With my heart beating rapidly in anticipation, hands trembling, I slowly reach towards the perfectly symmetrical orb. Flushed with color, its taut skin looking like it can hardly contain the delights it promises me.
Should I or shouldn’t I? I hesitate. Do I make my move now or wait? Is this the right time or would it be better to wait? The anticipation is too much. My desire can be held back no more. I am weak.
Slowly I reach out and touch the flesh. Wrapping my hand around it, I caress it tenderly lest I leave a bruise. Then, with a firm yet delicate turn of my hand, I pick ... the season’s first tomato!
To the average person the first homegrown tomato of the year is no big deal. But, to those of us who appreciate the finer things in life, it just doesn’t get any better than this. You can have the Super Bowl, the World Series, fireworks at the Fourth of July; all pale in comparison to home grown tomatoes.
The difference between homegrown and store-bought hot-house tomatoes is astronomical. I cannot bring myself to purchase a tomato from the store between the last homegrown tomato in late October to the arrival of the first ripe homegrown tomato in late July.
I keep a constant vigil once I plant my tomatoes in late May. Each day I check for blossoms, snip suckers that I don’t feel will bring forth the desired fruit. I lovingly water and weed each plant with a reverence that is almost a religious experience.
Never mind the healthful benefits of tomatoes. The antioxidants and lycopene. Tomatoes are a sensual experience. Full of delight and gratification.
Once my tomatoes start to ripen my wife and I feast on them almost daily. I plant two types of cherry tomatoes, one small and one large variety; both are deliciously sweet and my wife eats them like candy during the day. If there are any left they go into salads at lunch and dinner.
I only plant one variety of large tomatoes, he Better Boy tomato. The Better Boy is a large tomato, only slightly smaller than the popular beefsteak tomatoe, but packed with much more flavor and a firm flesh that makes it a good choice for cooking.
I use the Better Boys in myriad ways: sliced on burgers, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, sliced and drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. Or, delight of delights, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the Better Boys is to slice them evenly, place the slices one by one in a ramekin, and as I place each slice in the ramekin I pour on Italian dressing and place the next slice on top of the other until I have effectively rebuilt the tomato. I then cover the ramekin and put it in the fridge for up to one hour. Pure gastronomical heaven!
Those of you who have read my past blogs know of my adventures in cooking. From Eating My Mistakes to the highly acclaimed Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce, my learning to cook has been filled with many failed recipes that never see the light of day. But every once in a while I meet with some successes. True, those successes are few and far between, but they provide a nice sense of accomplishment when they do happen.
Even more gratifying is when I decide to experiment and add my personal touch to a recipe. One such recipe is my recipe for stuffed tomatoes. We had them for dinner tonight and they were great! With that in mind I thought I would share my recipe with all the tomato lovers in Patch (you know who you are). Enjoy!
Ken’s Famous Stuffed Tomatoes
6 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced finely
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup rice
1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
2 tablespoons very finely diced jalapeño peppers
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
4 teaspoons pecorino romano cheese
Cut the top off each tomato and make a small cut on the bottom of each tomato, being careful not to cut through, just enough to help the tomato stand by itself. Scoop out the insides of the tomatoes being careful not to puncture the flesh. Liberally sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt and turn upside down on paper towels to drain. Preheat oven to 350°.
In a 12-inch skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion; stirring constantly, cook until the onions start to soften and you can smell the garlic cooking. Add the rice and again stirring constantly, cook until the rice just begins to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, chicken broth and jalapeño peppers and bring to a boil. Continue cooking at a slow boil until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and cooked off.
Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Once the mixture has cooled a little add 4 ounces of the mozzarella cheese and mix thoroughly. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and place on a baking sheet.
Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes top the tomatoes with the remaining mozzarella and sprinkle with the pecorino romano cheese. Place back in the oven and cook until the cheese is fully melted and nice and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth on the melted cheese. Dig in and enjoy!