A perfect way to slide from summer to fall… with an additional secret recipe.
I realize the subject of tomatoes is late given some of you are probably past tomato season. Summer in Southern California, however, starts and ends late (mid-July thru sometimes mid-October) and we remain in the midst of a glorious tomato bounty.
Tomatoes are like my other favorite food, the egg: the uses and recipes for each are endless. Even so, if you’re lucky enough to be in possession of fresh, best of season tomatoes, nothing satisfies like a simple platter of tomatoes.
I realize there are a few sad souls who don’t like tomatoes raw. One of my best friends is such a person… I’m looking at you, Tanja! (We’ve somehow managed to remain close friends.) In my house growing up, we ate tomatoes off the vine like you would a fresh apple. Just pick and bite right in. If it squirts all over your face and runs down your forearm, you know you have the perfect tomato.
Like any good southerner, l don’t serve a meal during tomato season without a platter of tomatoes. This is as ubiquitous on the dinner table in the South as salt and pepper or bread and butter. I’ve easily made over a hundred of these platters and while the prep is fast and easy, there’s an art to the prep as well, a perfect combination of seasoning and herbs to maximize your tomatoes. I’ve tried many variations and have landed on the best.
So scroll down to find out to prepare your perfect platter of tomatoes. Then keep scrolling for the other perfect use for a perfect tomato…
A PLATTER OF TOMATOES
NOTE: Good quality ingredients are a must to make this work.
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
red wine vinegar
– Start with a bunch of fresh tomatoes. I like a mixture, different sizes and shapes, but the base for me is always larger tomatoes, sliced, and spread out decoratively around the platter. You can just do the larger ones or, if you have a variety, then halve or quarter the rest and sprinkle around the top.
– Liberally scatter sea salt on top. Follow with freshly cracked black pepper.
– Finely dice a shallot, and sprinkle on top. Follow with a bunch of thyme leaves. And a scattering of a few fresh chives, diced.
– Drizzle over the top a really good olive oil. I like to have one bottle of top quality olive oil, not for cooking, but for drizzling. An excellent example you can get at Amazon is Rustico. My cousin Brenda (wonderful person and cook!) recommended it and she knows of what she speaks: Rustico Olive Oil
– Lightly sprinkle with red wine vinegar.
That’s it! As much as I love garlic, I don’t use garlic here. It takes too much away from the tomatoes themselves. I never anymore use balsamic for the same reason. This is about highlighting the tomatoes to the max, not burying them under other flavors. Both garlic and balsamic become the predominant taste if you use them. I find rosemary also overwhelms here, which is why thyme and chives are perfect, they compliment.
Give it a try, you will love it.
** And now another special Southern delicacy I cannot live without:
A TOMATO AND MAYONNAISE SANDWICH
If there’s a heaven on earth, it may be a Tomato and Mayonnaise Sandwich.
Alice O’Ferrall makes the best I’ve ever had. Sitting in her kitchen atop Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama, having her Tomato and Mayonnaise sandwich, often followed up by coffee and a Moon Pie, is close to that heaven on earth. Whenever I have one of these sandwiches in my own kitchen (during tomato season this is more than often) I think of Alice and her husband Dick, two of my favorite people in the world.
I’m so glad Alice taught me Tomato and Mayonnaise Sandwiches… when I was eight years old! It’s yet another terrific example of how simplicity yields genius.
– Get two slices of your favorite bread.
NOTE: The classic, white trash version of this is plain old white sandwich bread. Think something like Wonder Bread. I confess I’ve moved on and love me some La Brea Bakery Bread. But you still want some form of white bread… a really nutty, grain-filled bread, which I love with other sandwiches, doesn’t work at all here.
– Slather both pieces with mayonnaise. A lot.
NOTE: I highly recommend Duke’s Mayonnaise. I never thought I would abandon Hellman’s/Best Foods but Duke’s is even better. Wow, is it good. If you can’t find it in a store, as it is still largely regional, you can get Duke’s at Amazon here.
– Douse each side with salt and pepper. Go crazy. Seriously.
– Add a few thick slices of tomato. If they stick out the sides a little bit, great.
– Eat! You may need to stand over the sink or have paper towels ready. It should drip down your arm. Yum.
SERIOUS NOTE: There is only one addition you can make, and it is also heaven. If you are so inclined, put a layer of Lay’s Original Potato Chips on top of the tomatoes before you put the sandwich together. You must use Lay’s. Any pother chip tends to be too thick and messes with the sandwich itself. The gentle added salt and crunch from Lay’s is truly Heaven On Earth.