Thursday, July 24, 2014

its a classic for a reason

I mentioned in one of my Instagram/Facebook posts about my desire to eat my weight in tomatoes this year, and I think the garden is going to accommodate my wish.  Summer is only halfway through in Los Angeles (it really doesn't end til after Halloween weather-wise), and I've already got more tomatoes every other day than Drew and I could ever eat.  I have had to get creative so that I am sure that we don't waste a single fruit. 

My go-to right now is classic bruschetta.  It seems like the birthright of any Italian gardener/cook, and Drew and I have been perfecting our version.   I based it on a recipe in one of my fave books about cooking with seasonal foods from the backyard, Vegetables From an Itailan Garden.  I've made it as the first course for two parties so far and we eat it at least once a week.  Rest assured, if you are a dinner guest at my home this summer, you will be served bruschetta.  It is a classic for a reason.

I'm not really a recipe posting sort of girl, but this is more assembling (it is just tomato salad on toast, after all) than cooking, so here goes:

You'll need 10 tomatoes, chopped,  2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), salt and black pepper to taste, and a handful of basil leaves, chopped fine (or not, just as good without).  Combine everything in a bowl and refrigerate (I like to make my salad at least 30 minutes before so that the flavors marry nicely) until ready to serve.

A little extra condiment that we have been making for this dish is a simple balsamic syrup for drizzling over the bruschetta just before we serve.  Totally unnecessary, but it makes everything extra delicious.  The whole process is just putting 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and cooking on low until it has reduced by half and is just a bit syrupy -- about 15 minutes or so.

To make your toasts, slice your bread and brush it with olive oil.  We used a bread from Sadie Rose Baking Co. and it was delicious, but you can use any bread you like.  Grill your bread until its nicely marked on both sides.  When cool enough to handle, rub each toast with a clove of raw garlic.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of tomato salad to each toast, arrange on a serving platter or board, drizzle with the balsamic syrup.  Devour.

Our components -- tomato salad, grilled toasts with garlic, balsamic syrup.  Our test toast.  I didn't even have a chance to take a photo of the finished platter of bruschetta because they were so quickly devoured.

My plan B of late is canning my garden tomatoes.  I'd made jam and pickles, but had never canned tomatoes (although I watched my grandmother do it almost every summer of my childhood).   I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as a guideline for the processing of my tomatoes, but it really is as simple as putting a healthy pinch each of salt and sugar  and the juice of a lemon into a (warm -- make sure the jar is warm or it'll break -- I know from experience) quart mason jar and filling the jar with whole, peeled tomatoes.  After the jars are processed, the perfect summer tomato-ness is sealed in.
My first canned tomatoes.  I love opening the pantry and seeing jars that look like these.
Got an awesome tomato recipe?  I'd love to hear all about it.  I'm guessing I'll have plenty of tomatoes to give it a try, too.

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