May 21 2009
Each year, I anxiously await garden-fresh tomatoes. Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated the past two summers, and my tomato plants have had a rather rough time. Two years ago, we had a drought up until the month of August, then so much rain that there was widespread flooding.
And still, the rain was too little, too late for my tomatoes. I managed to get a few ripe little orbs, but not many.
Last summer, Mother Nature decided yet again that she did not feel like being cooperative. We had heavy rains during the early part of the summer, terrible flooding (a nearby lake had so much water that it drained by opening its own path to get to a large river, taking out a highway, houses, and anything else that got in its way), then another drought. August came and went, no ripe tomatoes. September came and went, still no ripe tomatoes. By the middle of October, I frantically searched the Internet for ideas to try to at least start the ripening process before the first freeze, so I could finish the tomatoes in paper bags if need be. I did a lot of pruning of my plants, hoping that would give the plants enough energy to start ripening the tomatoes.
But just in case the weather is again nasty this summer, and my tomato plants do not flourish like they did years ago, I’m happy to have the slow-roasted tomato recipe under my belt. The very first meal I incorporated the tomatoes into was a panini; I’d gotten fresh mozzarella on sale, so it seemed the perfect match. Usually I wouldn’t dream of making a meal out of tomatoes at this time of year, but these are really that good.
With quality ingredients, recipes really do not need to be complex. If you take the time to slow roast tomatoes on a weekend, you just may want to give this panini a shot – it’s a fast way to get dinner on the table during a hectic week. Even better, one bite will make you think you’ve just picked tomatoes out of your own garden.
Simple Mozzarella and Tomato Panini
1 whole wheat roll or bread of your choice
2 slow roasted tomatoes
good quality extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
For this sandwich, you’ll want to start by lining one half of the roll (or a slice of bread) with basil leaves. Top with two slow-roasted tomatoes, followed by two generous slices of fresh mozzarella. Top with pepper and additional basil leaves. Drizzle the other half of the roll/slice of bread with good olive oil (I use a bottle of the “good stuff” that I only bring out for salads, or any time I want the flavor of the oil to really shine through). Assemble the sandwich and place in a panini press until the cheese is melted.
This is a simple sandwich with few ingredients, so you really taste each component. Use good quality bread and good olive oil, and it will taste anything but simple.