By Bonnie S. Benwick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
If the Food section's third annual Top Tomato recipe contest were merely a numbers game, it would break down this way: 111 submissions, 41 recipes tested, 13 finalists, 2 entries without tomatoes (!), 3 solid winners and 1 batch of shining examples that spoil author Michael Pollan's recent polemic about Americans not spending quality time in the kitchen.
But the whole enterprise means so much more.
We asked readers again this year to submit original recipes with a maximum of 10 ingredients. Thirteen dishes were chosen, including this week's Dinner in Minutes. Cutesy names, canned tomatoes, ice creams and sorbets (good tries, though) didn't make the cut; neither did creations with too much pepper and not enough salt. And we remembered why we started the whole shebang: Tomato love is a powerful good thing. Uncooperative weather and late blight aside, summer's glorious seedy fruit is waiting at your local farmers markets and roadside stands. It's always nice to share new ways to enjoy it.
This year's winners and finalists will receive Top Tomato 2009 organic canvas tote bags. The top three finishers also get gift certificates for Chefs Catalog and some of the season's tomato-related cookbooks.
First-place honors go to Ellynne Brice Davis of Leonardtown, for a recipe so simple she almost didn't send it in. We found her Tomato Stack Salad easy and artful: a filling with the classic flavors of mozzarella and basil -- plus pecans and drizzles of a sweetened vinaigrette -- goes between layers of the ripest, juiciest specimens you can find. It takes 15 minutes and no cooking.
Mary Jo Sweeney of Crownsville just missed a repeat performance as No. 1. (Readers have told us they are still making her 'Mato Sammidges from last year.) This year's second-place winner is her Tricolor Tomato Salad With Lime Sour Cream and Pesto, which makes an elegant first course. The citrus complements both the pesto and tomato surprisingly well.
Rockville resident Lloyd Ronick's Terrine of Tomatoes With Tarragon barely edged out a very nice tomato curry to win the third-place spot. It's a bit of a throwback, with heavy cream and gelatin added to smoothly solidify pureed tomatoes, celery, onion and herbs. Ronick has tweaked the recipe every few years since he watched a foreign chef compose something similar on a PBS cooking series called "Great Chefs of the World."
See, Mr. Pollan? A home cook watched it on TV and was moved to create. It's been known to happen.Top Tomato 2009 Winners
First Place: Tomato Stack Salad
Second Place: Tricolor Tomato Salad With Lime Sour Cream and Pesto
Third Place: Terrine of Tomatoes With TarragonTop Tomato 2009 Finalists