled, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 lb. green bell peppers, membranes and seeds removed, cut in ½ inch square pieces
1 lb. red bell peppers, membranes and seeds removed, cut in ½ inch square pieces
1 pound eggplant, cut in ½ inch cubes leaving skin on
1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, bottoms crisscrossed slightly, plunged in boiling water for a minute, refreshed in very cold water and skin removed. Cut in fourths, remove seeds and chop coarsely.
About ½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 1 sprig of rosemary
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock
In large heavy pan enough to hold 4 quarts, put 2 tablespoons olive oil, and add onions. Cook for 5 min. and add garlic. Reduce heat to very low. You will gradually add vegetables to this pan and cook time is approx. 40 min.
While this pan is cooking very slowly, put a large frying pan on another burner, high heat, add 1 ½ tablespoon of oil and add zucchini. Cook until lightly browned and add them to the pan with onions and garlic.
Continue with the bell peppers, adding a little oil in between each batch, cooking in two batches, and then the eggplant, adding the browned vegetables to the onion pan as soon as they are lightly browned.
When all vegetables are added to the original onion batch, stir them together, and increase the heat to medium high, add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf and rosemary, stir.
Add the vegetable stock, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, and place mixture in a colander over a large bowl to strain the liquid from the vegetables. Return strained liquid to pan and reduce to a glaze, about 3-5 minutes. Add vegetables back to pan and turn off heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and let stand for 10 minutes, covered, to “cook” the tomatoes.
Serve the Ratatouille at room temperature as a side to grilled fish or by itself. Also good the next day in omelets, or in a grilled cheese sandwich or on a bed of lettuce with a lemon vinaigrette.
Great on crab cakes, grilled salmon…or livens up a grilled cheese sandwich…
3 pounds, peeled heirloom tomatoes (peel by making a small x on the bottom and plunge in boiling water for 20-30 seconds and then remove with a slotted spoon and put in ice bath, peel with a paring knife)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In large non-reactive saucepan, combine the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until almost dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into 3 sterilized half-pint jars, seal, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.