20070822tomatoes.jpgMelissa Clark in the New York Times gives us seven reasons to buy too many tomatoes at the farmers' market this time of year, when the tomatoes are juicy, sweet, and irresistible. I have to say they all sound great, but the one I am trying first is the instant tomato-ricotta "soup" with capers. Like Clark, I have really big eyes when I buy gorgeous farmers' market tomatoes, so I end up with more tomatoes than I can possibly use.

Here are two delicious, easy ways to deal with fresh tomato excess.

Buy the best mozzarella you can find, and make a big platter of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, fresh basil leaves, drizzled good-quality olive oil, and the coup de grâce, some Malden sea salt.

Resurrecting the mozzarella is the key to making this dish work. Just about all the mozzarella found in the U.S. is refrigerated after it's made. Refrigeration causes mozzarella rigor mortis to set in, making the cheese dry, gummy, and rubbery. Don't despair, though. A mozzarella maker I know gave me foolproof instructions for reviving it. Gently poach the cold mozzarella in a bath of warm whole milk. It works every time.

Last weekend I bought some orange cherry tomatoes that were so sweet I'm sure some fancy-pants chef somewhere would use them in a dessert. I made a ridiculously easy pasta dish with them.

Cook some dried pasta for two minutes less than it says on the package, reserving a cup of the pasta water for the sauce. Put the cooked pasta in a big sauté pan, and add the pasta water. Toss in a cup of fresh mozzarella cubes, a half cup of fresh goat cheese, a tablespoon of capers, some grated Parmigiana-Reggiano (Romano cheese would also be a fine, a saltier alternative), and a cup of chopped arugula.

Cook on low heat for five minutes, long enough to reduce the pasta water by half. Just before serving, halve the cherry tomatoes and toss them into the pasta along with a little Malden sea salt.

Serve either dish with crusty bread or a baguette, and let the deliciousness begin.

How do you solve fresh tomato excess?

Photograph from Saital on Flickr


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