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A Tomato Moment at the Market; Season with Sea Salt, Fresh Basil and Slivered Jalapeno

Today's tomato haul includes, clockwise from top left, Sun Golds; mini-Cherokee Purples; Chelseys; a mixture of Whoppers, Better Boys, Celebrities, and Lemon Boys; Juliets; Viva Romas. Center: Green Zebras and a Striped German Johnson.

Today’s tomato haul includes, clockwise from top left, Sun Golds; mini-Cherokee
Purples; Chelseys; a mixture of Whoppers, Better Boys, Celebrities, and Lemon
Boys; Juliets; Viva Romas. Center: Green Zebras and a Striped German Johnson.

Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I did try to curb my obsession. Really I did. At 8:52 I was flowing from downward dog to plank to cobra and back again. At the end of yoga class, I felt calm and serene, completely without desire. For a second.

And then I saw the tomatoes.

My big mistake was going to the Saturday farmers market. As often happens in late summer, it was having an irresistible moment.

Bushels of ripe red juicy tomatoes were prettily laid out on tables at McAdams Farm Were they winking at me? Whoppers on steroids, rotund Better boys, plump Celebrities all crooned, “Buy me. Buy me!” Around the corner at Ayrshire Farm, a pile of Lemon Boys, gleaming mellow yellow, practically sauntered out of a box into my bag. When I couldn’t fend off the vaguely hallucinogenic Green Zebras, streaked with apricot, and striped German Johnsons, mottled rose and gold, I knew I was done for. Shamelessly I scooped up box after box of sugary Sun Golds, mini-Cherokee Purples, small crimson Chelseys, and little pear-shaped Juliets. And I’m almost forgetting the seven pounds of Viva Roma tomatoes that filled the scale at Wild Hare Farm.

What’s a girl to do? I bought them all. Well not all, but I did come home with an armload of bulging brown paper bags. The kitchen scale read 16 pounds 3 ounces.

Here’s the plan: The Viva Romas I’m going to roast in the oven with a little sugar, Kosher salt and olive oil. Some of them will go right into a batch of a pesto with preserved lemon, cinnamon and white pepper, the rest I’ll stash in the freezer for warmth on wintry days. Some of the big red ones I’ll save for a fresh corn amd chile soup I’m making tomorrow, recipe coming soon I hope. As for the rest, well, there will be tomato sandwiches galore, some with chevre on grilled sourdough, others on white toast slathered with homemade mayo. The Sungolds are sweet enough to eat for dessert.

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But first I’m making a delicious tomato plate that will please the eye as much as the palate. Thick sliced Better Boys and Whoppers, almost scarlet inside, oozing luscious ripe tomato flavor, are layered with mellow Lemon Boys and the more acidic Green Zebras. Around the edge, a medley of the cherry tomatoes–Sun Golds, dark Cherokee Purples, and sweet red Chelseys—cut in half.

As for the seasoning, I’ll keep it simple. Coarse sea salt and a few young basil leaves sprinkled over the tomatoes, followed by a few drops of light, fruity olive oil Right now I’m using Jovia Groves extra virgin made from estate-grown Arbequina olives in Central California. It’s light and delicate with a pleasingly peppery finish.

Oh, yes, being a chile lover, I’ll finely sliver a little jalapeno from the garden over the salad, less for its heat than for the way its fresh green taste complements the flavor of the tomatoes.

That’s it. Except for the crusty sourdough bread which you’ll need to sop up all those luscious juices when you’re done.

Tomato Plate with Sea Salt, Basil Leaves and Slivered Jalapeno

To serve one

Ingredients:

2 large red ripe tomatoes
1 medium Lemon Boy, or other yellow tomato
1 medium Green Zebra, or other “green when ripe” tomato
12 cherry tomatoes, mixed colors and varieties
Sea salt, to taste
A few fresh young basil leaves
Mild, fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, finely slivered
2 thick slices, grilled or toasted sourdough

Method:

1. Core and slice the larger tomatoes. Arrange them in a pleasing pattern of overlapping slices on a dinner plate. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange them around the rim of the plate.
2. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt to taste, strew with basil leaves and slivered jalapeno, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with grilled or toasted sourdough.

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