January 1, 1970It used to be the first tomato of the season was like a new love -- ripe, delicious, ready to be relished and ravaged. By the time the season was over, it was a bit wearisome to be inventive.
The world of tomatoes has changed, however. That first red globe, tender to the touch, may be so juicy you bite into it over the sink, happy to let it dribble down your chin. Equally tempting, however, may be the urge to sprinkle it with olive oil and basil, or sandwiched with fresh buffalo mozzarella.
Indeed, the first tomato you eat this summer may be a yellow one, cut into wedges and served with a drop of balsamic vinegar to spruce it up. If you are really an impatient soul, with a penchant for sourness, you may have plucked one while still green, coated it in flour and bread crumbs and sautéed it for breakfast or Sunday supper.
Heirloom and other tomatoes have perked up the whole season, if not the whole year. Some are nearly black, dusky orbs that radiate fullness of flavor. Others are spectacularly un-round – knobby, ugly things, that would have been rejected a dozen years ago as ill-shaped, but are now recognized for having an unexcelled tastiness. Consumers have made it clear uniformity of shape is secondary to excellence of flavor.
Once the first flush is over, tomatoes rapidly crowd the kitchen window sill. No problem – like a good marriage, there are many things to do to keep them in your daily diet with no weariness or boredom.
Side bar: Freezing tomatoes
When you have too many tomatoes to deal with, and no time to cook them, move clean tomatoes to a baking sheet and freeze. When frozen, move them off the sheet into a freezer-type plastic bag. They will stay there quite happily until you are ready for them. They will be easy to peel, and although not suitable to serve raw or in a salad, they are a welcome addition to a conserve (like a catsup), spaghetti sauce or cooked dish.
Side bar: Oven-roasted tomatoes
Oven roasted tomatoes are the twenty-first century replacement to the sun-dried tomatoes of the 1980’s. Martha Stewart felt so strongly about oven-roasting as opposed to sun-drying that her recipe for them was one of two new recipes in her introduction to The Martha Stewart Cookbook, Collected Recipes for Every Day, which was published in 1995. Her recipe is very similar to ours, but she adds two teaspoons of sugar and freshly ground pepper. The roasting time varies according to the heat of the oven and the thickness of the tomatoes.