Tomatoes are flooding into markets, so the next few weeks, I’ll try to focus on this, my favorite of all foods, fresh tomatoes. It’s a big honkin’ food-writing cliché to wax poetic and drone on and on about the glories of sliced, fresh tomatoes on thin toast with mayonnaise, or tomatoes from the garden drizzled with olive oil, or tomatoes eaten out-of-hand like an apple . . . but they are all true. I had a version of the dish below (roasted cherry tomatoes with lobster salad and tarragon) at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants a few months ago, and I was reminded to dig out my fave tomato salad, incorporating small roasted tomatoes still on the vine. The idea is to roast them slowly enough so that they shrivel and intensify with flavor, but stay on the stems. It is a beautiful-looking dish, and the oven does all the work for you. The other recipe is for a wonderful and simple home-style tomato sauce that can be a master recipe for inclusion in any dish. Next week, I’ll dig up something for you to use it with.
Hot and Cold Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella Salad
1 lb. mozzarella di buffalo (or a bit more, if you have a hankerin’)
4 pints Sweet 100 or cherry tomatoes . . . Yellow, red, and gold ones make a great plate, but you’ll want some of them to be ‘stem on.’ If you are using stem-on tomatoes, it’s hard to measure pints, so just use what you would feel comfy eating.
2 T. olive oil
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. minced shallots
2 T. red wine vinegar
Basil chiffonade (thinly cut ribbons) to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat oven to 275. Toss half the tomatoes in the olive oil to barely coat, then season and place on a baking sheet fitted with a no-stick liner or baking paper. Roast until blistered and shriveled. This will take a few hours depending on the size of the tomatoes, and it can be done in advance. My tomatoes take about 3–4 hours, just keep an eye on yours. You can also do this at 500 degrees for 7–10 minutes but you have to be more mindful of exploding tomatoes.
Cut the remaining raw tomatoes in half. Cool the cooked ones, and arrange both the cooked and raw tomatoes on thin slices of the cheese, divided onto 6 plates. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar, then sprinkle with the basil, salt, and pepper.
Season and serve. Serves 4–6 as a first course.
Perfect Tomato Sauce for Anything
10–12 lbs. mixed red tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c. minced yellow onion
3 sprigs basil
2 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs parsley
2 t. sea salt
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. dry white wine
Peel and seed the tomatoes, then crush them in a food mill.
Place half the oil in a large, wide, well-insulated, non-reactive pot over low-medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, salt, and the herb sprigs tied together. Cook until aromatic and onions are translucent. Do not let the garlic burn.
Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a slow boil and lower heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about an hour or until the watery liquids have for the most part cooked off. You do not want a watery sauce.
Discard the herb bouquet. Add the balance of the oil. Simmer for another 5 minutes and cool. Adjust seasoning.
Use as needed or freeze. Makes roughly 3 quarts.