Five Simple French Recipes for Fresh Tomatoes

As homegrown tomato season hits its stride, consider these easy French recipes for homegrown tomatoes.  

1. In a French Green Bean Salad with Fresh Tomatoes Recipe

Yes! This is even better with cute little haricot-verts. But you also can't go wrong with some great locally grown green beans.

Yes! This is even better with cute little haricot-verts. But you also can’t go wrong with some great locally grown green beans.

Here’s one of my favorite salad recipes. You simply cook the best fresh-and-local green beans you can find and toss them with your favorite vinaigrette (try mine!) and some super-finely chopped shallots and chopped fresh parsley. Then, gently stir in some beautiful sliced fresh homegrown tomatoes. This dish goes with anything, and particularly a great steak. (Of course, if you can find haricots-verts—those super-slender French green beans, by all means, use those).

2. In a Simple French Tomato Salad Recipe

A Simple French Tomato Salad Recipe

A Simple French Tomato Salad Recipe

On my first stay in France as a high school cultural exchange student, the maman of the family served me a salad much like the one above. Though it was so simple, I’d never really tasted anything like it before—and it’s the fines herbes that bust open the world for me. There’s something that this mix of herbs (parsley, chives, and tarragon or chervil) does to the tomatoes that’s just so….French. Simply make your favorite vinaigrette (or make mine), and bring on the fines herbes and finely chopped shallots.

3. In a French Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe

Fresh roasted tomato soup. See recipe, below.

Fresh roasted tomato soup. See recipe, below.

You might not be thinking of warm soup in the throes of summer, but take my word for it: You should. When you get more tomatoes than you know what to do with, make a few batches of this soup and freeze in 2- or 4-serving portions (depending on how many people generally come to your table). In a few months, you’re going to be so happy you have this soup—when the cold wind starts to blow, you’ll be able to taste the freshness of summer in a warming preparation.

Last summer, I was thrilled when David Lebovitz posted my recipe for Fresh Tomato Soup (and a great photo of it) on his extraordinary blog. Check it out. I’ve also posted the recipe, below.

Cherry Tomatoes as appetizer4. As an appetizer, with a great glass of wine.

No kidding! I snapped the photo, at left, when I was having lunch with Martine Cazeneuve, owner of Chateau Paloumey, maker of Cru Bourgeois in the Medoc.

Before lunch, our small group sat in the lovely living room of her chateau enjoying a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. For the apéritif, she brought out nothing more than some local grape tomatoes plucked at their peak of perfection.

Tomatoes as an appetizer, in my landlady's garden.

Tomatoes as an appetizer, in my landlady’s garden.

Indeed, I raised my inner eyebrow at the simplicity of the dish….but when I tasted the tomatoes alongside the Sauvignon Blanc, I thought it was a great pairing and a terrific way to get the appetite really revved up. Soon, we all moved to the table for a major feast.

If that seems too slight, do what my friend (and landlady) Martine (in the Rousillon) did: Serve the tomatoes alongside some thin, cured sausage and maybe a small bowl of a salty snack—see the photo at right.

5. In an Easy Ratatouille Recipe.

I saved the best (and the most obvious!) for last. If you’ve never tried ratatouille, you really should do so while the tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini are all at their freshest, in-season best.
Here’s my recipe for an Easy Ratatouille
Here are some of my favorite ways to serve ratatouille.

Enjoy this year’s homegrown tomato season! And now, on to my easy recipe for my Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup!

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup

From The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day.

Makes 4 to 6 first-course or side-dish servings

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored, halved, and seeded
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Toss the tomatoes and garlic with the olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are soft and starting to brown, about 20 minutes.

3. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth, 1 tablespoon sugar, and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to meld the flavors.

4. Allow the soup to cool slightly. Use a food mill or an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan; taste and add another tablespoon of sugar if more sweetness is desired. Reheat gently; ladle into bowls to serve.

Variations:

Though magical on its own, you can add a few stir-ins for extra layers of flavor, if you wish:

• While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté 2 canned anchovy fillets in a little olive oil, stirring until they break apart and dissolve into the oil. Cool and add to the tomatoes before puréeing.

• Drizzle the finished soup with any complementary-flavored oil you might have around, such as avocado oil or lemon-garlic olive oil.

• Season the finished soup with a specialty sea salt, such as smoked alderwood.

• If you like a creamy soup, stir in a little cream or half-and-half to reach the desired consistency and heat through.

 

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