Because Tomato is a Fruit: salad with peaches, muffins, sorbet

I was captivated, intrigued, and a tad skeptical when I saw the bright, luscious looking page spread  devoted to Summer Peach and Tomato Salad in last month's issue of Cooking Light (June 2010). Slight wariness notwithstanding, I couldn't wait to try it. It's simple and brilliantly colorful: ripe peaches, a variety of tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion tossed with a little vinegar, honey, and a small amount of olive oil,  sprinkled with feta cheese. What's more, the mere contemplation got me thinking about the open range possibilities the idea alone brought forth. After all, there's an insatiable challenge and a growing trend in creating balance with flavors that are, on the surface, mismatched. Whether lacing a dish with faintly ornamental bubbles of surprise or turning expectations upside-down, interesting is fun, even when at the roots, what's interesting is also in fact sensible.  Lemon and salt, chocolate and chili, why not tomatoes and peaches?  Especially considering tomatoes are officially a fruit, it's not that far a stretch.  Doing a little digging, I found a must-try Tomato Cake  recipe from this great blog my sister sent me, Su Good Sweets, and decided to use it as a springboard for a tomato-peach muffin that evolved into a tomato-peach scone, which I thought for no screamingly obvious reason would be a nicer texture for absorbing and displaying the flavors. Then I remembered how "Pretty Boy Jeff" from a previous season of Top Chef made tomato sorbet (and goat cheese sorbet, along with a slew of others, it seemed), and decided to try that, too.  As a result, I'm pretty well loaded for lycopene stores for the present, and have had a good amount of vitamin C, folate, and potassium recently, too, all welcome replenishment alongside getting up in the mountains this summer. I've also gotten to appreciate again the many facets of tomatoes beyond sun-dried seasoning, salad, and sauce. Tomatoes can indeed be light, refreshing, and lovably neutral, like the Switzerland of produce. I tried the tomato-peach salad out at a barbeque for the 4th, and as far as I know, it went over really well. It's so fresh and appealing in appearance; the taste is similarly refreshing and, I personally think, cheerful. I used rice wine vinegar in place of sherry, and a combination of grape, yellow, and red beefsteak tomatoes with just a small dash sea salt and pepper.  The sorbet I'd reserve for an small bite when you want the wow factor of uniqueness, but there are definitely occasions for it. Here's my recipe for whole wheat tomato, peach and basil drop scones.

Whole Wheat Tomato, Peach, and Basil Scones

These are surprisingly delicious not just because of the oddly harmonious flavors, but for the texture as well. They are just crisp on the outside and moist inside, especially nice just after baking, or eaten on the same day. I took some shortcuts making a half batch of what is written below. I seeded the tomato but left the skin on, and didn't bother removing the puree from the processor before adding the other ingredients either, saving time and trouble unregrettably. You might try using yellow tomatoes for a sunny color, too!

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3  cup  whole oats
  • 1/4  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 4  tablespoons  chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2  cup  lowfat or nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 ripe peaches, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • Cooking spray

1. Cut an X in the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Remove the cores, place the tomatoes in a bowl and add boiling water to cover. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water and peel off the skins. Cut each tomato in half across the core and squeeze gently to remove seeds and juice. Puree the pulp in a food processor. Add cider vinegar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place oats in a food processor and process until finely ground. (You do not need to clean the processor of tomato residue. )Add flours, brown sugar, and next 3 ingredients through cinnamon to processor; pulse to mix. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add yogurt and tomato puree; pulse 3 times or just until combined (do not overmix). Add peaches and basil; pulse to mix.

3. Transfer dough into a bowl. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, 2 inches apart. Bake 14-15 minutes.