Last week, while driving down our street towards our apartment, I noticed that our tomato plants had begun to grow off the side of the balcony, and while after many years of failed attempts to grow tomatoes, I never thought this to be our fate. But there is such as thing as the tomato plant that keeps growing - he said. We planted 6, 2 in container pots, and the other 4 in a raised bed. I planted one San Marzano, 2 heirlooms, and one Early Girl in the cool moist soil of the raised bed. Three of the plants I purchased at the flower shop, while the Early Girl was bought from a merchant at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market, who claimed she had some amazing tomato plants that kept on giving. I see her occasionally at the store, on her bike. I am a bit hesitant to say hi, only knowing her as that tomato lady. Some days I wish I was that girl. The one who can think of the right things to say at the right time.
Growing tomatoes is new to me. This year, I've taken the approach of planting the most exotic varieties, and ogling in amazement when they start to produce atypical fruit, and then blasting them with soapy water when I start to see tiny little bite size holes in their leaves. Already, I've been amazed with my purple peppers, yellow chard, and rainbow colored carrots - cabbage worms, leaf miners, and aphids. The most exotic tomatoes have yet to bear any colored fruit, they are all still in their under ripe green stage My Early Girl plant, little did I know at the time of purchase, is an indeterminate, meaning as long as it has room, it will keep growing and growing. Each week, I have to hack away a few branches, and I weep a little each time. And then I am left with a lingering tomato smell on my hands, to remind me what I had to do. If I let her have her own way, we would have tomatoes trailing down the side of the building, great for me, but less so for that innocent pedestrian unknowingly playing the game of Russian roulette every time he/she walks under our balcony. I read somewhere that each Early Girl plant can produce up to 300 tomatoes per season!
Let me be honest with you. I'm kinda addicted to tomatoes, and I'm a little worried that I am slightly malnourished in other areas of my diet due to this obsession. They are so colorful and juicy and amazing and I could scream with excitement every time I take a bite, and if that bite is with a little salt, some avocado, or cheese, I am probably on the brink of losing my shit. It's like my taste buds were hardwired to explode every time the juice hits my tongue. In another life, I am certain that I was a tomato farmer.
These beautiful heirloom tomatoes that I picked up at the market, have been ripening on my window sill for a few days. At their exact point of combustion, the point when the juice is at its maximum capacity, and as soon as you slide your knife through and it gushes, I chopped them up, along with some avocado, and thought about eating them as is. The more rational side of me, determined to get a little protein in this meal, I made some accompanying beans and rice. I cut some basil from the garden, and tossed it in. I made a simple dressing, one that can be poured on just about anything. It's creamy, and flavorful. A great montage of flavors. Often, I like to cut up a few veggies, and use it as a dip. A cup of créme fraîche, one garlic cloves, and a handful of chives from the garden. When I was growing up, we used to eat chives on everything, and I have carried this traditional throughout my years. A few sprinkled on top of a baked potato, sprinkled on salad, in pasta, sauces. It adds the most interesting flavor, cross between a shallot and green onion. And chive blossoms are the prettiest little flowers I've ever seen.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND AVOCADO RICE AND BLACK BEAN BOWL WITH GARLIC CHIVE CREME FRAICHE
makes 2 servings
1 cup of dry brown rice
15 oz can of black beans rinsed and drained
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped
salt, pepper, and chili flakes
1 cup creme fresh
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup chopped chives
3 - 4 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
I used long grain brown rice for this recipe, because I prefer the nutty flavor and chewy texture, however white rice, couscous, and quinoa are all great options. Cook whichever grain you decide as per appropriate cooking method, and then let cool.
Rinse and drain the black beans, or if you are using cooked beans, let them cool. Wash and chop the basil leaves. Place the rice, black beans, and basil into a bowl. Toss and season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
In a blender or food processor, add the créme fraîche, garlic clove, and chopped chives. Add a few tablespoons of water if you need to thin out the dressing. It should be a pourable consistency. Pulse until combined. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Scoop a serving of rice and beans, chopped tomatoes, and chopped avocado onto a plate and then drizzle with the créme fraîche dressing. Season with salt and pepper.