The humble tomato – actually, there isn’t anything humble about it at all. When ripe and bursting to open, this sweet and juicy thing of loveliness has so many uses in cooking a kitchen can’t be without them.
For me personally when I go to Greece and sit in the sunshine and feast on a simple Greek salad of feta, olives, tomatoes, red onion and cucumber glistening with extra virgin olive oil, and organic lemons, I am in the happiest space.
Still, when summer is upon us, it’s easy to get hold of some super sweet varieties and here’s a few ideas about how to use them to enhance your cooking.
Roasting intensifies the flavour of vegetables in general. Slow roasting is ideal and I like to cut cherry tomatoes in half, splash them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt and roast them for about one and a half hours on a very low oven. Store them in a jar (with a little olive oil) in the fridge for a few days.
Throw them onto some spaghetti with anchovies and chilli.
Crush them into tomato soup to really zing it up.
Dry fry some halloumi cheese – place on a bed of lamb’s lettuce, scatter some roasted cherries on top and serve with crusty bread.
Tomato and mozzarella salad with gremolata. A simple but oh so tasty way to serve tomatoes. You will need one beef tomato, two slices of buffalo mozzarella, 2 tbs of chopped flat leaf parsley, zest from half a lemon, 1 clove of garlic, crushed, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a handful of lamb’s lettuce leaves. Mix the parsley, zest, garlic, salt and pepper and oil together. Slice the tomato thinly. Arrange on two plates. Scatter over the gremolata mixture. Surround with lettuce leaves. Top with shredded mozzarella. Heaven.
Make some bruschetta – spread roasted garlic onto the bread base, (squeeze the flesh from the clove but use sparingly ) – it will be much milder due to the roasting but still strong enough to pack a punch. Top with a few shredded roasted tomatoes. Blinding.
Cut a beef tomato in half and scoop out the seeds and juice. Reserve. Use meat that you have cooked for making soup or a stock and mince it with fried onions. Mix with cooked rice and the reserved juice. Stuff the tomatoes and bake in the oven for about half an hour.
Place a couple of sea bass fillets on some foil – splash over some wine, dot with butter, a few snipped chives and cherry tomatoes, halved. Make a foil parcel and roast for 12 minutes in a hot oven. Please don’t bother unless they are super sweet and ripe.
Greek salad is simply wonderful if your tomatoes are really sweet. Again, using only the finest ingredients in a salad is an absolute must. The best olives, the best extra virgin olive oil, the small Lebanese cucumbers if you can get hold of them and a super crisp lettuce.
Balsamic vinegar can be a cheap disaster in your salad dressing. A chef once told me that if you reduce a cheap balsamic in a pan by half, it will taste a hell of a lot better.
I said I would rather pay more and not bu**er about. I also like to use organic red onions and a really good feta that isn’t overpowering by its saltiness. Simply shred some cos lettuce, arrange on a plate, top with quartered tomatoes, diced cucumber, black olives, thinly sliced red onion and scatter some feta everywhere. I like to let everybody pour on their own vinaigrette.
Hot tomato and coriander salsa for curries. I love this salsa. We always start with a bunch of salsas and raitas with poppadoms and mango chutney before the main event. This is simply my favourite. Dice two tomatoes, (having scooped out the seeds and the juice) a third of a cucumber and half a red onion. Shred a handful of coriander leaves. Dissolve 1 tsp white sugar and a pinch of salt in ten tbs of malt vinegar. Finely chop a bird’s eye chili. Place all the ingredients into a bowl. Allow an hour for flavours to infuse.