Craving the sweet, juicy bright flavor of tomatoes in the middle of winter need not be a cause of food frustration.
With at least 320 varieties of tomatoes commonly grown in Italy (primarily in Sicily, Sardegna, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Puglia, Lazio and the Veneto region) transporting the fruit from one region to the other takes a matter of hours rather than days. So it is possible that even in winter fresh tomatoes from Puglia can end up on the tables of Milan. Not so easily done in the States but the newer varieties of cherry, grape or golden sweet cherry on the vine tomatoes now available at your local grocery store may be the next best thing. Grown in greenhouses during the cold-weather months in the Northeast and Midwest these tomatoes come close to that just-picked-from-the-garden taste.
Even though I may not be able to make a robust sauce (that’s why canned San Marzano tomatoes are on my shelf) I can still manage a caprese skewer or respectable panzanella in the dead of winter. I even found a few recipes that feature these dwarf varieties that will bring the summertime flavors of the tomato to my wintertime table including one for Pasta con Pomodori al Forno (Pasta with Baked Cherry Tomatoes) from Lidia Bastianich with tomato varieties you get in winter used successfully because of the concentration of taste and texture during baking .
Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Black Olive Crema
Using a sharp knife, slice off a bit of the top of the tomatoes and then gently core the inside. Add a 1/4 teaspoon black olive crema or more depending on size of tomato and replace top or replace top with a piece of goat cheese. You may want to slice a thin layer off the bottom of the tomato – but not too deep – so that they stay upright