August 18, 2010

The Maine Ingredient: The time is ripe for tomatoes


This seems to be shaping up to be a wonderful summer for tomatoes here in Maine – much better than last year, thank goodness, when blight hit much of the crop.

click image to enlarge

Tomato slices hold together better when sliced lengthwise through the stem end.

For some reason, lots of the salads I've been eating and making lately are comprised of both tomatoes and fruit, which some (my husband, for one) believe to be a something of a mismatch – but they might be remembering the soggy iceberg lettuce and canned mandarin orange combos of yore.

After all, as we learned in third grade, tomatoes ARE a fruit – and their acidity combines perfectly with other summer fruits to make a salad, especially with additions of savory elements such as sharp cheese, vinegar, shallots and



This balsamic vinaigrette compliments the tomato-fruit combinations beautifully.

Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or a combination of olive oil and vegetable oils

Whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil. (Or shake ingredients together in a jar or plastic container.) Refrigerate for up to one week.

















Feta contributes its salty bite to this lovely toss of tomato and watermelon, which is especially delicious after a boiled lobster dinner.

Servings: 4 to 6

4 cups coarsely chopped (about ¾- to 1-inch dice) tomatoes, preferably yellow

4 cups coarsely chopped (about ¾- to 1-inch dice) seedless watermelon

1 3/4 cups seeded and chopped cucumber

1 1/2 cups diced or coarsely crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup shredded mint, plus sprigs for garnish

4 to 5 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, feta and mint and toss to blend. Drizzle with dressing, toss again, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired and serve immediately.


Tiny tart-sweet Maine blueberries are perfectly paired with tomatoes, creamy goat cheese, and chopped almonds. This makes a lovely prepared first course and can even serve as a light lunch.

Servings: About 4

4 handfuls of arugula leaves

4 medium tomatoes (any color), cored and sliced (about 2 pounds)

2 cups Maine blueberries

4 ounces soft goat cheese

2/3 cup chopped tamari almonds or roasted salted almonds

4 to 5 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spread arugula out onto a platter. Slice tomatoes and spread over arugula. Scatter blueberries over. Dab clumps of goat cheese evenly over the blueberries and scatter with almonds. (Can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Drizzle with dressing and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.


These beautiful rounds were on the buffet at a wedding I attended recently and they looked to me a little like the mini-burgers called "sliders."

Size matters here, because you want the red tomato on the bottom to be just a little larger than the slice of golden orange nectarine on the top.

Servings: About 4

4 medium-large red tomatoes (about 2 pounds)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons Balsamic vinaigrette

20 to 25 fairly large basil leaves

3 medium-size ripe but firm nectarines

Core tomatoes and slice lengthwise through the stem end 1/3- to ½-inch thick. (Tomatoes will hold together better than when sliced crosswise.) Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little dressing. Place a basil leaf over each.

Beginning at the blossom end of the nectarine, cut very thin crosswise slices until your knife is stopped by the pit. Turn fruit around and cut as many thin slices from the stem end as you can.

Save fruit around the pit and eat later.

Arrange nectarine slices atop tomato and basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with just a little more dressing, and serve. (Can be made up to 3 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Dishing Up Maine" (Storey Publishing 2006) and "The New England Clam Shack Cookbook" (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.


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