Nothing says summer quite like a harvest of fresh homegrown fruits and vegetables. Here in the Northeast and New England, we don’t get to enjoy too many varieties of homegrowns outside of the summer season. But our gardens do pack a mean punch when its their time to shine! That being said, I do everything in my power to try and incorporate as many seasonal, backyard gifts as I can into our daily diets. One of my all-time favorites are fresh tomatoes; the sweetness and fresh flavors of a homegrown tomato are just second to none. Since I can’t get enough of them, I’m grateful to have a pair of little boys who also share in my delight and will eat just about anything that features tomatoes!
Unfortunately, the fresh tomatoes we’ve enjoyed this summer did not come from my own garden. I usually keep a rather large vegetable garden at our house in New York, but since we moved to a new home this past May I just didn’t feel confident in my knowledge of the property to establish a garden this season. Something about the idea of tilling up a large chunk of yard only to have too little or too much sun and no crop yield just didn’t appeal to me. Having studied the pattern of sunlight over our six acres fairly well since then, I hope to have lots to talk about next season.
So! Just like they say those who can’t do, teach, those who can’t cultivate…find a friend who can. This summer, a dear friend (and fellow teacher) offered us an abundance of tomatoes from her backyard. Let me tell you — some of the most beautiful tomatoes I have seen in ages. Immediately my culinary wheels started spinning for what I was going to whip up with these bad boys (or girls? anybody know the appropriate pronoun for tomatoes?) at the forefront of the dish. I immediately thought of roasting them. Whenever I roast tomatoes at home, I typically use them in an arrabbiata sauce, but on this 80 degree day — no way. (By the way, did you know arrabbiata is Italian for angry? HA! And you thought you’d only learn German on this blog!) Since we’re still at our beach house — a place where my kitchen tools are rather limited — I decided to keep it simple by throwing together a bruschetta of sorts. I live for a small plate and have never met a tapa I didn’t like.
Anyhow, to roast the tomatoes you simply quarter them, scatter them on a baking sheet, dress them with olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you do (or don’t) prefer. Throw them in the oven at 450 degrees for roughly 25 minutes or until they have reduced in size and have lost just a bit of their firmness — but aren’t mushy yet! The Barefoot Contessa suggests throwing a little balsamic vinegar and sugar on there to heighten the sweetness and to cut down on the acidity. With or without, you can’t go wrong!
While the tomatoes were roasting, I grabbed some fresh arugula (our favorite salad green) and tossed that with some fresh lemon juice,
expensive good olive oil**, salt, pepper, and let it sit. I dressed some fresh mozzarella with sweet balsamic vinegar and diced it. I then sliced a loaf of fresh Italian bread, brushed it with extra-virgin olive oil, and grilled it until it was a nice golden, toasty color. **While I am the queen of cutting financial corners at the grocery store, to me, certain things just can’t be cheated — and olive oil is one of them. Step away from the discount olive oil and I promise you, you will thank me.
After the tomatoes had cooled a bit, all that was left to do was layer everything together on that beautiful foundation of toasted bread. The result was heavenly!
This recipe is so great for a quick (and pretty!) (and cheap!) appetizer or small plate for any time of the year. Its rustic enough to be served as a side with a bowl of pasta in the cooler months or paired with a fresh salad or bowl of fruit for a luncheon in the warmer months. The boys and I coupled ours with grilled salmon and called dinner a day. There is nothing better to me than a recipe that can go any distance, and this is certainly one of them!