Dad’s Tomatoes On Toast
In classic fairytale style, the handsome, worldly airline pilot married the young, attractive Danish stewardess and moved to the affluent kingdom of the New York City suburbs. Their castle was a large colonial-style house with a built-in swimming pool where they reigned over five children, one of whom I had the good fortune to marry. In the suburbs, even rarified air-breathing enchanted characters grow a tomato garden in summer.
While the large in-ground swimming pool took up most of the backyard, around the edge of the pool was few feet of space allocated for a tomato garden. My husband swears that this was the ideal location for low-maintenance gardening. The chlorinated water splashed out of the pool by energetic kids not only watered the plants but killed the aphids and cutworms with all the pool chemicals.
By the end of the summer, two dozen healthy tomato plants bore a prolific amount of fruit. Ripening tomatoes of all shapes and sizes lined every window sill. Bowls of juicy beefsteak, cherry, and plum varieties needed to be eaten before going bad.
Meanwhile the Danish mom, who is no longer a stewardess because in the 1960’s you can’t get married, have five children and still be a stewardess, flies to Denmark to visit her family. She leaves the children in the capable hands of the airline pilot who is off-duty for the week. What’s a father to do with five hungry children and an overabundance of garden tomatoes? Tomatoes on toast, of course! To hear it told from my husband’s point of view, they ate tomatoes on toast all week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Tomatoes on toast was just that; a toasted buttered piece of white bread topped with a few large slices of tomato.
When we have an end-of-summer bounty of tomatoes, we remember our parents’ love of gardening and make our own delicious fresh tomato recipes. My in-law’s tomatoes on toast from the 1960’s has evolved into our 21st century bruschetta. Dried basil can be substituted if you don’t have fresh on hand. Straining the chopped tomatoes makes a dryer bruschetta and keeps the bread from getting saturated. Bruschetta is typically served on a French baguette but any long hard roll will do. Soft bread or potato rolls get soggy too quickly.
Bruschetta (not Dad’s tomatoes on toast)
- Half pound of tomatoes, hand chopped and strained
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon of red onion, diced
- Several torn fresh basil leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- Splash of olive oil or balsamic salad dressing
- Sprinkle of Italian herbs or oregano
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Bread for serving
- Chop, salt, and strain the tomatoes for at least 15 minutes.
- Gently mix the tomatoes, garlic, parmesan cheese, onion, basil, and herbs in a bowl.
- Drizzle the olive oil or balsamic dressing over the mixture. The balsamic vinegar adds tang but a good extra virgin olive oil works just as well. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cut bread loaf on a diagonal for larger pieces.
- Brush the top side of the bread with olive oil and toast in the toaster oven.
- Top the bread with the bruschetta and consume immediately, while the toasted bread is still warm.
Note: You can make the bruschetta a few hours ahead of time but it tastes best when it hasn’t been refrigerated.
Mom’s Tomato and Cheese Sandwich
Where I grew up was solidly suburban and a local farm stand was not to be found for 50 miles. That didn’t bother us any since my dad had the biggest garden in the neighborhood. With the exception of a patch of grass and a few shade trees along the perimeter, the entire backyard was devoted to his vegetables. Early summer began with sugar snap peas followed by green beans. A few weeks later a prolific number of tomatoes of all varieties began to ripen. There was summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. My mom made roasted red peppers, pesto with home-grown basil, ratatouille, and gazpacho. At the end of the season, she prepared the leftovers for freezing and pickling so nothing would go to waste.
We ate tomato and cheese sandwiches throughout the summer. My mom’s version was sliced tomato and American cheese sandwiched between two slices of toasted buttered white bread. I’m not knocking it; simple is good. Here’s a way we enjoy tomatoes and cheese in the 21st century.
Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper with Fresh Mozzarella (not Mom’s tomato and cheese)
- One or two tomatoes, in thick round slices
- Several roasted red pepper slices
- Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced to fit tomatoes
- A couple of basil leaves, quartered and whole for garnish
- Splash of balsamic salad dressing
- Sprinkle of Italian herbs or oregano
- Cut the tomato in thick slices.
- Cut the fresh mozzarella to fit the tomato slices.
- Top with thin slices of roasted red peppers and fresh basil leaves.
Local vine-ripened tomatoes are best but in the off-season Campari tomatoes will do. This dish has a lot of room for creativity in attractive plating. The ingredients taste best at close to room temperature, so I don’t recommend refrigerating.