You Say Tomato

P1080378And I say tomate. They are at the height of their glory here in France these days, and we are enjoying them in so many ways.

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The uglier the better.

A summer tomato bears no resemblance to the winter hothouse versions, which are nothing but ghosts of tomatoes, lacking flesh, with their watery insides dripping from mere skeletons of tomato-ness. A summer tomato is full and fleshy. It’s sweet and juicy and substantial enough to eat alone.

But we do like to gild the lily.

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That big yellow-orange one on the left is a “pineapple tomato.” The BEST. Those sweet potatoes got turned into sweet potato-sage gnocchi by our kid/chef. But that’s another story.

IMG_4376A little onion. A little garlic. A little olive oil. Some parsley. Or basil. Or thyme. A little breadcrumb crust to soak up the olive oil-enhanced juices. So many possibilities. It’s a good thing, because when tomatoes are in season, we eat them a couple of times a week. Same as with asparagus, or strawberries. In season or not at all. So make that season count. And do not refrigerate!

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These tomatoes have never seen a refrigerator. Straight from the garden.

I had promised a while back to include the recipe for Christine’s tomates provençales from our cooking lesson. Here it is, at last.P1080367

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Tomatoes and beans from a local garden. The beans are “hand-picked,” it says.

IMG_4375How many tomatoes you need depends on their size (and what else you’re serving). If you have big ones, you might want just half per person, or one per person. If you have small tomatoes, like the roma variety, you might want one or two per person. We are tomato gluttons, and we like having leftovers, so I figure on a big tomato per person or its equivalent in smaller ones.

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).P1080327Cut the tomatoes in half. Score them, sprinkle with a little salt, and turn them upside down to drain for 15 minutes or more. You can put them on a cooling rack or a flat strainer or just on paper towels. P1080322Chop up a big bunch of parsley. It makes no difference whether it’s flat or curly. Chop up two to eight garlic cloves, depending on how much you love garlic (there is no right or wrong in this recipe). The chopping is greatly aided by a food processor. Christine had a small one–a spice grinder–that she brought to the cooking class. I have only a knife and limited patience, so my parsley here is too big. You want it to be fine so that, when you mix it with the garlic and a generous half cup (15 cl) of olive oil, you end up with a green slurry. It’s good on lots of things–roasted carrots, chicken, potatoes… Persillade is to savory food as diamond studs are to accessories–it goes with almost anything.P1080331Place the tomatoes cut-side up in an oiled baking dish. Spoon the persillade over them and roast them for an hour. They should get caramelized but not hard or crusty.P1080335You also can cook them faster–20-30 minutes–in a hot oven (400 Fahrenheit/200 Celsius), but they don’t get as caramelized as the low and slow method. Also, the persillade risks browning too much (sometimes called “burning”). On the other hand, sometimes we don’t have an hour to get dinner on the table.

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Obviously, I did it the fast way here. 

Other tomato alternatives:P1080517

tomatoes cooked
This one was better caramelized…but I forgot to take a photo immediately. Why? Well, dinner was ready. Priorities. We ARE in France, after all.

I like to slice them, because it’s pretty, and I can tuck thinly sliced onions in between. Top with olive oil, or with breadcrumbs and olive oil, or with breadcrumbs and parsley and olive oil, or with persillade. You have options. This version benefits from low and slow because the sliced tomatoes aren’t drained, and the juices need time to evaporate.

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Breadcrumb + parsley + garlic version. Drizzle with olive oil.

Did you know that if you have burned something in a pot or pan, you can get it off easily by squirting a little ketchup on it? Just let it sit–overnight, maybe a couple of days. It will come off eventually! The acid in the ketchup works off the burned material without scrubbing (or scratching your pan). The wonders of tomatoes never cease.