A couple of weeks ago my mother told me that she had had entirely enough tomatoes for the summer and was now tossing ripe ones from her garden straight into a freezer bag for later.
It’s true that tomatoes freeze well, and with her method there’s the bonus that the skins slip right off when the whole tomatoes are thawed. Plus, who doesn’t want a sun-ripened tomato in mid-winter? But my mother lives in Louisiana and has been harvesting tomatoes for many months by now. I can only sort of understand her position — I still want as many tomatoes as I can get.
I’ve been making my way down the list of summer favorites, starting with tomato and mayo sandwiches and moving on to caprese salads and quick homemade marinaras. But with the plants I got from Bethany in Brewster still going strong, I’ve been on the lookout for new ways to enjoy the harvest.
That’s exactly what I found last week when we arrived in the kitchen of our old friends Louis and André, Montréalais who spend a lot of time at their house on Longnook Road in Truro. They specialize in seemingly effortless little suppers that are the culinary equivalent of the little black dress — simple, suitable for any occasion, and endlessly tantalizing.
What they put together was an end-of-summer recipe that amplifies the juicy sweetness of garden tomatoes with heat and salty blue cheese. Their tomates d’été au fromage bleu is now permanently in my rotation.
As Louis sliced a few big, ripe garden tomatoes, he gave André credit for the dish. He set the thick slices in warm olive oil in a wide skillet. Once the tomatoes began to soften, he laid generous slices of good blue cheese on top of the tomatoes. He piled the soft slices of tomato with streaks of melted blue cheese onto plates of pasta, adding the pan juices as a sauce, and showered the top with fresh herbs.
The preparation was so simple that now it seems almost ridiculous to write it down as a recipe. But the dish is so fresh, so perfect for these last summer tomatoes, that I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that everyone make it right now. I’ve already sent instructions to my mother.
Tomates d’Été au Fromage Bleu
Makes 4 servings
Note: Any type of blue cheese will work, but get the best you can find. We’ve tried this recipe with Danish blue and Gorgonzola and preferred the Gorgonzola. Choose a bronze die-cut pasta, which will hold the sauce better.
1 lb. dried linguine or spaghetti
3 very large, very ripe garden tomatoes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
10 to 12 oz. blue cheese, sliced
Fresh soft herbs such as basil, chives, and tarragon, chopped or torn for garnish
Freshly ground pepper and flaky salt (like Maldon or Fleur du Sel) to taste
- Fill a large pot with 4 quarts of salted water and bring it to a rolling boil. Don’t oversalt the water, since you’re going to use it as a component of the sauce; a rule of thumb for 4 quarts of water is 1.5 Tbsp. of kosher salt or 1 Tbsp. of fine salt. Add the pasta and distribute with tongs so it doesn’t stick together. Follow the timing instructions on the package for pasta that is just tender, al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, slice the tomatoes about ½-inch thick and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet and, once the oil shimmers, add the tomato slices in a single layer. Turn the heat to medium. Sauté the tomatoes until they begin to give up their juices and soften a bit, about 5 minutes; turn them and add the smashed garlic to the juices. Let them cook another 3 minutes, then evenly top the tomatoes with the sliced blue cheese. Tip any remaining pieces and crumbles into the juices gathering in the pan. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to low.
- Once the pasta is ready, drain and lightly coat with oil. Set aside.
- Check the tomatoes. If the cheese is not thoroughly melted, turn up the heat a little and cook, covered, for another minute or two. Once the cheese is melting well into the sauce, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, then swirl the skillet a bit to slosh the collected juices together and over the tops of the tomatoes, or spoon the sauce over the tomatoes. If you’d like a bit more sauce, add another tablespoon or two of pasta water and continue to swirl the skillet to mix the sauce. Discard the garlic.
- Swirl mounds of the pasta onto 4 plates, and top each mound with two slices of tomato. Spoon a generous amount of sauce onto the tomatoes and pasta, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, flaky salt, and the chopped fresh herbs.