The tomato is August’s vegetable of the month
by Gay Lyons
I'm a fraud. This past Saturday I checked out the goods at the Market Square Farmers’ Market, chatted with the vendors and pretended to choose August’s vegetable of the month.
I admired the corn, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, okra and cucumbers. My most unusual find was fennel. I sometimes have trouble finding fennel at the supermarket, so I wasn’t going to pass up freshly grown fennel. Still, it was no contest this month. It’s no secret that I love a big, juicy, freshly picked summer tomato.
Last summer I wrote an ode to tomatoes, so I won’t repeat those sentiments here. If you missed it, you can find “My Big Fat Tennessee Tomato” online at www.metropulse.com/articles/2005/15_23/wireless_kitchen.shtml .
The tomato is more correctly classified as a fruit, but no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that (for purposes of taxation) the tomato is a vegetable. In the interest of botanical correctness, I’ll include a recipe for a dessert, green tomato pie.
For this week’s tomato needs, I gathered an assortment of red and yellow cherry tomatoes; some red, yellow and pink slicing tomatoes; a few green tomatoes; and some interesting looking red and yellow striped tomatoes. The tomato foccaccia from VG’s Bakery was so beautiful—thick, crusty and covered with tomato slices—I couldn’t resist including it in this week’s tomato harvest.
I had planned to slice the cherry tomatoes in half, toss them in a little salt and balsamic vinegar and serve them with some grilled fish, but I ended up just popping most of them in my mouth. Leave a bag of candy in my care and chances are good that every piece will still be there when you return, but you may not want to ask me to hold your cherry tomatoes for you. You may come back to an almost empty bag.
I used the red, yellow and pink slicing tomatoes to make my favorite stacked tomato salad, a delicious dish that looks as good as it tastes. If you use a different color of tomato for each of the three layers, as I did, the dish looks especially festive. Sometimes I use the same color tomato for the top and bottom layer and use a different color for the middle layer. For balance, try to use tomato slices that are roughly the same size.
Make or buy a couple of cups of olive tapenade. Roll 12 basil leaves together and cut crosswise into thin slices. Whisk one-fourth cup white wine vinegar, two tablespoons honey and one tablespoon Dijon mustard in a bowl. Gradually whisk in three-fourths cup olive oil. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper. Cut 10 large tomatoes into one-half inch thick slices. Slice 16 ounces of fresh mozzarella into one-third inch rounds. Place one tomato slice on each of eight plates. Spread each with tapenade and top with a mozzarella round. Repeat layering. Top each stack with a third tomato slice. Spoon some dressing over each stack.
Fried green tomatoes are tasty, but for something different, bake a green tomato pie. The editors of A Gracious Plenty , published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, classify the pie as a side dish, but it tastes like a dessert to me. If the Supreme Court can decide that a fruit is a vegetable, I can decide that a side dish is a dessert, can’t I?
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice three large firm green tomatoes and put them in a skillet. Pour one-half cup water over the tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. Add one-half cup raisins and simmer a few minutes more. Drain the skillet, reserving the liquid, and place the tomatoes and raisins in a nine-inch pie pan lined with uncooked pie dough. Mix one cup sugar with two tablespoons flour and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with three-fourths teaspoon cinnamon, one-half teaspoon ginger and one-fourth teaspoon nutmeg. Dot the surface with two tablespoons butter. Add the grated zest of one lemon and one-and-a-half tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Pour one-fourth cup bourbon over the top. If there is room, add some of the reserved liquid. Top with strips of dough to form a lattice crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 450. Reduce the heat to 375 and bake 30 minutes longer or until the crust is golden.
The striped tomatoes are like a cross between a bell pepper and a tomato. They’re hollow inside, making them perfect for stuffing with chicken salad. They would also be attractive for serving potato salad or pasta salad. Because the skin is thick, these can also be substituted for bell peppers in your favorite stuffed pepper recipe.
Once a month from now through November, I’ll be on WBIR’s Style show to talk about the vegetable of the month and the Market Square Farmers’ Market. If you missed it, you can still go to www.wbir.com and click on Style to find additional recipes and view the video.