I used to hate tomatoes. If you were to tell my 8-year old self that one day I would have a blog named Tomato Tango, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. And if you were to tell me that not only would I grow to love tomatoes but as an adult I’d happily eat them without smothering them with ranch dressing, I would have thought you were nuts.
Somewhere between my 8-year old self and now, however, I discovered cherry tomatoes. Mostly sweet, kid-sized and vibrant in color, they were easy to pop in my mouth, and it was fun when the juice squirted between my teeth as I bit into them. I suspect cherry tomatoes are responsible for dissolving at least some of the layers of prejudice held by most tomato-hating kids.
Then I learned to drown tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and top them with feta or mozzarella. With enough vinegar, you couldn’t even taste the tomato. Add cheese and the combination was positively delicious.
Slowly, and I really don’t know how it happened, I came to realize that tomatoes can taste good all on their own. They don’t need vinegar. They don’t even need cheese. I finally understood one of the fundamental principles of cooking: the things you put with tomatoes shouldn’t cover them up; they should bring out everything that is unique to tomatoes. Now, my favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes requires only three additional ingredients: olive oil, fresh basil and salt. I like to call it “Tomatoes, simply.”
It goes without saying that the best tomatoes are from home gardens or Farmers’ Markets. I love buying tomatoes at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in San Francisco, where they are sold at very good prices ($1-3/lb.). Store your tomatoes at room temperature for best taste and texture; putting them in the refrigerator makes them mealy.
Heirloom tomatoes, must be fresh and fully ripe
Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse grain sea salt
Wash and dry tomatoes. Slice tomatoes into ½-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Spread tomato slices on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil and salt. Eat with a knife and fork. Enjoy.