For the past month or so, I have been craving fresh tomato sandwiches.
If you are from the South, you know the ones I’m talking about. Fresh, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, white bread, sliced tomatoes, a dash of salt, and a good coat of Blue Plate mayonnaise. Award-winning cartoonist Marshall Ramsey called them “Sink Sandwiches,” because they are so juicy you are forced to eat them over the kitchen sink.
My grandfather, Charlie Sexton, grew the best tomatoes, and I have yet to find any to rival his Big Boys. Growing up, my mother would ask my sisters and me to run to the garden and pick fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions to serve with dinner. I remember them still being warm from the sunshine and tasting like a summer’s day.
Tomatoes are a Southern staple when they are in season. Stewed or chopped or roasted or grilled, tomatoes always add a little something to a dish. And the best thing, they can be eaten at every meal. One of my favorite ways to eat a tomato is at breakfast with eggs over easy. The mixture of the runny yolk and tomato juice is fantastic.
Another good way to eat them by simply slicing them. My family always ate ours with a dab of Blue Plate mayonnaise on top. They are wonderful paired with black eyed peas and cornbread.
My mother, Dot Sexton, marinated cucumbers, red onions, and fresh tomatoes in white vinegar, and even as small children, for my sisters and me, this was a favorite dish.
Marinated Tomato Cucumber Salad
Approximately 3 cups peeled and sliced cucumbers
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into chunks
⅓ cup chopped red onion
Mix vegetables in a covered bowl and pour vinegar until vegetables are just covered. Set for several hours to overnight before serving.
For those who enjoy grilling in the summer, this Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad is a fantastic side dish.
Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad
2 cups cooked corn, fresh or frozen
1-2 avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine the corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion in a large glass bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in another bowl, pour over the salad, and gently toss to mix. Chill salad for an hour or two to let flavors blend.
When I first moved to Winona, Mildred Fondren invited me over for a luncheon of Tomato Pie and an assortment of fresh vegetables from her garden. I have never had tomato pie, but it is surely one of the best things this side of heaven.
1 – 9-inch pie shell
5 to 6 large tomatoes, sliced thin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices of bacon, cooked hard and crumbled
Bake pie shell for 10 to 15 minutes.
Wash and slice the tomatoes. Skin and slice the tomatoes and layer them on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Season the sliced tomatoes with the salt and pepper. Allow the tomatoes to drain on the paper towels for 30 minutes to an hour. Pat the tomatoes to remove moisture. Get as much moisture out of the tomatoes as possible.
Layer the tomatoes in the bottom of the pre-cooked pie crust. Add half of the crumbled bacon on top of the layered tomatoes. Put the second layer of sliced tomatoes on top of the bacon. Top the second layer of sliced tomatoes with the rest of the bacon. Mix the Mayo, cheese, and herbs. Add the mixture to the top of the tomato pie. The mixture will be thick. Spread the mixture to cover the entire pie. You may want to use your hands.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Do not cut this pie hot. Allow this pie to completely cool.
The first time I had Caprese Salad was in a tiny Italian restaurant in New Orleans. My best friend, Heather Burnett, and I drove down for the weekend for shopping and ghost tours. Not betting on the crowds at restaurants the tourist flock to, we found a restaurant that was off the beaten path, and to this day, it was the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten.
4 - 5 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 pound fresh Italian or Buffalo mozzarella, cut into cubes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
10 - 15 large fresh basil leaves (to taste)
Italian sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh Italian bread
Toss together the tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Tear the basil into large pieces and toss into the salad. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.