I’m very suspicious of tomatoes. Even in July, I raise an eyebrow when I see a beautiful heirloom: “Nice try,” I’ll say. “But we all know you’re not at your best until August at the earliest, most likely September.”
But yesterday I journeyed to Cookbook in Echo Park (you’ll be hearing about that place a lot: it’s pretty much the best food store in L.A.), and there they were: tomatoes that seemed to be peak summer tomatoes. How did I know? The colors were bright, the textures had just the right amount of give, I popped a sungold into my mouth and it exploded with sunshine.
So I knew I had high-quality summer tomatoes to work with, but how to turn them into dinner?
Fun fact: our kitchen isn’t air-conditioned and it gets hot in there. So I decided to make a Monday night picnic that required zero minutes of cooking.
In addition to what you see above, I purchased two cheeses — a goat cheese from Spain, and a sheep’s milk cheese from upstate New York — and a baguette. I had olives and hummus from the farmer’s market at home.
When it was time for dinner, I dealt with the tomatoes first. I sliced the big red ones into slices and wedges, cut the green ones in half, and plated them on my two nice Heath Ceramics plates (I only bought two, for nights where it’s just us) and drizzled the tomatoes with incredibly good olive oil that I just got from Monsieur Marcel at The Grove (the manager there let me taste a few and I picked Titone from Italy: it’s grassy and burns your throat a little).
I drizzled a little Balsamic over the top (this was also fancy Balsamic — I sound so Ina — that was a gift), Maldon sea salt, and pepper. Then I chiffonaded basil, put that on top, and added the sungold tomatoes whole.
I mean, you’ve gotta admit: that’s pretty gorg.
As for the rest, I sliced the baguette into slices; I cut the cheeses in half; I spooned some hummus on to the plates and piled on some olives. Cracked open a bottle of ice cold rose, lit some candles, and there you have it: our Monday night picnic.
Seriously, this tasted better and more refreshing than anything I might’ve cooked. Do yourself a favor and keep those burners off, this summer. Make an indoor picnic.
It’s time to trust tomatoes again.