Saturday, August 9, 2008

Have You Made a Lunch Date with that Heirloom?

I went to buy groceries today. This is by far my favorite ritual of the week. I have to hold myself back from going crazy in the produce aisle. Among the most awesome things I picked up today are burgundy colored figs, not to be out done by green beans of the same color. I am told they will turn green when they are cooked. In the cart I dropped furry little soy pods and I also picked up blueberries and luscious radishes, some larger than golf balls, with the green still attached. I also bought tiny little eggplants that were speckled in different hues of lavender. In this mix were also plum tomatoes so red they looked more vibrant than a siren's lips. 

I did not know when exactly I would consume any of the produce I have told you about. Yet, when I rolled past the heirloom tomatoes, slowly, so very slowly, I knew exactly what I would do with the one I bought. A tomato in season must be respected, especially these tomatoes. An heirloom must be center stage. Being simple in preparation is key too. A good way to eat an heirloom is to drench it in your best olive oil and crack black pepper over it. Another option is to squeeze lemon juice over it and sprinkle sea salt. Of course, one can also slice fresh mozzarella and garnish with basil, even pour olive oil--but this is getting complex.

I took my heirloom home. She was red, all red. A red that was bright and fresh and reminded me of strawberries. She was a rippling tomato that clearly had an undulating growth pattern. If she had been like her more regular looking cousins, it would have been as if one would have flattened out the roundness and rhythmically tugged at one end so that she had an appendage, rather than being one simple round entity. 

When I unpacked the groceries and put them away, I left the tomato on the counter. I make food for lunch for the entire week on Saturdays, so before I could eat I had to get that preemptive meal on its way. I was going to make chicken with blue potatoes and herbs. I had to chop garlic and parsley and green pepper. In the mean time I ate my figs. They made me miss Memphis figs, which are sweeter and more syrupy than the ones I was currently eating. The tomato was a safe distance away from the prep work.

Eventually everything was in the pan and I'd cleaned up. Next I went into the fridge and I dug out the soy pods I had purchased. I almost did not get them because they were expensive. I compromised with myself by not getting a lot. I put them in a bowl and rinsed them. I would eat them the way you do in a Japanese restaurant. I did remember that recently The New York Times' Mark Bittman featured soy beans in a dish, but I didn't have the energy to pull up his column, The Minimalist. Instead I popped the pods in the microwave and moved on.

I looked at the hearty brown loaf of bread that I bought. It was harder on the outside but if you pressed it, you could tell that it had give. It would sop liquid up. This, my friends, is key. I gave it a little squeeze and rinsed the heirloom, which up until now had patiently and silently waited for me. I took a sharp knife and pierced the delicate skin. The knife went clear through and what did I see? A beautiful pattern. I cut the slices thick. Then I took a hunk of the loaf and cut it off. 

I went into the fridge and came out with mayonnaise. The kind I have at home is in a plastic container and its squeezable. I should note that this is the only point at which I could really have put more effort in. Making homemade mayonnaise is always going to be better than something that you squeeze out of a bottle. Yet, what makes what I am describing to you so worthwhile is the experience you get for virtually no time. As a cook you have to make your own executive decisions. 

Since the bread had been well lubricated I began to arrange the slices on the bread. Although I was generous, there were still some left over which I kept on the plate. I sliced two radishes to comfort the tomato slices that did not make it into the bread. They made a good match, almost a makeshift salad on their own. By this time my soy beans were steamed, so I sprinkled them with salt. I sat down with a glass of water and enjoyed sweet summer bliss. Below is a recap if you want to try it too. 

Tomato Sandwich with Edamame and Radishes

Ingredients (ten minutes)

One heirloom tomato
Fresh bakery bread
Two or Three handfuls of soy beans in the pod
Two large or four small radishes
Mayonnaise and salt to taste

Rinse the soy pods under water. Cover and microwave for two minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Cut a hunk off of the bread. Slice through this piece to make two slices. Also cut the heirloom tomato in thick slices. Pause to enjoy the beauty of the tomato. Eat a slice, then proceed. You will have to add mayonnaise to the bread. I like to strike a balance between being generous enough you can really taste the mayo, but conscientious enough to know that this is something you should eat sparingly. In other words, don't skimp, but don't over do it. Be Greek, aim for the mean. Take a bite of your sandwich, then slice the radishes. Bring your goodies to the table to eat, as a meal is always more enjoyable when you're not consuming it over the kitchen counter.

Buen provecho amigos!

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