A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ode to Tomatoes and the Open Face Tomato Sandwich

One of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems is Ode to TomatoesThere is hardly a month when I'm not thinking about tomatoes, and this poem often comes to mind as well. I've included it at the end of this post, if you've never read it, or if you, like me, don't get tired of reading it.  These prolific summer tomato months started for me last November when I fawned over seed catalogs and chose tomato varieties for the coming year. MLK Day marks the time I like to get the seeds planted in the greenhouse and then fuss over them while they grow through to April and May, when they are big enough and the ground is warm enough for them to be planted out.  The next few months involves staking, pruning, fertilizing, and dreaming... then tomatoes everywhere, always for a couple months that only seem precious when they are over. Just thinking about the end of tomato season makes me wax nostalgic. Luckily we're still wading in tomatoes! Rejoice! 

Heirloom Kiwi Tomatoes

Today I don't have an elaborate recipe. I have my own ode to tomatoes of sorts: photos and a suggestion for a  go-to, every day, throw-together meal that I could (and do) eat for days on end. 

It's simple. 
While my first go-to is straight up fat sliced rounds of heirloom tomatoes with a sprinkle of good sea salt, I absolutely love an open face heirloom tomato sandwich made on thick-sliced, toasted white farmhouse bread (or plain, pre-sliced whole wheat sandwich bread, or really whatever you have on hand). Drizzle the toasted bread generously with good olive oil, and dot it with fresh crumbled feta, torn basil, salt and pepper. For extra glamor, take a peeled raw clove of garlic and rub it all over the business side of the toasted bread before oiling and loading it up.

Amana Orange and Japanese Black Trifel heirloom tomatoes on plain ol' sandwich bread

There are only a few ingredients, but if you choose those ingredients carefully, you can have a gourmet experience. And it's really a lovely meal after a long day of work when it's too hot to turn on the stove. It's the perfect meal when you have a beautiful tomato. I like the big blocks of feta in brine. It's so nice to slice thin pieces of feta that break apart perfectly on or under the tomato. And I like a nice, bright olive oil. Oh, and a flaky sea salt! Hmmm... this simple meal gets more complicated with the details. But, WOW! What flavor! 

We get our seeds from a couple seed companies: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and Seed Savers Exchange. This year at work we also got a big donation of straggler tomatoes from Love Apple Farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This past year they offered over a hundred varieties of unusual heirlooms at their tomato sale -- tomatoes with names like Spudakee, Northern Lights and Michael Pollan. Love Apple grows the produce used at David Kinch's world famous, Michelin starred Manresa Restaurant. The tomatoes in the photo below came from their plants. They also offer fantastic tomato planting directions here

Growing heirloom varieties of tomatoes is a great way to invest in long-term seed sovereignty, too -- seeds are easy to save from year to year. It's a little bit of work, but simple. Here are some directions I found doing a quick search.  

Heirloom tomatoes from left: a grafted Brandywine, Chocolate Vintage, and Kiwi

Ode to Tomatoes
by, Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

1 comment:

  1. So good! Tomatoes this way is a true taste of the season for me. Love it. Thanks