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Days of Whine and Tomatoes

Looking for this.... (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

Where o where are the good ones? Insert exasperated sigh here.

Testing dozens of tomato recipes for this year’s contest calls for dozens of pounds’ worth. And decent specimens have been tough to come by, my friends. We don’t have the food-safety scare of last summer (remain positive!), but the weather and blight are delaying the show.

So, that old use-the-best-ingredients creed? On hold. The difference between a good-looking hothouse tomato and the real thing is substantial, I’ve learned – especially for salads, for fresh sauces, for recipes that involve reductions or extractions of tomato juice, for drinks. And even for tomato ice cream.

...or this.... (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

We couldn’t wait around. There’s a deadline (Aug. 12 edition), and we’re going to meet it, because despite all the things changing in the modern newsroom, journalists still sit at desks and get stuff done on time – or very, very close to it, with extenuating circumstances.
About 40 recipes have made the first cut, headed out to volunteer testers. I’ve done quite a few myself, and I have cook’s empathy for the ones that are thisclose:

* A meatloaf stuffed with herby chopped tomatoes called for 2 teaspoons of white pepper and a teaspoon of horseradish for 2 pounds of lean ground beef. The seasoning killed it.

...but faced with these. (Scott Olson -- Getty Images)

* A tomato-onion pie baked in a 9-inch pan asked for 3 large Vidalias to be chopped, just cooked until soft and then placed as a thick, slithery block between two layers of thinly sliced tomatoes. Too much liquid; not enough tomato taste.

Among the more promising recipes thus far:

* Pork tenderloins pounded thin and rolled with a Greek-y mixture of tomatoes, feta, mushrooms and olives inside. Moist, cooks surprisingly fast.

* A tomato curry with the usual Indian spices (fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds), used in judicious amounts. The balance of flavors is admirable, and the curry’s uses seem endless.

Results are due in soon from the tomato “crackers” made without flour, green tomato and ginger ice cream (love the idea of it, my fingers are crossed) and a hillbilly relleno pie (ditto; recipe names mean a lot).

We’ll test the first-rounders again, bring in a wider circle of tasters for judging and soon narrow the field to 10 or so.

Prizes have remained a mystery, but only because we’re trying to figure out what the winning cooks would like best. In years past, we’ve offered gift certificates to kitchen stores, various utensils and books. If you have thoughts on what might be nice for this year – within reason – we’re still mulling options. Of course, the coveted canvas Top Tomato reuseable tote bags will be back, with a spiffy new design. Win one of those and you’ll be the envy of everyone at the farmers market.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By The Food Section  |  July 23, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Tales of the Testers  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, contests, tomatoes  
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Drat! I didn't think of submitting as I didn't have anything

I completely forgot about Gujerati Green Beans, which combines fresh green beans with tomato sections. I'll have to test

Although this one isn't contest ready, here's an easy easy tomato pizza recipe. Grab one of those bags of Afghan bread at the market (I presume a pre-baked pizza crust would work). Slather with olive oil. Generously cover with fresh basil leaves. Then a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes (a mandoline really helps). Then a layer of thinly sliced proscuitto (optional). Top with grated Fontina cheese.

Put in an oven at 350 for 10 - 15 minutes, just until the cheese is melted. Use the broiler if you want to brown the top.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 24, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Testing dozens of tomato recipes. Sounds like a great job. I was crash testing and got splattered. You'll be testing till the fall I guess. We need some Bloody Mary testers over here. Good pay. On the bus line.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 24, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

The fresh taste of summery peak tomatoes shouldn't be wasted in some long-cooked, overly seasoned dish. Your winners should be fast and quick dishes. (Besides, who the heck wants to heat up their kitchen in August anyway?)

Posted by: lechat17 | July 26, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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