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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.