I don’t know about you, but I grew up feeling ambivalent about tomatoes. A slice of tomato in a hamburger or a cherry tomato in a salad were par for the course, but it wasn’t anything I actually looked forward to. Fast forward to 2009, when I experienced my first heirloom tomatoes. Even though heirlooms look odd next to conventional ones, they taste so much better. They have a firm texture and interesting flavor — each tomato has a unique combination of salty and sweet.
Like a lot of fruits and vegetables, tomatoes have a season and that season is summer. Despite the fact that we can get tomatoes year-round from Florida and Mexico, the best tomatoes are available right now. (Also: please don’t buy winter tomatoes from Florida. Besides being mealy and tasteless, there are a lot of other problems with labor conditions and negative environmental impact. If you want to know more, I suggest you read Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook.)
This “summer” in Northern California has been unseasonably cool. The saving grace: stone fruits (peaches, nectarines) and tomatoes. We are at the height of heirloom season right now, so I headed to Monterey Market to get some before it was too late. At $2.98/lb, these tomatoes aren’t cheap, but it’s a better price than at most farmers markets. Instead of making the heirlooms an accompaniment, they were my main course: a simple tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, basil, and a dash of salt. That’s the beauty of heirloom tomatoes: they are so good naturally that they don’t need much embellishment.
I went a little overboard and bought 2 pounds. It turns out that there’s only so much I can eat, and it pained me to compost the leftovers a couple of days later. I’m really glad I got my fill though, before the season passed.
What about you? Do you have any favorite tomato recipes, heirloom or otherwise?
p.s. I’m going on vacation! Hopefully, Hurricane Irene will keep her grubby paws off the Outer Banks, but it’s not looking great. Regardless, I’ll see you all again in a couple of weeks, hopefully with a lot of delicious things to share.