Weekly Top 5: Tomato Edition
By Tara Tocco
Potato, Potahto, tomato, tomahto – Frankly I don’t care how you say it, or if you even say it at all, as long as you let me enjoy the bountiful red (and yellow and green and purple) fruit found in every farmers’ market, grocery store, and roadside stand right now. To me, July means tomatoes. Fresh, juicy, acidic heirloom tomatoes. Purple Cherokee. Brandywine. Beefsteak. Give them all to me! (Totally channeling Veruca Salt RN.)
So for this WTF, it’s all about the nutritious, delicious, solanum lycopersicum. Below are my top 5 ways to enjoy tomatoes this season:
1. Henrietta Red Heirloom Tomato Salad
It’s hard for me to think of a dish Chef Julia Sullivan makes that I don’t like – but her tomato salad is just beyond delish. With pickled watermelon, tomatillo, pistachios, habanero lemon vinaigrette, and a soft goat feta, it’s the most delightful (and beautiful!) take I’ve seen on a tomato salad in a while. Not to mention the tomatoes themselves: the Cherokee Purples are an heirloom variety that are a beautiful deep red color and have the most bright, fresh, perfectly tomatoey flavors that just makes my mouth sing. This dish hits on all cylinders -- it’s sweet, savory, spicy, and cooling -- but the tomatoes are still the star of the show. Don’t wait too long to go and taste this dish!
2. Urban Cowboy: Public House Tomato Sandwich
If you haven’t had brunch at Public House yet stop what you are doing and make plans for this Sunday. Bring your mama, your baby, and your baby mama – it’s a casual family affair! I actually grew up with Tom Bayless, chef at Public House, so I knew him before he turned into the very handsome, charming gentleman and chef he is now. I just had to ask Tom how he concocted that perfect specimen called a TOMATO SANDWICH on the brunch menu.
Tom told me he really wanted it to be like a burger without the burger, but once you remove the actual burger there’s really nothing else to call it, so by default, it’s a tomato sandwich. (Yes, that, my friends, is how his brain works.)
The tomato sandwich at Public House is made to order and composed of an aggressively seeded yeast roll sliced and toasted in butter, then slathered with their in-house concoction of charcoal mayonnaise. Wtf is that you might ask? It’s a technique Tom learned from a former Noma chef that involves hot charcoal, white oak, and canola oil. The resulting product: an acidic, almost dirty tasting mayonnaise to give you the sensation of a burger fresh off the grill. They put on more than you probably need but it’s just too good to skimp!
Tom says the trick to the perfect sandwich is to select the correct size tomato, (not too big, but not too small) and to layer three perfect slices (not too thin, but not too thick), some olive oil, flaky salt, and pepper.
“It’s served on a plate by itself, and sometimes looks like a cartoon,” Tom told me. “We sell out of them almost every Sunday. It feels really good to make something that people like.”
3. Arnold's Tomato Basil Pie
The line is out the door at Arnold's on a daily basis – and with good reason. This Nashville staple is only open for a few hours Monday through Friday so get in line! And when it’s your turn to grab a tray and make your picks, be sure to give the tomato basil pie a try – then send me an email and tell me how it changed.your.life! Kahlil Arnold told me the trick to the pie is to somewhat dry out the tomatoes slices by layering them in towels so they can drain overnight, otherwise the crust will be soggy. Speaking of the crust, it needs to be precooked before it’s layered with tomato slices and basil, and then covered in American cheese. They also lightly layer a little bit of mayo on the top of the pie before it goes into the oven to give it a nice color and texture when its finished. This rich, creamy pie could honestly be enjoyed for any meal – reminiscent of a breakfast quiche, a caprese salad, or a dessert pie – it is EVERYTHING.
4. Simple Tomato Slices with Salt
The next two are what I call DIY. Follow me on this one. Head out to your closest farmers’ market or grocery store and pick up a selection of heirloom tomatoes. I recently grabbed some up at the Swafford Farms booth at the farmers’ market and found them to be quite delicious. (Note: When making your selection, be sure to think about when you plan to eat them. They will soften as they sit, so choosing one for this day of versus choosing one for a few days in the future should mean you are choosing different feeling tomatoes.)
Then, when it’s time to savor this scrumptious gift from the heavens, wash it off and get out your cutting board, knife, and some salt – I prefer a nice flaky sea salt, but kosher salt or even standard table salt will do just fine. Then get to work. I like to cut thick slices, sprinkle on some salt, pick it up like a cookie and just take a big ol’ bite. Mmmm mmmm, there is NOTHING as satisfying as a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato on a hot July day.
5. Gazpacho Soup
Again, DIY my friends. Gazpacho soup is incredibly easy, always refreshing, and sure to be a crowd pleaser. One thing I personally like about it is that I don’t use a recipe of any kind when I make it. I start with some lovely, ripe tomatoes and cut them into fat chunks and put them in a food processor. Then I add some jalapeño, cucumber, green pepper, a little red onion, some salt, oil olive, and then my favorite ingredient - green grapes. I love the way the tart and the sweet pair up to provide more depth. You can play around with every single ingredient to find the perfect flavor for you, but remember the cardinal rule: you can always add but you cannot subtract once it’s been blended! So err on the side of caution if you’re at all concerned
You can also choose just how blended you like your gazpacho. Some people are in Camp Chunky, preferring a soup with large pieces of the ingredients, giving it a nice texture and crunch. (You’ll find me there.) Whereas some people are in Camp Creamy, preferring to blend the ingredients to a more traditional creamy soup consistency. There is no right or wrong, it’s really just a matter of preference.
Once your gazpacho has the flavor and consistency you like, stick it in the fridge and get it nice and cold before you serve it. I like to finish my soup with a dollop of crème fraiche that I then mix in like a little kid trying to mix their ice cream into a milkshake -- but again, personal preference!
See how fun this is folks? No rules, all you need are some delicious tomatoes and then the options are practically endless!
There you have it - five amazing ways to enjoy one of my favorite things - a perfect heirloom tomato on a hot summer day. I think you can easily knock all five of these options out over the weekend – I know I’m going to!