Tomatoes Make Everything Taste Better/Eat Local Tomatoes Now
You Sell That, Now?
I like Eataly, our new Italian mega-store in River North. They are especially strong in salumi and related cured meats. The bread is in the top five in a city going through a huge renaissance in quality bread (subject of a post hopefully soon), and their gelato is the best in a city that I wish was going through a better ice cream renaissance. And don’t get me started on the Italian candies. I’m wasting hundreds of dollars on this addiction. One thing I am not getting at Eataly is tomatoes. A few weeks ago, the best they could do was the lab grown “vine-ripened” offenders pictured. On a more recent visit, they had other tomatoes, ones whose roots touched the earth, but believe you-me-both, they were not worth the time or the money. I think I might create some kind of decal or pin to slap offenders who serve rotten tomatoes this time of year. For instance, take Boston Seafood in Des Plaines, you may be my favorite restaurant of the moment, you fry up so well, your mess of lake fish, but how, my friends, can you offer a “village” salad with those tomatoes? Cannot we all find good tomatoes right now?
Surely eating a bursting, sweet-tart, seasonal tomato is its own pleasure, but the beauty of tomatoes, their real impact, the reason I love eating this time of year, the reason I would never dare get a tomato with a sticker on it is that tomatoes make everything taste better.
Do you know how much better lox tastes when it’s hand sliced? Do you know what lox is? What’s above is sold as lox but it’s not. It’s smoked salmon. A/k/a Nova. Or Novy if you’re Morey Amsterdam. No one knows anymore from lox, the cured stuff. The stuff that’s so salty you need to eat it with cream cheese to cut the saline intensity. We all get smoked salmon. But I’m digressing. You know what makes a lox and bagel sandwich better, even when it’s not lox but smoked salmon, a good, in season tomato. Not just salmon. A schmear of whitefish salad, a chunk of sable, trout, they all taste better with tomato.
How many fressers know what lox is and know what a frezzelle is? You have to live in a place like I do, near the Parks, Melrose and Elmwood. Who else eats frezzelle. It’s like an Italian bagel, no–that’s kinda what they look like. You still use tomatoes. To make your own frezzelle you need two things. First, access to a grocery that carries these frezzelles. Second, you have to know that they need the briefest splash of water to become usable. Not too much or they become soggy. Not too little unless you’re teething. The highest purpose of a frezzelle is to soak up the juices of your best summer fruit. It’s also an example of the marriage between tomatoes and cheese. Blue cheese and tomatoes, a classic. Stick a tomato between slices of grilled cheese, classic too. Need another idea. Try spreading fresh sheep milk’s cheese on your tomatoes. Thank me after you’ve found the fresh sheep’s milk (hint, try a Polish grocery).
Is there any bit of summer bounty better served for putting away than tomatoes? As I recycled this week on the Beet, there are many ways to put away tomatoes and many ways to use your put away tomatoes. Still, don’t you just want to eat ‘em now. Make yourself a Greek salad, a Turkish breakfast, or just add them to whatever else is on your mind. It will make everything taste better. As long as it’s a real tomato.