Saturday, August 20, 2016


I’ve got tomatoes, lots of them! Last summer I saved seeds from the best tasting tomatoes of the season. In the spring, I started several flats of seedlings, more really than I had space for in the garden. When it came time to plant them out, I couldn’t bear to throw out the extras, so we hauled manure and dug up two new garden plots.

The plants flourished, in spite of some disease that caused flowers to curl up. They are not heavy-producing varieties anyway, like some of the commercially-grown ones. But, with an August heat spell, they all started ripening at once. We started picking.

I’ve been serving sliced tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve made more than a gallon of gazpacho.  I cooked up batches of sofrito to freeze. I skinned whole tomatoes and packed them in plastic zip bags for the freezer. Still, the tomatoes keep coming.

Tomatoes for breakfast: pan con tomate, also known as pan catalán. Scrub a cut tomato on toasted bread (and a cut garlic too, if desired). Drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Lay sliced tomatoes on top and cover with thinly sliced serrano ham. Better than a BLT.

Tomatoes for lunch: stuffed with rice salad.

Tomatoes for dinner: tomato-vegetable stew with chicken (pisto con pollo).

Tomatoes for brunch or supper: eggs poached in tomato puree.

Tomato snack: tart with mozzarella, anchovies and capers. (This recipe from  didn't work too well. I suggest pre-baking the crust and, for sure, use a rimmed baking sheet so juices don't run over the edge.)

Another tomato tart. I used the leftover dough from the previous tart--pre-baked in a pie pan--and filled it with a quiche-type custard. I quickly fried the tomatoes, so they released some of their juices before hitting the oven, before putting them on top of the custard. For the custard, combine 1 cup grated Manchego cheese, 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup chopped basil and 2 tablespoons minced onion, salt and pepper. Top with sliced tomatoes and bake at 375ºF until set, about 20 minutes.

Tomato quiche with basil.

Frozen assets. Many containers of sofrito tomato sauce and bags of whole, skinned tomatoes.

I'm growing about four different tomato varieties. Here are two--on the right, huevo de toro, named for a part of a bull's anatomy. They are famous in the Guadalhorce valley (Málaga). These have a thin, pinkish-colored skin and are incredibly meaty and juicy. They didn't survive the 100ºF heat so well.  I don't know the name of the red, red ones on the left. I saved the seeds from some fabulous tomatoes we had from Tarifa. They have leathery skin that is easy to peel off and, probably because of the tough skin, they stand up to the heat really well. I love their flavor, the perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Chicken with Peppers and Tomatoes, Toledo Style
Pisto con Pollo Toledano

Pisto is the emblematic dish of La Mancha. This version with chicken calls for onions, tomatoes, and peppers, which become both sauce and vegetable side dish. I’ve added zucchini and eggplant from the garden as well. Serve it with bread, rice or noodles to soak up the delicious juices.

To easily skin tomatoes in quantity: remove stem and core, cut a slash in the skin on the opposite side and drop the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and refresh in cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.

The green bell peppers are roasted to facilitate skinning them. While not strictly necessary, it’s nice not to have bits of the skin in every bite.

Serves 6.

1 fryer chicken, cut up, or 2 pounds chicken thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
5 large green bell peppers, 1 ½ - 2 pounds
2 ½ pounds tomatoes (6-7 medium), peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Chopped eggplant (optional)
Sliced zucchini (optional)
1/8 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 tablespoon vinegar

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside.

Roast the peppers over charcoal or a gas flame or under the broiler, turning them until they are charred on all sides. Remove them to a bowl and cover them. When cool enough to handle, peel off charred skin, using fingers or scraping with a knife. Discard stems and seeds. Rinse the peppers under running water. Tear or cut into bite-size pieces.

Heat the oil in a large cazuela or deep sauté pan. Brown the chicken pieces on a medium heat, about 15 minutes. Remove them and reserve.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté them for 5 minutes. Raise the heat and add the peppers and sauté a few minutes longer. Add the eggplant and zucchini, if using. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook on a high heat 5 minutes. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt, cumin seed, and vinegar. Return the chicken pieces to the pan. Cook, uncovered, on a medium heat, turning the chicken once, until vegetables and chicken are very tender, 40-60 minutes. 

Eggs Poached in Tomato Purée with Cheese
Huevos Escalfados en Puré de Tomate con Queso

Eggs poached in tomato sauce need bread or toast for dunking.

Quickie Tomato Puree. Cut the tomatoes in half and grate them on the coarsest side of a box grater. Collect all the pulp and juices. Discard the flattened skin--which also serves as a shield for your knuckles! You will need about 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes to make 2 cups of grated tomato pulp.

Serve the eggs with plenty of fresh bread for dunking or spoon them over toast.

Serves 4 (allowing 2 eggs per person)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups grated tomato pulp (2 pounds tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 thin slices Manchego cheese (4 ounces)
2 ounces thinly sliced serrano ham (optional)
8 eggs
1/8 teaspoon hot pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika) or pinch cayenne

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the tomatoes and season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook on high heat for 1 minute. Lower heat to medium and cook tomatoes 10 to12 minutes. Quite a lot of liquid will remain.

Remove from heat. Lay the slices of cheese on top of the tomato purée. Divide the ham, if using, into 8 pieces. Place them on top of or between the slices of cheese. Break the eggs, one by one, into a small cup and slide them into the pan on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and the pimentón or cayenne.

Cover the skillet and place on a high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and cook gently until whites are just set, but yolks still runny, 6 to 7 minutes. Allow to stand 1 minute before serving.

Use a ladle to lift eggs, cheese, and tomato sauce out of the skillet. Serve in shallow soup plates.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice Salad
Tomates Rellenos con Ensaladilla de Arroz

Quick to assemble--use cooked rice for the stuffing and add chopped peppers and olives.

Tomatoes are also good stuffed with ensaladilla rusa, potato salad with carrots and peas (that recipe is here .) For a hot version: stuff hollowed-out tomatoes with leftover paella rice. Bake until heated through.

Serves 6 as a starter.

6 tomatoes
2 cups cooked rice
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup sliced olives
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons wine vinegar

Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Use a spoon to hollow out the flesh, leaving a thick enough wall so that the tomatoes do not collapse. Sprinkle them inside with salt and invert in a colander. Let the tomatoes drain 15 minutes. (Save the pulp and juice for another use, such as gazpacho.)

In a bowl combine the rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, parsley and olives. Season with 1 teaspoon salt or to taste and pepper. Add the oil and vinegar and toss the rice to fluff it. If desired, add a little olive brine or tomato juice to loosen the rice.

Place the tomatoes upright on a serving dish and spoon the rice salad into them, mounding it slightly. 

More recipes with tomatoes:

More tomatoes coming soon!


  1. Far be it from me to teach an expert like you! But a suggestion for problems with using raw tomatoes in things like tarts/pizzas. I slice (or cut or chop) them fairly well in advance, salt them lightly if the recipe will stand it, and put them in a large-ish flat colander over a bowl. Lots of the liquid will drain out, the tomato will still have flavor and form, and the moisture won't affect the finished product. As for the saved tomato water, use in in place of vinegar in any accompanying salad (gives a touch of spark without the sharpness of vinegar). I also wonder if the tomatoes the NYT uses are less moist, being from more conventional commercial sources (albeit Manhattan style organic and pricey).

    1. Lee: Thanks for the tips! Certainly we "experts" can always learn. I did like the technique of quickly frying the sliced tomatoes, for an extra dimension of flavor. And, yes, I bet my home-grown tomatoes are juicier than the ones in New York!

  2. ...previous instructions of course you included in the rice salad recipe, which I didn't read. But I do it for most recipes with raw tomatoes.