Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For When The Tomatoes Come In

It's the time of year where gardeners everywhere are anxiously out in their beds every day, hoping for the first ripe, juicy and tasty tomatoes to be waiting on the vines. Depending on the year's weather, and what sometimes feels like the mood of Mother Nature, the fruit may wait until well into August to start blushing or be so early that you're caught unprepared for the harvest! Our plants are still being far outshone by the neighbouring peppers, beans, carrots and radishes, especially mine - I'm trying my hand (again) at growing a few kinds from seed. If they take, and flourish, I'll have some of the tastiest tomatoes in the world (I sampled all of them before planting!) - Black Prince, Sasha's Altai, Green Zebra and a "grab bag" mix that I bought along with some Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherries from the awesome folks at Salt Spring Seeds. I was desperate to have something other than the boring (but still tasty) slicers, cherries and San Marzanos we grow, and since I couldn't find any of the heirlooms or my other favourite - Juliet tomatoes - as seedlings I ponied up the cash based on my garden-magician aunt's recommendation. So now I wait, and wait... and cross my fingers that the wonky rain -> overbearing heat -> rain weather we've been having here wasn't sealed their fate.  

But if you know, or you are, one of those avid veggie gardeners that's blessed with an early harvest, what do you do when that first basket of tomatoes comes in the door? Chow has a topic devoted to the subject if you need help answering that question - provided that you've already savoured them au naturel first, preferably warm off the stalk! I know in my garden I don't even have to pause long enough to wash the beauties before biting in like an apple, since we don't use any sort of chemicals on our plants and the rich soil bed left from the potato farm that used to be here is our main fertilizer!

In the end though, when we have more than we can willingly eat plain, we usually turn to the tried-and-true Tomato Sandwich. Like I've said before, it never seems to matter what really surrounds the tomato in that combination, be it toasted Wonder Bread or the best Poilâne miche, though I still favour a crusty sourdough myself... the idea is that the tomato is the star.

But why not take the opportunity to have that perfect tomato on slices of equally delicious, home made bread? Beyond just a simple sourdough, I took the opportunity to add some traditional (and not so traditional) elements to my free-form boule that I adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread. Along with some (okay, a bunch of) tangy Parmesan and a sprinkling of oregano, I added a smoky note reminiscent of the also-Summery B.L.T.'s bacon with smoked Spanish paprika. And what goes with smoky, rich bacon? Well, cornbread of course! So when I made my flour mixture, I sprinkled in some cornmeal and yellow corn flour too for extra good measure!

As this bread (submitted to YeastSpotting this week) came together, rose and finally baked to crusty, golden perfection, the smell was intoxicating - I could just imagine what sandwiches could be made with it... from thin, dainty slices surrounding a club sandwich, to thick slabs toasted under the broiler, rubbed with garlic and topped off with a juicy tomato and a touch of balsamic. We have the bread. We have the balsamic. Now all we need around here are those darn tomatoes!

Yeasted Cheesy Corn Bread
Makes 1 large loaf, 30 slices
16 oz active sourdough starter
4 oz cornmeal
4 oz yellow cornflour (not cornstarch)
5 oz 12-grain flour
10 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp instant yeast (optional if your starter is very strong)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted butter
6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Combine the sourdough starter, cornmeal, cornflour, 12-grain flour, all-purpose flour, kosher salt, smoked paprika, basil, yeast, milk and water in a large bowl or stand mixer, stirring gently. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Begin mixing on medium-low speed, for about 5 minutes, then add butter and knead in.
  3. Continue kneading for 10 minutes.
  4. Allow dough to rest 5 minutes, then knead 1-2 minutes further.
  5. Cover bowl and allow to rest 45 minutes.
  6. Deflate dough and knead briefly to re-distribute the gluten.
  7. Shape into a smooth ball and place on a greased baking sheet.
  8. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 450F and place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.
  10. Slash the top of the loaf 1-2 times and place in the oven.
  11. Bake 25 minutes, then remove the pan of water.
  12. Bake a further 20 minutes.
  13. Remove immediately from the sheet and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 156.0
Total Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 8.8 mg
Sodium: 111.9 mg
Total Carbs: 24.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 6.2 g

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