Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
Don’t mind the bumps, lobes and crazy patterns; there are countless shapes, colors and sizes of heirloom tomatoes, each variety delicious in its own right. Often open-pollinated and grown from nongenetically modified seeds, this breed of tomatoes usually packs more flavor — and story — than its hybridized relatives. Say hello to your best summer snack.
Heirloom tomatoes, now trendy, were once just tomatoes; today, we use the “heirloom” distinction to denote that these succulent fruits sprout from heirloom or heritage seeds, many of which have been passed down through generations and help preserve the food culture of bygone eras and peoples.
How to Prepare
Heirloom tomatoes are naturally flavorful, so the simpler you prepare them, the more you’ll enjoy their nuance. Straightforward salads such as a Caprese, as well as barely cooked pasta sauces, let innate flavor shine. Make these tomatoes the star of your meal and throw a few thick tomato steaks on the grill, or purée them into a bright and summery gazpacho.
What to Buy
No matter the variety, be sure to pick a tomato without openings or soft spots. Heirloom tomatoes tend to ripen faster than those grown from modified seeds, so look for a tomato that still feels firm, unless you plan on enjoying it that day. Store on a counter, never in a refrigerator, and for a couple days, at most.
Heirloom Tomato and Crab Salad
By David Dunlap of Maple & Pine
1 pound of jumbo lump crab meat
1 bunch of cilantro, de-stemmed
1 jalapeño pepper, diced and with seeds removed
1 small red onion, diced
1 bunch of scallions, sliced
½ cup of white quinoa
6 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
4 large corncobs, husks removed
1 tablespoon of cumin powder
1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2/3 cup of olive oil
2 ripe avocados
½ teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
½ cup of sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste
Place the cumin, 1/3 cup of lime juice and mustard in a mixing bowl and whisk together. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil. Slice the avocados in half, and place them, without pits or skins, in a blender. Add the Tabasco sauce, sour cream and remaining lime juice, and season with salt. Blend on high speed until purée becomes smooth. Place the quinoa, 1 quart of water and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart sauce pan and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Strain quinoa and allow to cool to room temperature. Prepare the corn on a grill, about 5 to 10 minutes total, rotating the corn to promote even charring. When done, use a knife to remove all kernels from the corncobs. In a large mixing bowl add the crab, corn, quinoa, onion, scallions, jalapeño and cilantro, then dress the salad with enough lime dressing to coat evenly. Place the sliced tomatoes on a plate and season with salt and pepper, and top with crab salad and a few dollops of avocado purée.