Sunday, August 30, 2009

at last

Tomato and bourbon bacon

Tomato and bourbon bacon

It had been a terrible, dismal season, stormy and misfortunate.  Too little sun and too much damp.  Time and again we had been denied the crimson bounty.  The crew had near given up hope, when at last we spied it --

A tomato.

Ripe on the vine, not yet split by rains nor wracked by blight.

We set upon it like jackals.

Tomato sandwich, bourbon bacon, pepper.  The tomato isn't from my garden, but from my mother's -- my tomato plants were almost completely destroyed by blight this year.  The tomatoes I can get aren't nearly as good as last year's, but they're still better than the tomatoes that'll be available the rest of the year.

Things that benefit the most from using good fresh tomatoes: tomato sandwiches (pointless any other time of year), tomato pie (prebake a pie crust; add sliced tomatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper, top with a mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, optional dry mozzarella, and enough mayonnaise to make the cheese stick together; bake for 30 minutes), tomatoes and okra, tomatoes and scrambled eggs, pasta with minimally cooked tomatoes, and presumably tomato juice (of which I'm not really a fan).

There is also the classic hamburger:


My prescription for a good hamburger is very simple: add little or nothing to the meat (though ground bacon mixed in with the beef is a good variation), knock it off with the enormous patties, salt the surface of the patty, cook it on hot cast iron to develop a good crust, let it rest for a few minutes before putting it on the bun (Martin's potato roll) or, in a pinch, the bread.  George Motz is right -- mustard is better on hamburgers than ketchup, even if you love ketchup.

If you have some tomatoes that aren't as great -- or just too many great ones -- you can make homemade Catalina dressing, too: puree and strain the tomatoes (the straining is optional) and cook down until they start to thicken like a pasta sauce.  Add equal parts sugar and vinegar, season with salt and Worcestershire sauce until slightly too salty, add a good dose of smoked paprika, and then toss in the Cuisinart and slowly add oil until it's the consistency of salad dressing (expect to add about twice as much oil as vinegar).  Ideally, refrigerate for a day or two before using.

Underused tomato condiment: soy sauce, especially the lighter Japanese style soy sauce used with sushi.

And of course, there is the simplest tomato sandwich in the world: split a baguette, butter it, broil it, and rub a split tomato on the broiled surface, squeezing the tomato guts onto it.  Top with coarse salt.

Tomato bread


  1. Did you start your tomatoes from seeds or buy seedlings? There was a story in the Times a week or two ago about Late Blight ruining a bunch of home-gardeners' crops in the Northeast partially because everybody got their seedlings from the same source (industrial breeders in the south, via Lowes/Home Depot/Walmart garden centers). If you can rig up a cold frame somewhere, it's worth it to start from seed. Plus you get to pick seed varieties with short growing seasons for your area, etc.

  2. It was a combination this year, but mostly seedlings from various sources -- one of which was from Home Depot, and I suspect that might be the culprit, but blight can spread pretty far, too. The weather was the biggest problem -- it was just so damp, with so little sunlight until August. There was a little blight last year, but it was easy to control -- this year, it spread so quickly that there was no getting ahead of it.

  3. I'm intrigued by this tomato pie idea. It's just simple enough to satisfy my tastes. Pity I've no tomatoes to monkey with.