This time of year, the garden mostly dictates what we cook. A welcome snap of heat brought us early tomatoes and green beans, now we need to use them. The tomatoes are easy; the green beans are a bit more of a challenge. Let’s start with the tomatoes.
Our first tomatoes, the sweet 100s came in and are exactly as you expect, small and sweet. We also got our hands on some early heirlooms, big, sweet and juicy. For the larger tomatoes we usually make Caprese salads, just with an extra dash of balsamic and olive oil. But we also enjoy this “steak house” tomato salad. The recipe is a combination of the onion and tomato salad from the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York and a recipe from Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles.
It is a simple combination of ripe tomatoes (otherwise don’t bother), sweet onion, blue cheese and herb vinaigrette. But the flavors really do sing and are much richer than a Caprese salad. The sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes and onions match well with the rich, tangy blue cheese, while the herb vinaigrette adds tart and earthy flavors. And the mix of soft, crisp and creamy textures make for an excellent overall dish.
Making the salad couldn’t be easier, but a few quick tips that will improve the overall dish. Simply slice the tomatoes and onions, but soak the onion slices in cold water for a few minutes before assembling the dish- they will be crisper and have less heat. Also slice the herbs and make the vinaigrette at the last-minute. The herbs will not discolor and the presentation will really pop. And this dish looks as good as it tastes.
As for the green beans, they are more of a challenge. Their flavor is often very “green” and vegetal, and their texture can sometimes be leathery. The small, young beans are often the best, but our beans ripen unevenly and we tend to have a mix of large and small beans. Happily we found a basic technique and adapted a recipe that makes the most of the green beans and is very tasty. Our green beans with chorizo and cherry tomatoes are so good, even our kids eat them. We consider that to be a success.