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Eating Well: Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

Lifestyle

Eating Well: Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

They're back. Tomatoes. Real tomatoes. Spicy, sweet, tart, tangy, juicy, red, home-grown summer tomatoes are waiting for us to take up our knives and forks – or linguine or baguettes – and dig in.

If you didn't grow your own, buy some vine-ripened beefsteaks, big boys, big girls, Roma, sweet 100s or whatever you like best from a local farmers' market, farm stand, or grocery store and start making some summer magic with these sun-kissed tomatoes. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Tomatoes Provencal

Serve a large platter of these garlic-and-herb-flavored tomatoes as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a main course, Georgeanne Brennan urges in "The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence," published by Chronicle Books in 1997.

Tomatoes Provencal go well with grilled steak, lamb chops, fish or chicken. It's good to have some in the refrigerator. Put a slice of bread under them and melt more Parmesan on top and you have a quick lunch.

6 or 7 medium-sized tomatoes, halved crosswise
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat a broiler. Place the tomato halves in a flame-proof baking dish just large enough to hold them snugly. Sprinkle each half evenly with the garlic, thyme, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and then drizzle with the olive oil. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

Place the dish under the broiler about 6 to 8 inches from the heat and broil until the tomatoes begin to soften and the topping browns, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately or let cool.
Serves 4.

Crab Linguine with Tomatoes

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall included this Maine-like recipe in "The River Cottage Cookbook," published by Ten Speed Press in 2008. River Cottage is the name of his farm in Dorset, England, where he is known as a "charmingly persistent apostle of culinary delight."

1 pound fresh crab meat
1 pound linguine or other favorite pasta
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 small red chili peppers, deseeded and finely sliced
2 pounds best ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives

Bring a large pan of lightly salted water (at least 3 quarts) to a boil, add the linguine, and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: cook the garlic in the olive oil until softened, then throw in the red chilis (check for heat and use sparingly). Add the chopped tomatoes before the garlic colors. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until soft and pulpy, then add the crab meat and heat through. Season to taste, adding more chilis if you like. Add some chives at the last moment. Served tossed with the drained linguine.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Le Pain Bagna

The recipe for this Provencal sandwich is from "Good Enough to Eat" by Carrie Levin and Ann Nickinson, published by Simon & Schuster in 1987. "Good Enough to Eat" is also the name of their restaurant in Manhattan. The book's illustrations were done by Abby Carter, a graduate of the Waynflete School in Portland, who has also illustrated many books for children.

Le Pain Bagna isn't French for pain caused by carrying an expensive, heavy shoulder bag. "Pain" (pronounced ‘pan') is the French word for bread. "Bagna" means bathed or soaked in French. So, putting pain and bagna together, we get bathed bread. In this case, the bread is soaked with olive oil, pesto, tuna, sliced ripe tomatoes and other delightful fillings. The bread could be a French baguette or French rolls. If finding French bread is a pain for you, use toasted hamburger buns.

You've probably had salade Nicoise. It's that salad named for the city of Nice in southern France, where it is quite popular. Julia Child made it a must-have luncheon dish here. Le Pain Bagna is a sandwich with salade Nicoise as its filling. There are various versions of the salad. Carrie Levin went to college in Aix-en-Provence and this is her version of the sandwich. She adds chickpeas, spinach leaves and pesto.

6 1/2-ounce can oil-packed tuna, or leftover fresh tuna
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 large eggs, hard-cooked
4 large rolls
1/2 recipe of Almost Pesto (recipe follows)
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and drained
2 medium beefsteak tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved, and sliced as thin as possible
1/4 pound Nicoise olives, pitted and halved
14-ounce can chickpeas, drained, marinated in
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 1/2-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts (cut the hearts in quarters)
1 roasted red bell pepper, julienned
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Open the can of tuna; press out the oil. Place tuna in a bowl and flake. Mix in olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Slice the eggs in thin circles. Cut open the bread and remove a bit of the soft center. Spoon a little of the Almost Pesto on both halves of the bread. Then add spinach to both halves. Place the remaining ingredients in even amounts on each roll, ending with the tuna mixture. Drizzle the sandwiches with the Almost Pesto sauce, close, and push down. Cut in half and serve on a plate. Have paper napkins at hand.

Serves 4.

Almost Pesto

1 large bunch fresh basil, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped walnut pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 two-ounce cans anchovies, drained, soaked in milk, drained, and chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups olive oil
3-ounce jar capers, drained (optional)

On a cutting board, combine basil, garlic, and walnut pieces. Add salt, pepper, mustard, paprika and anchovies. Chop all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to medium bowl.

Sprinkle with lemon juice, then drizzle on the oil and stir well to combine. Stir in capers, if desired.

Let the pesto macerate, covered, in the refrigerator, for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving. Don't worry if it separates. Simply stir to recombine.

Yields about 2 cups.