Hi guys. Yeah, it's me. I've come crawling back to you. But I have a little something for you, something that will hopefully distract you from the fact that my last post was monthssss ago...
Since we are now in the throes of summer, tomatoes are both plentiful and ENORMOUS. On a recent visit home, my mother presented me with some incredible looking heirloom 'maters from the Amish. I'm not completely sure where these Amish live in relation to Nashville, but these tomatoes look like they came from the Land of the Lost, seriously. Anyway, when I caught sight of these monstrous beauties, I knew something had to be done. They had to be sliced into a million pieces and consumed, immediately.
Now, you don't need to get all crazy and fancy with tomatoes like these; their natural tastiness should be able to shine through without a lot of extra flavors. Naturally I turned to Judy Rodgers' Zuni Café Cookbook for a recipe that would do these fruits justice (yeah, tomatoes are FRUITS and don't you forget it). And since I was taking this dish to a potluck at a farm (which I wrote about here), I needed it to be as seasonal and fresh as possible, something for which Ms. Rodgers is renowned. The following recipe brings out the freshness of the tomatoes with a delicious acidic vinaigrette and the most pungent, summery scent of all- tons of fresh basil. And, this dish requires NO HOT OVENS!!! So, run out to your farmer's market RIGHT NOW and get some big, ugly ol' heirloom tomatoes!
Tomato Summer Pudding from Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
Yields about 6 servings
- About 8 ounces day-old, peasant style bread (I used about half a baguette), sliced 1/4 thick
- A few cloves of garlic, peeled
- Extra-virgin olive oil (for vinaigrette, so use as much as you think is needed)
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (I used red wine)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 2 1/2 lbs very ripe tomatoes, preferably a few different varieties of heirlooms (I used purple cherokees and a big yellow one whose name I do not know)
- About 1/4 cup fresh basil, parsley or cilantro leaves, very coarsely chopped (obviously I used basil, WHY WOULD YOU USE PARSLEY IN THIS RECIPE?!!??!)
- 1 medium shallot finely diced, or a scant 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (I used shallot)
- 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 cup Sweet 100, Sungold, or currant tomatoes, to garnish (I skipped this, but if I'd had a really pretty branch of these lil guys, I might've included it)
Preheat the broiler. Crisp and brown the bread lightly on one side. Rub the crispy side with the raw garlic, then brush the soft side with water. Stack bread and place in plastic bag to steam and soften.
Combine olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste, to make a mild vinaigrette.
Core the tomatoes. Cut in half from stem to blossom end, then slice crosswise into slices about 1/4 inches thick. I did this on a plate, rather than the cutting board, in order to capture all the juice. The juice is added to the vinaigrette. Pick out the shoulders and bottoms of the tomatoes and coarsely chop them. Salt lightly and scrape into a strainer. Set this over the vinaigrette, smash ad press the tomato bits with a spoon and leave to drain.
Build the pudding in a soufflé dish, wide bowl, gratin dish, or other comparable vessel that can hold about 1-1/2 quarts and is at least 3 inches deep. Rub the entire dish with raw garlic. Then, cutting the bread into appropriate shapes, carpet the bottom of the dish with the bread. Try not to overlap the bread, or leave big gaps. Then make a solid double layer of tomatoes. Scatter with a little of the shallot (or red onion) and cucumber and herb. Whisk, then drizzle a few tablespoons of vi over entire thing. Add another layer of bread and press with a spoon to encourage the tomatoes to release their precious juices. Repeat this a few more times, ending with a top layer of tomatoes. Save leftover vinaigrette for garnish. Poke pudding a few times randomly with a skewer, to allow juices to mingle throughout.
Now cover with plastic wrap and find a flat-bottomed dish that will fit just inside the pudding dish. Place on top and press down, weighting it with something heavy from the kitchen (can of tomatoes? brick?). Set this aside at room temp for an hour or so.
After the hour has passed, Judy recommends checking to see if the pudding is juicy enough, but sliding a knife down the side of the dish and prying the pudding away from the side. If it oozes, its juicy enough. I had absolutely no problem with this pudding being juicy enough, due to the nature of the tomatoes and my liberal drizzling of vinaigrette. Make sure you taste the juice of the pudding, so that you can adjust if it is too oily or acidic. Rewrap and press until ready to serve.
I topped my pudding with more shallot/cuke/basil, because I had some leftover and because it's beautiful in contrast with the color of the tomatoes. This pudding is SO GOOD. It IS summertime, in your mouth. And, at the end of the night, there was absolutely NOTHING LEFT. I left the farm (read about that potluck here) with a dirty dish and a smile.