Tomatoes grow all over the world, and they play important roles in the cuisines of many cultures. But down in Dixie, we put summer’s favorite fruit (yep, tomatoes are a fruit) on a high pedestal. The humble tomato sandwich (ripe maters, Duke’s mayo, and white bread), simple as it is, elicits a “Christmas-morning” excitement from most below the Mason-Dixon line (especially that first tomato sandwich each year). And the love affair continues all summer long. In an effort to truly savor the season’s waning weeks, here are three seriously simple ways to celebrate the tomato and the carefree days it symbolizes.
CLASSIC CAPRESE SALAD
(serves 4 for a side or appetizer)
2 cups cherry and grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on their size)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
16 bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls)
Divide the tomatoes and cheese evenly between four plates. Drizzle each with the oil, then the balsamic and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Eat immediately.
TOMATO & CUCUMBER SALAD
3 large tomatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup fine-chopped red onion
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (Start with two and give it a taste; if you like things sweeter, add more!)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
Whisk oil, sugar, vinegar and salt together and pour over chopped veggies. Let sit for an hour or so to let the flavors marry. Store in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. (Any longer than that, and the maters and cucumbers get mushy!)
So if I say jam, you think raspberry, strawberry, or some other intense fruity flavor slathered on toast or a biscuit. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a savory jam embellishing a cheese plate, adorning a roasted chicken, or even serving as the base for a glistening steak sauce. I’m talking Tomato-Rosemary Jam, and it’s the perfect way to put up the last of summer’s fat, ruby-red globes and ensure you can enjoy them throughout the year.
(This makes about 6 pints or 12 half-pints.)
14 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped
4 shallots, minced
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 jalapeños or serrano chilies, chopped fine
Juice of three lemons
6 (4-inch) sprigs of fresh rosemary
Get your jars and lids ready (clean and sterilize them), and fill a large pot halfway with water and set on medium heat. (You’ll need this to process your jars once they are full of the finished jam).
Put all the ingredients except the rosemary in a heavy-bottom pot (I used my cast iron Dutch oven) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 55 minutes. Add the rosemary sprigs and cook for another 45 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened and reduced to a jam-like consistency. Take out the rosemary.
Follow the instructions on your cans to fill, seal, and process them safely.