From gaspacho to tomato soup

By Dorothy Firestone

Special to the Light

August is the month of burnt-out lawns, reluctant school children and home grown tomatoes, the classic story of bad news-good news. But the good news is so good — there is nothing like home grown tomatoes — the rest must be endured.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

While tomatoes grow well here, they are not native to Missouri or even to the United States. They began life on a vine in South America and ultimately arrived in Spain, via European explorers. The Spanish thought they were poisonous. Not so the French who believed they had aphrodisiac powers and called them pommes d’amour — love apples. Tomatoes are beloved in this country, not for their aphrodisiac powers (that I know of), but for their varieties, health benefits and flavor, especially in August.

If you do not know a generous gardener, buy your home grown tomatoes from a farmers’ market or farmer’s roadside stand where they have been picked only hours before. They may not be picture perfect, but they will smell and taste like tomatoes.

Sometimes, supermarket home grown tomatoes, even those attached to their vines, lack flavor. They are probably a variety that has been bred to withstand long truck or train rides and to stay on the shelves, looking picture perfect. But often, they neither smell nor taste like tomatoes.

Try the recipes below. Or simply put sliced tomatoes between two pieces of good bread lined with lettuce and smeared with mayonnaise. Add a sprinkling of kosher salt, and enjoy the world’s best summer sandwich.

My Gaspacho

Makes about 9 cups.

1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, roughly chopped

3 ribs celery, roughly chopped

2 small cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped, seeding optional

1 onion, quartered

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled* and quartered, divided

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional, drops of Tabasco

A food processor works well with this recipe. Chop pepper, celery, cucumber and onion, coarse or fine, in the food processor; transfer to large bowl. Process vinegar with half the tomatoes. Add to bowl. Add remaining tomatoes to processor. With processor running, pour in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add optional Tabasco. Refrigerate. Serve with croutons.

* To peel tomatoes, drop them into boiling water for 10-15 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and peel or refrigerate them to be peeled later.

Tomato Soup

Serves six. This is good to squirrel away for times when fresh tomatoes are a memory.

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

5 basil leaves

3 pounds unpeeled ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks.

2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon white pepper or to taste

Warm olive oil; add onions and saut é on medium heat about 8-10 minutes, until onions are tender and translucent. Add garlic and saut é 2 minutes more.

Tie parsley and basil together with kitchen twine. Stir into onions along with tomatoes. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender.

Puree in a food mill. Season with salt and pepper. If tomatoes are tart, add a pinch of sugar.

Optional seasonings: pinches of cayenne pepper or ground cloves.

Serve hot or cold, garnished with croutons.

Roasted Corn and

Tomato Salad

Serves four along with good bread to sop up the juices.


2 tablespoons fennel seed

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

The Salad:

3 cups fresh corn from about four ears

One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes

1 medium red onion

4 cups chopped fresh lettuce

The Vinaigrette:

The day before serving, put fennel seeds in a dry pan and cook 5-8 minutes on medium heat until they become aromatic. Watch closely so they do not burn.

Mince seeds and garlic in a food processor. Add vinegars and mustard. While the machine is running, pour in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate up to one week.

An hour before using, remove from refrigerator.

The Salad:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put corn on sheet pan with sides, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the corn is tender and beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes.

While corn is roasting, dice tomatoes and onion and combine in a large bowl.

Add hot corn to tomatoes and onions. Toss at once with only enough vinaigrette to coat the ingredients and serve immediately atop chopped lettuce. Add croutons if desired.


Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Makes about 2 cups.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, butter or a combination

4 garlic cloves, peeled

4 to 6 slices of French or Italian bread, cut into cubes, crusts optional

Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, turning often, until it is lightly browned. Remove garlic, which is now pleasantly mild; save to add to a salad or soup.

Turn heat to medium and cook bread in oil, turning cubes occasionally, until brown all over. Remove and sprinkle lightly with salt. Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to a week.