Deep inside, I know that autumn has officially arrived. The weather has cooled off considerably here in Portland and the markets are full of squash and new crop apples. But my mind — and stomach — aren’t quite ready to let go of summer.
And one of my favorite things about the late summer months in Oregon are the perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes.
I can even tell you a story about how great these tomatoes are. Growing up I hated tomatoes. Oh sure, I loved marinara sauce but fresh tomatoes were not a part of my diet. I picked them off of hamburgers and out of sandwiches for years. Even in college I gave serious side-eye to people who ate cherry tomatoes by the handful. I just didn’t get it.
Then I moved to Oregon and started cooking at a little family run restaurant in the industrial/art area of NW Portland (now the luxe Pearl District). I remember walking to the Farmers Market with the head chef/owner and watching as she bought a flat of pristine sungolds.
She popped one in her mouth and, smiling, offered me one. To be polite, I ate it.
It was juicy and sweet with just a teeny tiny bit of tart. Warm from the sun, it absolutely spoke of summer.
That’s when it hit me: I didn’t dislike tomatoes, I just disliked bad tomatoes. And every tomato that was shipped by barge to Kodiak, Alaska (where I grew up) was a bad tomato.
So now I am someone who eagerly awaits tomato season and eats sungolds by the handful. In fact this year I bought four tomato plants and have been dining on home grown early girls and sungolds for the past two months.
However, as the weeks of tomato season progressed, I finally grew bored with raw tomatoes with salt and Caprese salads and decided to mix things up a bit with some new dishes. And since I’ve been neglecting my cooking magazines recently (this summer was just too busy!) I decided to make the September cover recipe from Food & Wine.
The recipe is from chef David Chang so I knew it would be good and I loved how easy the preparation sounded, simply puree some tomatoes and fix the accoutrements, the most labor-intensive of which required a little sautéing.
The mix of flavors was superb — it’s almost like Greek salad with the feta, olives and cucumber. The onions add some depth and the greens make it some of a meal. It’s both easy to make and satisfying to eat, which I think can be a tricky combination to achieve.
The other nice thing about this recipe is that it’s a cinch to adjust the portion size. If you only have a couple of tomatoes left on your plants, cut the recipe in half. Or if you score big on the last crop at the Farmers Market, double it up.
And as you eat, remember all the fun you had this summer — hopefully those memories will make seeing the Halloween candy in stores almost bearable!