For flavour and versatility, it’s hard to beat the sensation of a vine-ripened tomato.

It is hard to imagine that until the 16th century, the tomato did not exist in the European kitchen. A native of the Peruvian highlands, the plant, which is technically a fruit but used as a vegetable, migrated to Central America. It takes its English name from the Mexican word, tomatl. From there, it was transported to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors and grew readily in the Mediterranean climate. As a member of the poisonous nightshade family and a relative of tobacco and potatoes, the tomato was initially regarded with suspicion. Nonetheless, by the late 16th century the Italians and Provençals had embraced their love of the “golden apple” and the pomme d’amour and pomodoro became a cornerstone of the Mediterranean cuisine.

Today there are hundreds of varieties of tomato grown and thanks to hothouse technology they are available year-round. That said, there is nothing to compare with the taste of a late-summer, vine-ripened tomato and it is truly worth paying the extra to get the flavour boost. A resurgence in the interest of heirloom tomatoes has also delivered a greater variety of tomatoes ranging in colour from dark green, black and purple, to striped and all hues of red and yellow — all varying in sweetness, acidity and meatiness.

Selection and storage: Looks can deceive. A perfectly round, evenly red tomato may be just that — a good looker, but with not much flavour. For eating in salads, select tomatoes that feel firm and appear ripe to the stem. For cooking, they can be so ripe as to be almost soft, though avoid anything that is leaking or mouldy. Buy in small quantities and store at room temperature. If you need to peel a tomato, remove the core, make a small incision in the base and blanch in a bowl of boiling water for a minute before removing to a bowl of cold water. The skin should then peel off easily. To remove seeds, which are sometimes bitter, cut the tomato in half at the equator and scoop out seeds with a teaspoon.

Tomatoes go with: basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, capsicum, cucumber, onions, garlic, chilli, cheese, eggs, olives and olive oil.













Chilled Tomato Soup with Basil Oil

Serves 4

  • 1.5kg Roma tomatoes, cored, halved and seeded
  • 4 cloves of unpeeled garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 100ml tomato puree or tomato juice
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Basil oil

  • 1 cup firmly packed basil leaves
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil

Parmesan toast

  • 1/2 loaf Italian bread, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Combine tomato and garlic in a large roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 200°c for 1 hour. Let cool.

Process tomato and peeled garlic cloves in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl. Add sherry vinegar, lemon juice, tomato puree or tomato juice. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper and mix well. Refrigerate overnight for flavours to develop.

To make the basil oil, process basil until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add olive oil and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until required.

To make parmesan toast, place the bread on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve chilled soup with a drizzle of basil oil and parmesan toast on the side.











Tomato Caprese Salad

Serves 4

  • 3 extra large ripe tomatoes cut into thick slices
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
  • 200g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled
  • A few fresh baby basil leaves, oregano leaves and thyme leaves, to garnish
  • Reduced balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Place the tomato slices on a large flat plate and sprinkle with salt. Lay a slice of red onion over each slice of tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and let this sit for an hour before assembling.

When ready to serve, place a tomato slice onto each plate. Top with mozzarella, onion, cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of herbs and crumbled blue cheese. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar and extra olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.













Savoury Tomato Sorbet

Serves 10–12

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Small basil leaves, to serve
  • Ice cream machine (if available)

Puree tomatoes in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and process mixture until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

If using an ice cream machine, churn the mixture following the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, pour the mixture into a shallow, metal tray and freeze until just firm around the edges. Place partly frozen mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Refreeze. Repeat this step twice and then cover with a large freezer bag. Freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Remove sorbet from the freezer and leave at room temperature for 10–15 minutes to soften before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.

Note: The sorbet is lovely as a refreshing entrée served along with sliced avocado and onion rings or sliced spring onions.













Summer Tomato and Olive Pasta

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely dried chilli flakes, to taste
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, chopped roughly, plus extra to garnish
  • 12 black olives, pitted and chopped roughly
  • 500g dried fusilli pasta
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shaved parmesan, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli flakes until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and olives and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavours to develop.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile season the tomato and olive sauce with salt and pepper and toss though chopped dill and the extra freshly chopped tomatoes.

When pasta is ready, drain and quickly toss through the chilled sauce. Sprinkle shaved parmesan on top with extra dill and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a salad and crusty bread.


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