Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uses For Overripe Tomatoes, part 2

While rummaging about in the fridge for the makings of today's lunch, I found a way-past-its-prime tomato hiding in the bottom of the veggie bin. Not moldy and unsafe, just soft and a bit leaky. It was one I'd gotten from my friend, Ann, who lives in a community where they compost to beat the band and grow an amazing garden full of great vegetables, including some intensely flavorful tomatoes. What it was doing in there I'm not sure, since I don't usually refrigerate tomatoes--that environment is tough on them.
Rather than toss out the sad specimen of my neglect, I puréed it on the grater and used it as the base for a salad dressing. I whisked in some banyuls, a splash of garum, some chopped shallot, salt, pepper and olive oil. Of course, this is completely open to interpretation--it would still be good with sherry vinegar or balsamic, a bit of anchovy paste, a touch of dijon, maybe even the yolk of a boiled egg and some smoked salt.

When there's a really good tomato at stake, why toss it out? It's loaded with flavor, and that would be a pity to waste. Using a grater is the way to go with this, because it's a quick, easy clean up, and since you're not mechanically puréeing the tomato, you don't have to worry about the bitterness of its seeds. And the skin stays in your hand while the flesh goes into the dish beneath the grater.

The tomato dressing was great on my salad, and I mopped up the remaining juices with a piece of crusty bread. I just can't let any of the good stuff go to waste.

As much as I appreciate the anarchy of the occasional food fight, I've never understood what takes over people in Bunol, Spain, who annually engage in a citywide tomato tossing frenzy. I'd rather fling something I'm not so crazy about (I once accidentally instigated a food fight in my college cafeteria when I chucked a dish of fried okra at someone, but that story's for another time.)

It would be okay by me if the tomatoes they throw in Bunol's "Tomatina" were of the hothouse variety. However, I have a feeling that if I were to blow into town during that event, I'd be mopping the streets with loaves of bread. And I'll bet that if the citizenry of Bunol were ever forced to eat hothouse tomatoes, that's the only type they'd ever throw.

Canning tomatoes is good, but could you canonize one?

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Great post. I like this idea of grating tomatoes that are past their prime and using them in a salad dressing. Such flavor! I also enjoyed your post on Slow Food. It's good to hear some positive things about it. I am not a member, but have heard many negative things about it - mainly how elitist they are. I wanted to join, but it was just too expensive. I recently read the biography on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, and must say, I am a big fan. I admire her a lot. But I do feel they have overlooked the average working-class citizen in their movement. I wouldn't even call it a movement, since everyone in my suburban world still gets 99% of their meals from the drive-thru or a Walmart supercenter. Things may have changed on the coasts, but here in middle America, they haven't changed that much. I apologize for the rant, this is a subject that is near and dear to me. And I am thrilled to be able to communicate with someone who's actually a member and been there. Let me know more if you can!