Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. An oldie, but a goodie. Essentially if it has seeds, its a fruit (tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, legumes as well as apples and pears). Vegetables are the non-flowering bits like leaves (spinach and kale), roots (carrots and turnips) and tubers (potatoes). We tend to talk about fruit and vegetables more from their culinary use – vegetables are savory, fruits are sweet, but botanically speaking this distinction is not correct. Confusing, I know.
Speaking of old, I discovered the pure joy of growing bucket loads of tomatoes when I discovered heirlooms. There are so many varieties, from bite size cherries to big whoppers for hamburgers. A personal favorite, at least aesthetically, is the black and red (pictured in an earlier post). I can’t go past a yellow tomato to add an extra sweet taste and color to a salad, and as a crime fiction lover my personal name favorite is the Tomato Ananas Noir, because who doesn’t love a noir right? The Noir is huge and delicious, just like a good book, and gets darker as it ripens. The tomato even wrote its own thriller back in the middle ages. Wealthy people often ate from pewter plates, but items with high acid content like tomatoes made lead to leach into the food, causing lead poisoning and death. Tomatoes were considered toxic for about 400 years after that.
Of course growing bucket loads of tomatoes, one needs to find creative ways to serve and preserve them. There’s nothing quite like eating paddock to plate, but it does require research to fossick out new recipes so you don’t feel like you are eating the same meal three times a day, day in, day out. My most recent new find was the shortcrust tomato pie. Easy to make with a nice rustic finish (pictured).
Shortcrust tomato pie
Oven temperature: 220/220 Celsius fan-forced
• 2 cups plain flour
• 150g butter
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tblsp chilled water
Mix flour and butter in a food processor till it resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and chilled water. Process until the mixture almost comes together. Add a little extra water if needed. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to about 30cm and refrigerate for 30 minutes on a backing tray.
• 1 tblsp olive oil
• 1 clove garlic
• 1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs
• 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 450g small tomatoes (I use cherry or other small varieties and cut in half)
• 1 lightly beaten egg
• basil leaves
Combine the olive oil, garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Sprinkle the parmesan over the pastry, leaving a 3cm border. Arrange the tomatoes over the parmesan. Spoon the oil mixture over the tomatoes and fold the pastry edges in over the filling. Brush the pastry edge with egg and season the pie with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the tomatoes are tender. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve.
What’s your favorite tomato dish?
Image: Shortcrust tomato pie