Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Perfect Recipes for the Perfect Tomato

"When people ask me what I remember most about my childhood summers in New Jersey, the first thing that comes to mind is the heat. It is branded on my psyche.
But the next thing is tomatoes. People may wilt under a New Jersey summer. But New Jersey's state 'vegetable' thrives...

You're talkin' tomato, you're talkin' state pride. Tomatoes are arguably but by no means certifiably, among the few things new Jersey residents can be universally proud of.

Our corn's pretty darn good too." ...from Bayshore Summer by Pete Dunne

Our soil is sandy and won't hold water worth a darn. Our summer temperatures are HHH...hazy, hot and humid. Take all that, add a tomato seed and in a couple of months you will have what is arguably the best tomato in the world, the Jersey tomato. Oh, I am sure you think your state produces a fine tomato and maybe you even have a few very respectable plants growing in your backyard, but take my word for it. The true Jersey tomato is the best in the world.By true Jersey tomato I mean one that is not grown to transport long distances. Not one picked green so they can travel. No, one grown on a smaller farm, ideally bought at a roadside stand. Warm and red and ripe. A tomato that smelled like a tomato. Juicy and acidic and yet sweet.

I know this because my grandmother told me this as a child and she was a world class tomato critic. My grandfather taught me how to cook scrapple correctly and my grandmother taught me about tomatoes.
It was a well rounded childhood.

As a child, I would spent the summer in Atlantic City with my grandparents and my Aunt Mary and there were two things my grandmother's summer revolved around. The appearance of the first tomatoes and the appearance of Breyers Peach Ice Cream. She loved ice cream, but peach, which Breyers only made when the peaches came ripe, was the pinnacle of the ice cream year and she and I would search the Acme (pronounced Ack-A-Me down da' shore) supermarket freezer, watching, waiting for it.

But the tomato...that was her first love.
There was a little grocery store nearby that we would go to and they would have the best vine, ripe, fresh from the farm tomatoes. My grandmother would take them home, rinse them and place them on the windowsill until lunchtime. Never, never, never in the refrigerator, a mortal sin for a tomato.

Now here is the recipe. Note it carefully.

Take a tomato, slice with a very sharp knife.
Add salt and pepper.

Now...often my grandmother would take the next step.
Her idea of the perfect sandwich.

Repeat above.Slice..salt..pepper.
Put sliced tomato on a slice of white bread.
Add mayo..Hellmann's of other slice of bread.
Place slices together.
Cut sandwich in half.

And then if you want the pinnacle of the Tomato World, we will take the final step. The perfect lunch or dinner. The BLT.

Slice tomato, once again.
You did get enough tomatoes to start with, right??
Take two slices of nice white bread.
Place in toaster.
Do not over toast.
Remove from toaster and put mayo on toast.
Add several slices of crispy, slightly greasy, delicious bacon.
Top with slices of beautiful, Jersey tomato.
Volume of bacon and tomato should be about equal, in my opinion, or leaning toward the tomato.
Add one leaf of crisp romaine lettuce, for crunch.
Ok, maybe two.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. I don't think I've ever had a Jersey tomato, but the BEST tomatoes I've ever eaten were at this amazing restaurant on the island of Tinos in Greece that grew their own. And tomatoes in Greece are perfection generally speaking.

  2. I so want a BLT right now! I'm growing my own this year but they have a couple of weeks until they'll be ready for eating. There is almost nothing better tasting than a home-grown tomato.

  3. My Italian mother-in-law would eat tomatos right off the vine - just like an apple.

    I never quite developed a love for the fruit like that - but I truly enjoy a simple tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad with a drizzle of olive oil. Served with a crusty baguette and you are talking perfection on a plate.

  4. Your pics are so mouth watering, I now want a tomato and cucumber sandwich! NOW!! Enjoy all the tomatoes while you can. The summer is just flying by.

  5. I think the best way to eat a tomato is standing out in the garden and eating it while it's still warm from the sun. (By the way, the mayo of choice in this part of the country is Duke's.)

  6. Oh, for a tomato that isn't all mush! Looks wonderful!

  7. Tomatoes down in Florida pretty much suck, but the one's in Indiana? Divine. Believe it or not, but I dont' like eating a tomato raw, but to cook it and make sauce out of it is one of my favorite things to do.

  8. I bought a bag of plum tomatoes...that you can see in the back of the one photo...from a stand during a drive the other day for $1. yes, a bag for one dollar.

    In fact, there was no one there, just leave the money in a box.

    I am going to whip up a fast, fresh sauce this evening with those.

  9. Tomato mayo sandwich oh the horror of a ruined good tomato. Mayo and I just don't get along.

    Nothing better than a warm tomato you pick form the vine and eat while still standing in the garden, letting the juices and seeds that escape your bite to drop to the ground.

  10. The tomatoes from my grandmother's garden in upstate New York were the best I've ever had! Don't think I've tried a real Jersey tomato... yet. Now it's time to make a BLT for lunch!

  11. I am with your grandmother. The first "real" tomatoes of the season are worth looking forward to. I love your recipes. They are some of my favorites too. I like to add a slice of sweet, fresh onion to my BLT. We call them BOLTs. Happy tomato eating in Jersey.

  12. We can grow a pretty decent tomato in our backyard if the summer weather is right--our summer weather really varies from year to year. I absolutely hate buying tomatoes in the store--no flavor and either hard as a rock or mushy. I am thinking of heading down to our little town's farmer's market today and I will look for some fresh grown ones.

    I love that your recipes call for white bread--there are just some things that do not taste right on wheat bread--grilled cheese being another one. OH, and mayonnaise not miracle whip--you are a cook after my stomach! ;)
    Enjoy your tomatoes---I am thinking BLT's on our lunch menu tomorrow after church--that is if I can find a decent tomato today!

  13. it seems that I have sold a lot of BLTs today!

  14. I LOVE tomatoes, hot or cold, in a recipe or as a side dish. I eat them on my pizza and love making a sandwich with tomato and baking it.

    Mine is HERE

  15. I like your three steps. I'm not much of a tomato eater (not raw anyway except for Caprese) but you make it sound very delicious.

  16. All three 'recipes' sound wonderful! Especially the first (and to echo what BermudaOnion said) ... warm, straight off the plant, give it a rub on your shirt, and take a bite!

  17. I am in love with this post! Of course, my garden tomatoes are threatening to take over the entire property, so you know how much I love tomatoes!

  18. most of my plants have succumbed to a blight. happily, there are many to buy, at a reasonable price, at many a farm stand.


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