Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What summer is all about

In a word: tomatoes.

Because although I love fresh tomatoes, I only eat them when they are in season. The rest of the year, it's dried and canned. That's just the way it is.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing these appear at my produce market. I actually consider myself sort of an ambassador for them. As I stand picking out my bag or sometimes just smiling at them, I lean over to anyone who is looking at them with skepticism and say "Yes, they really are worth every penny. You must try them." Not that I ordinarily make a habit of telling people what to do, but I make an exception here. And sometimes in the checkout line people will notice me gazing lovingly at my bag and I will be compelled to explain why they are so remarkable. And then I hold their place in line while they run out to get some. No one's ever come up to me to tell me I'm wrong.

What I think makes these tomatoes so special is the dry farming. Not watering the heck out of the vines concentrates the flavor, making ordinary tomatoes and even beautifully colored heirlooms taste in comparison like a big watery mess. And I think you just can't beat an Early Girl for sweetness.

This is one of my favorite things to do with my favorite tomatoes and is what I took to the dinner we attended in Mendocino this past weekend. (What, did you think I showed up empty handed?)

It's an appetizer! It's a side dish! Seriously, I would eat this for breakfast or dessert.

I team my tomatoes with kalamata olives, fresh basil, and Manouri cheese, my homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and flaked black salt.

I buy black flaked salt in bulk from this fancy place.

It has a nice taste, crunch, and appearance that is perfect for tomatoes, fish, zucchini, rice, pasta, . . . almost anything, really.

And about that Manouri cheese. Try some of this if you can find it.

It's a Greek semi-soft cheese made from the whey drained from feta production and then combined with milk and/or cream. The taste is much milder and less salty than feta, with a slight citrus note. It makes a very nice and more flavorful substitute for fresh mozzarella or ricotta. And it's particularly nice with something sweet. I've served it drizzled with honey and sprinkled with a bit of fresh thyme.

But you know what I'm really waiting to pair it with.


Kate said...

God, my mouth is watering after that post. I need to get my hands on some of all of that!

linda said...

Oh, I've got to try the cheese and the black salt....I'll check my local Whole Foods....we have great tomatoes here on East Coast as well- I get them from farm stands when visiting my FIL in East Hampton.

Angelina said...

I'm not a huge fan of fresh mozzarella (though the batch I made at home was pretty good melted, it was bland and flavorless raw) so I'm much more inclined to do this same salad with a feta. Is Manouri ever made with cow's milk, or just goat?

This salad is gorgeous. It is similar to my favorite way to eat fresh in season tomatoes (like you, we no longer buy them fresh unless they are in season) and now I think I'm going to have to try your way too. Heaven.

Tomatoes are HEAVEN.

You and I would have a hell of a good time grocery shopping together. I am often the ambassador of produce at the farmers market. I advise people on ways to use collard greens, how to embrace the fava for the lush bean it is...always telling people what I do with them and encouraging them to try new things. But only because I love those things myself.

Jen Yu said...

I've been there! with you!! I need to get me some of that tomato action. Seriously. *Seriously*

Cindy said...

Angelina: Yes, can you imagine the two of us produce shopping? And canning? If we ever retire to Oregon, we'll move in across the street from you so we can do this.

Jen: Yes, you do!!