In summer and fall, tomato breeder Fred Hempel of Artisan Seeds pays frequent visits to Chef Anthony Paone at Lalime’s*, bringing plenty of just-harvested Baia Nicchia tomatoes. Here are a few dishes Paone likes to make at the height of tomato season. (*After a notably long run in Berkeley, Lalime’s closed its doors in 2020.)
My new summer salad addiction is tomato-water vinaigrette. I keep all my scraps when I’m cutting tomatoes, and when I have a pound of them, I chop them up, add 1½ tablespoons salt, and put this in a fine strainer over a jar. After a few hours, the clear, vibrant tomato water has drained into the jar. —Anthony Paone
1/2cup tomato water
3/4cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2cup Banyuls (or champagne) vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine first three ingredients and taste for seasoning. The tomato water will be a bit salty, so you may not need more salt. Tomatoes vary through the season, so you should also taste to balance the acid and oil.
Make a green salad with “right-now” ingredients like tomatoes (save all scraps for your next batch of tomato water) and cucumbers. Add some cheese, a fresh milky type like burratta, ricotta, or Bellwether Crescenza. In addition to lettuce, I add a few leaves of spicy arugula, basil buds (which are so fragrant and wonderful), fresh green coriander seeds, or just-picked mint. Ladle some vinaigrette over the whole dish, then finish with a little coarse salt and pepper.
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A dish I learned from my mother, pizzaiola means “meat in pizza style“ or “in the style of the pizza makers wife.” It’s the way owners of a pizzeria might cook their own meal for the next day as the embers die in the pizza oven. They would throw a protein (like a pork chop or other cut) into some spare pizza ingredients like tomato sauce, olive oil, and herbs. As the pizza oven cools down overnight, the meat braises in the sauce and the result is out of this world. —Anthony Paone
To make this dish in a home oven, heat the oven to 250°, place pork chops in a baking dish, sprinkle with a bit of salt, cover with tomato sauce (like the one below), and place in the oven, uncovered, for many hours. Keep an eye on the dish. A little bit of char is good, a lot is less good, but mostly, you are looking for a fork-tender piece of meat. If the tomato sauce becomes too thick, add water.
Serve hot on its own with an arugula salad, or over polenta or pasta. Sprinkle some parsley on top, maybe some capers, either pecorino or Parmigiana, and some fresh halved cherry tomatoes marinated in a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mangia!
5pounds paste-type tomatoes (like Fred Hempel’s Marzano Fire, seen in the photo above)
1cup extra virgin olive oil (which seems like a lot, but it’s ok)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon salt
Pinch chile flakes
1 tablespoon each chopped marjoram and basil
Blanch tomatoes quickly in boiling water, then shock them in ice water. When they’re cool, peel and seed, then put through a food mill. Heat olive oil and sauté garlic until soft but not colored. Add the tomato puree and seasonings. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
East Bay photographer Suzanna Mannion compulsively captures the beauty of the world through her camera’s lens. View her diverse portfolio at suzannaphoto.com.