Few fruits are as celebrated in the South as the tomato (Yes, it is a fruit, not a vegetable, by the way). Nothing marks the beginning of another hot, and humid summer, like the arrival of sweet red vine ripe tomatoes. Most Southerners celebrate the moment by making a tomato sandwich, a hallmark of the season. The classic recipe for a tomato sandwich is a garden-fresh tomato, still warm from the sun, mayo (Blue Plate or Dukes), white bread and salt, and pepper.
This sandwich can be made with grocery store tomatoes, but it isn’t near as good. Do you know why? All produce that the grocery stores buy must pass certain standards, like size and color. But the killer requirement is that it has a two-week shelf life, which means that store-bought tomato was picked two weeks early, and it is in those last two weeks of basking in the sun that the flavor of a vine ripe tomato is established.
If you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes, you might want to make your own tomato sauce and can it. Tomatoes can be frozen, but you should blanch them for just a minute or two in boiling water to remove the skins first. I do have a friend who says that if you are going to use the tomatoes for sauce, you can just quarter and freeze them.
My favorite summertime pasta sauce is made with sautéed onions and bell pepper, a few diced cloves of garlic, fresh, quartered tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. Perhaps the most famous sauce recipe is Marcella Hazan’s. The recipe calls for a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, but you can use 6 or so fresh tomatoes that have been blanched and the skins removed, 5 tablespoons of butter, and a quartered white onion and kosher salt. Combine the ingredients, simmer for 45 minutes, then remove the onion and discard. Try it, I am sure you will love it.
I also love to make Caprese salad. It is so simple and delicious and so perfe4ct for a hot summer’s day. Slice fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, layer them on a try and intersperse fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with your best olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.
My tomatoes are almost ready, but until they are, I’ll be buying them at the Ocean springs Saturday morning fresh market. Hope to see you there.