august burns red

tomatoes

A lifetime ago I used to listen to a lot of metal and similar genres of music, a side effect of absorbing the habits of a then boyfriend who loved it- and a little way for me to be rebellious, I think, music completely the opposite of what my parents would listen to, always an appealing prospect as a just-hatched young adult. The band names were dramatic (and frankly hilarious, looking back)- Underoath, Lamb of God, Between the Buried and Me, As I Lay Dying, and August Burns Red. Recently I was reminded of this because I happened to drive by a music venue, and who was on the marquis but August Burns Red. It made me laugh to see it and think of how much we change and shift over the seasons in life. In the present, it seems we are who we are and that is definitively that, but truly we change so much even year to year, not just musical preferences, but also routines, where we live, who we choose to be around, what we enjoy doing, how we spend our time and our life, who we identify as. As humans we try desperately to label and know and predict and plan, but change is the only constant, and of that I am deeply grateful. I am freshly 32, and the stability and anchored feeling of these years feels extra good when I muse over the floundering and grasping chaos of my younger years.

I used to almost never cook, and now I cannot imagine otherwise, I cook at least 3 times a day almost every day, not as a chore but as a pleasure, an outlet, a creative process. Throughout the seasons my cooking and eating naturally flows and shifts and changes, too. July has all but slipped away and although it feels too soon, the consolation is that tomatoes are in full swing, abundant, and everywhere here in our little corner of California. From the garden, from the market, from the store, baskets full from neighbors backyards, at stands on the side of the road, there is no escaping them. Not that you’d want to, not me at least, tomatoes stain my kitchen beautifully red this time of year, all the way through early fall. They lend a perfect backbone to everything I love to eat right now, tomato salads, sandwiches, bruschetta, gazpacho, ratatouille, sauces, pasta, pizza, it is an excellent time of the year for eating. August still burns red, in my kitchen at least.

DSC04390.jpg

pomodori col riso

baked + stuffed tomatoes, these are typical fare in Italy, sometimes stale bread is used to stuff them instead of rice, they are very good either way. You can add other flavorings to the stuffing if you like, I prefer it simple to really taste every flavor. Optional is to bake the tomatoes over a bed of 1.5 lbs gold potatoes cut into small fry shapes, the tomato juices drip down onto the potatoes as they cook and they turn sticky and richly flavored.

8 medium soft ripe red tomatoes
10 tbsp arborio rice
6 tbsp/90ml good olive oil
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tsp sea salt
10 large leaves basil, torn into small pieces
fresh cracked pepper + more salt, to taste

Slice the top 1/3 or so off the tomato and reserve. With a small spoon, scoop the watery bits of the remaining 2/3 of the tomato out into a medium bowl- the seeds, pulp, etc- being careful not to pierce through the skin. Sprinkle the hollowed out tomatoes with salt and place them cut side down on a clean tea towel to drain excess liquid.

Use an immersion blender, food mill, processor or the like to roughly blitz up the tomato seeds, pulp and bits you have scooped into the bowl (texture is fine, but no huge pieces, discard any tough cores that don’t break down). Return the mix to the bowl and add in the rice, olive oil, garlic, salt, basil, and pepper, stirring to combine. Leave to soak for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. If using potatoes (see headnote), toss them with oil and salt and place in the bottom of the baking dish first. If not, proceed to stuffing the tomatoes. Taste the rice mix (just the liquid part) and add salt if needed- it should taste a little too salty, the tomatoes and the rice will absorb that and you don’t want an under salted dish for something so simple. Scoop the filling into the hollowed out tomatoes, placing each one in a baking dish as you go (either on top of the potatoes, or just in the empty dish if not using potatoes). Place the tops onto the filled tomatoes and slide the tray into the oven. Bake until tomatoes are wrinkly and soft and a bit browned on top, 50-75 minutes depending on size of tomatoes. Let sit in the pan at least 20 minutes before eating. These are also great at room temperature, so you can bake in the am before it gets too hot, and then let them sit on the counter and have a wonderful lunch alongside a sharply dressed green salad.

pomodori col riso

simple gazpacho

This is a very simple gazpacho, which means it really relies on very few, very good ingredients. Tomatoes must be richly colored and ripe, good green olive oil, good bread for this to taste wonderful as it should. If you are gluten free, try this one. If you like, to change the flavor or use what you have, you can also sub in other things, like watermelon, bell pepper, cucumber, onion etc for part of the tomatoes.

3-4 large, very ripe tomatoes
about 2 cups / 150 g cubed day old bread with crust removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup / 120 ml olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
4 large leaves basil

Cut the tomatoes up and add to a blender, along with the remaining ingredients (except for basil). Blend until velvety smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. I then poured mine through a fine mesh sieve for an extra smooth texture, but this is optional and will depend on what your texture preference is. Rip the basil into smallish pieces into the gazpacho and pour into a jar or other container with lid. Chill at least one hour before serving.

We served drizzled with some thinned salted coconut yogurt, a drizzle more evoo, and pan fried cubes of baguette.

gazpacho

and, a little video of making the gazpacho. If you like these, you can see many videos like this for recipes in the cookbook by purchasing the video toolkit companion for it. The music in the video is the song “by the pond”.