GOOD FOOD, GOOD LIFE: Celebrating tomatoes & summer
GOOD FOOD, GOOD LIFE
Not only are these recipes easy, they are pretty and worthy of entertaining on a beautiful summer afternoon or evening. The main ingredients here are peaking now at farmers’ markets across Colorado. So, have your friends over to sit and eat on the porch or under a shady tree. Happy July!
TOMATO AND WATERMELON SALAD
This is one of my favorite summer salads. Cool, sweet, and bright, it highlights many of the joys of July.
1 head of butter lettuce (red, green, freckled, or a combination) or other tender, sweet lettuces, washed and dried, the larger leaves torn into pieces
1/2 sweet onion, sliced very, very thin
A handful of basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
4 large, heirloom tomatoes, the sweetest you can find, varying colors
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes (or any tiny sweet tomatoes), cut into halves
1/2 of a small red watermelon, sliced into 1/2-inch slabs, rinds and seeds removed, cut into triangles or squares and chilled
1 small jalapeño pepper, sliced in cross-sections paper thin
A fruity, flavorful olive oil
1/2 cup (+) white balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper
Pour 1/2 cup of white balsamic vinegar into a flat-bottomed shallow dish and place in the freezer. Visit it frequently and stir with a fork while it freezes, eventually forming an icy, fluffy granite (don’t worry, it doesn’t require that much attention). You’ll likely have more than you need.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuces, sweet onion, and basil with just enough olive oil to coat. Add a pinch of sea salt, a couple grinds of white pepper, and a very small splash of white balsamic vinegar*. Divide this among 4 large salad plates.Arrange thick slices of varying colored tomatoes on the greens, layered with the chilled watermelon. Divide the tiny tomato halves among the plates and add a few of the thin jalapeño slices to each plate. Top each serving with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a couple grinds of white pepper. Just before delivering to the table, place a small pile of the white balsamic granite on the top of each salad. It will quickly melt onto the salads and makes a lovely presentation.
*Alternatively, you can just toss your oiled greens with more vinegar to taste and skip the granite.
CHILLED HEIRLOOM TOMATO SOUP
So easy! And it can be made ahead.
2 large heirloom tomatoes (red or yellow or both), 1.5-2 lbs., cut into large chunks, reserving all of their liquid
1 small onion or 1 large shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup of water
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil (for cooking)
Freshly ground black pepper
A small chili, seeded, very finely diced (serrano, jalapeño, or other).
1-2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
2-3 tsp. chopped herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, chives, or cilantro)
A fruity olive oil (for drizzling)
In a wide saucepan, sauté 1/2 of the shallots (or onions) in the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 1/4 tsp. of sea salt, a big grind of pepper, and the water. Once bubbling, reduce heat, cover and simmer until tomatoes have started to fall apart. Add water as necessary so that it is very liquid and not thick or sauce-like. This can be cooked longer for a more concentrated flavor or shorter for a lighter flavor. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and chill in the refrigerator.
When cool, process very lightly in a food processor or blender. If you prefer a smoother texture (that is without seeds or skin), run the tomatoes through a food mill instead of a food processor. Add sherry vinegar to taste. Salt to taste (careful here because salt and acid amplify each other, making it easy to have too much salt or vinegar or both). Divide into 4 small bowls. Garnish with the remaining chopped shallot, the chopped chili (to taste), a pinch of the freshly chopped herbs, a grind of black pepper, and a generous drizzle of good olive oil.
SUMMER TOMATO TART WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
You can pretend you fussed all day with this. It’s so lovely, people will believe you. Truthfully, this tart is simple and fast to assemble, even with the tart dough.
1 vegan tart crust (recipe follows)
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large onion
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Toasted pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
Vegan Tart Crust
Fast, easy, rich, flaky.
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 cup of peanut oil (or grape seed oil)
1/4 cup of cold water
Combine the flour and the salt in a bowl. Stir in the oil with a fork just until flour is mostly moistened. Add 1/4 cup of the cold water. Gently and quickly stir with the fork until just combined, adding a little cold water only if necessary. This dough will be a bit softer than traditional pie/tart dough made with butter. Handling as little as possible, form a ball, roll out on a floured surface and/or gently press into a tart pan. You could also roll it out and leave it free formed on a small sheet pan. Chill this in the refrigerator. For this tart, I do not recommend par-baking the crust because of the baking time necessary for the tomatoes to lose their water. Preheat oven to 375.
Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Slice the onion into thin strips and add to the pan. Cook gently on low to medium heat until they soften a little, then reduce the heat and cook the onions slowly, stirring frequently, until caramelized. Add a pinch of salt at the end. They will be very sweet and fragrant. Remove from heat and allow them to cool. Cool enough that they won’t compromise your minimally touched pie dough, but I did say that this recipe is fast.
Spread the caramelized onions onto the chilled tart dough. The oil protects the crust from the wetness of the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices with a very sharp knife. Arrange them decoratively on top of the onions. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Bake the tart until the tomatoes are well cooked and have lost most of their water. When cool, you want to be able to cut your tart without it leaking. The crust will stay nice, too! Sprinkle the tart with fresh thyme (and a few nuts, if using). Cut into 8 slices and serve warm or room temperature. This can be made several hours ahead, if necessary. You can also make individual tarts.
Telluride resident Christa Moran lives and breathes fresh food. Already an accomplished chef, after becoming a vegan in 2011 she’s dedicated her free time to creating original dishes in keeping with a vegan diet void of animal products. Now, she’ll share her flavorful creations with you in “Good Food, Good Life,” a monthly column in the Grand Junction Free Press. To reach Moran, email email@example.com.
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