I am not a very patient person. I tend to want what I want, now! (Please.) So as you can imagine, it was a an awfully long Winter and a seemingly longer Spring and early Summer, but the moment has finally arrived. It’s tomato season! I’ll admit the best of the best usually pop up in August and although that’s not terribly far away, I just can’t wait any longer. I LOVE tomatoes. What is it about that fire-engine-red fruit that makes me so crazy for them?
Maybe it’s the warm and fuzzy childhood memories prompting my subconscious to revisit a simpler time–the days of me and Bridget roaming our backyard to collect the summer’s bounty, or of my Dad peeling off the road at the faintest flicker of farm stand signs boasting “Jersey Corn!” “Jersey Tomatoes!” on our annual escapes to the seashore. Or perhaps it’s the fact that tomato season is so fleeting that makes the real thing extra special (you know, that whole thrill of the chase concept). It certainly isn’t easy to find a good tomato. Those ultra-firm, salmon-hued baseballs that grocery stores shamelessly market as “tomatoes” in Winter and early Spring? Honey, those are not tomatoes. They barely classify as food.
Do you know that those tomatoes are most likely plucked green from the vine (the horror!), shipped hundreds or thousands of miles from some warmer (luckier) climates and then gassed with ethylene to simulate a ripe tomatoey blush meant to deceive us all? Well, it’s true! And while ethylene gas is produced naturally by ripening fruit and is not exactly detrimental to my health, this sham causes detriment to my palate and I don’t stand for it.
Luckily, summer tomatoes abound, and I can run off at a moment’s notice to collect my prize at the market. Behold! There are a plethora of goodies for me to choose from these days: delicate yellow teardrops, green and purple uglies, beautiful beefsteaks and some still on the vine, a novelty not wasted on me. Tomatoes vines have such an intoxicating fragrance, I often marvel at the fact that no one has thought to bottle it up for sale. “Grass” was an awfully hot commodity several years back with Gap and Marc Jacobs on the bandwagon, why not tomatoes? I can’t be the only crazy person who goes around sniffing tomato vines at the market, right? Anyone?
Nevermind, you don’t have to answer that. Instead, I’ll tell you how you can make tomato confit, a delicious and simple treat that turns juicy biting tomatoes into sweet and mellow pieces of heaven. If you thought tomatoes couldn’t be improved upon, you must try this little trick. Cooking them slow and low with a slick of olive oil reduces their juices to an intense mouthful of caramel-y sweetness. I destroyed the entire pan (4 whole tomatoes) in the blink of an eye, popping each piece like candy. Before summer’s end, I’m sure I will be back at the market for a bushel to cook down and preserve in pretty little jars so I can enjoy summer tomatoes all winter long.
Tomato Confit Crostini
For the confit:
4 medium tomatoes (or as many as you have pans for)
Preheat oven to 250. Bring a large saucepan full of water to a boil. Cut an “x” into the bottom of each tomato and submerge in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes and place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Peel the skins and discard. Quarter each tomato and remove the seeds. Place pieces, cut-side down, onto a baking sheet brushed liberally with olive oil. Brush each tomato quarter with more olive and place in the oven for about an hour or until tomatoes are wrinkled, reduced in size and have caramelized (a nice golden brown) on the bottoms. Allow to cool and place in an airtight non-reactive container with another tablespoon of olive oil. Will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
For the Crostini:
1 medium sized baguette, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, preferably buffalo mozzarella
16 fresh basil leaves or one for each crostini
balsamic reduction, optional
Preheat oven to 350. Brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove these crostini from the oven and allow to cool. Cut mozzarella ball into 1/4 inch slices and cut each slice in half. Top each crostini with a half slice of fresh mozzarella, a piece of tomato confit and top with a basil leaf. Drizzle with any leftover olive oil from the tomato confit and balsamic reduction, if you wish.