Friday, September 17, 2010

Field Tomatoes

For all those moments in the depths of winter when I am desperately craving a fully ripened tomato, picked not-so-long-ago from a nearby farmer’s field and still warm from the sun, but have nothing but mealy, flavourless tomatoes, (and sprayed to make them look somewhat orange in colour), I rejoice that at this moment I have too many summer tomatoes on my kitchen counter. It makes me happy just to know that they are there, waiting to be eaten. Too many tomatoes; is there such a thing? I love that they are imperfect, different sizes and shapes, with marks on them that can only come if they are allowed to stay in the fields until they reach full ripeness. There are few things that taste better than summer field tomatoes. (I am clinging to the fact that technically, at least for a few more days, it's still summer.)

It takes very little effort to make seasonally ripe tomatoes even more glorious than what they are right now; a little finely chopped shallot, extra virgin olive oil, a few garlic cloves, fresh herbs, seasoning and hearty bread such as baguette or ciabatta. These ingredients equal my own favourite homemade bruschetta. Simply heavenly. In North America, bruschetta has become a really commonplace dish, seemingly served in nearly every restaurant. In a society that’s become fascinated by the next food trend, bruschetta has become old hat, so to speak. But in Italy, bruschetta has been enjoyed since at least as far back as the 15th century. Looks like bruschetta is here to stay.

Chopped tomatoes, ready to be made into Bruschetta

Catherine's Bruschetta

Many people mistake the topping on this dish as being “Bruschetta”, possibly as a result of countless stores selling containers of the topping and labelling it as “Bruschetta”. In fact, bruschetta refers to the entire dish, most commonly served as an appetizer. Freshly made at home with fully ripened tomatoes and really fresh herbs, it’s taken to a whole new level. A lot of people like cheese on bruschetta, but with fresh ingredients like this, I leave off cheese. It just distracts from the explosive flavour combination of the tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs.

Flat Leaf Italian Parsley - Fresh from the garden


1 loaf of hearty French or Italian bread such as baguette or ciabatta
4 large fully ripened tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, (2 peeled and sliced in half lengthwise, 2 finely minced)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing onto the slices of bread
2 small or one large shallot
¼ cup white wine tarragon vinegar (optional)
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Place the oven rack in middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
It’s easiest to use tomatoes that are ideal for slicing, such as beefsteak. Slice and chop the tomatoes and put them in a medium sized bowl. Finely chop the shallot in approximately ¼” sized pieces. Sometimes shallots can have a sharp pungency. To reduce excess pungency, soak the chopped shallot in ¼ cup of tarragon white wine vinegar for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the chopped shallot on paper towels before adding to the tomatoes. Add 1 or 2 cloves (depending on how much you like) of minced garlic, the chopped flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped basil and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss all ingredients gently to blend. Add freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste and toss again. 

Soaking the chopped shallots

 Slice the baguette or ciabatta diagonally in ½” slices. Brush the slices with extra virgin olive oil. Bake the slices in the oven, either directly on the baking rack or on a heavy baking sheet, for about 7 minutes, or until slightly crisp. Remove the skins from two cloves of garlic and slice each clove lengthwise. While the baked slices of bread are still hot, lightly rub each slice with a piece of the sliced garlic cloves. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the tomato mixture on the pieces of bread and serve immediately. 

Freshly made bruschetta, ready to be devoured!

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