Okay so there’s going to be a real narrow theme for this column…Heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper. Throw in some burrata cheese, but not necessary, and the best olive oil you can get your hands on, and that’s all folks. No fancy tricks required.
Matt asked me to please not feature heirlooms this week because it’s the beginning of their season and they are only going to get better through August. He reasoned that I should talk about them when they are at their peak, but lured in by their fanciful hues and delicious samplings, I couldn’t help myself and filled up my basket. How can you not love the notion that the weirder they look, the more flavorful they tend to be? Those dotted markings are to be sought after rather than avoided. I always like the underdog.
Honestly, if you have before you a special specimen, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from, just put some salt on it, maybe some pepper and olive oil, which actually helps your body retain the vitamin C and potassium from the fruit, and enjoy its nuances. Heirloom names such as Pineapple, Black Krim, and Pinot Noir suggest you are getting much more than just some everyday tomato.
When Matt and I worked at All’ Angelo, we did an Heirloom Salad that was simply slices of tomato seasoned with salt and pepper and arranged in a beautiful mosaic on a white plate with a drizzle of olive oil. Next a third of a ball of burrata was placed, skin side down, over the slices and then seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and then finished with an aged balsamic. It was gorgeous and popular and expensive. You can make it at home for a fraction of the cost.
Continuing with the theme there’s also gazpacho. Matt takes blanched and skinned heirlooms (try using all yellow for drama), peeled cucumbers and basil and seasons it all in a blender or food processor and gives it a whirl. Take some of that burrata and scorch it a little bit with a torch like you would a crème brulee. If you used yellow heirlooms, chop up some red cherry tomatoes for garnish. You can add a yellow bell pepper and garlic or jalapeno for some zing in your puree or trade out the basil for cilantro. Drizzle with that fabulous olive oil you have.
Oh and you can make a gorgeous sauce for fish or pasta or roasted vegetables in the same way. Blanch some yellow heirlooms and take their seeds out. Chop them coarsely. Sautee a small chopped onion with some salt and pepper until translucent, and then add the chopped tomatoes and cook on medium-low heat until they are soft but not cooked through. Remove from the heat, adjust the seasonings and add a chopped soft herb like basil or dill or cilantro. You can puree this mixture or just leave it as is. It freezes well also.
Okay, one last thing and I’m out. Matt made, yum, a bunch of pizzas this weekend for a catering party at a house with a small oven but a nice grill so, presto, he grilled them. You can too. Here’s how:
4 4-oz. pizza dough balls
1 container burrata cheese (you can sub fresh mozzarella)
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thickly
salt and pepper
Flatten pizza dough and place on a hot grill, getting some nice grill marks, and pull off.
Turn heat to medium. Place tomato slices on precooked dough and then arrange burrata cheese on top. Season with salt and pepper. Return to grill and close it so that cheese can melt. About 5 minutes depending on your grill. Keep checking.
Remove pizza from grill. Slice and serve.
Tara Maxey is the sweet side of Heirloom LA, with Matthew Poley handling the savory side.