Il Tricolore

Il Tricolore

A tomato wave of prosperity has swept over the central Midwest of the country: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and southern Wisconsin, the states where the farmers at my market come from.

Hands down, it is America’s favorite crop. It is what shoppers want most at the farmers’ market, even when the stalls are bursting with possibilities. So versatile, so meaty, so pulpy, so fragrant, so sliceable, so colorful, from the second week in August to, cross fingers, the second week in October, let’s say eight to ten weeks. Or until the first frost.

They live up to summer’s bright palette, which is why I have a little bit of “acreage” in my backyard: five pots on the deck. You know the myth? Tomatoes don’t grow in pots? Ha! When you have a centuries-old woodland of oak, hickory, ash, and maple, and there ain’t much sun, the deck is the only place where tomatoes will grow.

Good tomatoes don’t travel. Get them at their peak, which means your farmers’ market or your yard. This summer I have a “balanced inventory” of Green Zebra, Big Burpee Red, Early Girl, and an enormous meaty one called Brandywine, which is sort of yellow.

Pick ‘em all together, you’ve nearly got an Italian flag. The colors, I mean.


Creamy Tomato Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings


1 Tablespoon each, olive oil and butter

1-1/2 cups chopped sweet onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2-1/2 – 3-pounds tomatoes, skin removed and cored

2 cups water

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup sour cream

½ cup half-and-half


  1. Drop the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water. When the skin splits, remove to a plate, cool, then peel the skin off. Cut into pieces, removing the core.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Stir over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add all the tomatoes, water, and honey. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes.
  1. Whisk in the sour cream and the half-and-half; simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Puree soup in a blender, leaving out a cup if you like some tomato chunks in your soup. You can add this back at the end.


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