Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Last Hurrah For Tomatoes

I’m reluctant to admit it, but autumn is finally here. I spent September trying to stretch out the summer as long as I could, but now that it is October, I have made an emotional commitment to wearing socks with my shoes and putting on my leather jacket when I leave the house. I have a cute little pumpkin sitting on my table. I’m looking at apples with much more interest, and I was happy to see a variety of pears make a recent appearance at the farmer’s market. For the first time in nearly six months, I feel the urge to have a slow-simmering soup on my stove, especially now that I have a beautiful new basil-green Staub French oven to cook it in. My ice cream cravings have not exactly subsided (honestly, when do those EVER subside?!), but I’m now contemplating bread puddings and fall fruit crisps alongside my ice cream.

And yet I promised you photos of my recent heirloom tomatoes as well as a fabulous thing or two to do with them. It seems a bit unfair to tempt you like this when such beautiful tomatoes are quickly disappearing from the markets. I promise to share more recipes on this subject in a timely fashion next August when they are in season again. But for now, would you please accept these photos as a fond farewell kiss to the late summer? Thanks, I knew you would.

Shall I remind you of what I found last week?

Aren’t they gorgeous?! I love the different names alone: Green zebras, Aunt Ruby’s Green German, Black Krim, Yellow Brandywine. There were also a few Livingston’s Gold Ball tomatoes who were a little camera-shy and didn’t come to this particular photo shoot, but they were certainly ready for their close-up once I added them to a salad. (I really wanted to get my camera in there.)

This is the simplest late summer salad, hardly requiring a recipe per se. If you stick to these suggested guidelines and use the freshest ingredients available to you, it’s guaranteed to be a mouth-watering success.

Begin with the most perfectly ripe tomatoes you can get your hands on, whatever is your pleasure. I like to use a combination of heirloom varieties to provide a colorful feast for your eyes as well as for your taste buds. Gently cut the tomatoes into a mixture of wedges and slices. Arrange them on a large serving platter or on individual plates, and tuck in a few slices of fresh mozzarella amongst the tomatoes. If you can find fresh buffalo mozzarella, the kind that’s packed in water and is so soft and luscious that it practically melts in your mouth, use it in this salad and you will consider it to be your very lucky day. If you can’t find it, have no fear for this tomato salad will still be delicious if you use the best mozzarella you can find, preferably of the fresh variety.

When the ingredients are this good, you really don’t have to do anything to them. I tore a few large leaves of fresh basil which I scattered over the top, then drizzled the whole thing with a tablespoon or two of my best olive oil and a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar. A sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper later, I had a most delightful feast for my eyes as well as for my palate!

Now, if that is just TOO healthy and fresh for your sensibilities, or let’s say you’re craving something a bit more decadent (as I often am), let me introduce you to my very dear friend, The Fried Green Tomato BLT.

Yes, you heard me.

I had this green tomato, this beautiful bold Aunt Ruby’s Green German tomato. (That’s quite a moniker!). And it literally said to me, “Dip me in buttermilk, dredge me in cayenne-spiked cornmeal, fry the hell out of me and let me keep company with some really crisp bacon!”

It made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So I complied.

I also had some Niman Ranch bacon from Trader Joe’s that was so remarkably satisfying, I had to fry up several more slices because it kept disappearing in my mouth before it could make it onto the sandwich! I love crispy bacon, but it’s especially important to cook the bacon perfectly crisp when you’re making a BLT. This way it will provide traction within the sandwich so that the other ingredients don’t slip around. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I know you would whole-heartedly agree with me on this point!)

I cut several large basil leaves into slivers and stirred them into a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise, which I spread onto some lightly toasted ciabatta bread. And then the layers: fried green tomatoes, a few torn leaves of lettuce, crisp bacon, all sandwiched between these two basil-mayonnaise-slathered slices of bread.

Oh sweet Lord…. I really will try to enjoy all that the next three seasons will offer, but I am already looking forward to being able to do this again next summer!

1 comment:

robjuliebridge said...

Who loves you and your recipes, Louise?!
I DO!!! So glad to have found your blog (JP turned
me on to it)

Love, Julie in Syracuse