An August Souvenir


Summer brings us to this perfect moment, when exuberant gardens yield showpiece tomatoes in abundance.  What to do with the bounty?  Well, I selected two of the very best (not an easy decision, as they’re all pretty spectacular) and used them to make…  Tomatoes with Artichoke Hearts and Capers, Poached in a White Wine Sauce.

Anne Willan provided inspiration, mentioning a fairly similar dish in her book Chateau Cuisine,  but this is my take on that idea.  In the original, a hollowed tomato is salted, peppered and filled with artichoke.  It’s served just like that, uncooked, simple yet elegant.

Of course, I couldn’t leave it at that, so I had to “improve”  the French version.  Seriously?  The ego on this guy!  Maybe, and this very easily could’ve been a failure (so much of what I try is), but this time the result made me happy.

After lightly blanching and dicing artichoke hearts I sautéed them in capers, minced garlic and a dash of butter.  After the mixture cooled it went into the tomatoes.  Meanwhile, I finely chopped a shallot and sautéed it too, this time with a bay leaf.  After the shallot was translucent I added enough white wine (Chardonnay in this case) and filling from the hollowed tomatoes to cover the saucepan to a one-inch depth.

To this I added the artichoke-stuffed tomatoes, taking care to baste them with the wine-shallot liquid every minute or so.  After about five minutes I plated the tomatoes, poured on the remaining sauce, and garnished with chopped chives and freshly-grated Parmesan.

Produce is just amazing this time of year.  The capers’ brininess and the cheese’s saltiness really emphasize the tomato’s tangy heartiness and the artichoke’s earthy sweetness.  A late-summer symphony.

What a delicious send-off for August.  Have a nice trip, Summer.  See you next year, and make sure you bring back tomatoes!

*****

Tomatoes with Artichoke Hearts and Capers, Poached in a White Wine Sauce

  • 2 large round tomatoes, freshly-picked if possible
  • 3 medium-sized artichokes
  • 1/3 of a small jar of capers, drained
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons of butter, split into equal portions
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • chopped chives, to garnish
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Cut off about the top fifth of the each tomato.  With a spoon, hollow out the rest of the tomato, leaving the outer flesh and skin intact.  Reserve for later use the tomato insides you removed.  Salt and add freshly-ground pepper to the tomato “shell’s” interior and invert it for about 20 minutes, allowing it to drain.

Meanwhile, stem the artichokes and remove the “leaves” and tough fiber.  This will leave you with the artichoke hearts, which you should dice very coarsely*.  Blanch these for about thirty seconds in boiling water and drain.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter.  Add the garlic and cook it until soft, stirring frequently, for about two minutes.  Add the artichoke hearts and the capers.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about three minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When the artichoke/capers mixture is cool enough to handle, fill the tomato “shells” with it until it’s level with the top of the tomato.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter then add the shallots and bay leaf, stirring frequently.  Cook for about two minutes, until the shallot becomes translucent.  Add the wine and tomato “guts” you reserved and bring to a low boil.  Add the stuffed tomatoes and cook for about three minutes, basting frequently with the liquid.  Remove the tomatoes (carefully; they’re hot!) to a warm plate.

Increase the temperature under the remaining liquid and reduce until about two-thirds its original volume, stirring frequently.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Pour the liquid over the tomatoes and garnish with chopped chives and grated Parmesan before serving.

*****

NOTES:

*A box of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, would serve just as well, and would be far less work than would be extracting them from fresh artichokes.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “An August Souvenir

    1. They’re heirlooms, but not mine, unfortunately. Still, when I had the opportunity to get my hands on some, I just knew they were destined for this blog. And for my mouth. So intensely flavorful!

      Like

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