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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tomato Time!

Beautiful assortment of tomatoes: Canned, Yellow, Beefsteak and Sun Dried

Summer is tomato time in the south.  Before, I even enjoyed eating tomatoes, I recall my mom, aunt and grandmother, gushing over the delicious tomatoes from the garden.  These tomatoes were always on my grandmother's dinner table, simply peeled and sliced on a plate. Nothing more, nothing less.  Sadly, I did not appreciate these garden delicacies at the time.  It would be many years later before I comprehended the love of a home grown tomato, and how different it was from the unfortunate tasteless orbs on display year round at my local supermarket.

As my palate matured, I grew into a true tomato lover.   I have more than made up for my earlier lack of tomato consumption over the past twenty years.  In fact, last summer, I took part in a large scale tomato canning session with my Can-Can Girls.  I don't recall exactly how many pounds of tomatoes we put up, but I do remember that it took six of us, two full days to complete the task of preserving summer's bounty.  

So treasured, were my jars of canned tomatoes, that I refused to eat them, for fear of running out before the next tomato canning summit.  I had become a selfish hoarder.  Well, about a month ago, a date was set for tomato canning 2014.  This meant that I had less than ten weeks to consume the dozen or so quarts of tomatoes, sitting quietly in the cool, darkness of my canned goods pantry (formerly my hall coat closet).  

The beautiful canned tomatoes make a lovely rustic pasta sauce, which I have been eating quite a lot of lately.  This sauce requires nothing more than a can of tomatoes, two grated garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper, sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  As much as I enjoy this tomato sauce, it was time to come up with another recipe in which to use my stock of tomatoes.  Thus, the Tomato Mop was born.

Years ago, I enjoyed a dish called tomato mop at a British Pub, called The Fox and Hound.  I vividly remember the warm and richly flavored tomato sauce, topped with melty goat cheese and served with crunchy garlic toasts. This dish makes a great appetizer or a wonderful vegetarian main dish, along side a simple green salad.  

If you are not fortunate enough to have a coat closet overflowing with home-canned tomatoes, I would recommend using organic, fire-roasted tomatoes instead.  

I hope a home-grown summer tomato is in your future, but if not, enjoy the deep tomatoey flavor of my Tomato Mop.  And.....don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!

Tomato Mop:

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
2 15 oz cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes, drained 
1 can of organic tomato paste
1 cup of chopped, dry packed, sun-dried tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 oz of goat cheese

Step One:
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  Cook and stir until tomato paste has melted and incorporated into the canned tomatoes.  Next, stir in sun-dried tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).

Step Two:
Place tomato mixture into a pie plate, coated with non-stick spray.  Crumble goat cheese over top of tomatoes and place under a broiler, set on HIGH, until cheese begins to brown.  Tomato mop can be served warm or at room temperature with garlic toasts.

Garlic Toasts:
1 baguette in 1/4 inch slices
Non-Stick olive oil spray
1-2 large cloves of garlic, Peeled

Spray baguette slices with olive oil spray and grill on both sides on hot a grill pan, until crispy.  Or, place toasts on a sheet tray and toast in the oven on 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

While toast is still warm, rub a raw garlic clove gently, over both sides of the bread.

If  you happen to have any of the tomato mop leftover, it makes a great breakfast, reheated and served with a poached or sunny side up egg on top.

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