Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Tomato Time!

Nothing excites me more than tomato season, and all of the delicious possibilities this time of year implies. Whether they are cherry, grape, roma, heirloom, or any other type of tomato, there are thousands of simple, elegant, and mouth-watering recipes available to you. I normally turn right to the Food Network during my recipe hunt, and lucky for us their current in-season feature this week is none other but the tomato! Below are some of my personal favorites that have both tomatoes and other in-season vegetables for you to enjoy.

courtesy of Julia Child, in 'The Way to Cook'

1 lb. fresh shiny firm eggplant
salt, as needed
1 lb. zucchini
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil, as needed
Thyme, oregano, or a bottled herb blend
1 lb. onions (about 3 1/2 cups sliced)
2-3 large green bell peppers
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups tomato pulp (fresh tomatoes peeled, seeded, juiced)

Directions: Cut the eggplant into crosswise slices 3/8 inch thick. Salt lightly on each side and spread on paper towels. Cut zucchini lengthwise into 2-inch slices 3/8 inch thick. Salt the zucchini. Let both vegetables stand 20 minutes; pat dry in paper towels.
- Baking the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the eggplant on a cookie tray, paint lightly with oil, and sprinkle with herbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15-20 minutes, until just tender.
-The rest of the vegetables: preheat olive oil in large skillet. Lightly brown zucchini on both sides; remove to paper towels. Add more oil if necessary, and saute the onions until tender but not browned. Stir in the peppers and garlic; fold and toss over moderately high heat for several minutes, until fairly tender. Set aside 1/2 cup of the tomatoes, and fold the rest into the onions and peppers; toss, adding salt and herbs to taste, until the tomatoes have rendered their juice; continue for several minutes until the juices have almost boiled off.
-Finishing the ratatouille - about 30 minutes - Set aside best looking eggplant for the top. Arrange the vegetables in a casserole, starting and ending with the onion-pepper-tomato mixture. Arrange the reserved tomato and eggplant decoratively over the top. C
over and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven. When bubbling gently, uncover, tip the casserole, and baste with the juices rendered; repeat several times until the juices have almost evaporated. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

(this may look like a lot of steps, but it is very easy and definitely worth the effort!)

Homemade Tomato Soup
courtesy of Michael Chiarello

1 lb. fresh tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Strain the chopped tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, vegetable broth, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.

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