This is my end-of-the-season swan song to the tomatoes in our orto. As the vines wither at the bottom, there are yellow blossoms still sprouting at the top, and green fruit just hanging on in the middle. We spent the cold, wet spring together, you endured hail and high winds, while we worried and tried to protect you. You blossomed in the July heat and produced massive amounts of fruit in August. And now, you are closing down for the winter.
I’ve canned about 70 liters of sauce, with chili peppers, without peppers, oven roasted, sometimes barely cooked, sometimes reduced to a thick paste just because I was out of jars and room. But, now I have 70 liters of this summer stored away.
I’ve had a LOT of time to think about tomatoes, and I realized I was not paying attention. Tomatoes love bread, and bread loves them back. They were meant to be together. Take a look:
Tomato Sandwich with mayo
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Pan con tomat
Pappa al Pomodoro
and the mac daddy of them all: Pizza
Here we are coming to the end of tomato season in the northern hemisphere, and I’m just figuring this out? Silly me.
Here’s three delicious ways to savor your last few delicious juicy sun-ripe tomatoes. Or to our Aussie friends, three things to look forward to!
Pan con tomat
Pan con tomat is something we ran into in Barcelona.
It’s on every menu, shows up at every meal from breakfast to late night tapas, and is found in every conceivable variation. And with good reason.
The basic combo is toasted or grilled bread that has been rubbed with a fresh tomato so the juices soak in, the tomato flesh fuses with the bread, add a drizzle of olive and a sprinkle of salt to bring it all together. The bread can be anything from a lowly store bought baguette to a delicious spelt-based bread with a crackling crust. It’s completely addictive and you come to expect it at every meal as a god-given Catalan experience.
Serve it with a plate of sliced salumi, a fresh green salad, or your eggs in the morning.
Pappa al PomodoroPappa al Pomodoro is a tomato and bread concoction that is neither a soup nor a side dish. It’s a combination of cooked peeled tomatoes and bread cubes or crumbs that are blended together and served as an appetizer. Simple, homey and delicious. A fancy variation is to take a small scoop of pappa al pomodoro, wrap it in caul fat and roast it in the oven.
Basic Pappa al Pomodoro
Peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
Torn leaves of fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil
stale bread (preferably the salt less variety found in central Italy)
Add a bit of olive oil to a saucepan and gently warm it. Add the tomatoes and a bit of finely chopped garlic. Let the tomatoes come to a simmer and add a handful of bread crumbs or toasted cubes to the mixture. Mix in the torn basil leaves. You want a thick, stand up to the spoon texture, thick enough that you can mold it into a shape.
Serve with another drizzle of olive oil.
Panzanella is a salad made with bread. Now, that is probably the only way to put it that you won’t start an argument; there are as many variations on panzanella as there are stars in the sky.
Sometimes the bread is cut into toasted cubes and tossed with fresh tomatoes, sometimes the bread is so finely crumbled that it resembles cous cous. In Montone, it’s frequently doused in tomato sauce so it resembles..you guessed it....cold papa al pomodoro.
Stale bread (again, the Umbrian rock hard, salt free bread works best)
Enhancements (this means anything else you want to throw into the salad)
Onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, basil, parsley, chives, cucumber, pickles, olives, and if you must, canned corn or cocktail sausages
Personally, I find canned corn and chopped up cocktail sausages (or wurstel as it called in Italy) a crime against humanity, but they do turn up regularly in homemade panzanella. Then again, I won’t order pineapple or french fries to go on top of my pizza. Call me a Purist Princess.
If you are using saltless bread: soak the bread in plain water for a few minutes until it is soft and crumbly. Extract as much water as possible from the bread by pressing the bread with a wooden spoon against the side of a colander, or by placing the soggy bread in a ball on a piece of cheese cloth and twisting the cloth to force the water out.
Chop your enhancements and combine with the bread, add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Happy end of the tomato season! I’m already feeling nostalgic and looking forward to next summer’s crop.