I wait all year for that brief, shining portion of late summer that brings me luscious, flavorful heirloom tomatoes for about $2 a pound. Big, red, Beefsteak types, like the Beefmaster you see in the photo, which weighed in at 19 ounces.
That time has come, and I was able to savor my first really spectacular tomato of the year – courtesy of Berkeley Bowl West, which is now full-up with heirlooms at a great price.
I think most of the tomatoes sold in the US are, well, crappy. The only places to get good ones – and I mean with actual flavor – are the farmers’ markets and stores like Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods. Even those quality tomatoes can’t compare to these heirlooms, though, but the price is usually so high for the latter that I go for the former until this time of year.
One little hitch is my tomato allergy. Since my problem is mostly with seeds, I’m able to eat fresh tomatoes in limited quantity, and I scout out less seedy types. I’m glad it’s not one of those life-threatening allergies or I’d never make it through the next few weeks!
A great tomato needs very little.
When I was a kid, we’d buy huge Beefsteaks at roadside stands in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and eat them like apples – by hand. We always carried a little salt shaker in the car so we’d be ready, and would bring some back home to Queens, where we lived. This is one of my strongest food memories, and eating a big red heirloom puts me right back in my parents’ car in a 1969 Sunday afternoon traffic jam on the Cross Bronx Expressway inching toward the George Washington Bridge in 90 degree heat – with the smells of melting tar and a basket of roadside tomatoes next to me on the back seat.
You need to go get a huge red heirloom and make a tomato sandwich with one big slice, like I do.
1 humongous red heirloom tomato with deep, sweet flavor
1 slice really good bread, like Vital Vittles Real Bread, toasted
1 nice tablespoon good mayonnaise
10 pistachios (I use Everybody’s Nuts Salt & Pepper version), crushed (put under plastic and rap with rolling pin)
1). Cut a 3/4 inch (at least) center slice out of the tomato and store the rest for later.
2). Spread mayo on toast and lay tomato slice on top.
3). Grind a little sea salt on top of ‘mater.
4). Sprinkle crushed nuts on top.
Here are other ideas for sammies with heirlooms: chicken salad, a few curls of Emmentaler plus said ground nuts makes a good combo. Fried fish, mayo and a little parmesan works, too. Check this out: