Reveling in the wonder of late-summer tomatoes

Pair those juicy reds with a filling of avocado mousse

Go Entertain

September 02, 2006|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services.

As she gazed at the basket of plump, deep-red tomatoes on my kitchen counter, a friend remarked, "Tomatoes are just pure goodness at this time of the year!" I knew exactly what she meant. In late summer, tomatoes are "real." They are red all the way through (none of those white anemic interiors so prevalent in the winter), and incredibly juicy. Their flavor is so intense and pure that it seems almost celestial.

I had purchased my cache at our local farmers' market and couldn't wait to use them at home. Some would be sliced and added to sandwiches, others were going to be included in a salad of mixed greens and the rest would become the base for a side dish for a summer dinner party.

For the latter, I will halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and membranes, then fill them with a fresh avocado mousse. The avocado filling is simplicity itself, requiring only minutes of preparation. I mash the soft green pulp along with seasonings of cumin, cayenne and salt. Then I add fresh lemon juice to sharpen the flavor of the avocados and to keep them from discoloring. A touch of heavy cream makes this delicious mixture smoother.

I served the tomatoes mounded with swirls of the vibrant-green avocado mousse last weekend at a small buffet, where they accompanied platters of cold meats, a green salad and cheeses. This coming week, I'm planning to use them as a side to grilled lamb chops rubbed with cumin, chipotle pepper powder and coarse salt. Corn on the cob will round out the main course.

These tomatoes, which can be assembled two hours ahead, would make a colorful garnish to grilled steaks, or you could offer them with roasted salmon fillets or as an accompaniment to barbecued chicken.

The tomato season has arrived, and I, for one, plan to take full advantage of it when entertaining.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

Summer Tomatoes With Avocado Mousse

Makes 8 tomato halves

4 ripe tomatoes, about 6 ounces each (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

kosher salt (divided use)

4 ripe avocados (see note)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus a few drops extra if needed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives

Stem the tomatoes, then halve them crosswise. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds and membranes and discard. (If you want, you can save the scooped out flesh and use in a gazpacho or in a fresh tomato sauce.) Salt the insides of the tomato halves and place them upside down on a plate.

Halve the avocados lengthwise, and remove and discard the pits. Using a teaspoon, scoop the pulp into a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, cumin and cayenne pepper. Mash well until mixture is smoother, but still a bit chunky. Add cream and mash again until it is blended in. Mixture should be smooth, but still have few little chunks. Taste and season avocados with more salt if needed and a drop or two of extra lemon juice if desired.

Turn the tomato halves upright, and mound each with some of the mousse. (The tomatoes can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate, uncovered. Bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.)

To serve, sprinkle each tomato half with some chives and arrange them on a serving platter.

Note: Avocados come in two varieties: the dark, pebbly-skinned ones called Haas, and a smoother-skinned one called Fuerte. The Haas have a more buttery texture and are best for mashing, as in this recipe.

Per serving: 203 calories, 3 grams protein, 18 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

Tomato Season Menu Summer Tomatoes With Avocado Mousse

Grilled Lamb Chops Rubbed With Cumin, Chipotle Pepper Powder and Coarse Salt

Corn on the Cob

Peach Shortcake

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