I’m not sure if most people know this, but supermarket tomatoes suck. You knew? Good for you. Now do you know why? Neither did I.
While recently watching a tomatocentric episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats (sadly I find the title misleading as I love the show and AB as well, but have yet to enjoy a recipe of his) I learned that most grocery store tomatoes are picked while green for transportation purposes, before being introduced to ethylene gas to give them the nice red color we’ve all grown to love. Unfortunately, while the gas (which is naturally produced by tomatoes and not generally considered dangerous) does succeed in giving the tomatoes a nice hue, it does not actually complete the ripening process, leaving the consumer with a unripe, albeit pretty, tomato. With this in mind and a unseasonably warm and visible sun in the sky (July in SF and as of this writing it’s 63 degrees of gray) I headed off to the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market in search of some ripe tomatoes and whatever else may await.
What awaited was a bounty of beautiful produce from various varieties of vine ripened tomatoes to powerful peppers perfect for pickling. I did not hold back, and with my pocket significantly lighter and backpack significantly heavier, I returned home to enjoy some wonderful, fresh produce.
I really wanted to showcase the tomatoes, so I kept things really simple. Sliced tomatoes, blanched beans, basil chiffonade, a sprinkle of salt, and a light, clean basil vinaigrette. I was pretty pleased with the results, though in subsequent days I took to adding feta (not pictured) and what I thought was perfect got even better.
Basil Infused Grapeseed Oil
1 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Combine basil and oil and puree. In a small saucepan, bring mixture to a simmer for 45 seconds. Allow to cool to room temperature. Strain.
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup basil infused grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon usukuchi (light color soy sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
I love mason jars for many reasons, with vinaigrettes being just one of them. Combine ingredients in a mason jar and shake to combine. (I really don’t know why I’m even writing directions for this, but heck, now that it’s on ‘paper’, it’s easier to publish than delete).
Heirloom Tomato and String Bean Salad
1 Extra large heirloom tomato
1/2 cup mixed green and yellow beans
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set up an ice bath. Blanch the beans for 2 minutes or until nice and green. Remove and immediately plunge beans into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove beans and pat dry before cutting into 1 inch segments.
Grab several large basil leaves and stack them. Roll the stack tightly and cut thin ribbons. Reserve.
Cut some nice thick slices of your tomato and fan on your plate. Hit them with a 3 finger pinch of salt before topping with the beans. Drizzle your vinaigrette over the beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle your basil ribbons and feta to taste. Top with a basil leaf or two to fancy things up a bit and enjoy.
Eat. Drink. Cheer!!!