Three ways with ... tomatoes
The hot-house version just doesn’t compare to the real deal of high summer, says Lucy Corry.
In August, when Wellington was visited by the twin gods of horizontal rain and hail, a cluster of cherry tomatoes glowed in a tiny corner of my garden. The tomatoes, like enchanted fruit from a fairytale, were sweet and full of flavour, a little miracle in the greyness of winter.
They were a reminder that hothouse tomatoes, for all their good looks, can never beat the real thing.
Unless you have the same sort of magic winter-fruiting plant as we do, now’s the time to get your tomato fix.
1. HERBY TOMATO CHILLI BRUSCHETTA
Serves 2-4 as a starter or canape Preparation: 10 minutes Cooking: 5 minutes Years ago I was completely addicted to the tomato bruschetta at an otherwise unremarkable Italian restaurant in Hamilton.
Time has blurred my exact memory, but this is as close as I can get to recreating it. 8-10 1cm-thick slices ciabatta 1⁄ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 2 cups sliced tomatoes – a mixture of colours and sizes is good 3⁄ fresh herbs (a mixture of basil,
4 coriander and mint), finely chopped 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chilli 1 clove garlic, peeled 1⁄ cup cream cheese, at room
4 temperature Heat the grill or a heavy ridged grill pan. Brush the ciabatta slices with a little of the oil and grill until light brown.
Put the tomatoes, herbs, chilli and about a tablespoon of the oil in a bowl and mix gently.
Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub it over the grilled bread.
Spread a little cream cheese on each slice of ciabatta then pile the tomato mixture on top.
Season with lots of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.
2. TOMATO AND RED ONION SALAD
Serves 4 Preparation: 10 minutes, plus 40 minutes’ marinating Cooking: nil This salad is something my husband used to make a couple of years ago. It has taken me a long time to ascertain exact measurements to be able to make this myself to his standards.
It’s a refreshing accompaniment to any kind of meat and carb fest, especially a barbecue. 2 red onions, thinly sliced 1⁄ teaspoon flaky sea salt
2 1⁄ cup red wine vinegar
4 1⁄ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 2 tablespoons capers 4 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into chunks handful of flat-leafed parsley, chopped Put the red onions, salt, red wine vinegar and oil in a serving bowl and stir well.
Cover and set aside for 30 minutes (up to an hour is fine).
Stir in the capers and tomatoes, then grind over lots of black pepper.
Let sit for another 10 minutes, then scatter over the parsley and serve.
3. TOFFEE CHERRY TOMATOES
Serves 4 as a conversation-starting canape Preparation: 5 minutes Cooking: 10 minutes I’m not sure this is the best way to get children to eat vegetables, but it’s still rather fun. Stab each one with a cocktail stick to amp up the mini toffee apple vibe. 3⁄ cup caster sugar
4 3⁄ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 3⁄ teaspoon butter
4 1⁄ teaspoon cream of tartar
8 2 cups tiny cherry tomatoes, washed, dried Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Put the sugar, vinegar, butter and 2 tablespoons boiling water in a small saucepan.
Stir well, then set over medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cream of tartar, then bring to the boil without stirring.
Half-fill a cup with cold water and have it beside the stove. After the mixture has been boiling for 5 minutes, drop a small amount of toffee into the cold water. If it forms a shape that can be snapped with a crack, it’s ready. Keep trying this every couple of minutes – it won’t take long. (If you have a candy thermometer, it needs to hit 140C.)
Remove the saucepan from the heat and dip the tomatoes in, rolling them around to ensure a good coating of toffee. Scoop them out and leave to set on the tray. These are best eaten soon after making – do not refrigerate.