You Say Tomato
by Joanne Weir

1998. 278 pages, 250 recipes.

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"There is hardly a summertime pleasure greater than taking your first bite of a ripe, juicy red tomato fresh off the vine."


Rolled Swordfish Skewers with Tomato, Capers, and Lemon

Warm Indian Tomatoes with Spicy Chilies

Penne with Tomatoes, Sausage and Cream

Corn Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

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Tomatoes are in the landscape of my days all summer long. They populate my kitchen counter and define my meals. I come home from weekly shopping trips to the farmer's market with more tomatoes than my family can possibly eat. This summer Joanne Weir'sYou Say Tomato has been instrumental in helping me put my chronic overabundance to creative use. Now I can serve tomatoes in a different guise almost every day and no one in my house groans, "Tomatoes....again?"

I'm not a fan of cookbooks whose entire premise is built around a single food. But the tomato is one of those rare foods posessing the versatility to carry an entire cookbook on its own. Joanne Weir has assembled an impressive array of recipes (230 in all) which show off the tomato's juicy, complex character. For example, you could go over the top with an all-tomato dinner beginning with, say, Tomato Martinis and Grilled Bread with roasted Tomato and Garlic Puree; proceed to a second course of Plaka Greek Salad or the Tomato and Orange Soup with Orange Butter; then feature Lamb and Tomato Pie or maybe Moroccan Chicken with Tomato Marmalade as the entree; and serve Tomato Sorbet to clear the palate before finishing off with a Tomato Upside-Down Cake. (You might want a short tomato moratorium afterwards.)

Just because tomato season is short, doesn't mean you should store this book away with the beach chairs and badminton equipment once fall arrives. There are plenty of recipes which call for canned tomatoes or sauce, and sun-dried tomatoes. Plus, Weir tells you how you can extend the season's bounty with recipes for sun-dried, oven-dried, home-canned tomatoes. And what about those skins left over from recipes that call for fresh tomatoes, peeled? She has a recipe for "tomato dust", which entails oven-drying skins, pulverizing them, and using the "dust" as a seasoning in other dishes.

I love "Cinderella recipes", the kind that don't look particulary impressive in print, but turn out to be beauties. Corn salads are nothing new, but Weir's version with her excellent tomato vinaigrette was one of the best I've had. I wouldn't have tried the unexpectional-sounding recipe for Penne with Tomatoes, Sausage, and Cream if Weir hadn't introduced it with the words, "This is a dish not to be missed!" She was right. (On the other hand, some intriguing recipes such as the Summer Nectarine, Tomato, and Red Onion Salsa turned out to be disappointingly ordinary.)

Of course you probably already know that tomato ketchup travels at a speed of three-thousandths of a mile an hour. But did you realize that the tomato's vitamin C is concentrated in the translucent pulp (the very part that often gets discarded)? Besides recipes,You Say Tomato contains arcane tomato facts and lore, its checkered history, growing tips, tomato varieties and seed sources. This information should give you a distinct advantage if you ever apply for a job at the Tomato Council of America.

Now that Labor Day has just passed, my summer-long tomato fest is pretty much over. Now I'm looking forward to October, when the only tomatoes in the farmer's market will be green ones. I can't wait to try Weir's recipe for Baked Grapes and Green Tomatoes.