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Taking a Fresh Look at Tomatoes

HOME COOK

August 08, 1996|MARION CUNNINGHAM

Our farmers market has a greater variety of tomatoes than ever: Better Boy, Lemon Boy, Early Girl, Celebrity, Burgundy, Sweet 100.

Some of us who are regulars at the market have become almost politically partisan about Early Girl, which we consider more balanced in flavor than Better Boy. Personally, I favor any tomato that is picked ripe enough that, like a good glass of lemonade, it has some acidity with a little sweetness.

I think the more interesting question is the best way to prepare and serve tomatoes. One of my favorites is a little appetizer that tastes just like a BLT sandwich.

Take a pound of cherry tomatoes, slice a little off the top of each and scoop out some of the pulp with a small spoon. Fry three slices of bacon until very crisp, pat dry, crumble into bits and put them into a small bowl with 1/3 cup mayonnaise. Fill the centers of the tomatoes with the bacon-mayonnaise mixture. Refrigerate until needed.

Here is another perfect way to use fresh tomatoes: Remove the core from eight or 10 tomatoes and cut them in half. Place the tomatoes, cut side-up, in a baking dish. Coat each half with a little olive oil and then salt and pepper lightly. Finely chop three cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of parsley, mix together and spread a little over each tomato half. Dribble two more tablespoons of olive oil over all. Bake at 350 degrees until the tomatoes are mushy, about 45 minutes. When the tomatoes are soft, add them to a pound of cooked spaghetti along with three tablespoons olive oil and two tablespoons butter.

CORNMEAL TOMATO SALAD TART

Cornmeal Tomato Salad Tart makes a great lunch or supper, and all you need to add is bread sticks and a fruit sorbet.

CORNMEAL TART DOUGH

1 cup flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup water

Combine flour, cornmeal and salt in large mixing bowl. Add shortening broken into 4 chunks. Rub shortening and flour mixture between fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in water and mix until dry bits hold together.

Pat dough into rough mass on lightly floured surface. Roll out dough about 10 1/2 inches in diameter (this will be thicker than normal tart crust). Carefully transfer dough to 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edges and bake at 400 degrees until crust is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

TOMATO SALAD

1/2 cup olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 or 3 tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Salt to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon water

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fresh basil cut into small pieces

1 cup parsley, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups iceberg lettuce cut into bite-size pieces

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and cook slowly until onions are soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Push onion to side of skillet and place tomato slices in single overlapping layer in skillet. Lightly salt tomatoes and set skillet aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine vinegar, salt and water. Let salt dissolve for several minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Place basil, parsley and iceberg lettuce on top of dressing without mixing dressing and greens. Refrigerate until just before serving tart.

Return skillet to medium heat to warm tomatoes thoroughly. Assemble tart by spreading onions over bottom. Toss salad and spread over onions, place warm tomato slices in 1 overlapping layer over salad and sprinkle tomatoes with chopped chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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