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Fierce Foodie: Nice Tomatoes


a blogumn by Roya Hamadani
Photo Credit: Ard Hesselink

Photo Credit: Ard Hesselink

Tomatoes are the world’s most popular fruit, so it is fitting that they have taken over my garden.  A glut of bite-size, pear-shaped yellow tomatoes are ripening in my backyard, clustered on the vine like grapes in bunches of three and four.  They have reseeded themselves for two years running and multiplied from two plants to at least seven.  I missed the opportunity to get them into nice proper cages this spring, and so they sprawl out over my hedges and cobblestones in an ungainly mass of greenish yellow vines.

Today there are more than 7500 varieties of tomato available in red, yellow, orange, even purple.  The first evidence of a domesticated species was a little yellow tomato grown in 700 A.D. by the Aztecs.  A small yellow variety first came to Spain via the conquistadors in the 16th century and the first red variety to Italy in the 18th century via Jesuit priests.  Northern Europe was the last to accept them in any color in the 19th century.

This reluctance may have been due to the poisonous leaves of the tomato plant, or that when the acidic juice comes into contact with pewter it can leach lead metal into the food, resulting in lead poisoning.  Or the fact that if you look at a pair of tomatoes a certain way, and you cup them in your hands, and you’re maybe a little hard up, you might possibly think of breasts or testicles.  The French did call them “apples of love.”

Yellow tomatoes are less acidic than the red variety and so they make for very good snacking and tossing in salads.  However I also enjoy them roasted with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and served with pasta and butter finished with a generous portion of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  But if it is too cold for salad but not cold enough to turn on the oven, this is my next best treat:

Tomato Harvest Pasta

I first throw 2 Tbsp oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven and on low heat sauté 1 large sliced onion and 2 chopped garlic gloves.  Once the onions are translucent, I throw in 2 ½ cups of fresh washed and cleaned little tomatoes whole, or the larger tomatoes roughly chopped.  I keep the heat low and put on a pot of water to boil for pasta.

The tomatoes will eventually soften enough so that a wooden spatula pressed against them will cause a lovely popping sensation, much like taking your finger to some bubble wrap.  That’s when you can add 8 oz of olive tapenade or chopped olives (I prefer Kalamata) and another tbsp of olive oil.  Also add ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  I stir and let the mixture sauté while readying the pasta.

I like little elbows but radiatore are also good.  Use the full 16 oz, this pasta is fun for a bunch of people, but also good to store and eat straight out of the fridge.  The oil content keeps the pasta from getting hard.  Once the pasta is cooked, strain it, run cold water over it and then add it to the tomato mixture.  Mix it up so that every little elbow gets covered.  Serve with more grated Parmesan and fresh pepper if you like for a yummy harvest treat.