6/21/10

TOMATO!

When you work at a place that takes seasonal produce seriously (and doesn't do it for some diaphanous street cred or other such nonsense), you sincerely look forward to the seasons, because it means that you get totally different things. Mind you, if I asked, I'm sure our produce vendor would cheerfully provide us with everything we ask for regardless of the season, but we serve food here, not things that taste like the cardboard they're shipped in.

"But Dino", you say, "California is producing lovely things year round!" I'm sure they do, but when you also take things like locally sourced seriously (and again, not for bragging rights, but because you genuinely care about the distance your food has travelled), your choices begin to shrink. That being said, those ever-shrinking choices are intensely delicious. When vegetables are shipped long distances, there are a few things that must be sacrificed.

For one thing, ripeness is an issue. To ensure that the highest percentage shows up to your doorstep in the best condition possible, the vegetables are often picked long before they ripen. They're also genetically bred to produce food of a particular size, shape, and colour. Again, because the aesthetics are so important, something has to give. What gives? Flavour. The produce tastes horrible.

There are producers who take pains to ship the food rapidly, sending it overnight or some such. Unfortunately, that not only drives up the carbon footprint of that food to grotesque levels, but it also makes it prohibitively expensive. When there is so much delicious, bountiful produce right at our doorsteps (virtually) in New Jersey and New York, why should we consume food that gets shipped from so far?

So it is with the utmost of pleasure that I announce the first order of tomatoes. You can smell the sun on their skin. They're oddly shaped, but ever so delicious. Boss Man wants to roast them in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt, then combine them with roasted fennel bulbs, and then finished off with herbs. I want to do them up with lime juice, olive oil, avocado, cucumber, and the roasted fennel bulbs. We both want to eat them with a sprinkle of salt, to "taste test" and ensure the highest quality food is going out to our customers.

I truly feel like the shackles of winter have been cast aside when I see juicy, red, ripe, fresh tomatoes in front of me. Their scent is intoxicating, and makes my mouth sing in anticipation. And then there's all the flavours that treat tomatoes so well. There are times when I'm at home, and I'll just rub a baguette with some garlic, and sprinkle on a light bit of olive oil (I have one of those misting contraptions that lets me get a fine mist onto the bread). Then I slice up some tomatoes, nice and thick, and top the whole do off with finely sliced basil. And of course, a generous grinding of fresh black pepper and a good healthy sprinking of coarse kosher salt or sea salt (also freshly ground) and I'm in heaven.

I want summer to be all year long, so that I can enjoy the bounty of the earth, but I know that such is not to be. That just means that I'll have to savour my treasures that much more, until we get into the autumn, with all its lovely vegetables.
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