It’s that time of year again, tomato season, when I spend ample time devouring and writing about the glorious vegetable and then wait for the emails and DMs telling me I should know a tomato is actually a fruit.
It’s true, a tomato is technically a fruit from a botanical perspective. Its seeds make it so – and by that definition peppers, cucumbers and squash are fruits, too. But from a nutritional and culinary point of view, tomatoes (and peppers, cucumbers and squash) are rightly classified as vegetables because of their nutrient makeup and the way they are typically used in the kitchen. The Supreme Court even ruled tomatoes a vegetable in an 1893 case.
This recipe plays with that fruit-vegetable paradigm, teasing out tomatoes’ inherent sweet-savory essence by turning them into a luscious jam. It’s simple to make and a wonderful way to use up a batch that is threatening toward overripe.
Just seed, chop and put them in a pot with a little honey, vinegar, salt and pepper to simmer for about an hour until the tomatoes are broken down and reduced to a thick, spreadable jam. (I don’t bother to skin the tomatoes first because I don’t mind the textured bits in the finished product, but feel free to do so if you want a smoother jam.)
The jam works in myriad ways: Transforming a grilled cheese sandwich, or any sandwich, really; as an elegant and surprising addition to a cheese plate; dolloped onto yogurt for a savory finish; or as a topping for a grain bowl, to name a handful.
In the accompanying recipe, the jewel-red tomato jam is spread onto crusty whole-grain toast, then topped with a fried egg and a sprinkle of pan-crisped prosciutto. The saltiness of the cured ham balances the gentle sweetness of the tomato spread, and the egg makes the dish a satisfying foundation for a meal. I like to serve it alongside a bowl of chilled vegetable soup or a garden salad.
Whatever you call it – fruit or vegetable – versatile tomatoes make a pretty fabulous jam.
Savory Tomato Jam, Egg and Crispy Prosciutto Toasts
The recipe makes about 2 cups of the tomato jam; you’ll need ¾ cup of it for the toasts.
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes (7 to 8 large), cored, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 ounces sliced prosciutto (4 slices)
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 large eggs
4 large slices whole grain, crusty bread (1 ¼ ounces each), toasted
To make the tomato jam, in a medium pot, combine the tomatoes, honey, vinegar and ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the mixture at a simmer.
Stir occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the mixture has become thick and jam-like, 60 to 70 minutes. (Once the mixture starts to thicken, you might need to stir more frequently to prevent scorching.) Remove from the heat, let cool until warm, and transfer to a pint-size jar or 2-cup lidded container. If not using the jam right away, refrigerate it for as long as 2 weeks.
To make the toasts, slice or tear the prosciutto lengthwise into ½-inch wide strips. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the prosciutto strips and cook, stirring frequently, until the prosciutto is crisped, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil until shimmering. Add the eggs and cook until sunny-side up or overeasy, as desired.
Spread about 3 tablespoons of the jam over a piece of toast, top each with an egg, and finish with some crispy prosciutto. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
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