Weeknight Entertaining - Tomatoes! Tomatoes!|
by Linda Larsen
If you seem to spend all year long waiting for fresh, wonderful, summer tomatoes it is time to celebrate! They are finally coming into season, and Linda Larsen celebrates this occasion with some wonderful recipes, hints, and tips in her weekly Weeknight Entertaining column.
For me, summer means tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes, just off the vine in your backyard. Warm, juicy tomatoes, full of flavor, sweet and tart, the brightest red color you've ever seen. They're no relation to those woolly things you see in supermarkets in the winter! I feel it's a moral responsibility for us to eat as many of these succulent fruits as possible in the summer months. They are wonderful eaten out of hand, sprinkled with salt and pepper, drizzled with a simple olive oil and basil dressing, or layered with fresh mozzarella and herbs. But that's only the beginning! There are some recipes I make only in the summer because the texture and flavor of really ripe tomatoes are essential to the success of the recipe. These recipes highlight the ripe tomato essence, making the food dance and sing in your mouth.
If you're lucky enough to have your own garden, the tomatoes are probably ripening now. I always grow Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, Big Boy, Better Boy and Early Girl. And I'm trying grape tomatoes this year. This has been a slow spring for tomato growing in Minnesota, so I'm off to the farmer's market until next month. In any case, the farmer's market is the place to be on summer mornings! Choose tomatoes that are really red and smooth. If you press them very lightly, the skin should seem thin and fragile, and the tomato should give a little, yet feel full and rounded.
Never store your tomatoes in the refrigerator. It dulls the flavor and changes the texture. Set them on your kitchen windowsill; they are a beautiful accent and will be eaten by anyone who sees them! To peel a tomato, simply immerse in boiling water for just a few seconds. The skin will begin to split, and the peel will just slip off. Seeding a tomato is really easy. Just cut in half and squeeze out the seeds - or scoop out the seeds with your fingers. In these recipes, I recommend tearing fresh basil with your fingers. If you cut basil, it will darken and won't be as pretty.
When you add fresh tomatoes to your entertaining recipes, you are really treating your guests well. Offering a special summer recipe on your patio, porch or deck is a thoughtful gesture - one to remember during the fall and winter months to come. Those memories will sustain you in the cold and snow - and before you know it, summer will be here again - with its bounty of tomatoes.
Any of the following recipes can be added to a simple grilled steak and an ice cream sundae buffet for a fabulous meal that will be remembered for a long time. Or if you are really obsessed, you can make an entire meal out of tomatoes - appetizer, salad, main course, hot vegetable... I even have a recipe for a chocolate cake made with tomatoes... maybe next week.
RecipesBacon Stuffed Cherry TomatoesTomato Mango SaladFresh Tomato PieFresh Tomatoes with SpaghettiBruschettaGarlic Basil Tomato Pie
Next week...The Perfect Picnic
Linda Larsen is a freelance Home Economist with a degree in Food Science from the University of Minnesota and a degree from St. Olaf College. She has been on the Pillsbury Bake-Off staff since 1987, and was in charge of Internet Recipe Search in 2000. Linda has developed recipes for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal, presented food to taste panels, held cooking seminars, and owned her own catering business "The Perfect Occasion". She loves to cook and entertain, write about food, talk about it, plan parties, read cookbooks and develop recipes. She has a cookbook collection of at least 1000 books and reads them as though they were novels.
Linda's first meal was a Mother's Day dinner from the Betty Crocker Children's cookbook, prepared when she was 11. Since then she has hosted wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, business dinners and cocktail parties, and wonderful simple meals for friends. Join her and learn simple and elegant ways to entertain your family and friends during the week.
Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..