I can’t believe it. I hoped against hope. Crossed my fingers and toes that maybe, just maybe, I would actually get to eat some of my tomatoes this year.
Our end of the world is plagued by conditions that make growing tomatoes a challenge at best. The ocean and our (usually) plentiful rain mean that it is often too cool and damp for proper tomato action. The various blights and wilts are the bane of tomato growers the Pacific Northwest over. For myself, last year’s harvest ended up in a rotting green heap, consumed by blight after three straight days of late August rain. Pounds and pounds of would-be sweet, juicy flesh abandoned to the blight.
If you haven’t had blight before, you’re lucky. It is a swift and sure killer. More than 48 hours of damp, it is said, and you’re tomatoes will go kaput. It starts with black bruise-like spots on the stems and next thing you know you’re green tomatoes have a terrifying grey gross I don’t know what – that looks like its grown in the tomato from the inside out. Yuck.
I have heard all the so-called tricks. Keep them covered, don’t let the leaves get wet, keep the leaves trimmed so they don’t touch the dirt, spray with copper sulfide, spray with milk . . . Who knows if any of these things work. This year, I don’t care!
It is the August long weekend and the tomatoes are ripe! I can’t believe it. I rang in the momentous occasion by baking a ridiculous amount of very beautiful, very white bread. Heat wave be damed! Normally whole wheat is the order of the day in our house, but come tomato time, only fluffy, indulgent white will do. My glorious tomatoes demand an equally glorious resting place.
Apparently toasted tomatoes sandwiches aren’t a universal summertime treat – but they should be, darnit. If you haven’t been introduced, let me do the honours . . . .
First, bread. As mentioned, it should be white. This is no time to watch your waistline so just put that thought out of your head right now.
It should be homemade, or a remarkable facsimile.
It should have a light, chewy, melt in your mouth crumb, and a crunchy crust (but not Parisienne cut-the-roof-of-you-mouth baguette hard).
Here is my recipe of choice:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 3 3/4 cups of white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 13 fluid ounces water
Pour the water, which should be tepid into your mixing bowl. Add the yeast and stir, let sit a moment and then add salt. Add flour and go to! You have choices as to how to actually knead your bread. Personally, if I’m making a wack of bread, I’ll use the dough hook on my kitchen-aid stand mixer and finish the last bit of kneading by hand. Let the dough rest until doubled in size, folding it down and then allowing it to rise once more. Once it has done that, divide the dough in two and flatten each piece into a rectangle about an inch or so thick. Fold each one in thirds like a letter, pressing gently on the seams with the palm of your hand as you go. Pop it into a greased pan and let it rise again.
While it’s rising preheat your oven as hot as it can go. Do this with a pan on the bottom rack. Cast iron is best, but you can use any old baking pan. Once the oven is hot and your bread has doubled in size, pour a half cup of water into the hot pan and slide your bread in. The steam is the secret to a perfect crust. Bake for 10 minutes at the very hot temperature and then turn it down for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, to about 400 degrees. You know your bread is done when the top is the colour of golden honey and when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Resist the urge to devour it as soon as it comes out of the oven. Take a moment and let it cool and enjoy the best aromatherapy money can buy – a home that smells like fresh baked bread!
Next you need tomatoes. Homegrown or fresh from the farmer’s market. And for heaven’s sake don’t put them in the fridge. Pick a nice juicy beefsteak that smells lovely. Slice it thick and off you go. Here’s mine:
Notice the size. The bigger the tomato, the better suited for the sandwich. We don’t want any ity-bity things here, they’ll just pop right out as soon as you bite down. You want something with some heft to it!
And now, the assembly. Slice the bread thick and toast. Next mayo. Lots. (See above re: not watching your waistline.) Cracked black pepper. And then, if you are feeling decidedly decadent – Bacon. Good bacon. Thick cut bacon. Don’t be cheap; respect the tomato!
That’s all there is to it. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All three in tomato season! You will make a mess. Make like a girl guide and be prepared! That means lots of napkins and cold beers to wash it all down.
Tuck in and enjoy!