It’s Tomato Time!

There is nothing like a fresh, ripe New Jersey Tomato and we’re in the brief season to really to enjoy them.  There’s no comparison between the plump delicious vine ripened tomatoes available in August and September and the hot-house ones produced the rest of the year. 

To celebrate tomato season, Taste & Technique is sharing some favorite recipes by Chef Diana Albanese who teaches for us regularly and knows better than anyone the great flavors offered by the Jersey Tomato.  Chef Diana’s popular pasta making and regional Italian classes are featured on the Taste & Technique schedule throughout the year.

Grilled Caprese Bruschetta with Basil
Makes about 20 pieces bruschetta

1 baguette sliced ½” thick, 20 slices
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
5 roma tomatoes cored and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 # fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced to fit on bread
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven 450º

Arrange bread slices on a sheet pan; combine in a small bowl, olive oil, garlic and salt. Brush mixture on bread slices and bake until crisp.  Alternatively place on preheated grill and cook on each side until golden brown.

Top each with slice of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Top with slice of cheese and return to oven or grill until cheese and tomatoes are just warm and cheese is just starting to melt. About 5-8 minutes

Top each toast with a basil leaf.  Drizzle remaining oil over basil if desired and season to taste.

My Uncle Salvatore’s Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

This is a family recipe using fresh tomatoes best made in late summer when tomatoes are at their peak in flavor.  It is unusual because the olive oil is added at the end of cooking.  The garlic cloves are left whole and pressed against the pan to release their juices after cooking.  The tomatoes are a bit of work, they are peeled and all the seeds are removed making a very sweet sauce.

4 pounds ripe New Jersey tomatoes
4 medium peeled garlic cloves
1 sprig of fresh basil
Fresh grounded black pepper as needed
3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of basil leaves, torn by hand into small pieces right before using

Core and peel tomatoes.  Cut in half horizontally and squeeze the seeds out.  Chop tomatoes into pieces, taking out any hard sections and green parts.  Place tomatoes in colander and drain for 15 minutes.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat cook tomatoes with garlic, sprig of basil and black pepper.  Stir sauce from time to time.  Cook at a lively simmer for 35 minutes or until sauce has thickened and watery juices have evaporated.

When sauce has thickened, use the back of a wooden spoon and press garlic against sides of the pan.  Garlic cloves should be soft and release all their delicious sweetness into the sauce.  Remove garlic cloves and sprig of basil.  Stir in olive oil.  Let the sauce rest for 5 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir in basil leaves and serve with pasta or use on pizza.

Fast Fresh Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
This is another version of a fresh tomato sauce that works well when pressed for time.

5 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes
¾ tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 large garlic clove cut in half
1 basil sprig
1 bay leaf

Cut the tomatoes horizontally in half.  Squeeze out the seeds and discard.  Press the cut side of each tomato against the large holes of a box grater and grate the flesh into a bowl.  Discard the skins.

Put the tomato pulp in a wide saucepan over high heat and add salt, olive oil, paste, garlic, basil and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil and lower heat to an active simmer and reduce sauce by almost half, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes.  You should have a medium thick sauce that coats a spoon.  Taste for seasonings.  Remove from heat and cool.

Sauce will keep for 5 days refrigerated or it can be frozen.

Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Eggplant Salad with Basil
Serves 4
This recipe features some other great produce that is in season during the summer months.

1-one pound eggplant, trimmed and peeled
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set oven rack in upper middle shelf. Preheat oven to 400º

Slice eggplant lengthwise and cut into 1 ½” cubes. Place in a bowl.  Toss eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast for 15 minutes or until tender and golden brown.  Remove from oven. Season with salt.

2 tbsp. Italian capers, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ small onion, halved and sliced paper thin
4 large tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise; each half quartered, cut in half crosswise
One- 8oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced ¾” thickness and cut into 1” cubes
2 tbsp. fresh basil torn into small pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups baby arugula
1 loaf Italian bread warmed in the oven

While eggplant is roasting, place capers, vinegar, olive oil, onions, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil in a large serving bowl.  Toss and season with salt and pepper.

Add eggplant to salad and gently toss.  Divide arugula on four salad plates and top with eggplant salad. Serve with sliced Italian bread.

For more great recipes, register for one of Chef Diana Albanese’s classes this fall.  In addition to her Fresh Pasta classes she will  be teaching an Italian Bootcamp, A Sunday Family Dinner Class and a Sausage Making Workshop.   For more information click HERE