One vine day
The August bank holiday marks our final fling with summer and all its edible spoils, not least the buxom tomatoes that have graced our plates these past months. Here are five vibrant recipes to see them out in style ...
Anna Jones’s tomato salads
Today I ate tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Squashed on to bread with oil, salt and a little cheese on the side in the morning; at lunch, in heavy wedges with a dousing of sea salt alongside a simple chickpea salad; and, at supper time, cooked down into a warm salsa to eat with potato tortilla.
I am in Portugal and the tomatoes here are worthy of all the superlatives you could bestow on a fruit or vegetable, but at home the season is in full swing too. Last week, I counted 24 different tomatoes in my local (admittedly very good) greengrocer, but even on the supermarket shelves it’s possible to find tomatoes beyond the bog-standard (which are picked unripe and never get to their best) or the ubiquitous vine or cherry varieties.
I am not a tomato purist: I do eat them outside of summer, and I do look forward to the first crop of hardy, salty, winter tomatoes. But, for now, I will feast on them while they are truly at their best, often with nothing more than salt and olive oil. To fully capitalise on this short time, here are a few more ideas.
One tomato salad – four ways
This is the tomato salad I make the most. Eat it simply as it is or take it in one of four different directions for a bit more of a meal.
1kg mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colours Flaky salt and black pepper
1 tbsp red-wine or balsamic vinegar 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated 1 fresh red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and the others into uneven chunks. Straight away, this will give you the beginnings of a tomato salad that’s really brave and exciting to look at and eat. Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a pinch of salt.
2 Give them a toss, season again and toss a few more times. The salt won’t be drawn into the tomatoes; instead it will draw any excess moisture out, concentrating all the lovely flavours. Leave the tomatoes in the colander on top of a bowl to stand for around 15 minutes, then discard any juice that has come out of them.
3 Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, add all of the other ingredients and mix well. Eat just as it is or take it one of the following four ways.
1 Popped chickpeas and Israeli spice Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Toss a drained can of chickpeas with a pinch of dried chilli, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp coriander seeds, salt, black pepper and olive oil and roast them at 180C/350F/gas 4 for about 20 minutes, or until crisp. Toss the warm chickpeas with the tomatoes, a finely chopped shallot, 1 tbsp sumac and some chopped parsley. 2 Summer herbs, lemon and mozzarella Pick the leaves from a bunch of mint and one of basil or marjoram. Roughly chop most of the herbs and add to the tomatoes with the zest of an unwaxed lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Lay on a plate next to some torn, seasoned mozzarella and finish with a little more oil and the rest of the herbs.
3 Corn, croutons, lime
Set the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Tear 4 slices of bread into small pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Cut the kernels from 2 ears of corn and add to the tomatoes with the zest of 2 limes and the warm croutons.
4 Goat’s curd and toasted seeds Toast 3 tbsp pumpkin and 2 tbsp sunflower seeds in a dry pan until they smell toasty. Add 1 tsp caraway or fennel seeds and toast for another 30 seconds. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup then take off the heat. Once cool and hardened, roughly chop the seeds. Serve the tomatoes with a spoonful of goat’s curd per person and the seeds for sprinkling over the top.
Grilled green tomatoes with feta and watermelon
Here I use green tomatoes, which are a verdant and altogether different affair from the red ones. Make sure that you use unripe tomatoes here – not the heirloom green variety, which are different. If you can’t get unripened ones you can use red: just don’t grill them. The resulting salad will still be totally delicious.
6 unripe green tomatoes in 1cm slices Extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar Salt and black pepper 1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced 400g piece of watermelon, cold from the fridge, chopped into bitesize chunks
1 green chilli, thinly sliced 100g unsalted, roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed lime A small bunch of coriander, leaves and stalks finely chopped
200g feta cheese, crumbled
1 Heat a griddle pan or grill to mediumhigh. Brush the tomato slices on both sides with a little oil. Grill until softened and lightly charred, which should take around 4 minutes per side. 2 Transfer the tomatoes to a serving platter and drizzle over the vinegar and 2 tbsp oil. Season with salt and pepper. 3 Toss the spring onions, watermelon, green chilli and almonds in 3 tbsp oil. Add the lime juice and zest, season well, mix again, then add the coriander and crumbled feta. Toss again to bring everything together.
For now, feast on them while they are at their best, with nothing more than a smattering of salt and a splash of oil