The Last of the Tomatoes
Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
I know that for most of you fall, if not winter (was that a snowstorm in Boston this weekend??), is advancing rapidly, and your local, fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes flower and plump in the memory alone. In our corner of the world, though, we still enjoy warm days and only somewhat chilly nights, so our tomato plants continue to produce fruit. We had a good harvest this summer--lots of dark red, pink, and orange fleshy heirloom tomatoes, as well as plenty of red cherry and tiny pear-shaped sweet yellow fruits, quite rare in Greece, that our guests admired enormously.
But while the last fruits of summer are still on our palates, the time has come to plant the winter and spring vegetables--lettuce, spinach, chicory, radishes, carrots, kardamo--the spicy Greek cress with feather-like leaves--and of course the fava seeds that will give us its tender green pods in the spring, right before Easter.
We still go through the large basket of wonderfully sweet tomatoes of all sizes and colors, making large salads every day, as we did throughout the summer.
That means uprooting the last tomato plants, and Costas, my husband, completed the task with fervor, ignoring my usual, nostalgic protests. Each year we go through the same argument, and although I know he is right, and surely our poor garden soil needs a bit of rest, fed with compost and manure before we start planting again, I feel sad to remove tomato plants, that seem to jingle their fruit in protest, as we uproot them from the soil.
From the pile of semi-dry, and some surprisingly green tomato sprigs, we gathered a tremendous amount of red and green, large and small tomatoes; much more than I expected. We filled baskets and bowls, and spent hours separating the hard green ones ideal for pickling from the softer tomatoes which, although not yet red, were eventually going to ripen for our last summer salads.
Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
There were also plenty of perfectly ripe tomatoes and quite a few over-ripened ones that needed immediate attention. I mashed some in the blender and cooked the pulp down to make frozen tomato cubes for the winter. Others I sliced and roasted to make tomato confit, as Melina Shannon-DiPietro proposed in August.
We still go through the large basket of wonderfully sweet tomatoes of all sizes and colors, making large salads every day, as we did throughout the summer. I add sliced onion and 1 to 2 tablespoons of capers in the tomato salad, dressing it simply with extra virgin olive oil, as the capers add enough salt to the mix. Although we eat to satiety, we often end up having leftover salad, which I have the habit of keeping in various containers in the refrigerator.
I don't discard anything, and certainly wasn't going to let even the wilted bits of garden tomatoes go to waste, so I decided to puree the leftover salad--seeds, skins, onion, capers and all--in the blender, and use the pulp, instead of water, in my bread dough. The resulting bread was delicious, especially topped with cheese and sliced tomatoes. Inspired by Ladenia, the traditional tomato-and-onion-topped flat bread from Kimolos island, I came up with the recipe for this Tomato Salad Flat Bread that was a big hit with our guests and friends this summer. I still make it, and will probably continue throughout the winter, until I come up with an equally exciting new bread.