Around about this time a year, he’s all but given up on those plants and I get to be responsible for keeping them alive. This doesn’t create as much marital friction as you might think because usually he’s planted stuff I want to eat.
This year, he planted tomato plants that were supposed to be of a variety one could use for sandwiches or salads, or sauces or soups if I gave myself enough time.
Except our plants were mislabeled, and instead of a couple dozen decent-sized slicing tomatoes, we got roughly four gazillion cherry tomatoes. Smaller than cherry, even. Maybe a Lilliputian varietal. They’re teensy.
There was a time when Colin would pop these things like gumballs. Back before anything closer to a vegetable than ketchup somehow became anathema to my youngest child. These days, he prefers his vegetables hidden in fruit juice, or else ground up and molded into a shape that holds his favorite spiced mystery meat. Preferably coated with an MSG-based powder and wrapped in Taco Bell paper.
And, of course, between these plants I’ve been keeping alive through August and the weekly take from our local CSA, we have more of these tomatoes than I know what to do with. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes. Not the kind I want to peel and seed for sauce or soup, unless I want to develop watchmaker’s disease and an intense desire to stab anyone who happens by the kitchen at the wrong moment.
And by “develop an intense desire to stab someone,” I mean “more so than normal.”
This weekend we had a party to attend, and I figured I should be able to find a salad recipe online to thin the ranks of my gazillions. Even as handy as I am in the kitchen, I’m more optimistic than I should be about how much time I should leave for these activities, which means by the time I started doing my recipe research, I had exactly 4.5 minutes to shop for groceries, and about seven seconds to throw something together.
Given these parameters, my initial Google queries yielded disappointing results.
One site suggested a few dishes that might work, if I had just a skosh more time and inclination, and wasn’t surrounded by people who prefer Taco Bell to real food.
Take the grilled octopus with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and anchovy vinaigrette, for example. Wait a minute, yes I did say octopus. And anchovy vinaigrette. Nope.
Then there was a cherry-cherry tomato cobbler. I happen to have gobs of frozen cherries I haven’t been able to look at after that thing last summer where I made my kitchen look like a crime scene, pitting them. But tomatoes in a cobbler just sounds like you’re trying too hard to camouflage tomatoes. Nope.
There was a grilled halloumi and tomato salad. I love halloumi, but there’s no way I’m going to grill cheese, or anything else, on our nasty barbeque. I’m pretty sure I’d have to find alternate housing for a family of squirrels first.
None of these recipes was going to be realistic for my audience, ability, or accouterments.
I needed one of those two-step recipes. You know: step 1 – throw some stuff in a bowl, step 2 – throw more stuff in and stir. Okay, maybe that’s three steps. Anyway, one of the “stuffs” had to be cherry tomatoes. And step 3 (or step 4, depending on your math) needed to be “amaze your friends with your wonderful kitchen prowess.”
Frustrated and out of time, I queried “what the hell do I do with all these cherry tomatoes” and found a whole online community in the same situation: copious cherry tomatoes and very little inclination toward fresh octopus.
Finally, I found a recipe that called for no fewer than forty cherry tomatoes. Eureka. And a bonus: most of the rest of the ingredients were all things I could find in my own cupboard.
Except for the pine nuts. Anyone notice a dearth of reasonably priced pine nuts lately? For the sake of my first fling with this recipe, I considered taking out a car title loan or selling a kidney for a few pine nuts. I did some quick calculations, and figured out I had enough for a couple ounces if I skipped this month’s water bill.
The result was a yummy, colorful summer salad. So what if no one under the age of 20 even tried it? That just meant more for me later.
This isn’t a recipe site, you know. But to save you the trouble of a cumbersome search of your own, I’ll post a link here.
Another recipe I’ve found for when I have more time, is a cherry tomato clafoutis. There are tons of clafoutis recipes that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours of prep time. This one doesn’t require any kind of roasting, marinating or reducing. It clocks out at under an hour in the kitchen, total. And, if you sub out the herb salad the author suggests for the handier chopped-romaine-in-a-bag thing, you can have dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time.
Of course there’s a little issue I have with food snobbery and anything that requires French pronunciation, so while I substitute the heavy cream for skim milk in this recipe, I also change out “clafoutis” for “mom’s ‘mater pie.” And we’re all good.
Admittedly, neither of these is dishes is a hit with the kids. I suppose if I cover either one with ketchup and shove it into a taco shell, we might be getting somewhere. In the meantime, my overburdened tomato plants are less burdened today.
There you go. Anyone else have any ideas for extra cherry tomatoes? Keep in mind I will probably mock you if you suggest anything utilizing tentacled sea food.
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Top photo by: Steven Depolo