edited by Sue Courtney
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January is the month for vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh garden basil. I've so much basil growing on the pots on the deck; it's become a daily staple.
We didn't plant tomatoes this season - don't know why as we usually do - working too hard, I guess. But not to worry. I live in a rural area and there's a tomato grower not far away, who sells from their gate. They still use the honesty box system! During the year I call in to buy tomatoes, capsicums, telegraph cucumbers and beans.
Here's an easy summer salad.
Thinly slice capsicums, removing all pith and seeds. Slice tomatoes into wedges (10-12 wedges per tomato, depending on size). Finely chop herbs. Place all in bowl. Crush garlic with the sugar. Add to the olive oil & mix well. Pour over the vegetables, mix well. Prepare a couple of hours before serving to let the flavours infuse.
This salad is very colourful and looks great on the table.
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Easy Roasted Tomatoes, Capsicum and Basil (pictured above)
Wash and dry tomatoes, capsicums and basil leaves.
Place in a slow oven (150C) and roast for about 30 minutes.
Serve as an accompaniment to salads or use as a basis for a sauce or soup.
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One of my favourite recipes for vine ripened tomatoes was inspired by Ferenc Maté's book, 'The Hills of Tuscany'. It's a good read if you are in relaxation mode. In the first half of the book, Ferenc accounts the tale of house hunting in Tuscany with his wife Candace. They eventually find a house in Montepulciano - the home of the famous wine Brunello di Montepulciano. The remainder of the book accounts their first year living there. Plenty of wine and grappa is consumed and fabulous dishes such as Panzanella (bread salad)
There are plenty of variations of Panzanella in recipe books and on the Internet. This is the one I make, however. The key ingredients are tomatoes, cucumber, purple onions left over bread. Here's my version
Peel the tomatoes and chop into chunks.
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Pappa al Pomodoro ('Tomato Mush)
You will need
Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. If using raw chilli, add with the garlic and seasonings and sauté for a minute, then add the tomatoes that have been cut into large chunks. Sprinkle over the sugar. If using chilli sauce, add with the tomatoes. Mix well and slowly heat to boiling point, simmer for 1 minute and remove from the heat. Cool a little then pour over the crusty bread that you've put into a deep serving platter or bowl. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Sprinkle with plenty of torn fresh basil leaves. Serve warm or cold.
This could be served as a side dish to a main course, or as a course on its own. It is another dish I use for a lazy lunch or dinner. It is important to peel the tomatoes as the skins will come off when cooking. I think there is nothing worse than a curled up piece of tomato skin floating around in the dish. Again this dish would suit a sauvignon blanc or a young red wine.
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Chicken Thighs in a tomato, capsicum and basil sauce
This recipe is a little more substantial.
4 skinless chicken thighs with bone in
Wash and dry the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan.
Add chicken pieces. Turn after 10 minutes of cooking and cook 10 minutes more. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with pasta or instead, if you wanted to, you could remove the chicken from the bones and serve as a soup.
* * * * *Peeling Tomatoes: Don't skip this step if the recipe calls for it. It is so simple to do and saves having rolled up pieces of hard tomato skin floating around a dish.
Boil a jug of water. Place tomatoes in a bowl Pour boiling water over. Leave for a minute. Remove tomatoes one at a time. Split skin with sharp knife and peel skins off. This works perfectly with ripe tomatoes.
© Sue Courtney
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