by Kai Chan
A vine ripened field tomato is a glorious thing; freshly picked from your own garden if you are fortunate, or chosen from a farmers market stall. I am a willing taker for tomatoes that are not stunning looking because I know how good they taste. Just sliced and eaten raw with a sprinkle of salt they are incredible. It is also wonderful to just cut them up and mix into a bowl of cooked pasta, add some chopped garlic smeared into a paste with salt, some chopped fresh basil leaves and olive oil. and you have a very light and fresh meal.
A simple tomato sauce can be prepared with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, bell peppers, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Put a large saucepan of water to boil, and fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato and drop them into the boiling water, one at a time. In 25 seconds or so and transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Peel each tomato, and use a paring knife to remove the core of each tomato. Fry chopped onion in olive oil until soft, then add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper and some white wine. Once the mixture comes to the boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for about an hour or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Tomato confit has a deeper rich tomato favour. It takes a bit of patience to make but is really worth it. Preheat the oven to 270º F. Peel the tomatoes and remove the core as described above. Cover a roasting pan with a thin layer of olive oil and sprinkle it with some salt and chopped garlic. Let each tomato stand on its end, cored side down, on the roasting pan with space around them. Bake the tomatoes for 3 hours; basting every half hour or so.
Both tomato sauce and tomato confit freeze well. Their rich favour is a good addition to sandwiches, pasta, pizza, paella as well as with boiled or fried eggs.
The Raw and the Cooked, MYTHOLOGIQUES is a new column on the culture of eating and cooking, with contributions by various authors. The column name is borrowed from the title of a book by Claude Levi-Strauss. It is spontaneous, a little amusing but serious at the same time.