Last Gasp of Summer

big garden tomatoes

I know it’s fall–it looks, smells and feels that way here in the Pacific Northwest–but the giant tomatoes I’m still hauling in from the garden and that keep showing up in my CSA share are ever so welcome. It is that time of year for me though where there is so much produce, both summer and fall crops, that it’s hard to focus. This salad is a good way to work through a lot of tomatoes and cherish their sweet juicy-ness before they disappear for many months.

This quick salad today is not a panzanella, at least not in the typical Tuscan sense, though it may look like it to many. This is panzanella! Thank goodness for a better writer than me and one with more authority on Italian food than me to write a proper post about this wonderful, soggy, yes soggy, Tuscan dish that I ate day after day in Italy and have recreated for students and friends alike, almost always to raised eyebrows of skepticism before and appreciation and wonder after ingestion! I like many of the more modern, American adaptations with toasted bread, I just resist calling them panzanella for some stubborn nod to tradition that occasionally comes over me.

In this salad, a thick slice or two of toasted bread is cut into cubes and tossed with big chunks of tomato, feta, a bit of arugula and lots of basil and some diced red onion. Red wine vinegar and good olive oil and salt and pepper is all the dressing it needs. Buon Appetito!

IMG_8794

 

IMG_8800

IMG_8801

Tomatoes

Even with our cool, wet spring and cool, wet early summer my tomatoes are coming on full steam. I pick some everyday now and somehow having fresh tomatoes on the counter makes dinner easy. They are so long-awaited, so sweet and beautiful and liven up practically any ingredient or comfortably take the main stage. And speaking of the tomato bounty and the pepper, eggplant, and corn bounty that’s upon us, I have two classes scheduled in late September that will take full advantage of these fleeting pleasures.

The first Black Krim, some Early Girls, Stupice, and Sungolds–this morning's harvest.

But back to today’s tomatoes . . . for lunch they make their way into sandwiches with a fried egg or just basil and sharp cheddar or a BLT if I really have it together. For dinner they get diced and tossed with feta and basil and maybe cucumber and lots of basil.

And there’s nothing better than that first fresh tomato sauce. In a large skillet, even the juiciest slicing tomatoes cook into a luscious sauce over high heat in just 10 minutes or so. Start with some diced onion, add the tomatoes (I never bother to peel or seed them, just dice and toss them in) and a bit of minced garlic if you like and finish with a bit of fresh basil or dried or fresh oregano. Toss with pasta or top a pizza with it. Or poach some eggs in it and eat with some good, crusty bread

This is a standard Italian dish. If you have pre-made tomato sauce it takes mere minutes and if you have fresh tomatoes it doesn't take much longer to put together a quick sauce. Top the eggs with some grated parmesan towards the end for a fancier dish and be sure to have some good bread on hand to serve with this.

If you have a little more time, I urge you to make this wonderful tart with tomatoes and goat cheese I started making last year after seeing it on David Lebovitz’s blog. It’s actually quite simple even though it does involve a crust.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

And finally, if you need a picnic dish (though the tart is great for that too) and have some garbanzo beans (or white beans would probably be good too) on hand, toss them with diced tomatoes, some cucumber, maybe some arugula and/or basil and some sweet onions. Crumble some feta and dress with a vinegary dressing and you’ve got a wonderful refreshing and hearty salad.

Quick Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Salad.

Happy Cooking and Eating!