If you ask me what my favorite fruit is, I’ll yell “TOMATOES!” maybe too excitedly, followed quickly by an apologetic digression about leaving out the rest of the gang. (I really do love you, blackberries, apricots, plums, cherries…look, the list is too long.) And while it is just impossible to pick a favorite, tomatoes are as close as it gets. No matter my mood, the time of day, the meal, if there’s no tomato, I’m just not as excited.
During tomato season, Lou and I eat them constantly: tomato sandwiches (yes, that’s a thing), fresh tomato sauce and salsa, tomato bruschetta, grilled tomatoes with eggs, and of course, endless numbers of freshly cut tomatoes eaten right at the counter with a sprinkle of salt, whether or not they were destined for more impressive culinary debuts.
Though clearly, I’m not great at picking one favorite thing (it’s impossible), these are two of the best ways to eat one of the most perfect foods. How much better than that does it get? (The answer is, it doesn’t…unless you’re holding blackberries, apricots, plums…you get the idea.)
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We love tomatoes so much that we’ll make this salad all sorts of different ways: changing up the dressing or using olive oil only, swapping oregano for the basil, adding another supporting vegetable, you name it. If you don’t want the bread in the salad, you can even serve it on the side for a sort-of deconstructed panzanella. (As the tomatoes rest, their juices mingle with the onion, herbs, olive oil or dressing, and salt, creating one spectacularly perfect sop-up op for a fresh, crusty loaf of bread.)
We used beefsteak tomatoes and figured on 1/2 per person but you can use whatever is in the market—cherry, on the vine, heirlooms, just about anything, but we’d save plum tomatoes for cooking. This is a great side dish and it’s one of those dishes that helps you out in the kitchen. It’ll wait until you are ready to serve it. Just they way we like our foods…unless we eat them before they leave the kitchen.
– Tomatoes, about 2 pounds—ripe and beautiful
– Loaf of day old French or Italian boulle or baguette, cut in cubes—an amount about equal to that of the tomatoes
– Red onion, thinly sliced, we used about 1/4 of a large onion
– Basil, a bunch washed and patted dry
– Balsamic vinegar
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Salt and pepper
*Slice the tomatoes, cut in bite size cubes and place them, with their juices, in a bowl.
*Add the sliced onion.
*Tear up the basil and add that to the bowl.
*Mix together 3 parts oil and one part vinegar—the amount of each will depend on how much salad you are making. Drizzle over salad.
*Salt and pepper to taste.
*Toss and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes (it’s tough but worth it!) before enjoying this simple, perfect salad.
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Fried Green Tomatoes
A great movie, an even better food. These perfectly crispy, salty, soft-and-warm-on-the-inside little guys are so ridiculously good that we’ve been known to make an entire meal out of (more than) a few slices and a salad. If you’re going to eat six of them, either way, why bother with unnecessary distractions, right?
We had to make them again before green tomatoes disappeared for the season. Grab them while you can!
Again, measurements in this recipe aren’t an exact science. We usually figure 4-6 slices per person, depending on tomato and hunger size. Also dependent on tomato size is the amount of buttermilk and dry ingredients. So. Use some discerning eyeballing to estimate how much of each you’ll need for your tomatoes. You can always shake out a bit more or save extra for another day.
– Green tomatoes
– 1 part flour
– 1 part fine cornmeal
– Buttermilk, shaken well before pouring
– Kosher salt or garlic salt (but don’t over-do it since you’ll salt the tomatoes after frying)
– Cayenne pepper (optional)
– Non-olive vegetable oil (such as canola or safflower oil) or peanut oil
– Kosher or sea salt for sprinkling
*Whisk dry ingredients together in a shallow, wide bowl or baking dish.
*Cut your tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices.
*Heat a large, shallow pan over medium heat. When hot, add about a 1/4 inch of oil.
*While oil is heating, dredge tomato slices first in the buttermilk, then in the flour-cornmeal mixture, coating both sides well during each step and gently shaking off excess.
*To tell when the oil is hot enough, sprinkle a pinch of flour into the oil and see if it bubbles. If it does, you’re ready. (Don’t wait too long to try or your oil may be too hot.)
*Fry each tomato until golden brown, flipping once.
*Set finished tomatoes on a paper towel-lined plate and with your sprinkling salt, sprinkle away.
*Eat as soon and often as possible.