8/8/09

Adam says apple, Eve says tomato.



Did you know that the apple in the Garden of Eden may have actually been a tomato? It is one theory. Some early Christian scholars interpreted the fruit of temptation as an apple, perhaps because in Latin, "malum" means both apple and evil. What a delicious pun. However, if the "Garden of Eden" actually existed, the most agreed upon location is in Persia. And apples do not grow in hot climes as such in the Middle East. Tomatoes do. So do figs and pomegranites. The enigmatic tomato belongs to the same family as tobacco and the toxic, deadly nightshade, but that just adds to its glamour. Sex, death and cigarettes: Eden's forbidden fruit should have been a tomato.

I like it.

There are also those who believed this enticing, bright red fruit had aphrodisiac powers, as did the French, who called it pomme d'amour or love apple though this is believed to be an alteration from the Spanish pome dei moro or apple of the moors.

Naples in the 16th century was a still a Spanish possession and it was they of course who introduced the tomato to Italy, who soon called it pomodoro or golden apple referring most likely to the earliest specimens that were yellow or bright orange.

Many years later red tomatoes were taken to Italy from the Americas by two priests. In the early 1700's in America, a Jewish-Portuguese doctor introduced tomatoes unsuccessfully claiming they were from the original Garden of Eden's Tree of Eternal Life and if eaten in sufficient quantities, would give immortality.

I can see the association between tomatoes and temptation. That harlot red, the juicy body that explodes with a gentle nip, the flavour filling your mouth and making you swoon. Ah tomatoes, I could never quit you.

Which brings me to dinner. I think I am going to try to make this recipe tonight: Provençal Potato Summer Gratin. Tomatoes in summer, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh basil, a baguette, red wine, a dish of olives. Is this not paradise? Try this recipe and tell me your results. Myself, I think it will be the perfect seduction tool. Meow. Just call me Eve.

Provençal Summer Potato Gratin

You can use almost any type of potato for this savory gratin. I know because I recently made it with odds and ends that had been sitting in my pantry for a little too long. They included a russet, a few Yukon golds and some fingerlings.

2 garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 pounds potatoes, peeled if desired or scrubbed, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 or 2 sprigs rosemary
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut one of the garlic cloves in half, and rub a 3-quart gratin or baking dish with the cut half. Oil the dish with olive oil. Mince the halved garlic along with the remaining garlic, and toss with the tomatoes. Add the thyme, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

2. Make a layer of half the potato slices, slightly overlapping the layers, and season generously with salt and pepper. Layer half the tomatoes over the potatoes. Place the rosemary sprig(s) on top. Repeat the layers with the remaining potatoes and tomatoes. Be sure to season each layer generously. Pour any juices left in the tomato bowl over the vegetables.

3. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, and carefully pour into the baking dish. Bake 45 minutes, checking and pressing the potatoes down into the liquid after 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, press the potatoes down into the liquid in the dish and sprinkle on the cheese. Bake another 30 to 45 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the potatoes and the gratin is lightly browned. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: The gratin can be assembled several hours before baking. It doesn’t have to be served hot, so you can bake it an hour or two ahead and serve it warm

2 comments:

McWarmspice said...

Um, the tomato is a new world plant. Sure, they grow them in Persia now, but at the beginning of time, probably not.

Patra said...

Thanks for reading, McWarmspice!