Alan Tangren: You say tomato
Special to The Union
Dear Alan: After what seemed like a long wait, the tomatoes in my garden are producing more than we can use or give away. I love fresh tomatoes simply sliced and in salad, but my family is getting tired of them. I need a few new ideas!
Tomatoes are actually a fruit which we use as a vegetable, and are delicious cooked or raw. August is the peak month for tomato production from home gardens. They are at their sweet and succulent best right now; ideal to use alone or with a few complimentary flavors like garlic and basil.
We recently made stuffed tomatoes for a dinner honoring Julia Child’s 103rd birthday. She would have loved the aromas of Provence coming from the oven and to the table. I have adapted her recipe for you to try.
Provençal Stuffed Tomatoes
Makes 8 tomato halves
4 large, ripe firm tomatoes
salt and pepper
several slices of fresh bread, crust removed
2 Tablespoons minced shallots, scallions or red onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley or a combination of the two
extra virgin olive oil
Cut tomatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze gently to remove excess juice and dig out the seeds with a tiny spoon or your little finger. Salt and pepper the insides and drain upside down on a rack.
Cut bread into cubes and process in a food processor or blender to make crumbs. Make about ½ cup. Toss the crumbs with the minced shallot, garlic, herbs and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Mound stuffing onto each tomato and place in an oiled baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle tops with a little more oil. May be done several hours in advance.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake the tomatoes for about 20 minutes, until the crumbs are lightly browned and the tomatoes are hot but still hold their shape. Serve warm or hot.
Tomatoes Roasted in Olive Oil
Making tomato sauce for pasta or pizza can be time consuming. Tomatoes roasted in the oven are easy to do and a delicious way to concentrate their flavor. Here’s what we used to do at Chez Panisse.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
6 medium-size ripe tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. Peel and core the tomatoes. Choose an ovenproof dish that will be just large enough to hold the tomatoes snugly in a single layer. Make a bed of basil leaves in the bottom of the dish and place the tomatoes upside down on top of the basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour over enough olive oil to come halfway up the sides of the tomatoes. Bake in the middle level of the oven for at least 1 hour, or until the tomatoes are completely soft and lightly brown on top.
Remove carefully from the baking dish with a slotted spoon. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and serve with some of the oil over cooked and drained pasta, or chop a little smaller and use with a light hand on pizza.
Chef Alan Tangren spent 22 years as a chef in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, eight of those years spent as the Chez Panisse forager. He teaches cooking classes and directs monthly Chef’s Tables at Tess’ Kitchen Store, 115 Mill St., Grass Valley. Learn more at http://www.tesskitchenstore.com.
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