Celebrated Aussie cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig (2006) was bang on when he declared, "We salute the tomato: cherry, fragrant morsel, beloved provider, surviver and thriver and giver of life." For me there is no tomato that deserves bigger praise and salutation than the homegrown Tommy Toe tomato. They’re small in size but they pack a punch of juicy, sweet flavour especially when picked off the vine and consumed on that very same day.
Tommy Toes are close to my heart as I grow these juicy fruits in my backyard. The Toes are planted in spring and following a few months of sunlight, water and patience the scarlet bombshells are ready for harvest by mid-late summer.
Friends will move mountains to score a seat at the table when my simply titled Summer Pasta dish is on the menu. Simple by name and by nature, the hero of this dish is of course the freshly picked, soft skinned Tommy Toes. All that’s required is to throw olive oil, a crushed garlic clove, a chopped wedge of brie or camembert, torn basil and the tomatoes in a bowl. Brie or camembert is the perfect match with this dish because of their subtle, luscious flavour profiles and of course they melt beautifully once mixed with the warm pasta.
Let the flavours amalgamate whilst cooking a good serve of linguine to satisfy your awaiting guests. Once cooked and strained, pour the tomato mix in with the pasta, toss and top with cracked pepper. Voila! Summer Pasta is that easy and totally delectable provided you are working with premium produce.
It would be almost criminal not to have at least one glass of wine to complement this Italian inspired fare; and you don’t need to ask me twice if I’d like a tipple. My old rule of thumb is if it grows with it, it goes with it, and this truism is never more appropriate than with Italian cuisine. Hence, my perfect wine for tomato based dishes is a Sangiovese. Its naturally high acidity can handle the tartness of the tomatoes but its medium weight and light cherry fruits means it won’t overpower the sweet flavours.
I urge readers in the US to visit your local farmer’s market quick smart to pick up a bag full of Tommy Toes before the season wraps up. And for readers Down Under, why not have a go at planting some of these bad boys come springtime?
These tomatoes are a signpost of our summer eating; if they are not in the pasta dish then they are livening up a salad, or served with some buffalo mozzarella for an aperitif. In all their forms they are such a key ingredient and are so full of flavour when grown with love, care and sustainability in mind. So “let us Rejoice! Let this rejoicing be our thanks for tomatoes.” (Leunig, 2006)
Reference: Leunig, M (2006) When I Talk to You. Andrews McMeel Publishing.