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November 5, 2012
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Bess: Favorite Garden Tomato Choice of 2012 in Nevada County

I get somewhat melancholic when summer ends. Even the glorious colors and flavors of all things autumn don’t stop my feeling of resistance as we move into the season. I’m not quite finished with the basil, peppers and vibrant-flavored tomatoes. If you hurry, there are still tomatoes ripening in gardens, and peppers are in their prime. After the weather of the last few days, they are ready to pick and use up in your kitchen.

The votes are in! Ballots are counted and the winners of the summer season are chosen. “Favorite Garden Choice of 2012,” well, at least in the Bess garden, is Lemon Boy. It’s a yellow tomato that adds golden color to all your dishes and roasts beautifully on the grill. It is also less acidic with a mellower flavor and easier on delicate stomachs. There are other yellow tomato varieties that I haven’t as yet tried and most likely plenty of strongly held opinions among gardeners who will disagree with my choice.

And in the category of “Best New Summer Recipe” the winner is Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes Baked with Herbs and Capers. Of all the kitchen experiments of the season, this was one that stands out as a “keeper.”

And in the category of “Remember This One for Next Year” the winner is Golden Tomato and Pepper Soup. The paprika in this soup adds a smoky dimension that deepens the rich flavors. Just a dollop of leftover rice makes it easy to prepare. Be sure to serve it at least a day after preparation.

I made a couple of changes to both recipes omitting the removing of skins from the tomatoes. It’s way too time consuming, and I suspect most readers wouldn’t do it either. However, dropping the tomatoes into boiling water for just a minute will remove the skins easily if you choose to do so for special guests.

Both of these recipes are adapted from Debra Madison’s book, “Local Flavors.” It was published in 2002, but this summer it sort of jumped off the shelf and became my go-to book more than any other.

For a memorable meal serve this over rice, quinoa, couscous or as a side dish. For just two people this is enough for an easy meal another day.

Roasted Peppers and
Tomatoes Baked with Herbs and Capers

4 bell peppers, red, orange, or yellow

1 large beefsteak-type tomato or 1 1/4 pounds of others

2 smaller yellow tomatoes

8 flat-leaf parsley sprigs

1 tablespoon dried marjoram or 14 large basil leaves

(or about three tablespoons fresh marjoram if available)

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

12 Niçoise olives, pitted

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the dish

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Roast the peppers until evenly charred. Drop them into a bowl, cover, and set aside while you prepare everything else. Then strip off the blackened skin, pull out the seeds; core and cut into wide strips. Reserve their rich juices to add also.

Cut the tomatoes into bite-size chunks. Pluck the leaves off the parsley stems. You should have about a half cup. Chop them finely with the (fresh) marjoram and garlic, then put in a bowl with the capers, olives, and olive oil. Season with about three quarters teaspoon salt and a generous grating of pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a small gratin dish. Add the peppers, tomatoes and sauce and gently stir to mix. Cover and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

This is perfect soup for the first rainy days of autumn. The yellow hues of the peppers and tomatoes make a softer flavor than if it were made with green peppers and red tomatoes. Smoked Spanish paprika (pimento’n de la Vera) will give the soups a hint of smoke or peppers can be pre-roasted for the same effect.

Golden Tomato
and Pepper Soup

1 pound yellow tomatoes

1 onion, minced

2 to four cloves garlic, minced

3 yellow or red peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil

Pinch saffron threads

1 bay leaf

3 thyme sprigs, leaves plucked from stems

1 teaspoon sweet paprika or one half teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)

1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper

1 quart vegetable or chicken stock or water

1/3 cup cooked white rice

Slivered basil or chopped marjoram and parsley for garnish

Chop the onion and mince garlic. Dice the peppers into small squares, removing the seeds and membranes first. You should have about two cups. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size chunks and set aside.

Warm the oil in a soup pot and add the onions, peppers, saffron, bay leaf, thyme and paprika. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion has begun to soften and color, about six minutes. Add the garlic and then stir in the tomato paste and one teaspoon salt. Add one quarter cup water. Stew for five minutes, then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

(I have assumed that you are using leftover rice that is already cooked.) When ready to serve, reheat the soup with the rice. Or make a mound of rice in each bowl and spoon the soup around it. Season with pepper and garnish with slivers of basil leaves or marjoram chopped with a few parsley leaves.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and cookbook author. She has written and developed recipes for Land O Lakes publications, Weight Watchers Book Division, and more than 20 other magazines.


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The Union Updated Nov 5, 2012 02:39PM Published Nov 6, 2012 07:08AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.