If you are not a farmer or a regular backyard gardener--and thus unaccustomed to the seasonal operatics of vegetables--the glut of produce that can appear seemingly overnight in your casually-planted home garden can be astonishing, overwhelming, perhaps even horrifying. Those few innocent-looking Early Girl tomato plants you put into the ground in April are now yielding dozens, even hundreds of tomatoes. Instead of panicking, you might make a sauce: large pot, olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, at least 5 lbs of tomatoes, salt; cover, cook, freeze.
Or, this Saturday morning, head over to the Loteria Grill Hollywood for the second annual Tomatomania, in which Loteria chef-owner Jimmy Shaw will host a tomato tasting. The two-hour event is free: the price of admission is simply one ripe tomato.
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But if, after both the sauce-making and the tomato tasting (bring more than one tomato and try handing them out to the other guests like party favors), you still have, oh, a thousand tomatoes, you might consider making panzanella, or bread salad, which can handle a surprising number of the chopped fruit. A panzanella is also remarkably easy, which is useful if you've spent the last hour picking the Black Tulas, Big Beefs, Jaune Flammees and bright yellow Lollipops from your frighteningly productive plants. ("Keep them healthy," says Windrose Farm's Barbara Spencer, from whom I bought tomato plants this spring, "they'll go into September!" Lord help us all.)
To make the panzanella, dice or tear up a loaf of country white bread, and fry the pieces in a copious amount of olive oil and garlic. Dump the croutons into a large bowl, add a few pounds of chopped tomatoes, salt, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Let the salad sit for half an hour until, so that the bread absorbs the juice from the tomatoes. Then simply toss with a handful of chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano), some salad greens, a few pours of balsamic vinegar and maybe a bit more olive oil. A sprinkle of sea salt. Some grinds of black pepper. After a nice dinner, the prospect of picking more tomatoes the next day won't seem quite so daunting.
Loteria Grill Hollywood: 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 465-2500. Tomatomania is 10 a.m. - noon, Saturday, August 8th. Call for reservations.