BY AMY Z. QUINN I’m crediting the locally-grown young plants we installed in May, but this week we harvested the first tomatoes from the backyard garden — not huge, but warm and burnished to a ruby red thanks to this weather. Just a handful now, but hopefully a harbinger of love apples to come. The first one was brought along on a play date to the home of our friend Lil’Z and his moms, Miz B, a woman who understands that the season’s first tomato and a bowl of egg salad are the best kind of hostess gifts.
We ate that ‘mater for lunch, thick crimson wheels atop herbed egg salad on gorgeous Russian bread; poor Lil’Z, not old enough for such foods, shot us dirty looks while contenting himself with YoBaby and Puffs. The egg salad was studded with flat-leaf parsley and dill, also from the Jerz Garden, and was delicious but unfortunately arrived during my own son’s current “Eww, yucky green things” phase, so he had PB&J. His loss.When we finished the sandwiches, we sliced the rest of it down and ate it greedily, like a dessert of tomato cookies sweetened with earth and sun.
So where am I going with all this? When it swelters, forget cozying up to friends who have pools out back. Find one with a halfway decent garden, and you’ll really be hooked up. Just remember: Keep the herbs in a glass of water in your fridge, and keep that tomato away from the fridge until after it’s cut. If this heat and humidity keep up, a week or so from now the tomato crops will start bumpin’, so it’s good to have a stockpile of ideas for what to do with all of nature’s (or your friend’s) largess. The absolute best thing to do with a good tomato, of course, is as little as possible — being a fruit, tomatoes work best in low-fi applications. But here are some other ideas:
* Obviously, there’s the sammich and its endless possibilities;
* Caprese Salad: Romaine, slices of tomato, a few torn basil leaves, maybe some chopped red onion and a few hunks of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and pause to thank your deity/higher power of choice.
* Use seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes (the little pear-shaped ones) and whatever fresh herbs you like to make salsa, bruschetta topping or gazpacho;
* Layer half-moon shaped slices of tomato with herbs and cheese in an omelet;
* Top a pan of mac’ n cheese with sliced tomatoes before baking;
* If you’re looking to make fresh pasta sauce, stay away from slicing tomatoes like Beefsteaks and Big Boys. Roma tomatoes are the ticket.
* Hollow out a larger tomato (fist-sized or larger), fill it with a starch like cooked cous cous, rice or orzo mixed with feta cheese and herbs, and bake at 350 until the flesh of the tomato is tender, about 30 minutes.
Got favorite uses for a tomato? Let’s hear ’em. Email AmuseBouche215@gmail.com.