Last summer I fell in love with tomatoes. Not the kind you get in the grocery store: perfectly shaped, deep red, utterly tasteless. I fell in love with heirloom tomatoes. Each variety was completely different; I ran from farmers market to farmers market trying to taste them all. In the summer of 2011 I developed a full blown tomato addiction, that could only be satiated by varieties such as Big Rainbow, Kentucky Beefsteak, and Green Zebra. I could either accept that I had an addiction and seek to overcome this debilitating need, or I could accept that I had an addiction and choose to embrace it.
I went through a slow withdrawal, during the fall and winter (I had not stocked away like the ant). By the time spring rolled around I had decided to embrace my addiction. So In the spring of 2012 I went the route of so many other urban dwellers, I decided to grow a garden. It would be the most organically hippie garden in all of the District, fertilized by the tears of mother nature herself.
I had dreams of homemade tomato sauce that would last all through the winter; the healthiest tomato salads available. Of pizzas with the freshest herbs and tomatoes grown from my garden. I salivated over the thought of tomato salads topped with goat cheese. I even looked up how to make puttanesca sauce in addition to vodka sauce. I was super serious. People would see my garden, with all the different varieties of tomatoes and would shrivel up with envy. I would have enough tomatoes to feed the masses, host dinner parties, and possibly start a soup kitchen. My tomato based recipes would become the talk of the DC food scene.
I started out with 5 plants which I got for 10 dollars at the 1st and Rhode Island Farmers Market right beside the Big Bear Cafe. The varieties I got are as follows: Big Rainbow, Green Zebra, Striped German, Kentucky Beefsteak, and Jubilee. I purchased moisture retaining oil and buckets to house my plants. All in All i must have spent at least 60.00 on my urban garden. To date all but two of the original plants have shriveled up into dried out husks. The only two plants that thrived were the Big Rainbow and the Kentucky Beefsteak. I’ve replaced the other plants at least 2x each. I use the term thrive loosely, because to date none of the plants have produced even a single tomatoes. I’ve got flowers galore, but no tomatoes. My aspirations as an urban garden were quickly redefined as delusions.
I was stubborn throughout most of the summer, I refused to buy even the most succulent heirloom tomato. I stayed away from booths selling tomatoes. I even refused to try samples. But this past weekend I broke. I went through the market picking up every tomato that looked even slightly palatable.
My downfall was the internet; more specifically the Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe from 101 Cookbooks. One look at the picture and I was done for. I would do anything that have that in my life and on my taste buds. I gathered all of the ingredients, not too much deviation. I wanted to enjoy the salad in all of its splendor without too many alterations.
Heirloom Tomato Salad Ingredients
Lemon Olive Oil
Rosemary Olive Loaf
Here’s what I did:
First off I didn’t use the measurements in the recipe so bear with me.
1. 6 tomatoes – halved
2. toss 1/2 with olive oil, sugar, and sea salt
3. Cut 4 Garlic Cloves in half
4. place halved tomatoes and garlic cloves on a pan and cook at 375 degrees – stays in for 45 – 60 min
5. Scallions: for garnish
6. put a bit of lemon basil, and 1/4 of a thinly sliced onion, and 2Tbs of Capers into a sauce pot and cook on low ( I added cayenne pepper for kick, but not enough because I couldn’t taste it – back to the drawing board on heat)
7. Once the tomatoes are done roasting – throw them into a bowl, with the un-roasted tomatoes & the caper onion mix.
8. Toss everything together and garnish with goat cheese and sliced onions.
——— If you stop here, you’ll have a fabulous salad. You’ll wonder where this salad has been all of your life. If you keep going, you’ll have an epiphany.
While at the market I saw the most perfect loaf of bread, that begged me to take it home with me. So I became the proud owner of a rosemary olive loaf. The same thing happened with the chicken pate at whole foods. These items were lonely and begging for a home (in my belly, but all the same)
9. Toast the Rosemary Olive loaf
10. Spread pate on the Rosemary Olive loaf.
11. Top with a Fried Egg
12. Attempt to eat without moaning (I dare you)
So things I’ll probably do different in the future: cut way back on the oil (I don’t care if it is olive) – that’s about it. This salad was like nothing I had ever had in my life before. Life changing.
While my plans for an amazing cost effective urban garden went amazingly awry, I’m going to attempt to salvage my summer plans with tomatoes from the local farmers markets.