By now, hopefully everyone has gotten the obligatory first tomato sandwich of the season behind them. And it goes without saying, that tomato sandwich should have been constructed using the strict traditional guidelines, that is to say, only five ingredients are allowed — tomato, squishy commercial white bread, salt, pepper and the mayonnaise to which one’s family has sworn allegiance.
And of course, no one eats just one tomato sandwich but none are as soul-satisfying as the first one each season. But that is no reason not to chase that particular dragon until the first frost.
But as the summer rolls on and that first tomato gives way to another until they are coming in fast and furious, other uses must be found for the avalanche that results from a well-tended garden. Instead of your usual tossed salad, how about a salad that puts tomatoes forward into a starring role. Tomato, watermelon and four-herb salad is a good choice and also makes use of the fresh herbs in season now.
There are a lot more tomato-forward salads and pasta salads out there and some of the recipes are below. Use them to add to your repertoire of summer eating. And how about a savory cobbler with tomatoes and cornmeal biscuits? Not something you see every day and only practical during the dog days of summer.
But the best use for summer tomatoes to come down the pike in a long time has got to be brown butter tomatoes. Brown butter everything has been rocking the foodie landscape for a while now and for good reason. Butter is delightful and browning it only makes it more delightful.
The premise is simplicity itself. Butter is melted in a skillet and allowed to brown, simultaneously evaporating the water content and caramelizing the sugars which intensifies the flavor on two fronts. The butterfat is concentrated and the water expelled, thereby saturating the saturated fat, so to speak.
There are recipes out there for brown butter everything and it’s hard to go wrong with them but combining the amazing goodness of brown butter with the equally amazing goodness of homegrown tomatoes is a stroke of inspiration bordering on the miraculous. So simple, so easy and so inevitable — much like the traditional tomato sandwich — why has this not always been a thing?
Hot brown butter is simply poured over big slices of beefsteak tomatoes, not drizzled like a dressing but poured like ganache onto a cake. Then all you have to do is knock them back quickly while the butter is still hot, providing a veil of buttery goodness to the meaty tomatoes.
Why has it taken the world so long to realize the perfect accompaniment to the vitamin-rich and nutrient-dense tomato is saturated fat? And better yet, saturated fat that has been further saturated.
Tomato, Watermelon and Four-Herb Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light dinner. Feel free to switch out the herbs, depending on what you have. Tarragon, oregano and sage are all good candidates. if you don’t have walnut oil, use peanut oil, another nut oil or just use all olive oil.
1 ½ cups baby greens or arugula
¼ cup mint leaves, torn
¼ cup sweet marjoram leaves, torn
¼ cup basil leaves, torn
3 cups seedless watermelon cubes (about 1-inch in size)
¾ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 ounce feta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. rosemary, minced
1 tbsp. walnut oil
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
To make the vinaigrette: Combine lemon juice and zest and rosemary in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oils until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Combine the watermelon cubes and cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Set aside for about 10 minutes to marinate.
Toss together the greens, herbs, walnuts, and feta in a large serving bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt. Add the watermelon cubes and cherry tomatoes, draining off any excess liquid that’s accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Add just enough additional vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens and herbs, taking care to not overdress. Toss lightly, and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
Brown Butter Tomatoes
Serves 4, as a first course if you’re fancy or a side dish if you’re not.
2 large or 3 small ripe beefsteak tomatoes
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
Flaky sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Baguette or other country-style bread, for sopping up the butter
Core the tomatoes and slice them 1/3-inch thick. Divide the tomato slices among 4 plates, overlapping the slices just a little. Place the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium low heat. Let the butter melt completely. It will begin bubbling. Let the butter simmer away, cooking off its water, until it begins to smell nutty and brown. Swirl the pan every 30 seconds or so. When the butter turns the color of a hazelnut, remove it from the heat. Use a soup spoon to ladle it over the tomatoes. They’ll sizzle. You want to dress the tomatoes with the butter as if you were pouring ganache over a cake — be generous. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then rush the plates to the table so everyone can taste the tomatoes while the butter is hot. Sop up the butter and tomato juices with good bread.
Tomato Salad with Corn, Summer Squash and Roasted Onions
2 medium onions (use new onions if you can find them)
5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 yellow summer squash
2 small ears corn, blanched
1 scallion, finely chopped (or use fresh green onion tops if you have them)
2 cups Sungold tomatoes (or other small, sweet tomatoes)
Coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. honey
10 large basil leaves
Heat the oven to 400°F. Peel and slice the onions into 1/2-inch rings, and then arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the onions with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt, and smush everything around to coat the onions on both sides. Roast them for about 40 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until they’re brown and soft. Let the onions cool and then roughly chop them. Set aside. Dice the squash (aim for 1/4 inch) and put it in a large bowl; you should have about a cup. Strip the kernels from the ears of corn and add them to the bowl with the squash. Finely chop the scallion and add to the bowl. Halve the tomatoes (or quarter them if they’re bigger than a cherry) and add them to the bowl. Add the chopped roasted onions, a tablespoon of olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Stir everything together gently. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the honey; whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some more salt and pepper. Stir about two-thirds of the dressing into the salad, taste, adding more if you like. Roughly chop the basil, stir it into the salad and serve. This salad travels well and is still good the next day but should be eaten within 24 hours.
Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad
Shredded chicken makes this gorgeous salad hearty enough to serve on its own for dinner.
1 1/2 cups dried bow-tie pasta
2 fresh ears of corn or 1 cup whole kernel frozen corn
1 cup shredded, cooked chicken
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp. vinegar
2 -3 tbsp. basil pesto
1 tbsp. chicken broth or water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Snipped fresh basil
In a Dutch oven, cook pasta according to package directions. Add corn during the last 7 minutes of cooking pasta. Return to boil and continue cooking. When pasta is cooked and corn is crisp-tender, drain pasta and corn in a colander. (If using fresh ears, it may be easier to remove the ears with tongs, and then drain the pasta.) Rinse pasta and corn with cold water to stop cooking, and drain well again. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cobs. In a large bowl combine pasta, corn, chicken, and tomato.
For dressing: In a screw-top jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, pesto, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill, covered, for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil before serving.
Cheddar Tomato Cobbler
Sweet cherry tomatoes and caramelized onions bubble under cheesy cornmeal biscuits. Serve with a crisp lettuce salad for a meat-free harvest supper.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 medium onions, halved and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. snipped fresh oregano
6 cups cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup butter, cut up
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (1 ounces)
1/2 cup milk
In a 10-inch oven-going skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, brown sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until onions are very tender, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and turn heat to medium-high. Cook and stir for 5 to 10 minutes more or until onions are light brown. Remove from heat; carefully add vinegar. Stir in oregano. Transfer mixture from skillet to a bowl or plate and set aside.
Add tomatoes to skillet and roast in a 400°F oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until tomatoes have popped and released their juices. Stir in reserved onion mixture.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until pea-size. Stir in cheese, then milk, until all dough is moistened. Remove skillet from oven. Carefully drop dough onto tomato mixture in eight mounds, spacing mounds evenly. Bake about 20 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted into biscuits comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Greek Orzo Salad
1 1/4 cups dried orzo (8 ounces)
8 ounces feta cheese, cubed or coarsely crumbled
1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tbsp. snipped fresh basil
1 tbsp. snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. snipped fresh oregano
Salt and ground black pepper
Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine.
In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine. Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.