A Passion for Summer Tomatoes

California Heirloom Tomatoes

California Heirloom Tomatoes

Where would we be without our favorite summer fruit? How many other fruits or vegetables have a song written about them?

Native to the Americas, at one time feared as poisonous due to its family ties (nightshades), the tomato is now one of the most popular of foods. Quick, how many things can you think of which feature tomatoes?

Starting with just ketchup, pizza, and spaghetti, think about how popular the tomato is. So many foods and dishes use tomatoes, in either in a starring or supporting role. Not bad considering it wasn’t until the late 1700s that tomatoes began to find their way into the dining room in any quantity. Continue Reading →

Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust


If you haven’t discovered the spectacular, intense flavor of organically grown, dry-farmed tomatoes, now is the time to give them a try! These tomatoes are a late summer favorite and available at the Aptos Farmers Market in mid August. The buttery herb-flavored crust of this tart is the perfect foil for the melted and slightly salty mozzarella and the sweet tomatoes. Serve with a lightly dressed spinach or mixed baby greens.


For the dough:
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8-10 pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
8 ounces low-moisture, high quality whole milk mozzarella, sliced
About 1 lb. flavorful, ripe dry farmed tomatoes, sliced*
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into fine ribbons (chiffonade)
2 tablespoons Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (optional)
Additional shredded basil leaves, garnish (optional)

* If using tomatoes other than dry farmed, slice the top off the tomato, and gently squeeze it to remove excess juice and seeds, then slice


To make the dough, combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process using several short pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until garlic and basil are finely minced. Add the flour and salt to the bowl. Pulse briefly to combine.

Add butter chunks and pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea sized bits.

Add 3 tablespoons of the water and pulse a few times to incorporate. Add 1 more tablespoon and process for several seconds to see if the dough forms a ball. If not, add the remaining tablespoon of water and process until a ball of dough forms.

Remove the dough, flatten into a 5-inch disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to assemble the tart, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Transfer chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Gently transfer the dough to 9-inch round tart pan and ease it into the pan. Press dough evenly around the sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough as needed.

Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper loosely over the tart dough and fill the center with baking beads. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil or parchment and baking beads. Return the tart shell to the oven to bake for 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven.

Lower oven temperature to 375°F.

Layer the bottom of the tart shell with the sliced mozzarella. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the cheese in a single even layer. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Top lightly with freshly grated Parmesan and finely sliced basil leaves. Arrange Kalamata olive pieces evenly over top, if using.

Bake 15 minutes, then rotate tart 180° and wick off any excess moisture that has collected on top with a paper towel, if necessary. Continue baking another 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in places. Allow the tart to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Garnish with a few shreds of fresh basil leaves, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop


Fried Green Tomatoes with Herb Mayonnaise

We serve these as a snack at Bantam in the late spring. Unripe, green tomatoes are very abundant right now as farmers and gardeners thin out their tomato plants. The unripe cherry tomatoes get pickled and the full size tomatoes get fried. It’s super easy, although the herb mayonnaise may be a little harder.


For the mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
A small clove of garlic pounded in a mortar or smashed up with the side of your knife
1 cup olive oil
A handful of chopped, soft herbs (soft like, basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, what ever you like)
Salt and chili pepper


Whisk the yolk with the garlic, a little salt, lemon juice, and using a ladle, slowly add the olive oil while whisking. You are trying to form an emulsion, binding the protein of the egg with the fat of the oil; if they do not want to bind, you will have to convince them by quickly whisking and slowly drizzling —after a few ounces the mixture should become yellow and thick, continue to add oil until you have reached your desired consistency then add your chopped herbs, taste and season.

For the tomatoes:
4 unripe green tomatoes
1 cup all purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
A few cups of neutral oil for frying, depending on the size of your pan
Salt and pepper


Slice the tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices, season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Prepare your breading dishes, one bowl each for flour, eggs and breadcrumbs.

Put the oil in a pan — it should be about 2 inches deep, turn on a low flame. Coat the sliced tomatoes in flour then dip into the egg and finally the breadcrumbs; they should be evenly coated in crumbs.

When the oil is hot  (about 325°-350°F), carefully fry the tomatoes until golden brown. With a spatula, lift out tomatoes and place on a tray with a brown paper bag or paper towels and season with a little more salt.

Serve with the herb mayonnaise.