You Say Tomato I Say XitomatlSunday, September 18, 2011
|A Lillooet beefsteak tomato|
The only word that would describe my stay with my older daughter Ale in Lillooet this past weekend would be that of the tomato. It seems that since I arrived on Friday afternoon and when I left on Monday noon all I saw were tomatoes. As a matter of fact when we left Lillooet Rosemary insisted we stop on the other side of the Fraser River Bridge (which leads to Lytton and Highway One West to Vancouver) to pick tomatoes to bring home.
Ale, in spite of not being able to walk too well (the effects of a recent operation, she resembled Gort from the film The Day the Earth Stood Still) was busy slicing tomatoes and other fruits to place in trays of her portable dehydrating machine. What made this worse for her is that I was eating her output of dried and crunchy tomatoes faster than she could slice them and dehydrate them!
It was difficult not to cook with tomatoes for the sight of them. I was in charge of cooking while there so I avoided them. This did not stop me from eating tomatoes when I picked them at the U-Pick (we went twice) or raiding Ale’s jars of dehydrated tomatoes.
|Ale places the tomato slices in her dehydrator|
For our first dinner I made Nando’s style chicken wings. I had purchased a large tray of them at the Canadian Superstore before driving to Lillooet. The secret to making them exactly like they do at Nando’s is to marinate the wings in Nando’s hot piri-piri (lots of it) and very important with about half a cup of ordinary cooking oil. This will make the wings flame up a bit on the barbecue and help to make them crunchy and brown. You need plenty of piri-piri after the cooking if you want to challenge your senses! We had my version of Nando’s tumeric rice. It’s pretty close. I fry one cup of rice with olive oil and at the same time I brown with it one or two chopped yellow onions and a clove of garlic. I use two cups of water in which I have added a tablespoonful of tumeric and three or four of chicken Bovril. After about three minutes I pour it on to a deep pan (that has a firm lid) and before I close it I add two chopped red peppers and I grind some black pepper. The salad, not tomatoes, was Paul Leisz’s (my Hungarian friend) cucumber salad. To make this salad you slice the cucumbers very thinly (optional to leave the skin) and drop them into a bowl of intensely salty water (Kosher salt) that is equally intense with sugar. After a couple of hours in the fridge you drain the cucumbers and add white balsamic vinegar (Rosemary does not the like the regular darkish balsamic) with cucumbers) and grape seed oil.
For the second big meal Ale’s rancher friend Lloyd McNary gave us a 3 pound organic round roast from one of his steers. I placed in a deep pan three chopped yellow onions and four chopped red peppers and a generous amount of chopped parsley. I coated the roast with molasses and quickly browned the outside in the barbecue. I put the roast in the pan with the vegetables and poured some good olive oil. After it fried for about ten minutes I added almost half a bottle of red wine (an Argentine Malbec). I cooked it (plenty of ground pepper) all over slow heat for four hours until the meat began to break apart.
Now since Rosemary made her famous scalloped potatoes (and I will not divulge her recipe here) and the roast had no tomatoes, for salad I sliced some nice Lillooet Romas and chopped some parsley. I poured regular balsamic vinegar and grape seed oil.
Since I have been sort of avoiding tomatoes here I must now interject some of my found knowledge on the tomato.
When we first arrived in Mexico in 1955 I was puzzled by the fact that our cook called tomatoes jitomates (pronounced heetomatess) and a little green thing that had a brown peel on it was a tomate. I was soon to learn that the latter was sometimes called a tomatillo or a tomate de cascara (a tomato with a peel) and it was used to make Mexican green salsas.
The reason Mexicans call the tomato a jitomate is that in the Nahuatl language (the language of the Axtecs and surrounding tribes) it was called a xitomatl. The xi part means belly button and tomatl fruit. Thus you have a fruit with a belly button.
Both the tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum) and the tomatillo (Physallis ixocarpa) are members of the solanum genera but they part ways after that. Let’s call them first cousins. At one time yellow tomatoes were much in fashion. The yellow ones arrived in Italy in the late 16th century (via Columbus and the Spanish conquistadores) first. The Italians called them yellow apples which is why (one of the few words in Italian I do know) pomodoro (golden apple) is Italian for tomato.