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Panzanella (c)2012

Today I join Food Bloggers for Slave Free Tomatoes in an effort to raise awareness about injustices in U.S. tomato fields and to gain support for the Fair Food Program, which asks supermarkets and restaurants to pay a small price increase for fairly harvested tomatoes. It may surprise you that slavery exists here in the United States, where Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once called Florida’s tomato fields “ground zero” for modern-day slavery. In the past 15 years, over 1,000 people have been freed from slavery in U.S. tomato fields.

Recipe for Change is a campaign led by the International Justice Mission targeting three major supermarket chains: Ahold, Publix, and Krogers. We are asking these companies to support the Fair Food Program and promise to shift purchases to the Florida tomato growers who abide by these higher standards. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have already made the pledge to sell slave-free tomatoes.

What can you do?

Supermarkets can help eliminate slavery and other serious abuses from the tomato supply chain when they join the Fair Food Program. But in order to change their policies, CEOs need pressure from consumers.
Take 30 seconds, raise your voice, and sign your name to help ensure that supermarket tomatoes are slave-free!

Panzanella (c)2012

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with summer tomatoes:

1.  Panzanella

Panzanella is an Italian salad made with pieces of day old bread, tomatoes, basil, and onions, then dressed in olive oil and vinegar. I like to keep panzanella simple. To make it for one, drizzle a couple of pieces of country-style bread with olive oil and char them on the grill. Rub the grilled bread with a raw garlic clove and tear the bread up into small pieces. Toss with the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can find and plenty of fresh basil. Drizzle over a splash of red wine vinegar and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then let the panzanella marinate for 5-10 minutes. To me, this rustic meal is summer on a plate. Enjoy it for lunch, or make a generous platter of panzanella and serve it al fresco with good friends and a bottle of wine.

2.  Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

I’m obsessed with sautéed cherry tomatoes. They are piping hot and bursting with sweet and tart juices, a flavor bomb that will turn any pantry supper into something spectacular. Pour a splash of olive oil into a screaming hot stainless steel skillet, then add a clove of crushed garlic and a pint of cherry tomatoes (half of them sliced in half, the others left whole). Sprinkle over a generous handful of fresh thyme leaves and and toss the tomatoes around in the hot skillet for a few minutes, until the whole ones are blistered and the halves release their beautiful juices. Serve the sautéed cherry tomatoes as a side to roast chicken or make it a pantry supper with cooked pasta and goat cheese. Try this dish of Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes with Sea Bass, Black Quinoa, and Salsa Verde. Toss in some shrimp and serve over rice or couscous. Use sautéed cherry tomatoes to boost flavor in weeknight suppers- they’re sure to be a big hit.

3.  Tomato Preserves

Reading Rachel Saunders’ words on tomato preserves in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook makes me want to pull out my big canning pot and get jammin’ immediately. Her Early Girl Tomato Marmalade recipe is exotic and sophisticated, flavored with oranges, cinnamon, and saffron. She writes, “Tomato marmalades are the perfect partners for crackers cornbread, or sourdough. They have a long history in the United States…” The accompanying photograph of a spoonful of the tomato marmalade atop a cracker spread with cheese is so enticing I can hardly stand it.

4.  Tomato & Grilled Corn Salad with Smoked Sea Salt

This dish of Tomato & Grilled Corn Salad with Smoked Sea Salt looks stunning on a platter and is quick and easy to throw together for feeding a crowd. The idea is to find as many different varieties of tomato as possible, slice them in different shapes and sizes, then scatter the tomatoes artfully over a platter with char-grilled sweet corn and queso fresco. Sliced scallions add fresh flavor while smoked salt gives the salad depth and lime zest lends a floral note. A simple lime vinaigrette lets the flavors of the individual ingredients shine.

5.  Hot and Sour Tomato Broth with Shrimp

Padma Lakshmi’s cookbook, Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I love her global way of cooking and South Indian roots. Her recipe for Hot and Sour Tomato Broth with Shrimp is a variation on a traditional South Indian soup called rasam that she grew up with. Padma writes, “It still remains quite a light soup, and it’s sure to cure you of all your ailments.” I would say the depth and complexity of this soup flavored with a long list of spices (black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, asafetida powder, chilies, and curry powder) is enough to make you forget your ailments indefinitely.

6.  Pissaladière

A bread decorated like a pizza sans sauce, pissaladière, is a specialty of southern France. A few years ago I traveled through France, and the aroma of fresh thyme atop piping hot bread with slices of tomato, caramelized onions, olives, and anchovy will be forever imprinted in my mind. Last summer I cooked pissaladière on the blog, and found it to be one of those simple, easy recipes that is so good you can’t believe it.

7.  Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes are elegant and bring a sense of special-ness to the dinner table. I prefer them heavy with herbs and briny olives, topped with crispy breadcrumbs rather than full of cheese. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for Herb-Stuffed Tomatoes from Plenty is just my style. Tomatoes are hollowed out and stuffed with a mixture of garlic, olives, onion, panko, capers, and plenty of fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, and mint. The stuffed tomatoes are then drizzled in olive oil and baked in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven for half an hour until soft and warm throughout.

8.  Tomatoes and Hearty Grains

One of my favorite summer meals is a combination of tart and explosively juicy tomato with chewy, nutty grains- wheat berries being my go to. I like to make a hearty grain salad instead of pasta salad. Cook the wheat berries and toss them with tomatoes, miniature mozzarella balls, fresh herbs, and balsamic vinaigrette. Season with sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Tomato and wheat berry salad is great picnic food. It’s healthy and nourishing, leaving you fueled for whatever adventure lies ahead.

9.  Golden Tomato Gazpacho

I love so many things about this recipe for Yellow and Orange Tomato Gazpacho by Martha Stewart. First, the sunny color. Grated yellow and orange tomatoes lend the gazpacho a chunky texture as well as bright acidity. No need for a food processor or blender, which is great because I own neither. Chunks of grape tomatoes add sweetness and cucumber, freshness. She uses both red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar for depth and garnishes the gazpacho with crumbled hard-boiled eggs and serrano ham. This meal has supper on the porch written all over it.

10.  Tomato Frittata

Ever since I discovered the ease of a rustic frittata I can’t stope making them with whatever seasonal veg I’ve got on the kitchen counter. A frittata is an Italian omelet made by pouring whisked eggs over into the skillet over vegetables and finishing in a hot oven, baking a few minutes until puffed and golden. Sliced red tomatoes make for a striking presentation in this frittata from Bon Appétit. Make a tomato frittata your own by getting creative with the herbs and cheese you use to accent the tomatoes and their bright, sunny flavor.

What is your favorite way to cook with tomatoes during summer? Share it in the comments section. Click Here.