In the mood for Farmer’s Market Tomatoes!

     Every Saturday, I go to the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market in Greensboro and get into all sorts of trouble.  I find it impossible to resist the truckloads of sweet corn, watermelons and peaches, the buckets of fresh cut flowers, the homemade baked goods, the goat cheese lady (who lets you taste everything), and especially the tables of carefully laid out vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes.
   This past week it seemed clear that the best of tomato season is over.  But happily there were still lots of beautiful cherry tomatoes and also boxes of field ripened tomatoes for 99 cents a pound that, while slightly unfortunate in looks, were extremely lovely in taste. So here is what I did with my end of season tomatoes.

Peeled Cherry Tomato Salad with Tarragon Mustard Vinaigrette and Walnuts

Who would actually score, blanch and peel a whole mess of cherry tomatoes?  That would be me, of course, after I read a description of how these little tomatoes, without the constraints of their skin, soak up the vinaigrette and explode in your mouth.  This is based on a recipe from renown chef and teacher Anne Willan from La Varenne.  And while I may not start peeling all of my tomatoes from this day on, I will definitely be serving this wonderful and unique salad from time to time.
2 pounds cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 small bunch fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup walnut oil (or olive oil)
Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves
Score a tiny x into the bottom of each tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop tomatoes in for just a few seconds to loosen the skins.  Drain and rinse until cold water to stop the cooking.  The tomatoes should be quite easy to peel now.
For the Dressing:  Strip the tarragon leaves from their stems and coarsely chop.  Whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk in the oil so the dressing emulsifies and thickens slightly.  Whisk in the chopped tarragon, taste and adjust the seasonings.
Put the peeled tomatoes into a salad bowl.  Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, mixing carefully, and taste again for seasoning.  Shortly before serving, sprinkle the tomatoes with walnuts, top with tarragon and serve over leaves of Boston or Bibb lettuce.
(tomatoes can be made and kept at room temperature for 2-3 hours, and the flavors will mellow in that time)
(Serves 6-8)

Fresh Tomato Soup

Hands down my favorite tomato soup.  I make it a few times at the height of tomato season and then stash the recipe away until summer returns.  It really isn’t worth the effort if you are using supermarket tomatoes (trust me, I’ve tried) This recipe is from The Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash. Also, more tomato peeling here…it’s necessary, sorry.
4 pounds ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup sliced carrots
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour
6 sprigs parsley
1 celery stalk with leaves
8 cups chicken broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel, seed and roughly chop tomatoes.  You should have approximately 6 cups.  In a large saucepan, heat oil and saute the onions and leeks until wilted and golden,  Add 2 cups of the tomatoes, the carrots, garlic, and sugar, and cook together, stirring, until the moisture has evaporated and the mixture is thick.  The cooking time varies, from 10-25 minutes, depending upon the moisture of the tomatoes.  Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, to cook flour and make smooth.  Tie together the parsley and celery and add to saucepan.  Add remaining tomatoes and 3 cups of the broth.  Cook for 10-15 minutes to release the tomato juices and thicken slightly.  Add the remaining broth; simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the parsley and celery and lightly process using either a food processor or a stick blender. (or you can put it through a food mill if you have one of those…this recipe makes having a stick blender worth it’s weight in gold) You can either puree this soup finely or leave a little texture, which is how we like it.  It is wonderful with french bread croutons made with parmesan cheese and lots of black pepper, as shown above.
Makes 2 1/2 quarts

Cherry Tomato and Ricotta Salata Salad

This mild salty cheese is perfect with summer sweet cherry tomatoes!  I’ve just added it to my list of favorite cheeses.  This recipe is from A Good DayFor Salad, by Louise Fiszer and Jeannette Ferrary.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup best quality balsamic vinegar
2 cups red cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
6 cups arugula, about 8 ounces
6 ounces ricotta salata cheese
salt and pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves
In a small bowl, whisk oil and vinegar together,  In a large bowl, gently combine tomatoes and arugula.  Toss with dressing and place in a shallow serving bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Shave thin slices of ricotta salata and place over tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with basil.
(Serves 10)

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