Early in the spring I would stop by the Sandy Springs Farmers Market in hopes of finding some large, red, juicy, local tomatoes. Because of last year’s bad weather in the south good tomatoes were very hard to come by. Heavy rains, freezing weather along with an early spring snow in south Florida prevented us from getting some great tomatoes. Yeah, sure local venders had tomatoes but they were not the tomatoes I am used to.
The tomatoes were never ripe and I refused to buy and sell them at the restaurant. We went weeks without them and I probabaly pissed off some servers and customers but I just could not sell those tomatoes. I had to wait. So when the markets opened up I rushed to the Sandy Springs Farmers Market. The market was on the way to work and I could stop by early in the morning to see what was available and what I could use on my menu that night.
After talking to Neil Taylor of Taylor Farms I realized that local tomatoes were not in season and are at their best mid July. He had a lot of winter vegetables like turnips, different color beets, butternut squash and greens, all organic. I did some research on Taylor Farms and decided to become friends with Neil Taylor and ended up fascinated with him and the work he does on his farm.
Last Saturday at the market I finally found some beautiful tomatoes. I was so excited and started thinking about my childhood and my mother taking me to the local farm in New Jersey to buy tomatoes. She would pick up a couple of large baskets of canning tomatoes or what actually were over ripe, large, gorgeous tomatoes. We would take them home and I would watch her wash them, remove the core and wedge them. She would take fresh basil from her garden and cut it with her scissors over the tomatoes. She would have me peel and slice the sweet onions she purchased and toss them with the tomatoes.
My mother would then add some of her good olive oil and balsamic vinegar along with fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. She would never let us enjoy the tomato salad until the next day. Letting the tomatoes sit over night in a cold refrigerator really made the salad and we could not wait until lunch the next day when she would place the salad in a large bowl and serve it to us.
At the restaurant I took the heirloom tomatoes I purchased and washed them. I love the different shapes and varieties and could not wait to sit down and enjoy them. I don’t know which cheese I like better, but decide to use the Maytag Blue cheese instead of fresh mozzarella. I placed the cheese on the plate, topped it with the heirloom tomato wedges, and sliced basil. A small drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction and extra virgin olive oil along with a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind of the pepper mill, I was ready!