It started as a quest for cherry pie. Tomatoes weren’t even on my radar. I”d been pondering that pie for weeks. I did a cartoonish double-take when my favorite cherry stand at the farmer”s market was GONE. Someone was selling artichokes there. “Cherries are done,” said the friendly artichoke guy in reply to my accusatory “Where are the cherries?” And that was that. Cherries just up and called it a season, without so much as a nod to me or my pie-making procrastination.
I tried to be zen about it. For everything there is a season, etc. But I was not zen. I was petulant. I wanted cherries. In mid-pout it hit me: If the cherries are gone, then soon raspberries will be done. Then blueberries. And then tomatoes! Oh no, not the tomatoes!
I forgot all about dessert. After rocketing through the stages of grief, I frantically combed the farmers’ market for heirloom tomatoes. I found half a dozen varieties piled in a box at an unassuming little stand. No long lines or artfully stacked produce here, just some grubby boxes set on a folding table. The farmer called out the variety of each tomato I picked up like a proud father.
With their uneven curves and motley hues, I just knew these tomatoes would have personality. And they did. You might say it”s wrong to put such a rich dressing on a perfect slice of tomato, when a sprinkle of salt will do. But tomatoes and mayo are a match made in heaven. Ask any BLT. Throw in the kick of Roquefort and a hint of vinegar, and your tomatoes and mayo will sing in perfect, high-cholesterol harmony.
Use a light hand when dressing the tomatoes. Not for your health (although there is that to consider), but for your taste buds. The dressing is so irresistible you’ll be tempted to pour it on with wild abandon, obliterating your innocent heirlooms. Eat the dressing with a spoon if you must, but go easy on those tomatoes if you want to taste them.
Carpe diem. Let the cherry pie tragedy of 2009 serve as a reminder. Tomato season has come, and it will go. I adapted this recipe from one I found in Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten. It makes a fine spread for the world’s best BLT, too.
HEIRLOOM TOMATOES WITH BLUE CHEESE DRESSING
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, plus some assorted cherry tomatoes
3 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper
Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir blue cheese, mayo, vinegar, and cream together in a bowl. Smash the cheese with the back of the spoon as you mix, to blend it in. You want the dressing to be chunky, so leave some lumps of cheese.
Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes, and sprinkle with chopped tarragon.