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Friday, July 22, 2005

Summer Weeknight Special


I love tomatoes. I have High Tomato Standards because I grew up in the southern Sacramento Valley, where a lot of commercial tomato-growing happens. My mother, who taught me a lot about produce, knew all the farm stands on her regular routes and was always stopping to get some.

Several years ago I discovered heirloom tomatoes at the Farmer's Market and was transported back to the sun-ripened 'maters of my childhood. Those things tasted like Real Tomatoes, not red rocks.

Now that heirlooms have gotten all talked up in the food press, you can occasionally see them for sale off-season at exceptionally well-stocked produce departments (I've seen them at the Berkeley Bowl in January). But this is just wrong. Real Tomatoes have a season, during which one should stuff oneself silly on them, and when it is over, one should go on to other things (including canned tomatoes) and Wait Till Next Year.

And, oh, I surely do love to see the jewel-like displays at the Market during tomato season:

July at the market

cherry tomatoes

I have a favorite weeknight supper during Real Tomato season which is simplicity itself to put together and very, very good. (I've blogged this before, but now I have peectures.) It's based on Janet Fletcher's recipe in Pasta Harvest - check out that cover photo - but I usually just eyeball quantities.

I really like making this with a mixture of colors and types to celebrate the abundance of the summer season.

Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

For each serving (adjust to taste)

Equivalent of one extra-large tomato - sliced extra-thin or chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (or to taste), finely chopped or mooshed
2-3 ounces soft goat cheese
2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon capers
Small (or large!) handful fresh basil leaves (they gotta be fresh for this)
2-4 oz dried pasta (original recipe was for spaghetti; I prefer farfalle, rotelle, and penne)
Salt and pepper

Start water to boil for pasta. Take the goat cheese out of the fridge, if you haven't already. Slice or chop tomatoes (slices should be extra-thin) into a serving bowl, add the garlic, drizzle with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Allow this to marinate while the noodles cook.

Tear the basil leaves roughly or cut in chiffonade, depending on how much effort you want to put into it.

Just before the noodles finish, dot the tomatoes in the dish with about half the goat cheese (crumbled into usefully small bits).

Drain the pasta when done, add to the bowl, and immediately top with the rest of the goat cheese (also in small bits). Toss the pasta to melt the goat cheese on it. Add the basil and capers and toss to mix and serve it forth.

I will admit to craving it occasionally before real tomato season, in which case it's actually quite good with roasted Romas, but to me that's a second best. It does, however, satisfy some of those It's May But There Aren't Real Tomatoes Yet late-spring cravings.

Those farmer's market pictures are making my mouth water!
That sounds divine. I will have to make it for myself for lunch sometime, because as much as I love my husband, he is not so enamored of the tomatoes.
I'm with you on the "Tomatoes have a season" idea.

David Lebovits posted a gorgeous tomato confit that I'm going to make this weekend and test-freeze a batch of. It would be nice to be able to have that kind of deliciousness in the winter.
Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
fresh asparagus recipe
I had some left over goat cheese and came across your post. The pasta was really good--great taste with minimal work. Definitely something I would make again. Thanks!
i can't wait to try this, yum!
Hello.I really want to try this recipe. I tried to find caper today but couldn't find it. Could you suggest me a substitute for caper?
So good! I just graduated from college and am living in Egypt and having to cook for myself for the first time, and it's hard because there aren't really any boxes of mix or spices or instant rice and other prepared items available(although that's probably good as far as learning goes). This was easy and delicious! Thanks!
This salad is delicious it was part of the amazing plate that I ate in my graduation and even everybody said that it wasn't good for the moment it was delicious.
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