What are you going to do with that last sun-warmed tomato from the garden, the one that’s waiting on the counter right now? Here’s how a few of the Outer Cape’s best cooks answered that question.
Bari Hassman, whose cooking makes the Blue Willow bakery and prepared food shop a daily stop for a lot of people in South Wellfleet, answered right away, in case that tomato’s prime time was going to be breakfast. Her early morning advice was like a poem.
“I leave the last one on my kitchen counter for a couple of days, so I can look at it,” Bari wrote. “I even take a picture of it. Then, I eat it. Thick slices, a little salt, and a drizzle of really good olive oil. I use my hands, so l can lick off the last bits of flavor.”
Around lunchtime, an email came in from Rebecca Orchant over at Pop + Dutch in the West End of Provincetown. She and her partner, Sean Gardner, had discussed the last tomato quandary and determined, being lunch people, that a sandwich was in order. It would ideally fit very specific parameters.
“We do not mess with perfection,” Orchant wrote. “We like Martin’s potato bread, with a thick layer of Duke’s mayo on either side, a few slices of those precious, last tomatoes, salt and pepper. Occasionally, we’ll add bacon or a few slices of Benton’s ham if we’re feeling fancy, but otherwise we are purists. Lettuce can take a seat today. We’re here for the nightshades, baby!”
Orchant sent a follow-up about the mayonnaise, adding, “If you eat this sandwich without mayo, I have some concerns for and about you.”
Midafternoon, J’aime Sparrow sent a note from her place, Sunbird, in Orleans. “Take a couple of still-warm tomatoes,” she said. “Cut them into two-inch pieces and place those big beautiful bites into a bowl with a little salt and pepper, good olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Gently turn everything over in the bowl a couple of times with a spoon, and let it all marinate for 15 minutes or so.”
There’s more. “In the meantime, toast or grill a thick slice of country bread, rub it with a garlic clove and olive oil,” said Sparrow. “Then, slather it with lemon-whipped ricotta.” Sunbird mixes it up by the bowlful. “Spoon the seasoned tomatoes and the flavorful ‘tomato vin’ at the bottom of the bowl over everything.” Maybe a basil leaf, she offered. And definitely “Maldon salt.”
Before setting in on cooking dinner at Spindler’s in the East End, Liam Luttrell-Rowland made sure we got the message on how not to ruin that last tomato with the wrong salt.
“First off, anyone who is eating tomatoes without procuring a fine finishing salt like Maldon is not doing that tomato justice,” he said. “The salt actually increases notes of sweetness, and iodized salt or table salt just does not fit the bill because its crystal structure is crushed, which means it’s very salty and overpowers the fruit with a non-natural metallic ion flavor!
“Sorry to be a hater,” he continued, “but I’m to the point.”
Luttrell-Rowland voted with Orchant against lettuce, too. “I am not a fan of BLTs,” he said. “The lettuce is not the right texture for me, and I feel it hides, as opposed to highlights, the flavors of the regal tomato.”
It’s lusciousness that Luttrell-Rowland wants up against that last tomato. “I prefer BBTs,” he said. “That is, bacon, blue cheese, and tomato.”
Fine with him, he said, to keep it open-face to save on carbs, but with cold weather setting in, he wouldn’t skimp on fat. “I go to P.B. Boulangerie and buy their Italian buffalo-milk blue cheese for $6,” he said. “It’s so fragrant that the small piece is sufficient for at least six or eight servings, and the combination of the smokey bacon, umami cheese, and sweet earthy tomato is a show-stopper.” He eats it on a baguette if he has one, but, if not, just stacked directly on the plate.
What about tomato pie or roasted tomato sauce? Would he ever cook a last tomato?
Maybe. “If I have already used my three center slices for lunch with BBTs,” Luttrell-Rowland said. “I might sauté the leftover scraps with a couple of cloves of garlic, a pinch of vinegar, a handful of raisins, and a pinch of honey, making a quick pan sauce that will thicken almost instantly and is perfect over fresh green beans.”
Green Beans With Last Tomato Pan Sauce
adapted from Liam Luttrell-Rowland
¼ cup good olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ lb. green beans, stem-end snapped
2 ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup raisins
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over high heat in a pot — use one that has a good lid. Add the garlic and spices. In a few seconds, when the garlic is aromatic, add the tomatoes, cut into big chunks (or throw in an equivalent couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes or a combination).
Add the green beans on top of the tomatoes. Season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Push the beans down into the tomatoes, cover the pot tightly, and lower the heat to a simmer.
Check after about 5 minutes, as the tomatoes begin to soften. Add the raisins, lifting and turning them into the beans and tomatoes. If the pan seems dry, add a splash of water.
Put the lid back on and continue simmering until the beans are very tender and coated with the sweet, spicy tomato-raisin sauce.