I’ve been having to race against birds this summer. Not a flying race, of course, but an eating one. They want to eat all the best tomatoes in my garden just before they’re completely ripe, and I’ve had my heart broken several times when I’ve gone out to harvest the biggest, reddest tomato only to find that it had been half-eaten overnight. So I’ve resorted to picking them earlier than I normally would and letting them ripen in the window. Even with the competition from the birds, I’ve got a window-full of ripe tomatoes now, enough that I’m starting to cook with them a little, rather than just devouring them raw, juices running down my chin as I eat them over the sink. (Sorry, not a pretty picture!)
In other garden news, my prolific basil hit its peak today, and I spent the morning harvesting it. I saved a little to use over the next few days and froze the rest in ice cube trays to get us through the bleak, basil-less days of winter. Then I went right back outside and planted a second crop, this time some Thai and Black Opal varieties. I’m hoping that in a month or so I’ll be overrun with basil again. For now I’m content with having a house and hands that smell like pesto.
After working with the basil all morning, you’d think I’d be sick of the stuff, but somehow I wasn’t. I was hungry, though, and I wanted something a little different for lunch, so I decided to throw together a hummus-like dip using roasted tomatoes and basil. And it was great, bursting with fresh, sweet tomatoes, peppery basil, and garlic–but zero added fat.
Roasted Tomato Bean Dip
(yet another hummus!)
2 medium-large tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
freshly ground black pepper, dried oregano, and salt (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
10-12 large leaves fresh basil
salt, to taste (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices and place them in a large, oiled baking dish in a single layer. Sprinkle each slice with garlic, using only half of the garlic. Add a sprinkling of black pepper, oregano, and salt to the top of each slice. (You can also add olive oil, but I resisted the temptation.)
Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, until tomatoes are totally cooked but are not burning. Remove from oven to cool (or use warm and then chill the dip after preparing).
Place the remaining garlic into the food processor along with the chickpeas, vinegar, and roasted tomatoes. Blend well. Add the basil leaves and salt, if you like, and blend again. Serve chilled with vegetables or crackers for dipping. Also makes a good sandwich spread or salad dressing.