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I say tomato

Combine tomatoes with peaches for a surprising and refreshing salad.
TRR photos by Laura Silverman

September 23, 2015

Known as “love apple” when it was first introduced to Europe—most likely because of its alleged aphrodisiac qualities—the current name for this New World fruit derives from the Aztec xitomatl, meaning “plump thing with a navel.” The tomato, from its voluptuous contours to its sweetly fragrant juices, is rife with sensuality. Gorge on them while you can; many heirloom varieties are still abundant in kitchen gardens and at local farmers’ markets.

Arguably nothing is better than a tomato sandwich: two slices of delicious bread, not too thick and lightly toasted, slathered with mayonnaise and filled with sliced tomatoes. Aside from salt, anything else is gilding the lily, though there are vocal proponents of bacon and even avocado. Another classic is the Caprese salad, that ideal showcase for the tomato that calls for supporting slices of milky fresh mozzarella, judiciously placed leaves of basil and a few catalyzing swirls of extra-virgin olive oil. Italians also know the utter perfection of a tomato sauce that requires enough of that olive oil to make a creamy emulsion and a hint of garlic to cut through the lush sweetness. Blend yours and push it through a fine strainer for a silky smooth consistency that’s made to cloak pasta.

It’s no coincidence that a tomato’s ideal companions peak at the same time. Mix a fine dice of raw zucchini, shallots and fresh herbs with chopped tomato and lemon juice, then pile it all into a glass and top with a thick layer of mascarpone lightened with whipped egg white for the simple yet sophisticated French bistro staple known as a verrine. The ideal garnish? A slice of prosciutto crisped in a hot skillet adds the right salty crunch. In a smart move that shows you know the tomato is actually a fruit, pair it with wedges of peach for a salad that defies expectation. Add slivers of intoxicatingly aromatic Thai basil and lemon verbena, a bright splash of rice vinegar and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Serve this with steak or vanilla ice cream—or just keep it on the table throughout the entire meal.