Tomatoes! Red, ripe, juicy tomatoes. Not the mealy, mushy ones you get during the winter at the grocery store. No sir, red, ripe, firm, delicious tomatoes!
You can grow tomatoes in your garden, or in pots, or you can purchase home grown tomatoes at local farmer's markets. They are so super delicious. You can cook with them, can them or eat them raw in salads, on sandwiches or like an apple if you prefer. My grandparents used to pick them right off the vine and eat them - just like an apple.
The varieties are endless. There are beefsteak tomatoes which are the great big ones used mostly for slicing and eating. There are varieties like Better Boy, Big Boy, Big Girl, Celebrity and Supersonic. And then there are the crown jewels of tomatoes - the heirlooms. Yes, they are incredible. They are not red and round and well shaped like the varieties mentioned above. Some are small, some are medium sized and some are big and knobby. You look at them and wonder if you really should eat something that misshapen, but I am here to tell you - do it!
Heirloom tomatoes are the way tomatoes were before they became hybrid varieties. They have so much flavor that there is no match for the varieties we are used to consuming. They are sweet and delicious. They come in a variety of colors - some are almost purple like the Cherokee Purple and the Black Russian, the Oxacon Jewel is yellow and very meaty and delicious, and Brandywine is one of the red varieties. There is even a white heirloom tomato. Even though they may look "suspect" to you, give them a try because the flavor they deliver makes them worth every penny you spend.
I like to watch the Food Network shows. They impart a lot of cooking knowledge and I have learned to branch out in my culinary pursuits. Recently, Guy Fieri, (one of my favorites) made what he called heirloom tomato tacos. They looked so good they made my mouth water. I like to call them tomato boats because that is what they look like to me! I made some of these for the Fourth of July and they were quite a hit. This is a wonderful use of the myriad varieties of tomatoes available during the summer. It is an easy recipe and super delicious. Looks pretty on a plate too! I did a little variation of my own, by substituting fresh mozzarella cheese for his recommended gorganzola. (blue cheese) We are not fans, but we do love fresh mozzarella. Here are the ingredients and the recipe.
1/2 pound mixed heirloom tomatoes
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps balsamic vinegar, good quality
kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (I used basil from my herb garden)
1 head romaine lettuce, inner leaves only
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced (or gorganzola crumbles if you prefer)
Dice tomatoes, put in a bowl. Add 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper and basil that you have cut into small slivers (chiffonade). Mix. Remove outside leaves of the romaine lettuce and cut the bottom off the head allowing the inside leaves to separate.
Fill each leaf with about 1/4 cup heirloom tomato mixture, lay on plate and place some of the diced fresh mozzarella on each boat. One more pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Here is a close up of what they look like.
That's it! These are divine! You could eat these for a meal or serve them as a salad. My "son- in -love" said he would have been perfectly happy to just eat these for his dinner. You can doctor them up a bit if you prefer by adding some crab meat, or diced shrimp. Oh, that would be wonderful! So cool and refreshing and the tomatoes are just indescribable!
I am buying tomatoes at the farmer's market at the present while we wait for all of our tomatoes to start coming in. We have 22 plants in the garden of all varieties. There are Better Boys, heirlooms of all varieties, some grape and roma tomatoes. I CANNOT wait! There will be canning also to use in soups, stews and sauces during the cold winter months.
Enjoy this new variation on a salad this summer during the hot and muggy months while tomatoes are plentiful. You won't even have to turn on a stove when you serve these. The cool crispness of the lettuce with the juicy tomatoes and fresh basil, along with the fresh mozzarella cheese and the tangy vinaigrette is worth the little effort it takes to put these together. I placed mounds of my homemade pickled beets between the tomato boats which made a really pretty salad platter. You could add whatever you want to fill out the platter. Then, eat them like a taco! Hope this floats your tomato boat this summer! Enjoy.
Things To Remember:
Slow down, calm down, don't hurry, don't worry, trust the process.