By Laura Virginia Anderson
It’s gotten to the point of the summer where I’m getting a little tired of my go-to recipes for the vegetables from my CSA share. Don’t get me wrong; I still love slow-cooked Greek-style green beans (one of my friends describes them as “everything a green bean was meant to be,” and I’m inclined to agree), beets baked in foil and then sautéed in garlicky olive oil with their greens, and ripe tomatoes and peaches sliced and eaten raw with a splash of sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It’s just that these dishes no longer thrill—they’ve become almost banal, a weekly occurrence.
So I’m trying to inject a little creativity into the process of cooking and eating my vegetables and fruit. This week, I received a pint of lovely little cherry tomatoes in addition to four soft, heavy slicers. The thought of eating them all in salads didn’t appeal, nor did that of broiling them with herbs or making tomato sauce. But then I noticed the bag of whole wheat flour sitting in my pantry, and one of those thoughts arose, one of those ideas that is either brilliant or idiotic, one of those recipe-notions that takes on a life of its own and demands to be made: tomato muffins.
I used Mark’s recipe for whole wheat muffins, which ran in the Times about six months ago, as a blueprint. I didn’t have any whole wheat pastry flour (and neither did my nearest supermarket), so I used regular whole wheat flour but substituted cornstarch for three tablespoons of it, hoping this would lighten the crumb a little bit. I briefly considered blanching, peeling, and seeding my tomatoes, but sloth got the better of me, and I decided just to core them, quarter them, and throw them in the blender, skin, seeds, and all. (It took about two and a half of my slicing tomatoes to yield a cup of purée.)
The only other change I made to the recipe was to add some spices. I considered using just ground ginger, but then I consulted Mark’s recipe for tomato jam (which I made once last summer and adored) and decided to add half a teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, plus a pinch of cumin. (Unconventional? I grant you this. But sometimes you need to go big or go home, and this seemed like one of those times.)
The batter was subtly pink, but the crust faded to brown in the oven, while the crumb turned an attractive shade of orange. The muffins themselves were tender, sweet, and quite good. The tomato flavor—not powerful, but distinct enough—was a touch disconcerting at first, but very pleasant after a few bites.
The flavor of the spices was a little muddled, though, so if I make these muffins again (and I might—tomato season is far from over), I’ll probably use just ginger and more of it. And next time I might make a batch of tomato jam to serve on the muffins—then we’d really be talking