Beyond take out.....
Faster, fresher, easier, cheaper and healthier
By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist
I love tomatoes. This time of year, I just can't get enough whether it's home grown or from the local farm stand.
When I buy tomatoes for sandwiches or slicing, I look for big and ugly. They have the best taste. The bigger, the redder, the knarl - ier, the juicier - the better!!
Lots of people seem to prefer the perfectly round, perfectly formed, smaller type of tomato but, to me, they have no taste. I like big, red and knarl-y.
Whatever type of tomato you prefer - whether it's the tiny cherry, the meaty plum or the mammoth beef stake, always smell tomatoes before you buy. That's the key to a good tasting tomato.
Take the tomato in your hand and bring it up to your face. Now take a good whiff. It should smell like you want it to taste. Fresh, rich, and yummy. No smell - No taste. (This is true of all produce by the way.)
Do the same for tomatoes that are pre-packaged. Bring the package up to your face and gently press or squeeze the package to get a whiff. Cellophane-d packages are a little more difficult but you can do it.
While we're at it - let's talk tomato etiquette.
Tomatoes, like relationships, are tender and fragile.
Never squeeze tomatoes to see if they're ripe. You'll bruise them.
Bruises make soft, squishy spots in otherwise beautiful tomatoes. The only good way to tell if a tomato is ripe and will be good tasting is to smell it.
If a tomato is the old fashioned red type, you can also check the color but with so many varieties and colors of tomatoes available - everything from green tomatoes to pink, yellow, orange and striped - color is not always an accurate test of ripeness.
So don't be afraid or think you'll look silly. Pick up that tomato and take a whiff.
Ah, ripe, juicy, yummy, rich, wonderful, provocative tomatoes - There's nothing like them!
But remember, no smell - no taste!!
Here's an easy, yummy little recipe that will make your plum tomatoes shine!
White Pizza with Herbed Chevre and Fresh Tomato
Is it really pizza when there's no tomato sauce?
The answer is a big yes with this oh so easy, of so yummy, oh so creamy-cheezy pizza topped with ripe plum tomatoes.
You may think you don't like goat cheese but this little gem of a recipe will change your mind forever.
It's mild and delicate but with a hint of mystery.
Yummy enough for lunch but fancy enough for cocktails.
If you're really timid, you can substitute regular, whole milk cream cheese (not reduced fat, light or fat free), feta or tofu for the goat cheese.
Goat cheese pizza made without tomato sauce. That's pretty radical!
Serves 4 to 6
Oven or grill cooking
1 (12 inch) baked pizza crust (like Boboli)
1/3 cup olive oil (divided)
1 (5 to 6 oz) package chevre (whole milk goat cheese)
1 (15 to 16 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese (see Karla's Tip #1 below)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (dried not recommended - lightly packed to measure)
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves (dried not recommended - lightly packed to measure)
1/2 cup pickled garlic (not raw or roasted garlic - drained and coarsely chopped - see Karla's Tip #2 below)
4 plum tomatoes (sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds)
1 (4 inch long) yellow summer squash (sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds)
1/2 cup pitted whole black olives (randomly sliced - see Karla's Tip #3 below)
1 small red onion (sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds and separated into rings)
Coarse grind black or brandied pepper (to taste)
For oven baking
Position oven rack so pizza will bake in center. Preheat to 450 degrees. Put crust onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Preheat grill to high. Put pizza crust on a peel to slide onto grill without a pan. No pizza peel? Use an ungreased cookie sheet as a peel by sliding the crust off the cookie sheet and onto the grill.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over the top of the crust.
Stir together chevre, ricotta, herbs and garlic. Pile mixture in center of crust. Spread, evenly, leaving a 3/4 inch edge all around without any cheese.
Top cheese with tomatoes, then squash, olives and onions. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Do not salt. (See Karla's Tip #4 below.)
Bake in the preheated oven (uncovered) or grill (covered) 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through. Do not over heat. Vegetables should be tender but still crisp. Over baking will make the crust soggy.
Karla's Tip #1 - Ricotta Cheese
For a wonderful-ly creamy, cheezy topping use whole milk ricotta. Skim and part skim ricottas do not melt rich and creamy. They will be dry- ish.
Karla's Tip #2 Herbs and Garlic
If your basil leaves are large, tear them by hand (do not cut with a knife or they bruise and get dark) into bite sized pieces. You can leave small basil leaves whole.
The parsley leaves should be cut finely. You can use a knife or food chopper for parsley. Use the only the leaves - no stems.
Pickled garlic is garlic that's pickled just like cucumbers are pickled to make, well, pickles. It's readily available in the pickle section of most upscale grocery stores.
If you haven't had pickled garlic before, it's nothing like regular raw or roasted garlic. It's mild and fun to eat.
You can eat the pickled garlic cloves by the spoonful - something most people can't do with raw garlic. It's yummy. Serve and use like pickles.
At cocktail time, I like to serve a small bowl of pickled garlic with frilly tooth picks for easy nibbling. People are intrigued (and sometimes timid) but once they've tasted pickled garlic, they're hooked!
Karla's Tip #3 - Black Olives
You can buy sliced black olives but, gourmet up this pizza with an interesting, unusual black olive. There are lots to choose from.
Buy whole olives and cut them into thick-ish, random slices. They'll look fancier (and will taste better) than those uniformly machine sliced olives ordinaire.
Karla's Tip #4 - Salt
Do not salt this pizza before baking. Salt will draw the juices out of the tomatoes and other vegetables making it soggy. Let people salt their own pizza just before eating, if desired.