Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farmer's Markets Make Everyone a Better Cook

Just like we are all more beautiful swimming in the waves at the beach, we are all better cooks at the farmers market. The air smells like food... REAL food. Food that has barely had time to realize it's not still planted, or whatever.

It is, AT LAST, northwest tomato time (did 'ja blink? Mighta missed it.) Fortunately we also get Yakima tomato time which is twice as long. And for those of you with diligent souls, having your own back yard tomato time is lovely.

My favorite super-duper-fresh tomato recipes are all raw. If you need to cook a tomato, use an inferior one. (Or go nuts if you are luck enough to have a bumper crop). But in my little corner of the world, the local, ripe tomato is a rare gem. And unless I get it together and grow my own (not currently likely), I will continue to savor them as rare delicacies.

To enjoy the first fruits, just wait 'til your tomato is pleasantly warmed by the sun (on the vine, or -sigh- on my counter, and bite in. Maybe sprinkle on a little fine salt (this is an indulgence, remember). Enjoy the captured sunshine.

Never EVER refrigerate a tomato. It loses all of it's deliciousness. There is actually a chemical that sort-of "turns off" below 55˚F and all the tomato-ness is lost. Cooked tomatoes don't suffer this, but raw ones do.

A warning - whatever fabulous new combination I have recently uncovered is my new favorite... and then I move on.

So my new favorite raw tomato salad:

*Sliced Tomatoes with Herb Pesto*

To Find:
2-3 large ripe tomatoes (they smell like tomatoes, and they feel like you might squish them)
1/4 C balsamic vinegar

about 2/3 C loosely packed fresh basil leaves
about 1/3 C loosely packed other herbs (oregano, chives, parsley, a little mint - whatever you have)
1 large garlic clove
1/2 C toasted pine nuts
salt to taste
a good olive oil - just use the amount you need to get the right consistency (see below)

To Do:
Slice tomatoes about 1cm thick, or about as thick as your thumb. Lay them out in a large, non-metallic tray or dish or plate. Pour the vinegar over them, cover them and leave them overnight somewhere cool, where they won't get direct sunlight. (You don't have to leave them out overnight... but if you can, do.)

To make the pesto - break out the food processor or a mortar and pestle. Like the name says, we are making a paste. Put the nuts and garlic in the work bowl with the chopping blade, take it for a spin, just for about 5 seconds, until you have little pieces. Then throw in all the herbs, a splash of oil and let every thing spin until you have what starts to look like a paste. Stop and taste. Add a pinch of salt, spin and taste again until you have what tastes almost right.
Finally, press go, and add oil until it is just right (maybe another tablespoon or 2, it depends on SO MANY things).
When it is just right, spoon over the tomatoes and serve. Garnish with a few herb leaves if you are feeling artistic.

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