sliced tomatoes (and smoked tomato salsa)

on the kitchen counter

Remember winter? When everything came in shades of grey? When the world felt silent, waiting, dormant beneath the earth? When nothing had a smell and we longed for something, anything to release its scent?

Here is the color we longed for then. A rioutous shout of reds and yellows and greens. The slightly acidic tinge in the nose, a rich deep smell of sun and wind and life itself?

I wait all year for tomatoes.

yellow tomatoes

I could talk about mealy canteloupe in January versus the glorious juices of local orange flesh right now. Or how different grapes taste in mid-December than the round-mouthed ohhhhhh of a grape grown in summer. But when I think of the flavor for which I wait until August, it’s always tomatoes.

The weekend before our wedding, Danny and I ate a lot of great food. But the meal I will always remember best is one I didn’t even eat.

Danny’s father, wonderful man, grew up in Iowa. He lives his life in simple pleasures now: a game of golf early in the morning, a newspaper at the breakfast table, being with his wife, having conversations with his best friend (whom he has known since he was five, who lives down the street from him now in Arizona), talking with his adult children on the phone, a glass of bourbon in the evening.

But I have never seen him so happy as when he ate slices of tomato over our kitchen sink.

He cut into the heirlooms we bought at the farmers’ market, mostly for him. He sliced each one slowly, with a small knife, on a white cutting board. He sprinkled sea salt over the tomatoes swimming in their juices. And then he raised one to his mouth and took a bite.

I will never forget the look of pleasure on his face.

We love coming up with new flavor combinations in this house, braising meats and combining flours to make new favorite foods. However, in the summer, these long days of August — the light already leaning toward fall— I don’t need much more than tomatoes.

smoked tomato salsa

Smoked Tomato Salsa

Once we have eaten a case of tomatoes with sea salt over the sink, we do start thinking of other ways to eat them, in combination with other summer foods. We’ve been eating lots of salsa around here, and we thought you might want to eat this too.

5 large tomatoes, at the height of ripeness
1 medium Anaheim chile
1 medium red onion, peeled and fine-diced
1 tablespoon fine-chopped garlic
1/4 cup fine-chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fine-chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Smoking the tomatoes. Get your smoker ready, with a good amount of smoke going. Cut 4 tomatoes in half, and leave 1 of the halves on the kitchen counter. Put the tomatoes, skin side down, onto the smoker’s rack. Cover. Let the tomatoes smoke for 30 minutes. Remove them from the smoker and let them cool. Remove the skins from the tomatoes. Chop them up. Save as much of the juice as possible. It’s an important ingredient.

And if you don’t have a smoker… You will need to add smoked paprika (about 2 tablespoons) or a dried chipotle pepper that has been hydrated and de-seeded. This will give you a smoky taste, different than the smoked tomatoes, but equally delicious.

Roasting the pepper. Rub a little oil on the Anaheim pepper. (This is a mild pepper. If you want more heat in the salsa, use a different chile. But be careful.) Throw it in a 425° oven and roast it until the skin begins to blister. Put the pepper in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit until is cool to the touch. Peel the skin and de-seed. Chop it up with some care.

Blanching the other tomatoes. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil, using enough salt to make the water taste like the ocean. Mark a small x on the bottom of the tomato with a paring knife. Add the tomatoes into the salted water and cook until the skin starts to slip off, about 5 to 10 seconds. (Don’t let the tomatoes stay in the water for much longer, or you will start to cook them.) Transferthe tomatoes in a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, which should slip off fairly easily. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Chop the tomatoes.

Making the salsa. Combine the tomatoes, the roasted pepper, the onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, and sherry vinegar. Stir.

Scoop up 1/4 of the salsa and put it in the food processor. Pulse the processor until the chunky salsa is pureed. Add this back into the salsa.

Squeeze in the lemon and lime juice. Taste. Add more if you wish. Season with salt and pepper.

Let the salsa sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before eating it. (I know. It’s hard.) It will be even better the next day.

summerfest badge

Today’s post is part of the continuing celebration called Summer Fest 2009. Danny and I are honored to be part of this four-week cross-blog event, co-created last year by Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple. This year, they’ve asked a couple of new folks to join in, including Simmer Till Done’s Marilyn Pollack Naron and Paige Smith Orloff of The Sister Project. Oh, and Danny and me.

And you.

THE 2009 SCHEDULE (you can go back to look at the past weeks, if you want)

* Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all.

* Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES

* Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK

* Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK.


Leave a comment here, sharing your tips with tomatoes. We’d love to learn what you do.

And then go visit the other blogs, to read their ideas and leave comments with them. Soon, this will feel like a huge party, focused on tomatoes in this time of glorious ripeness.

45 comments on “sliced tomatoes (and smoked tomato salsa)

  1. Anita (Married... with dinner)

    wow, that first photo is AWEsome! And we have a smoker, so we'll definitely throw in some tomatoes next time we fire it up.

    I posted about an old/new favorite tomato recipe: no-cook pasta sauce with big chunks of (homegrown!!) tomatoes with basil and mozzarella. It's so good, and I bet it'd be great with GF pasta. Here's the recipe and story behind it:

  2. La Niña

    Smoking tomatoes? Sounds like something we'd do in high school 😉 (actually it was banana peels.)

    Seriously- smoked tomato sounds amazing.

    I love to slow roast my heirloom black plum tomatoes and then put them over pesto with smoked salmon and fresh corn off the cob.

    Another great treat is Ramatuelle Sauce. (It is a raw tomato sauce- an incredible, fresh summer sauce for pasta.)

    Ramatuelle Sauce:

    In a blender: put about half of a large onion, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, a bunch of basil, and as many quartered heirloom tomatoes as will fit. Pour in some olive oil and add salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and serve room temp over fresh pasta. (I like it with grilled chicken and fresh corn kernels.)

    It's a great taste of summer!

  3. j.cro

    I just made gazpacho for dinner last night – I'm going to blog about it later this week. I didn't have tomato juice on hand so it came out looking a little pale but it sure tasted good!

    This summer my other favorite way to eat tomatoes is just with a little sprinkle of sea salt and a turn or two of the pepper mill. The simplicity is just divine!

  4. Amelia-Another Gluten-Free Casualty

    I love this. I love tomatoes!!!!!

    I look forward to summer because it means we make tomato salad every weekend. Yummy with gluten-free bread. I was completely dismayed when my sister's boyfriend dipped his normal bread in the tomato salad bowl. He learned his lesson though when I almost murdered him.

    I remember not liking tomatoes as a kid and now I can't imagine my life without them. Can't wait to try this!

  5. Jess, London

    I've joined the fun for the first and I'm intimidated by sharing recipes so simple… and yet this one gives me so much joy, so I figure perhaps someone out there would like to have a go at it and end up liking it:

    Gazpacho cold soup, Spanish style

    (it is my mom's recipe, but shhh)

    I *love* the idea of Summer Fest!

  6. Emily

    I was SO excited when I had my first good tomato of the summer! I need to eat up before they are gone! Truly the gem of summer.

  7. Chloe

    This sounds delicious. I've been wondering what to do with the heirlooms (besides eat them plain because they are that good) I get at the market.

    Could the salsa be canned? I'm on a canning spree and now every food I see I ask myself the question – can I can it?

  8. Theresa

    Aah, tomatoes! Down here I'm in that winter greyness at the moment, oh how I long for tomatoes and summer!
    Every summer, when I tuck into a large tomato salad for lunch I just thank God that I don't have rheumatoid arthritis. Sure, I can live without gluten – but tomatoes? No way!

  9. Elana

    Love your picture of the bountiful tomatoes and the chef's skillful hands. Amazing photo 🙂

    Happy Summer!

  10. Monica's cafe

    Funny, I blogged about tomatoes today too! No wonder I love you guys! I love them in gazpacho, just plain, in salsa, and of course withe fresh mozz or ricotta, fabulous olive oil, salt and pepper… sure throw on fresh basil and balsamic! We are doing an heirloom tomato tart with a parmesan crust this week. YUM!

  11. Chef Gwen

    I love how you always include Danny in your writing. And now his Dad. I'm in AZ, too. Hope you and Danny get to come see him when our weather is perfect.

  12. Marilyn

    You're such a sweet writer, and cook, and mom, and friend. Never more so when telling tales of your family. You and Danny are lucky, I tell you, a lovely life and smoked tomato salsa, too. Delicious and gorgeous, as always!

  13. MollyCookie

    Great story. My dad does the same thing with fresh tomatoes. I could see my dad doing it as I was reading your description.

    That salsa looks amazing. I am definitely going to give it a try.

  14. Julie

    Growing up, we spent chunks of our summers in Ontario, where tomatoes were so substantial and such an intense shade of scarlet we'd eat them like peaches, allowing their juice to run down our bare legs, seeds sticking to our knees and sandals, or slice them into thick slabs to sandwich between slices of soft buttered bread or crisp toast, my grandfather dipping his in cider or malt vinegar to rouse his ninety year old taste buds.

    For Summer Fest I made a roasted cherry tomato clafoutis – – it only contains a few tablespoons of flour, and so could easily be made gluten-free!

  15. SteamyKitchen

    babe. that's seriously a sexy salsa. I've never smoked tomatoes before – and now I definitely have to!

  16. Ms. Moniker

    Hi Shauna!
    I'm a reader from australia and there's a program from here which I think shares your philosophy regarding food. It's called 'the cook and the chef'. Take one amazing chef, combine with a woman with an obsession for fresh produce and home cooking and you get either your marriage or this television program! A lot of the meals are GF, just because you don't need it if you make a cooking show with variety of ingredients. The DVDs are set seasonally too, so depending on the weather outside you pick your disc! it's a great idea! I'm vegan and I watch it regularly because they follow the 'snout to tail' ethos and everything is treated with respect. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it- all the recipes are online so I'm sure you'll find a few gems in there!

  17. ChichaJo

    What a wonderful coincidence! I just finished a series of tomato salads on my blog so I can join in on the summer festivities! Here are my 3 favorite tomato salads:

    Glad to celebrate tomatoes with you all! 🙂 My hubby loves Mexican food and this would go fabulously with all our favorites! Yum!

  18. Kelly

    Gosh, I LOVE the look of those tomatoes. I love a simple heirloom tomato salad with a balsamic drizzle. Nothing more. Your photography is GORGEOUS!!!

  19. Marion

    This post is so lovely we almost miss the magical line,"Once we have eaten a case of tomatoes with sea salt over the sink." What wonderful characterization this is of you guys. Love this. Great food. Great writing. A delicious combo.

  20. FeistywithFlavor

    We get alot of requests for a great salsa recipe and while there are a lot of good ones out there, this one definantly got the Monkey's attention! Love the summerfest and will be checking back often.

  21. Cristie

    My garden tomatoes are ripening and I'm looking for new tomato recipes. The smokey salsa looks fantastic. Thanks. I've had something similar and it was wonderful, but your recipe sounds even better. Can't wait to try it.

  22. Anonymous

    OMG tomatos..was just in NJ and smuggled back some vine ripe NJ tomatoes to Az….oh I SO miss home…

  23. Sassy-Kitchen

    I've been wanting to comment here, and really, I didn't know where to start. I read your book a few months ago, and as I'm sure many people have said, felt so connected to you. You were one of the first gluten-free blogs I found in an attempt to find other people struggling like me. I thought your book was insanely amazing, in a way I can't really even articulate. Thank you for writing it, it was a pleasure to read. I also love your passion for food. Every post is a story, an anecdote, a passion of yours that you share in such a quaint and eloquent way. I think you're great, so thank you–officially. I still use your fennel recipe every time I make it for someone and say, "like popcorn, right?"

    If tomatoes are really good, I love them sliced with a sprinkle of sea salt.

  24. Julie Steinberg

    Thank you so much for sharing. I love tomatoes too; please come visit me and read my most recent post on the topic at


    "My kingdom for a good tomato", I muttered a few months back. Summer had arrived but alas my beloved nightshades were just beginning to flower. I was sick of the cardboard substitutes imported from g-d knows where, and hungered for a ripe, juicy gorgeous tomato to call my own. July was particularly unsettling, when reports of the record blight seemed to doom this year's crop. A non-event for the general population, the news sent me straight to the medicine cabinet for some Valium. Honestly.

  25. jen

    Hi Shauna!
    Thanks for your consistently great writing — a joy to read & I recommend your blog every time the opportunity comes along.
    I write a weekly newsletter for my local farm and this week we focused on tomatoes! I shared your salsa recipe & link with our membership. Thanks & I look forward to your next post!

  26. Dive Boracay

    I like eating tomatoes fresh and raw. I also usually use tomato sauce every time I cook. Smoke tomato sounds great. I love it!

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