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 Tomatoes. There 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.
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, ChocolateVintage, and Kiwi
Ode to Tomatoes by, Pablo Neruda The street
filled with tomatoes, midday, summer, light is halved like a tomato, its juice runs through the streets. In December, unabated, the tomato invades the kitchen, it enters at lunchtime, takes its ease on countertops, among glasses, butter dishes, blue saltcellars. It sheds its own light, benign majesty. Unfortunately, we must murder it: the knife sinks into living flesh, red viscera a cool sun, profound, inexhaustible, populates the salads of Chile, happily, it is wed to the clear onion, and to celebrate the union we pour oil, essential child of the olive, onto its halved hemispheres, pepper adds its fragrance, salt, its magnetism; it is the wedding of the day, parsley hoists its flag, potatoes bubble vigorously, the aroma of the roast knocks 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 star, displays 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.