Locally raised heirloom tomatoes, in all their colorful glory, are pouring into farmers markets and stores, including my go-to grocer, the Seward Co-op. I'm finding it impossible to walk through the store's produce section and not buy them. That's exactly what happened to me yesterday, and when I got home I remembered a recipe from former Chet's Taverna chef (and now Three Sons Meats Co. owner) Mike Phillips, from a story published in Taste in 2003.
I made it for dinner last night (modifying it slightly, see below), and yes, it was every bit as lovely as I remembered; the tomatoes' color and flavor really shine, enhanced by a tomato-fortified vinaigrette and tons of basil. "You don't need to do a whole lot with tomatoes," is what Phillips said in the story. "They're so good on their own that you don't want to mess them up too much. Personally, I like to do what my grandma would do, which is make a tomato sandwich, just sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise on toast."
Same here. But I'll also be making this salad again in the coming weeks. It's too good to wait until next year's tomato season.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH GREENS AND CROUTONS
From Mike Phillips, formerly of Chet's Taverna in St. Paul.
1/4 loaf crusty bread
1 clove garlic
6 to 10 different heirloom tomatoes
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 c. micro greens or baby greens
20 medium-size basil leaves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Break bread into bite-size pieces, place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool slightly, rub with garlic and reserve.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, quickly sear all sides of a large tomato, charring the outside without cooking the tomato too much. Cool tomato, then core and seed and puree in a blender.
In a medium bowl, whisk tomato puree with olive oil and cider vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste and reserve. In a large bowl, toss greens, basil, croutons and 4 to 6 tablespoons of vinaigrette and divide among four plates. Slice (or halve, or quarter) tomatoes, depending upon size, and arrange on the four plates, mixing colors and sizes. Garnish with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.