I am a tomatophile. I can’t get enough of tomatoes.
But, as I’ve previously mentioned, not just any tomatoes. January tomatoes better be from a hot house.
I love tomatoes so much that I refuse to eat them any other time of year than right now.
Because when you know what a tomato is supposed to taste like at its absolute best, it’s just a palate letdown any other time.
Oh, I’ll eat them canned. But those pathetic pink slices beside my veggie burger at a brew pub, or the deceitfully bright red but tasteless, artificially ripened orbs you see at chain grocery stores? They can stay right where they are. I can wait.
But the wait is over, for the time being. Tomatoes are in full swing in York County and the rest of the region, and I’m devoting the next several posts to them.
Growing: It’s a little late to begin growing tomatoes this year, but if you’re interested anyway, Organic Gardening has an article on 10 tips for growing the best tomatoes.
Selecting: I’m going to devote some time to heirloom varieties in a later post, but if you don’t know the difference between Romas and Beefsteaks, let me introduce you to a few hybrid tomatoes you’re most likely to encounter in abundance at your favorite whole foods store or farmer’s market.
- Romas – Otherwise known as Italian plum tomatoes, Romas are one of my favorites. They’re smaller and oval in shape. They have fewer seeds, which make them ideal for canning or making sauce.
- Beefsteak – One of the largest varieties, Beefsteak tomatoes are so named because of their size and “meatiness.” In other words, they’re substantial in girth and taste.
- Early Girl – Aptly named for their early ripening time, these plants produce full-flavored and aromatic fruit earlier in the season than most varieties. So, they’re perfect for me.
- Cherry and grape – Referring to size, cherry tomatoes look like, well, cherries, but if they’re more oval-shaped, might be referred to as grape tomatoes. There’s no discernible difference in flavor; both are sweet and perfect for salads.
There are more, but I’m getting really hungry, so it’s recipe time.
My food recommendation for this week is a recipe I half-invented. That is, it’s a major adaptation of a breakfast casserole recipe I found years ago in a vegetarian cookbook. The original recipe involved bagels, Brie cheese and chopped vegetables, smothered in beaten egg and baked.
I applied that basic concept to my favorite breads, cheeses, veggies and herbs, and voila!
Best egg-bread casserole ever
- 3 or 4 medium-sized tomatoes, ripe but without soft spots (this is one recipe I wouldn’t use Romas in because you want more juice), sliced
- 1 small to medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
- 2 ounces of a good, creamy goat (or other soft) cheese (using more isn’t going to hurt anyone)
- 4 large eggs or 5-6 small ones, beaten with a little bit of milk
- 1 small sourdough round or French baguette, ripped into bite-sized chunks
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 ½ x 11-inch baking dish. Make a tight, even layer of bread chunks across the bottom of the dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Layer tomatoes on top of the bread, using as many as you want. Eat at least four tomato slices sprinkled with salt while doing this, and, of course, any leftovers as well. Layer onion rings on top of the tomatoes – use a lot of if you love onions, or only a few, or omit them. Wait, don’t omit them. Give them a try. Just a few.
Dot the casserole with the cheese, sprinkle on the herbs and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Pour egg mixture over the casserole, salt and pepper it, then pop it into the oven and bake it for a half hour or so, or until the egg sets all around and the casserole doesn’t look wet in the middle anymore.
Honestly, a sun-warm tomato, sliced with a little salt and olive oil, is mouth divinity to me. But if it’s not too hot outside to turn on the oven, this is a simple, tasty recipe that covers all the food groups and can be easily modified according to you own favorites.
Just please don’t omit the ‘maters!
Also, this is my heaven: