I never get tired of fresh, in-season tomatoes, and finding things to do with them. Raw, broiled, cooked into sauce, yum. One of my favorite tomato dishes of all time is a nice, creamy, tomato bisque. It’s hard to resisting it if it is the daily special at a restaurant. But I can also be cautious, because bad tomato soup is possible, and it’s…well, it’s bad. It turns you off of tomato soup for the foreseeable future. Best to avoid bad soups. This soup is not a bad soup – obviously, I suppose, otherwise it wouldn’t be making an appearance here. It is, however, a simple soup. About 45 minutes, start to finish, and you’ll get a velvety smooth soup that you can drink, or dip your grilled cheese sandwich in.
Creamy Tomato Soup (6 servings)
You can use anything for the fat that starts this soup. I used the drippings from pancetta, but you can also use bacon fat, butter, or olive oil.
- 1/4 c. fat of your choice
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1/4 – 1/2 c. heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat your chosen fat in a large pot – tall if you plan to use an immersion blender as I did – over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape, about ten minutes.
- Add chicken broth and cook a further 15 minutes to let the flavors develop. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, or in a blender.
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve or chinois into a pot. Stir in heavy cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sometimes simplicity really is best. I am a firm believer in meals with only a few ingredients, as long as it’s not a compilation of processed foods masquerading as something more complicated. High-quality linguine in a sauce of butter, onion, garlic, and fresh-cracked pepper is one example, and this sandwich is another: just one slice of delicious bread, high-quality mayonnaise (in this case, homemade), fresh tomato, salt, and pepper. Sure, you can pretty this up any number of ways, such as with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a base of fresh basil leaves, or thick, crisp fried bacon. But the beauty of this sandwich is that you don’t have to.
The only thing that really complicates this sandwich is the homemade mayonnaise, and I will echo legions of food writers in that it is absolutely worth it (though I have made the sandwich before with jarred mayonnaise, and it’s pretty tasty that way, too!). It’s softer, creamier, and has at once a stronger and more delicate flavor. I made mine using the whisk attachment on my hand mixer, and a squeeze bottle to slowly drip, then stream, the vegetable oil into the egg yolk for an easy emulsion. I know this is a process that daunts many home cooks, but I urge that it is totally, completely doable. Today was the first time I made it, and in about 15-20 minutes, I had a batch all ready to go.
Simple Tomato Sandwich (makes 1 sandwich)
- 1 medium slice bread – I used my favorite rosemary bread from a local bakery, but any will do, although I’ll say plain white sandwich bread may be a little delicate to hold up to the tomato
- 3 slices from a small, ripe tomato
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise – I used this recipe as written
- salt and pepper to taste
- Lightly toast your bread slice, and let cool to room temperature, so the mayonnaise won’t melt on the bread.
- Spread with the mayonnaise, and top with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- That’s it!
Just a word of warning – this is not for the faint of tongue. Sure, it looks mild-mannered enough, with its flaky, buttery puff pastry and its perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes. But lurking underneath the tiny fruits is a spread of viciously tart intensity. Actually, this particular batch of cherry tomatoes was pretty intense itself, so it was a very strongly flavor-packed tart. Like so many other simple recipes, I would be sure that you like the flavor of each ingredient, because they will all shine.
I brought home this particular pint of cherry tomatoes quite without an idea of what to do with them. As I was checking out of the market, one of the tomatoes dropped out of the basket, and I popped it into my mouth. As it burst, it was just the very essence of a mid-summer tomato, and I knew that whatever the preparation, it would have to be simple. I’m not even sure what inspired this – probably some half-glimpsed recipe on the internet somewhere – but it turned out better than I imagined.
Tomato Goat Cheese Tart (serves 4-6 as an appetizer, or 1 rather hungry person for dinner)
The mustard and goat cheese, as mentioned above, are really quite intense. You may choose to either reduce the amount of mustard in the spread, or beat in some mitigating ingredient, like creme fraiche.
- 1/2 lb. puff pastry
- dry pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375. Allow puff pastry to thaw. Unfold and roll, if necessary, to a rectangle of approximately 11″x14″. With a paring knife, lightly score a line all the way around the rectangle, about 1/2″ from the edges. Fold each edge in at the line and lightly press the edges into the pastry, to form an edge. Pinch out the corners.
- Place the goat cheese in a small bowl and microwave for approximately 30 seconds, until it has softened to spreadable consistency. Whisk in the mustard, and then spread this mixture onto the pastry rectangle, almost up to the folded-in edges.
- Rinse and halve the cherry tomatoes. Place cut-side-up in rows on the goat cheese mixture. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake 15-30 minutes, or until pastry has risen and is browned, and tomatoes have shrunken a bit in their skins.
Okay, so, this wasn’t entirely my own idea. It was featured in the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine, as part of their Tomato Tasting Menu. I won’t take credit for the idea, just the execution of it.
Tarte Tatin is a French upside-down apple tart with puff pastry, supposedly made accidentally by Stephanie Tatin at the Hotel Tatin in 1898 – one of the only food origin stories I’ve ever heard that involved a woman inventing something amazing. It’s very simple, essentially the same process as a pineapple upside-down cake – caramelizing fruit, topping with pastry and baking until puffed.
I opted to make my own puff pastry for this one, and had it not been for the fact that I had no one to take shots while I worked, I would be putting up a photo tutorial as we speak. As it is, the making of the puff pastry was so difficult, I’m not sure when I’ll do it again – I’m still sore, and it’s been two days! I followed Julia Child’s recipe from “From Julia Child’s Kitchen” on this one, except for replacing the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, and as I had plenty left over, I expect I will be using it to some purpose where I can taste it on its own, and let it puff as high as it can, since with this tart, the layers collapse under the fruit. Or mine did, anyway.
Tomato Tarte Tatin (1 9-inch tart)
This tart received mixed reviews at our table: three really enjoyed it, even the one who normally despises tomatoes! The other two of us were lukewarm at best on the tomatoes, but liked the caramel and crust.
- puff pastry, thawed, trimmed into a 9-inch circle (to fit a cast iron pan)
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 8 large plum tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Melt butter in cast iron pan. Sprinkle sugar over the top and cook, swirling often, until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out their innards. Arrange them, cut side up, in the cast iron pan. Continue to cook until caramel has turned dark amber, about 5-10 minutes.
- Place puff pastry on top, tucking edges under with a knife. Place in the oven and cook 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. If top of pastry browns too quickly, place a sheet of foil lightly over the top.