Just when everyone should be sated on summer’s tomatoes, along comes Eat Local Week with several more reasons to fete this glorious fruit.
The Great Tomato Tasting has been a headlining event since Eat Local Week’s inception. And over the past nine years, chances have only grown for tasting why tomatoes epitomize the locavore movement. Read my story from the Thrive-sponsored event’s inaugural year for an explanation.
First up are Saturday, Sept. 13, farmers markets in downtown Ashland, Grants Pass and Medford. From 10 a.m. to noon, shoppers can sample a variety of heirloom, cherry, paste and hybrid tomatoes free of charge, as well as learn about tomato varieties and cooking ideas. Tomato fixes also can be had Tuesday and Thursday, Sept. 16 and 18, at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets in Ashland and Medford, respectively.
As with so many truly fresh, peak-season ingredients, tomatoes often are best when most simply prepared. Thrive’s new cookbook, featured in this week’s A la Carte, presented straightforward recipes for tomato sauce and panzanella in its tomato section.
But tomato innovation also abounds this time of year. One of my favorite sources is The Washington Post’s Top Tomato reader recipe contest. Over my years as Mail Tribune food editor, I rounded up many of these recipes and paired them with a local story. In lieu of that format, I’ll seed this blog throughout Eat Local Week with some new summer tomato recipes from various sources.
Here’s the first, actually disqualified from the Post’s contest for exceeding the maximum number of ingredients allowed. Yet Sakunthala Seetharaman earned kudos from the paper’s food editor, Joe Yonan, who praised the 73-year-old’s Tomato and Tofu Salad for its “riot of flavors and textures.”
Balancing sweet, tart, earthy and spicy, this recipe almost could play as a vegan version of Caprese salad, particularly if the tofu was left in larger chunks or slabs to mimic slices of fresh mozzarella. And in the absence of richness from cheese, there are cashews in Seetharaman’s salad, along with mint and cilantro to intensify the herbaceous note of basil.
And as for tofu’s eligibility within a locavore diet, I’ve rationalized this by purchasing Surata Soyfoods tofu from Eugene. An organic bean curd made using traditional methods for almost 40 years, it’s stocked at several local grocers.
Tomato and Tofu Salad
Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
4 ounces firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided (more as needed)
6 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds), thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ginger juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon light-brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 F. Have a rimmed baking sheet at hand, large enough to hold the tofu cubes in a single layer so they don’t touch.
Toss tofu cubes with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt on baking sheet so they are evenly coated. Roast in preheated oven until golden-brown, for 10 to 20 minutes, using a spatula to turn them every 5 minutes or so. Transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool. (Roasted tofu may be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Let come to room temperature before making salad.)
Add to bowl the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, basil, mint and jalapeno; toss to combine. Pour in the ginger juice and lemon juice, and sprinkle with the cumin, brown sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well.
Taste and add salt as needed. Top with the cashews; serve right away. Makes 4 servings.