Seasonal Pantry: Sonoma County tomatoes stand out in these simple salads, sandwiches
Although there have been tomatoes at some of our farmers markets for a few weeks now, they are not local. The first Sonoma County tomatoes should be appearing soon, possibly as early as this weekend, from The Patch.
The Patch is Lazaro Calderon’s Sonoma-based farm, which he founded in 1996. The start of the 2019 season was wet and challenging and there were problems with tractors this year, too.
But the farm’s earliest tomatoes are nearly ready for harvest and that means we can enjoy our first BLTs of the season. In some years, we’ve waited until the end of July or even early August before our local crop was ready.
The Patch has a bounty of other crops as well, from beautiful red onions to carrots, zucchini and more. They attend several farmers markets a week, including the Wednesday and Friday markets (in the Luther Burbank Center parking lot) and the Sunday Sebastopol Market. They also have a farm stand, at 280 Second St. East, Sonoma, that is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When the first tomatoes ripen, some of us fall on them like we might fall on a pool of fresh water after a long drought. My favorite way to enjoy the very first tomato of the year is as I did in my step-grandfather’s garden. When I was given permission to pick one, I would cup my hand around it, give it a tug, and then sit down right there next to the vine. A sun-warmed tomato is one of the most satisfying, sensual and voluptuous moments the season offers us.
After that first indulgence, it’s time for tomato sandwiches and BLTs and Caprese salad. As the season continues we move on to all manner of tomato soups, salads, fresh salsas and sauces. Come fall, we start thinking about all types of preserving, from canning and freezing to drying and fermenting.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Instead, let’s get ready for those first love apples. If you eat meat, get some good bacon — Black Pig brand is local, from John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu — and slip into a supermarket for a small head of iceberg lettuce, essential for that first BLT. If you’re looking forward to the first Caprese salad of the year, make sure you have mozzarella fresca or burrata on hand, along with very fresh basil and good olive oil.
Today’s recipes, adapted from “The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes” (SkyHorse Publishing, 2015. $18.99), are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the season’s earliest tomatoes.
This simple Spanish dish is perfect on a hot night. Or hot morning, for that matter. It is served throughout much of Spain in bars, cafes and restaurants, which sometimes include thin slices of jamon serrano or chorizo alongside.
Pan Tomate (Spanish Tomato Toast)
Makes 2 servings
4 thick slices sourdough hearth bread, toasted or grilled until golden brown, wrapped in a towel to keep warm
2 large garlic cloves, cut in half crosswise
2 small ripe tomatoes, such as Early Girl or Shady Lady, cut in half through their equators
— Best-quality extra virgin olive oil