Guy Clark had it right when he said the only two things money can’t buy are true love and homegrown tomatoes. That second’s been hard to come by this summer — until now.
By ANNE BROCKHOFF
I couldn’t help humming Clark’s song out in the garden this week while mulling what I’d do with the sudden glut.
The singer-songwriter has plenty of suggestions, from making BLTs and salads to stews, juice, egg and bean dishes and more. But he’s singing about big ones, and most of my harvest at the moment is in Sun Golds, those bite-size jewels so tender they split their warm skins when picked.
Plenty get eaten in the garden, either by me or the ducks, but most are destined for the roasting pan. Local writer Mary Bloch once recommended halving and slow-roasting Sun Golds until they’re sweeter than candy, but I can’t ever seem to wait the two or three hours her method takes.
Instead, I toss whole cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, quartered onions, salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees until it’s all bubbly and soft — about an hour for a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan full.
The result is a template of sorts for all kinds of meals. You can toss the chunky mixture with pasta or rice, or pass it through the food mill for a smoother sauce. Balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs like basil or parsley and Parmesan cheese all make flavorful additions.
Top grilled meat, poultry or fish with your sauce, or even nestle your protein in among the tomatoes so it can cook with them.
You can roast as many or as few tomatoes as you have. If you find yourself with an extra handful, or if that’s all you had to begin with, drinking them is another delicious option.
Tomatoes marry well with vodka, gin, tequila, Cachaca and Samogon (a grape-based Russian spirit imported by KC-based Phenix Brands), but bartenders are also matching them with rye whiskey, mezcal, Campari and aquavit. You can go spicy, herbal or fruity, depending on your other ingredients. As for how to get them into your glass, muddling works well, but you can also make juice, tomato water or even shrubs or infusions.
Maybe Guy Clark should add another verse to his song?
Muddling cherry tomatoes is the easiest way to transfer their bright, sweet-savory taste into the glass. Try this Bloody Mary-like recipe from Spice & Ice , subbing whatever spirit you like for the Cachaca.
The Produce Stand
Makes 1 drink
3 or 4 cherry tomatoes
2 wedges lime
2 to 4 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2-1/2 ounces tomato juice
2 ounces Cachaca or other spirit (I like Samogon)
Muddle the cherry tomatoes and lime in a shaker. Add the basil, tomato juice and spirits. Then season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and salt. Add ice. Shake well and serve in a tall glass garnished with basil or cherry tomatoes speared on toothpicks. If you like a smoother drink, strain before pouring into your glass.
Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section, as well as food features. She blogs at food_drink_ life.wordpress.com .
HOMEGROWN TOMATOES BY GUY CLARK