Locally Yours: Confessions of tomato trepidation

By: Carol Arnold
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I have a poorly kept secret. Although I grew up in tomato town, “Sacratomato,” I absolutely cannot abide fresh tomatoes. I have been known to look at a plate of salad and find and remove tomatoes that were cut into a quarter-inch dice. When I realized that the obvious subject of this month’s column was tomatoes, I was in a quandary. I simply don’t appreciate the taste or texture of fresh red orbs. And then, to add to my problem, I watched “The Godfather” this weekend. What does that have to do with fresh tomatoes? Everything. Remember the scene where the Godfather is chasing his grandson through the tomato plants and the grandson is spraying large quantities of pesticide all over him? That scene confirmed my theory that tomatoes are really bad for you. The tomatoes available at the Farmers’ Market have been grown sustainably or organically so now in summer I’m getting tomato offers I can’t refuse. I decided to exorcise my tomato demons. Since I love cooked tomatoes, I figured I would roast some and beg my neighbor Jan to be my taster for the fresh tomato salad. I bought 10 pounds of Juliet tomatoes and two perfect Goliath tomatoes from Ueki Gardens. Between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning I went crazy. First, I sliced the Juliet tomatoes in half, drizzled them with olive oil, scattered two heads of freshly minced garlic, a bunch of chopped parsley, and a head of shredded basil over them. A little salt and pepper and I popped them into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Wow! What a revelation; they are delicious. They can be tossed with pasta, chopped for bruschetta, pureed for sauce and frozen, or just eaten out of hand. On to the fresh tomato salad. I liked the recipe because it was very easy, looked elegant, and seemed just right for a warm summer night. I tweaked it a bit to make it my own. It took less than 15 minutes to prepare. (Not including the baking time for the parmesan crisps.) The best news of all was that my neighbor Jan liked it. Her only caveat was that I might want to use several different varieties and colors of tomatoes. Good advice because they all look the same to me! Buy your fresh tomatoes, herbs, cheese, olive oil, Italian sausage and ground beef at your local Farmers’ Markets. See you Saturday at the jury parking lot in Downtown Auburn from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. I am buying all the Juliet and Roma tomatoes I can find — race you to the market!