I remember when I first started gardening and I had the bright idea that direct seeding tomatoes in the ground was the best idea. The plants were incredible and strong and the perfume they exuded made me want to bottle it. Have you ever rubbed a tomato plant just to smell? It’s worth it. The yields were nothing to be proud of but I had nearly a hundred plants so there were plenty of tomatoes, even with my poor gardening skills.
The memory of that summer and just too damned many tomatoes makes me very happy. This year there was not much of a garden and I’ve had to buy them but they’ve been tasting so great, I’m not very upset.
Recipe: Tomato, Royal Corona and Fried Bread Salad
1 pound heirloom tomatoes, gently chopped into cubes
1 cup Rancho Gordo Royal Corona beans, cooked and drained, broth reserved for another use
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Pineapple Vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 slices country bread, hand ripped into bite-sized pieces (crusts optional, but I like them)
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, basil or parsley, finely chopped.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix all of the ingredients except the bread and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Allow to sit for at least thirty minutes, up to two hours.
As the tomatoes rest, toss the bread with the remaining olive oil and spread out the bread on a flat tray or cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, checking and shaking the pan, every five minutes or so, until the croutons are well toasted.
10 minutes before serving, add the bread to the tomato salad. Some people like bread dense and soggy but I recommend about 10 minutes. The bread is soft but still has some bite to it.
Scatter fresh herbs over the top and serve.
Substitutions: Any of our creamy white beans would work with this. Try also Ayocote Blanco, Casoulet or Alubia Blanca if you don't have Royal Coronas on hand.
Looking for another twist? Try topping the salad with a pan-fried duck breast. Or two.
Regarding the smell of a tomato plant, the tomato leaf is the secret power behind many perfumes.