Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tomato Season

Corn Gazpacho
Garden tomatoes are ripping, especially when one got a jump on the season and bought established plants for transplanting to home ground.

   July is tomato month, the farmer's market is packed with home grown specimens, groceries advertise locally grown, while everyone who has a big pot or a little space has plenty of their own.
   Elroy Harris maintains you're a savvy gardener if you know a tomato is a fruit and have the wisdom to not put it in fruit salad.
   How we consume this fragile bounty is a matter of choice. Our favorites are tomato sandwiches - a thick slice of a large tomato on white bread slathered with mayo to which you can add a healthy slice of garlic baloney.
   Add spice to the supper table by gently drizzling slices of
Tomatoes with Basil
tomatoes with olive oil, and threads of fresh basil leaves. Layer these in a glass bowl and refrigerate until time to serve. We keep a pot of basil by our kitchen porch for summer consumption. Harvest it early in the morning for the strongest flavor and keep in a glass of water to use later.
   Preserving for winter gives us canned tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, or if you have an entire day to spend in the kitchen to cook it down and stir to prevent scorching there are tomato puree, paste and ketchup.
   Tomato Jam is a rare treat on hot biscuits. This is a family recipe:

2 to 3 pounds, firm, ripe tomatoes, 2 cups of sugar, 2 or 3 grinds of black pepper and a teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
   If you prefer a spicy jam you can add these ingredients 1 tablespoon of fresh grated or minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon & cloves, and red pepper flakes to taste. This is best served with meats as a relish or as a substitute for salsa.
   Skin and gently squeeze out seeds and juice. Cut tomato meat into 1/2 inch pieces. Using a heavy bottomed sauce pan add sugar and pepper.
   Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to insure even cooking and the liquid has cooked down. If foam comes to the top, skim and discard.
  Jam should register 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Ladle into hot jars & seal.
   At this point the jam can be kept in the refrigerator for at least six months. Ours is small so we use a hot water bath to seal the jars. My aunt would turn the jars up side down and place them in a 250 to 300 degree oven for thirty minutes to seal. I don't recommend her method.
   Gazpacho is a classic Mexican tomato soup served cold, which is perfect for a hot summer's day. Serve it with corn fritters (pancakes) for dippers. We can't help experimenting with recipes so here is our take on this popular summer meal.
   Corn Gazpacho combines two fresh summer treats.
   Cook two ears of corn, cool and remove kernels from cob with a sharp knife and set aside.
   3 large tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 cup chopped yellow onion, 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, and hot peppers (seeded & minced) to your taste.
   Skin, seed, and chop tomatoes, cucumber, & onion. In a blender or food processor process these ingredients with limited amounts of the water in small batches, transfer the puree to a bowl and continue until finished.

   Whisk in olive oil and vinegar. Stir in the corn as a last step and chill for at least one hour. Serve with a dollop of sour cream topped with either green onions or water cress. Makes 4 servings.
  Fried green tomatoes and green tomato relish were fall menu items for us when we rushed to cull the vines before a coming frost, but many use them as a sneak preview of the bounty to come.

   Last week we had lunch at the Blue Willow Inn located in Social Circle, Georgia where fried green tomatoes are a standard item on the buffet. If you are in the area (fifteen miles east of Atlanta) it is an off-the-beaten-track gem of gastronomic delights of southern cooking.
   A relish made of garden leftovers of onions, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, pickling spices, and vinegar goes great on hot dogs, in dressed eggs, and on hamburgers.

Nash Black, author of the forthcoming Forged Blade, a detective novel.  

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