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Friday, September 26, 2014

Tomatoes Like You’ve Never Had Them Before

It’s the height of tomato season.  For all of you who have home gardens with bumper crops of tomatoes (and by now are tired anything remotely tomato-like), I have the perfect dish.  First, you’ll never know there are even tomatoes in it.  Most importantly, it may become one of your favorite appetizers or side dishes.

I was introduced to “tomato balls” on the island of Santorini where the recipe originated.  Santorini is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.  The island was created 3,500 years ago from one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions---so powerful that it sent a layer of ash hundreds of meters deep to the island of Crete (>than 100 miles away).  Santorini’s volcanic origin has created the perfect situation for tomatoes.  

The island’s mineral-rich soil produces deliciously complex cherry tomatoes.  Prior to the 1956 earthquake, these very sweet tomatoes played an important part in its economy. There were >10 tomato canning factories on the small island that supplied mainland Greece before the devastating quake destroyed them.  While the island turned its focus from tomatoes to tourism post-quake, its tomatoes are still grown---but now they feed tourists as well as locals.  (The world’s other great tomatoes are also grown in volcanic soil----San Marzano tomatoes from Mt Vesuvius near Naples).   

So what exactly are tomato balls?  They are a yummy fritter.  For all of you naysayers for fried foods, stop!  These are sautéed in olive oil…and you’re bound to fall in love (every one of our clients on the 2013 private yacht trip to the Greek Islands adored them).

Below is the recipe.  Consider pairing them with one of Santorini’s famous bone dry white wines laced with citrus, mineral and smoky nuances (suggest Boutari, Gaia or Sigalas).  BTW…the island’s volcanic soil is also responsible for creating some enticing mineral-laced wines.

  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped (or equivalent of cherry tomatoes)
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dill chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Olive Oil for frying
  • Salt/Pepper

DIRECTIONS (makes small 20 fritters)

1. Chop the tomatoes (do not remove seeds) and place in a bowl. 

2.  Add onion and all spices/herbs (including salt and pepper).  Mix well.

3.   Add the above mixture to the flour and baking soda.  Mix well but do not over-mix or fritters will be tough.

4. Let the mixture sit for a couple of hours. The mixture should be soft and fall off the spoon when tilted.

5.  Heat the olive oil at medium high heat (make sure at 375 degrees, otherwise it will not be hot enough and the fritters will absorb too much oil).  Drop by heaping teaspoons, flattening out a little after a minute so that the inside will cook.  Turn over after browned and cook til browned on both sides. Total cooking time should be 2-3 minutes.

8. Place on paper towels, then transfer to serving dish and serve immediately.

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