This is tomato season.  Even if you aren’t harvesting your own backyard or city fire escape tomato garden, you can’t help but notice that tomatoes are everywhere – from farmers’ markets, grocery store produce sections, and restaurant menus to brown bags of tomatoes your green-thumb friends and office mates urge on you.

Need tomato inspiration?  Here are two ideas from two cooks who have inspired me and many others – Claudia Roden and Fausto Luchetti.

Salmorejo, inspired by Mar Luchetti and adapted from Claudia Roden.

Claudia Roden is an acclaimed cookbook author, a scholar, a pioneer in the world of Mediterranean cooking. Egyptian by birth, she was raised in Paris and

London, and has written landmark books on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, including Mediterranean Cookery (the pages of my copy are dog-eared and filled with remnants of many uses); The Book of Jewish Food; The New Book of Middle Eastern Food; The Food of Spain; and the recently published, Claudia Roden’s The Food of Italy: Region by Region.  I feel lucky to call Claudia a friend, and Oldways has been fortunate to be the recipient of her knowledge and work.

In terms of tomato inspiration, Claudia wrote this in the Wall Street Journal’s June 13, 2013 article titled “Stir Up Summer Memories.”

“Salmorejo has become one of my favorite summer foods. It is a refreshing cold tomato soup, more filling than gazpacho, with more bread, and extremely tasty even when the tomatoes are of indifferent flavor, because of the extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic and seasonings. It was born as the simple meal Andalusian agricultural laborers made for themselves when they worked in the vegetable gardens. They brought with them a dornillo (pestle and mortar) to pound the tomatoes that grew on the spot, some olive oil, salt and vinegar to dress them, and some bread. It fills me with joy every time I make it because it brings back memories of Córdoba.”

Salmorejo Cordobes – Cold Tomato Soup
Serves 4


Soup Ingredients:
4 slices (about ⅓ pound) of day-old white bread
5 large tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6-7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red or white wine vinegar)
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish Ingredients (optional or choose among these options)
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
¼ pound sausage or Spanish ham
Extra virgin olive oil

Put the bread in the food processor and turn it into fine crumbs. Then pour these into a serving bowl.

Cut the tomatoes, unpeeled, into quarters and remove the hard white bits at the stem end. Blend in the food processor until the peel shows only as tiny specks of red in the pink cream. Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting to decide how much garlic and vinegar you want, and blend well. Then add the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Serve in small bowls or tea cups, and garnish with a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil, chopped eggs and ham.

Recipe inspired by Mar Luchetti and adapted from Claudia Roden


Tomato Salad El Alfama, by Fausto Luchetti

Fausto Luchetti may know more about olive oil than almost anyone in the world.  As the former Executive Director of the International Olive Oil Council, he led the way with colleagues (like Oldways!) in the 1980s and 1990s to make extra virgin olive oil a mainstream product on tables and in kitchens around the world, and he also was a force in helping producers in New World countries expand cultivation of olive trees and increase production of olive oil beyond traditional Mediterranean shores.

Fausto is also a cook.

Having just returned from a visit with Fausto, his wife Mar, and son Alessandro on Pantelleria, a beautiful volcanic island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, I can’t wait to go to the Farmer’s Market and then reproduce Fausto’s simple tomato salad, which he made on a boat without the luxury of great kitchen equipment, beautiful cutlery, plates or a steady, flat surface.  This salad is quintessential Mediterranean Diet – simple, clean, fresh, healthy and tasty – a dish that can be made on land or sea, from coast to coast, and in almost no time at all.

Tomato Salad El Alfama

1 medium red onion
4 tomatoes


½ pound flake tuna (Fausto used cooked mackerel)
Basil leaves
4 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the onion into thin, half-moon slices
Chop the tomatoes
Rip as many basil leaves as you wish
Add extra virgin olive oil
Mix together and divide among four plates
Divide the tuna into four servings and place on each plate and serve.

Serves 4

Recipe with thanks to Fausto Luchetti



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