Unsurprisingly, we’ve been writing a lot about tomatoes lately — like these 14 Things To Do With a Pint of Cherry Tomatoes. It’s the most obvious subject of late-summer food writing — literally low-hanging fruit — but with good reason: It’s hard to find a more perfectly useful ingredient than a tomato at peak. So at the risk of beating this topic to a pulp, I’ve got two more dishes for you because, well, tomatoes will still be spectacular for the next few weeks, so that’s what I’ll be eating until they’re gone.
First recipe for this week: My Fresh Tomato Bolognese that’s a streamlined version of the classic meat ragu — no three-hour simmering here — that uses fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Seems like a trivial difference, but it does change the vibe of the dish. As always, the tastier the tomatoes you’re using, the better this will be. I chop them up finely so that they break down quickly into sauce and retain some of their freshness. I’m also obsessed with fresh tomatoes cooked in butter, so I use 50/50 butter and olive oil; oh, and don’t skimp on the garlic. This strikes me as a really good dish to ride out the transition from summer to fall: fresh enough to eat right now, cozy enough to eat as the air begins to chill, and a wonderful way to use up late-season tomatoes —especially bruised ones. (Now that I think of it, this simple and incredible Beans and Tomatoes recipe ticks all the same boxes.)
Next is a spin on something you may or may not have been making all summer: a BLT. Instead of the bacon, I roast super-thin slices of eggplant until they’re dry, chewy, and basically crisp; it’s a really good technique if you’ve never tried it. Those get piled on to toasted bread with slices of the best tomatoes you can get your hands on, a handful of arugula, and a generous slather of mayo. This is a vegetarian sandwich, of course, but if you want it to be vegan, try my eggless tofu mayo — recipe included. I guess this isn’t technically a tomato dish, but even in a supporting role, they can easily steal the show.
Speaking of the end of tomato season, I’d be negligent to not remind you of my foolproof method for storing fresh tomatoes so that you can use them all winter. Now’s the time.
The other two recipes for paying subscribers are tomato-less, though, honestly, I wouldn’t complain if a handful of halved cherry or grape tomatoes found their way into either one. There’s my vegan version of larb, a classic salad from Laos and parts of Thailand that traditionally combines seared chopped meat, chile, lime, tons of fresh herbs, and toasted rice powder. Instead of the meat, pulse some tofu in the food processor with garlic and sauté it until it starts to brown. The texture — a little chewy, a little crisp — is just what you want, and tofu is an ideal sponge for the parade of pungent flavors that make larb so irresistible. And if you’ve never tried the rice powder thing, you’re in for a treat; it’s as easy as toasting and grinding spices, and the flavor is unlike anything else. (Also, if you don’t care about it being vegan, feel free to add a splash of fish sauce instead of some of the soy sauce.)
My super-cheap dinner of the week is something I make all the time: falafel — any recipe whose main ingredient is chickpeas is going probably going to be pretty budget-friendly. When I make these, I’ll alternate between baking and drying depending on my mood. These are baked, which I find makes them a little lighter and only slightly less crisp than their deep-fried counterparts. Two small but nice twists to the recipe this time around: I soaked some dried chiles along with the chickpeas and ground them up together in the food processor to give the falafel some heat. With chiles in the mix, I figured I’d try lime juice in the falafel and in the tahini sauce instead of lemon. Not sorry I did. You can eat these with a fork — scatter some greens and/or veggies around if you like — or stuff them in a pita or flour tortilla.
Maybe with some tomatoes.
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Bolognese
Traditional Bolognese sauce requires simmering the meat for hours; it’s amazing, but not something to make on a weeknight. Enter instant bolognese, here made with fresh tomatoes, instead of canned or paste. The flavors still develop into something impressively deep and rich.
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 35 minutes
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil or a combination
1 pound ground beef, pork, or veal or a combination
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ⁄ 2 cup white or red wine
2 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes
1 ⁄ 4 cup cream (optional)
1 pound spaghetti (or any dried pasta of your choice)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. When the oil is hot, add the ground meat and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking it apart with a spoon until it’s brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften slightly, 2 or 3 minutes.
3. When the meat is browned, add the wine, scrape off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and let it bubble away until it reduces by about half. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they break down and get thick and saucy, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the cream if you’re using it and turn the heat as low as it will go.
5. When the water boils, add the pasta and stir occasionally. Start tasting after 5 minutes.
6. When the pasta is tender but not mushy, drain it, reserving some cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Add half of the Parmesan and a splash of the cooking water if you want to make it saucier. Toss, taste, and adjust the seasoning, and serve with the remaining cheese on top.
— Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast
EAT: Eggplant, Arugula, and Tomato
Makes: 4 sandwiches
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
8 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
Mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise, for serving (recipe follows)
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
2 cups arugula, rinsed and dried
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and grease each with 1 tablespoon oil. Slice the eggplant as thin as you can manage and put the slices on the prepared pans in a single layer. Sprinkle with the paprika and generously season with salt and pepper.
2. Put the eggplant in the oven and roast until the slices release their liquid, the pan is dry again, and they start to shrivel, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the heat to 325°F and cook until the eggplant is dry, barely pliable, and releases easily from the foil, 5 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. Transfer the eggplant slices to a rack to cool and keep the oven on.
3. Carefully remove the foil from the baking sheet and add the bread. Drizzle with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook, turning once or twice, until the bread is golden and toasted, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. To assemble the sandwiches, spread the bread with mayonnaise if you like. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then layer them with the eggplant; top with arugula and the other piece of bread, and serve right away.
Put 1 pound medium-firm tofu, 1⁄2 cup olive oil, 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar, 5 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of ground turmeric in a blender. Puree, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the container with a flexible spatula, until the mayo is smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve right away or store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups in about 10 minutes.
—Recipe from Dinner for Everyone
Makes: 4 to 8 servings
Time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons sticky (glutinous) rice kernels
1 pound pressed or extra-firm tofu
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup good-quality vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
2 cups loosely packed mixed fresh herbs (like cilantro, basil, mint, or Thai basil), chopped
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
4 fresh red chiles (like Thai bird or Fresno), seeded if you like, and chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
4 limes, quartered
16 to 20 leaves Bibb or iceberg lettuce
Super-Cheap Dinner: Red Chile Falafel with Tahini-Lime Sauce
The baking makes lighter falafel, and they're nearly as crunchy as deep-fried. Plus, the whole operation is a little easier. This makes a big batch, which is fine, since you can refrigerate the leftovers for several days, or freeze them for a couple of months. To reheat, wrap them in foil and bake at 350 until they’re hot throughout, 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they were frozen.
Makes: 8 servings
Time: 45 minutes, plus up to 24 hours to soak the chickpeas
1 3 ⁄ 4 cups dried chickpeas
2 or 3 dried red chiles, like ancho or chipotle
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tablespoon cumin
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 ⁄ 2 cup tahini