The Tao of Tomatoes

tomatoMy husband believes he does not like tomatoes. I disagree. What he doesn’t like are the mealy, flavorless red fruits I sometimes purchase at the grocery store that are not locally in season and have traveled hundreds of miles to get to my plate. If you want tomatoes in the off season and don’t have a hothouse, then such things are a necessary evil, but they fail to live up to the glory of a real, fresh, seasonal tomato.

Last night, my husband ate such a tomato. In a rather surprised voice, he told me it was good. He did not gag once while eating it.

There’s something very special (dare I say hedonistic?) about eating a sun-ripened, heirloom tomato that was just plucked from the vine hours ago at its peak of ripeness. Instead of the mushy, insipid tomato you buy at a grocery store, that heirloom tomato is firm, juicy, and sweet like a berry.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Have some really fresh tomatoes just waiting to be plucked? Try this simple salad.

1. Create a vinaigrette by mixing one part vinegar (balsamic works well with tomatoes, though you may use any kind such as red wine or Champagne vinegar) with three parts olive oil. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, about a half teaspoon of minced shallot, and sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Whisk to emulsify.

2. Thinly slice your heirloom tomatoes and arrange them on a platter.

3. Pour your vinaigrette over the tomatoes.

4. Sprinkle with small pieces of fresh basil.

5. Allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours to allow flavors to mingle.

Tomato Tips

If you have such an amazing, fresh tomato in your possession, consider the following tips in order to allow it to reveal itself to you in all its glory.

1. Never, ever, ever store a tomato in the refrigerator. It causes the tomato to lose sweetness and texture. Instead, store it stemside down in a cool, dry location at a consistent temperature, and eat it soon after picking.

2. Select tomatoes that have a deep orangey-red color, firm yet supple flesh, and a substantial heft for their size. Give the tomato a sniff on the blossom end, smelling for a rich tomato scent.

3. When cooking, many canned tomatoes work as well if not better than fresh. My favorite canned tomatoes are Muir Glen organic tomatoes, which have great flavor with no tinny notes.

4. A teeny bit of sea salt on freshly sliced tomato can bring out the flavors.