Saturday, June 16, 2007
A Saturday tomato brunch
Tomato season is here! You can safely assume that I'm not talking about mealy hothouse tomatoes or even the tasty little Merinda variety from Sicily that has been available in France for the past few weeks. Today was the day that organic producer Pierre unveiled his tomato collection for the summer, and a few of his most loyal customers celebrated the event with a casual tomato brunch at 8.30am (the early bird catches the tomato in Nice).
Just a few of the 100 or so varieties that Pierre is cultivating were on display today, but this season looks like a promising one indeed. The géante de Renneberg (I'm not sure of the spelling) is an orangey-red tomato so big it seems to burst out of its seams. Cut into the ananas, or pineapple, and you'll discover yellow-pink hues reminiscent of a spring sunset. The green zebra tastes much sweeter than its striped skin suggests, creating beautiful contrast in a salad. There were also orange and yellow beefsteak tomatoes, the green-tinged noire de Crimée and a couple of others whose names I never learned as Pierre was so busy handling the flurry of customers.
For our brunch several kinds of tomatoes went into a giant salad drizzled with Alpes de Haute-Provence olive oil courtesy of Nadim and sprinkled with fleur de sel and torn basil leaves. We also had ewe's cheese from producer Jean-Luc, whose sheep are about to stop producing milk for the summer, a tomme de chèvre (hard goat's cheese) and fresh figs from Pierre's trees. No French picnic would be complete without wine and Pierre, in keeping with his open spirit, provided Australian Shiraz for the occasion (I noticed a pot-bellied local cop who appeared to be on duty indulging cheerfully).
At lunch I recreated the same salad - well, what else would I do with such colorful tomatoes? - embellishing it only with mozzarella di bufala. Sam and his little friend Quentin ate up every bit along with a few slices of silky Parma ham, and I was feeling proud of their good French palates until Quentin asked politely:
"So, can we go to McDonald's now?"