Ode to a Tomato

It’s a real treat to meet a hostess who knows how to throw a dinner party where both the guests and the kitchen staff have the best possible experience. As I’ve learned cooking in her kitchen, Liz Lyman is a hostess who knows what she wants, and knows how to make a night magical, down to the last detail.

When asked what my favorite food to cook is, my answer is always just the best version of any dish that person has ever had. I want them to think, “I’ve had spaghetti more times than I can remember, but it never tasted this good.” Love is really all it takes. Oh, and maybe just a few more sprinkles of salt.

One of the first things I learned to make in my own kitchen was bruschetta – an antipasto from Italy consisting of grilled bread. I know, I know – you or someone you know is gluten free or on Keto, but bear with me on this because you can ultimately use anything for the base and anything for the topping. The recipe I’m going to share with you is so basic it has the potential for anyone to put their own spin on it or add it to a charcuterie plate.

With summer around the corner, two things get me more excited than a great pool floaty: tomatoes and watermelon. I love them both equally. Sweet and versatile, both conjure happy memories of childhood summers.

Today, it’s tomatoes … diced or sliced, and perfectly seasoned with fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and plenty of salt, topped on olive oil-soaked crunchy, grilled bread. Sandwiched in the middle is beautifully mild and creamy fresh burrata cheese. Fresh mozzarella of any kind will work, but I particularly love burrata. Its delicate flavor adds a light creaminess that never detracts from the star tomato.

While tomatoes aren’t in season all year round, those anemic, iridescent, excuses for winter tomatoes can become succulent and elevate spaghetti or pizza with a low and slow tour in the oven. Roma tomatoes work very well to oven roast by slicing in half lengthwise, tossing with copious amounts of salt, olive oil and dried herbs. Be sure NOT to use fresh garlic but try garlic powder so it doesn’t burn. The piece de resistance is an Italian parsley verde sauce to garnish, drizzled over the top.

The verde garnish is an easy one to add to your cooking repertoire. It can be tossed on oven roasted potatoes, or drizzled over a perfectly grilled steak or salmon. It’s easy and affordable but has the wow factor when it hits hot food. The aroma and color will have mouths watering. 

Italian Verde Sauce:

  • One bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (it complements tomatoes the best, but any vinegar will do)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine (go easy on the garlic if it’s a first date)
  • 1-2 tbsp capers, rinsed and rough chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (if using dried, add only ½ tsp)
  • 1 tsp or to taste Himalayan salt
  • ½ – ¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Give the parsley bunch two good soaks in ice cold water, pat dry with paper towel then de-stem and chop medium fine. Zest the lemon; chop zest then add to the parsley in a bowl. Next add the lemon juice but don’t forget to juice over a strainer or in your hand to catch the seeds. Chop the garlic and capers, then add the rest of the ingredients. Add the salt to the lemon juice and vinegar to dissolve before adding the oil. (Salt takes more time to dissolve in oil and can give a skewed flavor and this keeps you from over salting.) Add the oil 1 tbsp at a time to ensure the mixture isn’t too loose, and add more or less depending on the yield from the parsley bunch. Mix together with a spoon to break up the zest and any other ingredients that may have clumped. Serve at room temperature.

-Chef Amy

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Winsome Nest

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