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The Press - Zest - - Eat - KATE FRASER NIGEL SLATER, OB­SERVER

Who to be­lieve? It has been a poor sea­son for home­grown toma­toes. No, it has been a great sea­son for home­grown toma­toes. As with any veg­etable, the suc­cess or not of a crop de­pends on the weather as much as the skills of the gar­dener, and in Christchurch last week the ar­gu­ment was won by the weather. This year’s tomato crop is a washout and the best thing now is to turn those rain-split and wind-bat­tered veg­eta­bles into lunch or din­ner. It’s not only about ‘‘waste not-want not’’ ei­ther. Think of your good health: ripe toma­toes are a use­ful source of vi­ta­mins A, B, C, min­er­als, fi­bre and ly­copene – a carotenoid whose anti-ox­i­dant po­ten­tial is in­creased when the ripe tomato is cooked.

And don’t for­get green toma­toes, says Jenny Gar­ing who writes of the culi­nary plea­sures of the same in her Epi­cu­ri­ous col­umn this week.

BREAD AND TOMATO SALAD

A salad of bright flavours, soft veg­eta­bles and crisp, open-tex­tured bread. It is not a recipe to get sloppy with: us­ing un­der-ripe toma­toes, wimp­ish basil and sec­ond-rate oil will end in dis­ap­point­ment. Tim­ing is im­por­tant too; this is not a dish to leave hang­ing around. Serves 4. 250g open-tex­tured bread such as cia­batta 600g ripe toma­toes 1 small cu­cum­ber 1 clove of gar­lic 1 red or yel­low cap­sicum (pep­per) A large bunch of basil, A hand­ful of olives 150ml olive oil (a green and pep­pery oil if pos­si­ble) 2 Tbsp red-wine vine­gar Set the oven at 180C. Slice the bread thickly – the pieces should be about 1cm thick – and put on a bak­ing sheet. Sprin­kle each piece very lightly with olive oil then bake them for about 15 min­utes till they are lightly crisp. Slice the toma­toes, but don’t be tempted to peel or seed them. Put them in a large serv­ing bowl. Peel and seed the cu­cum­ber and cut it into rough chunks, then add to the tomato. Finely chop the gar­lic, cut the cap­sicum into small dice and add both to the toma­toes. Tear the basil leaves from their stalks, then add them along with the olives to the bowl. Put the oil and vine­gar into a small dish, sea­son it with salt – you can be quite gen­er­ous – and some black pep­per. Toss the dress­ing, bread and salad gen­tly to­gether. Eat be­fore the bread gets too soggy.

SPICED CHICKEN WITH SUM­MER VEG­ETA­BLES

Chicken pieces rubbed with a commercial peri-peri sea­son­ing, and roasted with the last of the sum­mer veg­eta­bles are fur­ther spiced with chill­ies, sweet pa­prika and lime juice. It is an easy dish and the kick of the spices is a sparky sur­prise. Serves 4 - 6. 1 large cour­gettes 1 medium aubergine 2 red onions 1 red or yel­low cap­sicum (pep­per) 4 large ripe toma­toes 5 Tbsp olive oil 4 Tbsp peri-peri sea­son­ing 2 limes juiced 10 chicken pieces (thighs, drum­sticks) Set the oven at 180C. Wipe and thickly slice the cour­gette and aubergine and ju c ju r v R ju R la o w in f 1

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Peri-peri sea­son­ing: Spice is nice with drum­sticks and roast veg­eta­bles.

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