A Toast to Tomatoes (and to Toast)

Casa Stuarti early sun

Casa Stuarti – Early Morning Light, returning from a walk with Rusty

August 6 – August 12, 2018

peach salad

Monday:                              Peaches and Tomatoes with Burrata and Hot Sauce / Avocado Toast / Salumi

View from grilling deck

View from grilling deck-martini in hand – photo of Taquitos did not meet Billy’s standard

Tuesday:                              Potato and Poblano Taquitos (F&W)

vietnamese pork

Wednesday:                      Vietnamese Pork with Rice Noodles (CI, July and August)

Chx Thighs

Thursday:                            Grilled Chicken Thighs (CI, July and August) / Green Bean Salad with Tomatillo

Chipotle Shrimp

Friday:                                  Tomato Toast / Chipotle Shrimp

Pizza

Saturday:                             Pizzas:  Margherita and Peppers and Sausage with Fontina

TT2

Sunday:                                Tomato Toast / Pollo al Vin Cotto  (Batali) / Gulf Coast Rice Pilaf

‘The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except that you can’t eat it. We should make every effort to make sure this disease, often referred to as ‘progress’, doesn’t spread.’  – Andy Rooney

Bread and water are basic to human existence.  But civilization has enhanced the water by making wine and what you might call the ‘enhanced’ forms of liquid sustenance, including that king of potables, usquebaugh (Gaelic for ‘the water of life’) which we know and revere as Scotch Whisky.  That same civilization came upon the tomato in the New World* and then discovered what that tomato can do when paired with bread.

*One more example of the greatness of ‘Mexican food,’ tomatoes were first cultivated by the Aztecs.  They called it ‘tomatl.’  Don’t try to pronounce that, you might swallow your tongue.

We remember, in the days of our youth, eating a tomato like an apple, salt shaker in hand to bring out the meatier and suppress the grassier flavor of the fruit.  I remember my Dad relishing a tomato sandwich consisting of sliced tomatoes lightly salted, white bread and a thin spread of mayonnaise, occasionally enhanced by a piece of iceberg lettuce.  Alas, these pleasures have become more and more rare since the explosion of ‘industrial’ tomato culture which produces fine-looking but tasteless, often mealy tomatoes.  The industrial approach also gives us tomatoes in all seasons.  In the dead of winter, in the midst of fierce snow storms, you can pick up brilliantly red tomatoes at your local supermarket.  But rarely, even at the end of summer, can that same supermarket supply you with a tomato that tastes good.

[Note:  some of these tomatoes are not terrible.  Cherry and “Campari” tomatoes, sliced and left to cure with a sprinkle of salt, are okay.  Plum tomatoes cooked down are pretty good.  But all of these would have been rejected by my Dad for his tomato sandwich.]

But at Casa Stuarti, we are fighting back.  Through the gardening skills of the father of one of Beez’s colleague, we have come into possession of some of the finest examples of the tomato on the planet.  Thank you, Jaime.

We’ll be eating Gazpacho this evening, and we’ve enjoyed these tomatoes a number of ways.  But this week we’re going to share with you a simple preparation – a slight enhancement of Dad’s tomatoes on white bread.  It doesn’t take much longer than the time you need to toast bread – which is important when you have perfectly ripe tomatoes and you’re hungry.  We’re also going to share a dish we cooked three weeks ago, during a soggy week of rain in Pittsburgh, ‘Pork, Mushroom and Artichoke Fricassee.” Marge CS, good friend and faithful follower asked for this one, and we should have sent it along sooner.

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TOMATO TOAST with CHIVES AND SESAME SEEDS

(adapted from bon appétit, August, 2018)

Timing:                                                 5 minutes plus toasting time

Ingredients:                                       4 servings (easily doubles, triples . . . multiplies)

The recipe calls for finely grated garlic (1 clove), which we think you should forgo.  It can overwhelm the tomato.

It also calls for Aleppo-style pepper for serving – again, we’d eschew.

½ cup mayonnaise (we used about ¼ cup)
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt
4   ¾” slices of country bread, toasted.  (We used rye bread, maybe 3/8” thick)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced.  (You can use any size tomato, but medium to large is best – and slice them fairly thick – ours were as thick as the bread)
2 Tablespoons of chopped chives
2 Tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
Flaky Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for drizzling)
We’d suggest some freshly ground black pepper for serving

Prep:

Zest and juice the lemon.

Mix the lemon juice with the mayonnaise – we added some chopped thyme from Hilda’s garden, perfect complement to the tomato.

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.  [This is key – not the sea salt, though that would be best, but salt of any sort brings out the tomato flavor you’re looking for.]

Chop the chives, toast the sesame seeds.

To Serve:

Toast the bread.  Spread the mayo-lemon juice on it.  Top with tomato slices (overlap them).  Sprinkle with chives, sesame seeds, ground black pepper and a slight drizzle of olive oil.  Enjoy.  Dad would have loved this.

Pork Fricasee

EXTRA                                   PORK, MUSHROOM AND ARTICHOKE FRICASSEE

(from MARTHASTEWART.com – no relation)

Timing:                                                                30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pork tenderloin (l lb.), cut into 2-inch rounds
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of butter
8 ounces mixed-mushroom blend (slice, if large) – we used cremini mushrooms.
1 tablespoon of minced garlic (2 cloves) – we used one clove – less than a teaspoon
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
2 cups of chicken broth
1 can of artichoke-heart quarters, drained
¼ cup of heavy cream
Chopped Italian parsley, for serving

Prep:

Measure out ingredients, slice mushrooms as needed and mince the garlic.

Pound the pork pieces between sheets of plastic wrap to get 1/8 inch thick pieces.

Season these with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.

Cook:

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high (a little less, if you have a high-btu burner).

Add as much of the pork as will fit in a single layer (about ½) and cook, flipping once, until browned – a total of maybe 3 minutes.

Transfer pork to plate, wipe skillet clean and repeat with more butter, then transfer the rest of the pork to a plate.

Now add the last tablespoon of butter and the mushrooms to the skillet.  Season with salt and cook, stirring from time to time, until golden – about 8 minutes.

Make sure the 2 cups of chicken broth is handy and ready to pour.

Now add the garlic and cook, stirring – maybe 30 seconds – you don’t want to burn the garlic, so pour in the broth when needed to stop that, and then stir in the mustard.  Cook all of this until reduced by half – about 10 minutes.

Stir in the artichoke hearts and cream, then return the pork and its juices to the skillet and cook until the liquid thickens slightly – 3 minutes.

Stir in the parsley and serve.

2 thoughts on “A Toast to Tomatoes (and to Toast)

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