Ripe Red Tomatoes

On a Labor Day weekend visit from our younger son and his sweet friend (with day-after-day sunshine), we walked the beach, sampled food at the Farmer’s Market, and poked around Port Townsend shops. On a hot day we climbed Mount Townsend, ate sandwiches with sliced tomatoes (carried in a separate container), and stretched out on the mountain’s top in the sun, dozing in spite of the heat and hum of flies.

Our younger son’s home-grown tomatoes from Los Angeles (the ones we planted last May on our visit, now eight-foot, fruitful plants climbing the deck railing) joined a countertop assortment of our farmer’s offerings – dark red and green, misshapen, melt-in-your mouth flavorful heirlooms and hearty beefsteaks.

One night we made bruschetta with tomatoes and basil and sat on the bluff for dinner – lingering long past sunset in a rare Northwest event. The breeze died, the sky faded to orange with streaks of pink, and bats came out to swoop the lawn. From the balcony of the Buffalo the family trumpet player (by request) played “Taps” (and other favorites).

Our nights were late with dinners and old movies, our mornings late with big breakfasts (scrambled eggs and tomatoes – a specialty of the younger son – with rosemary from the garden).

Of all the tomato moments in these tomato season weeks, Jack Bishop’s splendid “Potato and Tomato Casserole with Olives and Herbs” – set apart by a paste of fresh herbs – stands out.

Pulse a half-cup basil, a quarter-cup oregano, and a quarter-cup mint in the food processor with three garlic cloves, then add two tablespoons of olive oil slowly, with the motor running. Bishop uses a teaspoon and half of salt and quarter-teaspoon of fresh pepper in the herb paste.

Oil a large casserole well and cover the bottom with half the potatoes (you need two pounds cut into quarter-inch rounds). Spread chopped black olives (10 total) over the potatoes. Next, place a layer of tomatoes (Bishop calls for about six small, ripe but firm tomatoes, sliced into eighth-inch rounds). Dot each tomato with a dab of the herb paste. Repeat all three layers, and top with half-cup of breadcrumbs (combined with a tablespoon of oil).

Bake for 40 minutes covered with tinfoil, then remove and cook another 25 minutes or so, till the breadcrumbs brown.

It’s so good – delizioso!

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