My favorite summer vegetable is a vine ripe, juicy tomato. You won’t find this in a grocery store for reasons of transport and storage–plus tomatoes don’t ripen appreciably once they are picked and chilled. A farmer’s market, roadside stand or a summer garden is where you’ll find ripe tomatoes. My annual summer search for the best tomato met with success in a very unusual way during a recent trip to Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.
As we drove through the main street of a small rural town on our trip, we saw an unassuming sign in the front yard of a house. It said simply, “tomatoes.”
We stopped (as I’d done in previous years). There was a bucket of tomatoes from the homeowner’s garden on his porch. The passer-by is welcome to sort through the tomatoes, take what he wants and leave a donation in a box for what he thinks the tomatoes are worth. The homeowner loves to grow tomatoes and shares with the community what he can’t use. He donates the proceeds to a different charity each year. For real? Yes.
I picked out some interesting heirloom tomatoes, such as the one on the top center. You don’t see these very often in Louisiana. This is actually two tomatoes growing together. Nevertheless, the heirloom tomatoes are interesting and also taste great. We stopped at roadside stands and farmers’ markets along the way from New York to Virginia and I added a few tomatoes to my collection at each stop. Fortunately, my husband took it in stride.
I made it back home to Louisiana with my precious tomatoes from the porch and roadside stands. The air conditioning of the car kept them cool enough. Too many for an ice chest. What should I make with all the tomatoes?
I love marinated tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh tomato sauce and pasta, stewed tomatoes, chilled gazpacho and the list goes on and on. Here is a very easy salad from my daughter-in-law, Kristy, “Caprese Salad with a Twist.” The next blog post gives a recipe for “Roasted Tomato Soup.”
Caprese Salad with a Twist
A Caprese Salad is made from fresh tomatoes, cows’ milk mozzarella cheese slices and fresh basil leaves. It originated in Italy as “Insalata Caprese” translating “the salad from Capri”. It is meant to resemble the colors of the Italian flag–red, white and green.
The key to the salad is vine ripe tomatoes–preferably ones that were never refrigerated. Olive oil is drizzled over the sliced ingredients–never vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. How easy is that? Kristy’s twist is that she also sprinkles her salad with Garlic and Wine Seasoning which she purchases from the Melting Pot Restaurant. This gives the salad a little extra zest without adding too much acidity. Kristy also adds sliced cucumbers to her salad. As you can see, salads evolve meet a person’s needs and tastes. This makes creative cooking interesting!
Caprese Salad with a Twist from Kristy Samuels
- fresh tomato slices (1 tomato)
- fresh cow’s milk mozzarella slices (round) (about 1 oz)
- fresh cucumber slices, (peeled) (1 medium cucumber)
- olive oil
- black pepper
- Garlic and Wine Seasoning from the Melting Pot Restaurant
- fresh basil leaves
Instructions and Steps
- Lay the tomato, mozzarella and cucumber slices onto the plate.
- Drizzle with some olive oil.
- Sprinkle with black pepper, salt and Garlic and Wine Seasoning.
- Then place one basil leaf on top of each cheese slice.
Enjoy some vine ripe tomatoes this summer. And my thanks the generous gardener whom found on our travels.