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One of the first vegetables I remember eating fresh from the vine were tomatoes. My grandmother grew them in containers supporting the vines with cages. And, later when I had my own square foot garden, I grew them.
When I planned my square foot garden, I had this idea that gophers and birds, as well as the weather, would get half the harvest. So to be sure I had tomatoes for tomato sauce, I planted six tomato plants in a 2 foot by 3 foot space. As luck would have it, all of my plants thrived and thrived and thrived.
Because of California's mild weather and raised beds filled with homemade organic potting soil (a mix of compost, rock, and sugar), all of my plants began producing in late Spring and continued producing far into the Winter. I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with. So, I started getting creative and coming up with new ways to eat tomatoes, including fried green tomato pie which surprising tastes a lot like apple pie.
This abundance of one vegetable led to a tradition of summer meals that showcase one or two ingredients across all the courses. I'll start with an appetizer, follow with a soup or salad, and then the main course. Sometimes, I'll even make a dessert with the ingredient. Last month was apricots. This month it's heirloom tomatoes:
- Sliced heirloom tomatoes topped with kale chips and Bening Goat Gouda (recipe below)
- Tom Yum soup with Shrimp
- Wild Alaskan Salmon with Tomato and Pineapple Curry over Wild Rice
Recipe: Heirloom Tomatoes with Kale Chips Topped with Goat Gouda
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 8 to 12 servings
- 1/2 pint Bacon Grease, room temperature
- 1 bunch of fresh Curly Kale, stems removed, roughly torn into quarters
- Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
- 3 small to medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch slices
- 1/3 pound, Bening Goat Gouda, thinly sliced
- Red chili pepper flakes to taste
- Maldon sea salt flakes to taste
- Warm large saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add bacon grease to coat the pan. When bacon grease has melted and begun to shimmer, add roughly a fourth of the Curly Kale. Be sure you have thoroughly dried the kale. If you drop wet kale into your pan, the bacon grease will sizzle and pop. Also, avoid the temptation to move the leaves around, you want them to crisp.
- Occasionally, flatten the kale leaves to obtain better contact with the pan surface.
- Cook until the kale is bright green, approximately 3 minutes, flip and cook for about another 3 minutes until the kale is wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When all of the kale has been cooked, add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
- Arrange tomato slices on a serving plate. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Add more bacon grease to your pan. When it's translucent and beginning to shimmer, add all of the wilted kale back into your saute pan. Toss until the leaves are crispy. When kale is crispy, remove from the heat.
- Repeat steps 2 through 4 until all of the kale has been cooked.
- Add kale leaves to the top of each tomato slice, place a thin slice of Bening Goat Gouda on top of the kale, sprinkle with red chili pepper flakes and Maldon sea salt flakes to taste. Serve immediately.
Recommended Pairing: Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris is the obvious choice for dishes where the primary ingredients are tomatoes. Why? Because Pinot Gris' mineral character and brisk acidity help counter fattier seafood and high acid foods. (One exception I've found is when tomatoes are paired with pineapple, such as in the Wild Salmon with Tomato and Pineapple Curry over Wild Rice, I prefer a fruitier wine.)
Caring for Your Tomatoes at Home
If you are able not to eat all of your tomatoes in one sitting, you will need to think about where and how you will store them. According to various sources, "avoid the fridge at all costs: Tomatoes will turn mushy and bland within there (10 Food Storage Guidelines You Didn't Know, Reader's Digest)."
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.