City Palate
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The Entertaining Issue - November December 2017

6 Quick Ways with Tomatoes

by Chris Halpin

What would the world be like without the tomato? I can’t imagine it. That fresh burst of juicy bright flavour, so wonderful. Unfortunately a fresh tomato that tastes like a tomato can be a hard thing to find in Calgary for a large part of the year, but there are ways to finesse this situation. First, only store your tomatoes at room temperature so they will continue to ripen. I try to plan on having my tomatoes for at least two days before eating them. I also always sprinkle equal amounts of salt and sugar on my sliced tomatoes. The sugar is a surprising flavour boost. I tend to think of the Roma tomato as the quintessential cooking tomato – it’s the fleshiest of the tomatoes – and the other varieties mostly as a fresh fruit to enjoy in sandwiches and salads or sprinkled with salt and sugar. These are six of my favourite tomato recipes.

classic bruschetta

The essence of a good bruschetta is the freshness of the ingredients. This is when a good olive oil really shines. Finely dice 6 Roma tomatoes, place them in a colander to drain while you’re finishing the recipe. In a bowl, put 1/4 c. of your best quality olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 6 large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, 1/2 t. sugar and 1 t. salt. Add the drained tomatoes and the juice of 1 lemon, and mix well. Serve with sliced baguette or crostini. Make 3 cups.

old school cream of tomato soup

There is something so satisfying about a warm bowl of tomato soup. Luckily, it’s easier to make than you might think. The use of baking soda in this recipe is pivotal to impart a velvety taste to the canned tomatoes, since it neutral- izes the acidity. A light hand is required, if you use too much it will taste like soap. In a blender, put a 28-oz. can of tomatoes, 1 t. onion powder, 1/2 t. celery seed, 1/2 t. sugar and 1 t. white pepper, and blend until smooth. Pour this into a medium pot, place over medium heat and bring to a boil. With a non-metal spoon, stir in 1/2 t. baking soda and continue to stir until it has stopped foaming. Stir in 1 c. whipping cream and bring back to the boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Serve 4.

tomato tartin with gremolata

This is a great hors d’oeuvre. The ingredients are so simple, but the end result is impressively com- plex. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Slice 4 Roma tomatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and blot dry. Place a sheet of rolled puff pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and, with a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a third larger. With a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 24 rounds, arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and with a fork, poke each round. Dab each round with Dijon mustard and place a slice of tomato on top. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry is crispy and golden. While these are baking, make the gremolata. Finely chop together 1 t. lemon zest, 1 garlic clove, grated, and a small handful of parsley. Allow the tartins to cool a little before serving. Just before serving sprinkle each with a little gremolata. Makes 2 dozen.

prosciutto-wrapped salmon with a tomato pernod concassé

This is a wonderfully simple sauce. The trick to a concassé is to only warm it because it’s all about the freshness of the toma- toes. In a blender, put 6 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, 1 t. Sriracha hot sauce, 1/2 c. pernod, and blend until smooth. Place this in a pan, add salt to taste and set aside for later. Salt and pepper 4 salmon fillets, wrap each with a slice of prosciutto and dredge in cornstarch (about 1 c. should do it). Place a sauté pan over high heat and add 1/4 c. canola oil and 1 T. butter. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the salmon and fry on each side, until golden and crispy on the outside. While you are frying the fish, warm the concassé, then remove from heat. To serve, pool some of the sauce in the centre of four plates and arrange the fish in the centre of each. Serves 4.

pasta with tomato, caper, olives and feta

I love pasta and I think often people make pasta too complicated – but simple bright flavours are so much more then the sum of its parts. I tend to use spa- ghetti or fettuccini for the pasta. While the pasta is boiling, place a dry pan over high heat and allow this to get very hot before adding 2 c. grape tomatoes. Shake the pan a little to give the tomatoes a bit of movement, allow the tomatoes to scorch on one or two sides. Remove from the heat and, with a large spoon, squash the tomatoes. Stir in 1/4 c. olive oil and 2 garlic cloves, crushed, then place over medium-low heat. Stir in 1 t. crushed fennel seeds, 1/2 t. chile flakes and 1/2 t. dried basil. Allow this to simmer for a minute or so, then add 2 T. capers and 1/2 chopped kalamata olives. Stir and add salt to taste. Drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce. Divide the pasta into bowls and crumble feta over each. Serves 2 to 4.

chermoula pork tenderloin

Chermoula is a North African marinade/condiment, with mellow savoury tones. I love it with pork, lamb, fish, with a burger and blue cheese and over steamed rice. In a small pot, put 10 sun-dried tomatoes and 1/2 c. water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a food processor, put 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 shallot, coarsely chopped, 2 T. paprika, 1 t. smoked paprika, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 T. cumin, 1 t. salt and the cooled tomatoes with liquid. Blend until smooth. Preheat the oven to 400°F., smear the chermoula over a medium pork tenderloin and place in a roasting pan. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and a blushing pink on the inside. Serves 4.

Chris Halpin has been teaching Calgarians to make fast, fun urban food since 1997 and is the owner of Manna Catering Service. mannaonline.com

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