Instead of blanching, peeling, and chopping the tomatoes, as classic French cooking suggests, cooks in Greece grate the tomatoes in an onion grater to get the tomato pulp. The seeds are not discarded, because they are particularly flavorful. I serve this with grilled fish, poultry, burgers or any meat. It can also be a fresh and fragrant topping for toasted whole-wheat bread or pita, especially if you spike it with some crumbled feta or ricotta.
Serves 4 to 6
• 2 to 3 fresh green chilies, minced, or good pinches Aleppo pepper, to taste • 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil • salt, to taste
• 5 cups small heirloom tomatoes, halved • 2 teaspoons fine lemon zest
• 1 1/2 cup purslane sprigs, or 1 cup grated cucumber
• a few grinds black pepper (optional)
Mix together the chilies, garlic, thyme, one tablespoon lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl. Add salt to taste and mix thoroughly. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes and up to two hours.
Halve each tomato vertically, cut off and discard the stem, and carefully grate in a large-holed grater, cut-side facing the holes. Discard the skin that will remain in your hand.
When you are ready to serve, add the tomatoes, lemon zest, and purslane or cucumber. Toss and taste, to correct the seasoning, maybe adding more lemon and some black pepper.
To read Aglaia's story about how Greek cuisine evolved to eventually embrace the tomato, click here.