This time of year I realize that I'm in the middle of a "tomato progression" with various stages of emotion and culinary expression as the season ticks along. When the first ripe local tomatoes appear, I eat them joyously-just as they are. Cherry tomatoes by the pint, heirlooms sliced up with a bit of salt, and of course, the great simple tomato sandwich. That salty sweet acid flavor is just so missed over the winter (And yes, I'm one of those people who just has to eat local farm tomatoes. I know, but I just can't eat the ones in the grocery in the winter.) So simplicity rules for June. Then as the summer goes on, other salads and variations appear and there is still no satiation. I just dread the tomato dessert of the winter and have to stock up on tomato eating experiences before they are gone.
About mid-July I start looking around for other ways to use them in easy recipes that showcase their sunny flavor. The Washington Post's annual Top Tomato recipe contest always inspires me. This week I went back to a 2013 recipe for Savory Tomato Cornbread Cobbler, the recipe is here.
I confess to adapting it, with a happy outcome. There was one little zuchinni and one little sweet pepper languishing without purpose on my counter, so I chopped them up, added them to the mix and they were great. I also didn't have a cast iron pan, so I used an oven safe fry pan and it turned out just fine. It's a great recipe, and a nice foil to grilled steak or other meats.
Second recipe started this way. There was a half a loaf of bread from the amazing Annapolis bakery, Bakers & Co. that was kicking around too without meaning until I thought of croutons. And when you have great garlicky croutons and a couple of great tomatoes staring at you, what else can it mean but panzanella? But I also had some wee little Japanese eggplants that had been meant for something but had gotten forgotten in the weekend melee. Panzanella is a welcoming salad, and the eggplants were warmly greeted after a good roasting. Honestly, this time of year, recipes that can take on the little veggies hanging out on your counter are just good to have in your back pocket--and easy ones to whip up at that. Enjoy!
Tomato Eggplant Panzanella Salad I’ve made panzanella many times, in various ways. Besides really needing crusty great croutons and super ripe tomatoes, you can add this or that (cucumbers, zucchini, peppers), but don’t forget the homemade dressing and the basil. Croutons 1⁄2 loaf good dense bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 minced garlic cloves 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons melted butter Salt and pepper
Vinaigrette 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar 1/2 cup good olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salad 1 medium or two Japanese (thin) eggplants, sliced into 1 inch cubes 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon melted butter 1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes Salt and pepper ½ cup basil leaves cut into chiffonade Shaved Parmesan Possible additions: 1.5 cups chopped roasted chicken
Directions 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 2. Toss bread cubes with garlic, olive oil, butter, and salt and pepper. Cook in hot frypan until lightly brown and crispy. Set aside in a bowl. 3. Toss eggplant with olive oil, melted butter, and salt and pepper to taste. 4. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until tender and golden brown. 5. To make viniagrette: combine ingredients in a clean jar and shake vigorously, adjusting salt and pepper to your liking. 6. To prepare salad: Combine all the salad ingredients and croutons. Toss with vinaigrette and garnish with basil.