In the mood for Summer Tomatoes!

“In Spain and those hot regions, they use to eat the apples prepared and boiled with pepper, salt and oile:  but they yield very little nourishment to the bodie, and the same nought and corrupt.”  (Herball, by John Gerard 1597)
 
John Gerard, a barber-surgeon, (can anyone hear that term without thinking of the SNL skit?  You know, the one with the leeches?) echoed the general misconception that tomatoes were poisonous…an idea that stuck around until the mid 1700’s.
  
Thank goodness that turned out to be false because who could imagine summertime with the arrival of the big ripe beefsteak tomatoes.  Of course you will enjoy your BLT and your tomato mozzarella salads this summer.  But here are three more ways to celebrate the slicing tomato.
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Parmesan Pepper Crusted Chicken

When you see a recipe this simple and easy, you should know that it’s success will depend on the quality of each ingredient.  So find the perfect tomato, the freshest basil, best aged Parmesan (not from the green can, please!) and of course, this is the time to use your best extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic.
This is adapted from a Donna Hay recipe from New Food Fast.
4 medium sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper (or more to taste)
4 tablespoons oil
2-3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded fresh basil
balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to serve
salt if necessary
Butterfly each chicken breast into 2 thin, flat pieces.  Dip each piece in the egg white and then press the chicken in the combined Parmesan and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the chicken pieces.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.  Keep warm while you repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.  To serve, place tomato and basil on serving plates and sprinkle with balsamic and olive oil then the slices of chicken.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt if necessary.  (Parmesan is salty so taste first) Serves 4
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Tomato Watermelon Salad with Hushpuppy Croutons

 

Doesn’t this salad just scream summertime in the South?  This is based on a first course that I had at Noble’s Restaurant in Winston Salem, NC.  Their croutons were smaller but more hushpuppy is always a good thing.  I used Savannah Classics, Original Recipe Hushpuppies found in the freezer section of the grocery, because 1) Who wants to deep fry in the summer and 2) They are really good!  I ended up having  to make a second batch because the kids ate the first before I composed my salads.  Also, I love to use the pinkish heirloom tomatoes in this recipe (Cherokee Pink, Caspian Pink) because some of the cubes are almost indistinguishable from the watermelon.
 
5 cups watermelon (3/4 inch cubes, seeded)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (3/4 inch cubes)
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
back pepper
hushpuppies, prepared according to package directions
Combine the watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to coat.  Let this sit for 15 minutes and the fruits will release some juices.  Now add the onion, vinegar and oil, and stir it all together gently.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Toss once more and serve with hushpuppies and basil to garnish.  (serves 6)
(The Tomato/Watermelon recipe is based on one from the July 2007 issue of Southern Living)
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Fresh Tomato Panini

 

If you don’t have a panini press or an electric panini grill then….. well…….go buy one, you’ll love it!  Just kidding, sort of.  You could use a second heavy skillet to weigh down the sandwich or you could wrap a brick in foil and use that.  At Pot Belly Sandwich Shops in the Chicago area, you can order any sandwich as a “skinny”  This means that they will rip out all of the fluffy insides of the bread before they add the fillings.  This cuts down on the carbs and the calories, which is great, but I also love that, when grilled, it creates a beautiful crunchy crust for the sandwich.
1 loaf fresh bread, french loaf or ciabatta (i used ciabatta in this photo)
very thinly sliced prosciutto
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the bread into sandwich sized portions, then split each piece and tear out most of the interior.  Fill each sandwich with a slice of prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bush outside of sandwich lightly with olive oil and grill, either on the stove top, pressing it flat and turning to cook both sides, or in an electric panini grill, until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.
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