THE PERFECT TOMATO SANDWICH

I went out for lunch yesterday with my husband, and we paid about fifteen bucks apiece for a very mediocre/unsatisfying salad. So, this morning, I took off to the farmer’s market in search of the perfect tomato for a good old-fashioned tomato sandwich.

My husband comes from Georgia, where his father has an amazingly abundant garden – tomatoes being his speciality. As a result, my hubby was raised eating tomatoes every which way, and he believe that when you have a perfect tomato, there is no better way to eat it than in a sandwich, BUT the sandwich has to be simple and unadulterated with fancy ingredients such as Buffalo Mozzarella.

It’s all about the tomato and the bread. I happened to have a loaf of sliced Sourdough Bread (from the farmer’s market last week), so was fine in that department, plus I have a huge planter of basil which is crying out to be picked. However, the tomato?? I wandered through the market looking at all kinds of expensive heirloom varieties that I knew my husband would turn his nose up at, and then I found it – a deep red (almost scarlet) perfectly round, just-soft-to-the-touch, fruit. I knew it was the one. Although not “organic”, the farmer promised me that he never used pesticides, so I took his word. It cost me one buck.

Lunchtime rolled around and I lightly toasted the bread. Then I smeared a generous amount of Spectrum Organic Mayo on both slices (don’t skimp on the mayo). I sliced the still-warm tomato (never put it in the fridge because it will lose its flavor). I laid the slices on the toast, topped with a few large basil leaves, flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

My husband agreed that it was the best lunch we’ve eaten all summer. We bit in, and the sweet juice ran down our chins. He was reminded of sitting at his mom’s kitchen counter after jumping through the sprinkler on a hair-dryer-hot day. The lunch probably cost about 50c each and there wasn’t a restaurant in Los Angeles that could have delivered a more perfect sandwich!

PROVENCAL TOMATO TARTE

I made this for an al fresco supper the other day because I was in a hurry and had four people to feed. I also had a sheet of store-bought puff pastry I wanted to use up – so I found a couple of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes in Wholefoods and whipped this up.

It’s much lighter than a pizza and the buttery pasty is sublime combined with the tomatoes and olives.

 

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1tbsp olive oil

A sheet of puff pastry (I found mine in the frozen case at Wholefoods and it was perfect)

1 cup good quality Marinara sauce (I buy Trader Joe’s Organic)

2 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom), thinly sliced

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives

A handful of fresh basil

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Heat the olive oil and fry the onion on a very low heat for about ten minutes until caramelized. Remove from heat.

Roll out the pasty until it form a really thin (1/4 inch) square or round – whichever you prefer

Spread the Marinara sauce over the pastry (a little less than you would use for a pizza). Cover the sauce with the onions. Arrange the tomato slices over the top, followed by the cheese, olives, and basil. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

Place on a greased baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are beautifully browned.

PUTTANESCA TART

This might look like a pizza, but it’s actually a buttery tart loaded with caramelized onions and all the tangy Summer tastes that make up a traditional Puttanesca: tomatoes, olives, capers, basil and anchovies (if you like them.) It makes a perfect early Fall lunch or light dinner.

As there are still loads of beautiful heirloom tomatoes in the farmer’s markets and grocery stores, grab a few in preferably different colors as they work beautifully in this recipe.

I have used a buttery flaky pastry, which you can buy, but it’s honesty so easy to make – why bother. Also homemade pastry is unbeatable.

Puttanesca Tart

Pastry:

4 ounces butter

6 ounces flour

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1tsp salt

7tbsp icy water

1 egg yolk

1tsp water

Tart Topping:

3 large onions, thinly sliced

3tbsp olive oil

1tsp fresh thyme

3 large heirloom tomatoes

1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

2tbsp capers

6 anchovies (optional)

A large handful of fresh basil leaves.

 

Put the butter in a piece of foil and place in the freezer the night before. Place the flour, salt and oregano in a large bowl. Grate the butter and add to the flour.

Mix well to combine. Add the icy water and use your hands to form the mixture into a ball of dough. Place it in a plastic bag for at least 45 minutes.

Take the pastry out 10 minutes before you are going to use it. Roll it out on a floured board into a rough oblong shape and carefully transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onions.

Turn the heat down low and gently fry the onions for about 20 minutes until they caramelize. Transfer to a plate so cool.

Slice the tomatoes and place on a piece of kitchen towel on a large plate so that the juice drains off slightly.

Beat the egg yolk and add a 1tsp water. Use a brush to brush the edges of the pastry.

Pile the onions over the pastry making sure the whole tart is covered.

Arrange the tomatoes on top, followed by the olives, capers and anchovies.

Place it in the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges of the tart becomes crispy and lightly browned.

Allow it to cool to room temperature and before serving, add some fresh basil leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PANZANELLA

ahhhhh – I’ve arrived at my parent’s home in the UK (a little cottage in a tiny village in Surrey,) and am just getting over jet lag. Despite the fact that when it’s lunchtime here, it’s four in the morning back home, I’ve managed to get my taste buds onto British time and mom and I are already rummaging around in her kitchen, dreaming up the week’s menu.

Since she has an abundance of tomatoes and basil in her little garden and a large stale piece of ciabatta in her bread bin, I suggested a simple Panzanella for lunch today. I love Panzanella, which basically means “bread salad,” because it’s made from simple rustic ingredients that anyone can find. It goes without saying that the quality of the tomatoes make or break this dish, so go out of your way to get some good ones from the farmer’s market. I wouldn’t use heirloom tomatoes because they’re wasted in this salad. Whenever I find a perfect stripey heirloom, I just like to eat it naked with good olive oil and sea salt.

This salad calls for salty tastes to counter the sweet of the tomatoes and fresh basil, so I use anchovies, which you either love or hate – if you fall into the latter camp, use capers instead. Stale bread works best, so if you are eating ciabatta, forcaccia or olive bread this week, save a chunk and leave it out to get crusty.

The only fiddly part of this recipe is peeling the tomatoes, which you really have to do. That said, I’ve now got it down to a fine art, which I’ll share in a second.

Panzanella

4 or 5 medium tomatoes (preferably organic.)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp red wine vinegar
Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
3 slices or a large end of stale ciabatta bread
1 tin of anchovies (drained and chopped)
12 black Kalamata olives
1 large bunch of basil, leaves torn off stems
1 bunch a flat leafed parsley ( we only had curly parsley, which isn’t as nice.)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 1 full minute and then drain under cold water. Slip off their skins. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and remove the cores. Some recipes call for the tomatoes to be de-seeded, but I think this takes away all the juicy-ness, so I vote to just cut out the cores with a sharp little knife.

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Add the oil, garlic, vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.

If the bread is soft enough, rip it into bite sized pieces – if it’s rock solid, use a sharp serrated knife to chop it up.

Place it in a pretty bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread and toss the salad around, making sure the bread is well coated. Add the parsley, basil, anchovies and olives – combine well. Finally add the red onion.

The salad is best left for a good hour before eating to allow the juices to soak into the bread. Eat the salad at room temperature. It’s even better the next day, however, if you chill it in the fridge overnight, be sure to take it out an hour prior to eating because the flavors only really come out if it’s room temperature.

I recommend eating this salad for a delicious lunch – it also travels well, so you could pop it in a reusable container to take to lunch at work. It also works well as an appetizer or a side to meat or fish.