Tomatoes in season

Let’s face it, this has been a cool, wet summer in Central Alberta. Crops are late, and we’re not talking about the canola. We’re talking about the Number One reason people keep a backyard garden — for the tomatoes.

Array

Array

Let’s face it, this has been a cool, wet summer in Central Alberta.

Crops are late, and we’re not talking about the canola. We’re talking about the Number One reason people keep a backyard garden — for the tomatoes.

People who have been praying all season for just a little more warmth to bring their plants along are now hoping for a prolonged late-summer warm spell, so that those juicy little bombs of flavour can ripen on the vine.

The early varieties should be turning from green to gold to brilliant red by now, so it’s time to prepare for that moment of celebration — when they start coming into the house by the boxload, and you can start cooking.

You say tomato, they say pomodoro.

And when they say it, they mean it. That’s because the Italians are champions of simple, classically delicious ways of using fresh tomatoes. And they should be; they’ve been cultivating them for hundreds of years.

One of the many basic ways they prepare garden-fresh tomatoes is in a pomodoro sauce made with basil and garlic tossed with pasta. This pasta is just that, noodles and tomatoes, a dish that embodies the core philosophy of Italian food — letting just a few perfectly ripe ingredients shine.

I recently returned from a cooking expedition to Italy where I learned how to prepare pomodoro sauce from those who know best — Italian mothers and grandmothers.

One particular day sticks in my mind. I was getting ready to do what I always do — smash garlic cloves by laying the flat side of a knife on top of them and lightly whacking it with the palm of my hand. As I got ready to give the garlic a good slam, the Italian mama cooking with me, named Lucia, screamed “No!” so loud you could hear her in France.

Then she explained that the garlic for the pomodoro sauce had to be sliced.

I didn’t know why until I tasted her pomodoro sauce. It blew me away. The sliced garlic, sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil to almost dark brown but not burned, imparted a taste explosion in my mouth that you just can’t get from the usual ways of preparing and tossing garlic into a dish.

So when you make this recipe, do not chop the garlic. Do not press the garlic. Do not smash or whack the garlic. And by all means, do not use that pre-diced stuff in the jar. If you do any of the above, you have performed an illegal operation.

Do take the time to find fresh tomatoes, ripe ones, from the vine. Now is the perfect time to go out and search for them, either from your own garden, or from those that supply your local farmers market.

Any variety of tomato works in this recipe as long as they are very ripe. I prefer small tomatoes, such as cherry, pear or grape, because they can be tossed right in, skins and all. For larger tomatoes, peel them first, then chop them.

This recipe takes no more than 30 minutes to get on the table. The best sauce, I discovered after years of sauce-making, is the least cooked.

Some tips:

• Don’t stir or toss the pasta with tongs as they tend to break the noodles.

• If the noodles are not cooked enough to your liking, simply add a little more pasta water and cook longer in the pan with the sauce.

• If you can’t find kamut spaghetti, use any shape of kamut pasta. And if you can’t find kamut pasta, brown rice or whole-wheat varieties are fine.

Pasta Pomodoro

Salt

15 ml (1 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Pinch red pepper flakes (peperoncino)

16 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, divided

1 l (4 cups) very ripe grape tomatoes (about 80 grape tomatoes)

250 g (8 oz) dry kamut spaghetti

Ground black pepper, to taste

30 ml (1 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated, divided

In a large pot, bring 6 l (24 cups) of water to a boil. Add 30 ml (2 tbsp) of salt.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-low, heat 7 ml (1/2 tbsp) of the oil. Add garlic slices and toast, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Watch closely so garlic doesn’t burn.

Increase heat to medium, add red pepper flakes and half of the basil leaves. Cook for 30 seconds, then add tomatoes.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente according to package directions, usually about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, toss grape tomatoes in skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until they start to blister and the skins pop. Mash tomatoes gently with a potato masher or fork to make a pulp, then turn off heat. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.

Drain pasta, reserving 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the cooking water. Add drained pasta and reserved pasta water to tomato mixture. Increase heat to medium-high. Add half of the cheese. Cook for about 2 minutes or until sauce begins to cling to noodles, using a heat-resistant rubber spatula to toss pasta to coat evenly.

Add remaining basil and olive oil and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide pasta among 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Rocco DiSpirito is author of the Now Eat This! and Now Eat This! Diet cookbooks.

Best Fried Green Tomatoes

Can’t wait for your garden crop to ripen before beginning the harvest? Classic fried green tomatoes give you that first taste of homegrown gold.

You can also fry up red tomatoes with this recipe but make sure they are not over ripe or they will be mushy. Serve these tomatoes outside with a glass of iced tea one summer night and enjoy the sunset with someone you love.

4 large green tomatoes

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.

Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.

In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on paper towels.

— Diana Swenson-Siegel/allrecipies.com

Grilled Avocado Sandwich

Very little in this world surpasses the flavour of perfectly vine-ripened tomatoes. so savour them in their natural state — raw, and sliced into a sandwich. This avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich is a nutritious and well-balanced lunch or light supper option.

4 slices cheddar cheese

8 slices whole-wheat or whole-grain bread

1 ripe fresh avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 medium tomato, sliced

4 slices red onion

Chili sauce, to taste

4 slices Monterey Jack cheese

Olive oil cooking spray

Place 4 bread slices on a work surface. On each, place a slice of cheddar cheese, a layer of avocado, tomato and onion slices. Add chili sauce to taste. Top with Monterey Jack cheese and finish with remaining bread slices.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray skillet with olive oil cooking spray. Place sandwiches in skillet and cook until bread is browned. Turn and cook until cheese has melted. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: California Avocado Commission.

Salmon Tomato Cups

As we greet the local tomato crop, here is a wonderful recipe for luncheons or light suppers. This rendition uses campari tomatoes which are larger than a cherry and yet smaller than a field tomato. If not available, choose smaller field varieties.

6 campari tomatoes

2 cans (each 170 g) skinless boneless salmon, drained and flaked

125 ml (1/2 cup) sour cream or light sour cream

15 ml (1 tbsp) dried oregano

125 ml (1/2 cup) kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped

Cut tomatoes in half width-wise to make 12 tomato halves. (If desired, use a serrated knife to cut off the stem end of each tomato and a tiny bit off the bottom so the tomato halves will stand.) Remove seeds using teaspoon or a small melon baller to form tomato cups. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, blend salmon, sour cream, oregano and olives.

Mound salmon into tomato cups and serve by themselves or over mixed greens, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 170 calories; 16 g protein; 9 g fat; 7 g carbohydrate; 2 g fibre; 410 mg sodium.

Source: Clover Leaf.

Story and photos with files from Canadian Press and Advocate news services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read