As the buyer for both our non-perishables department and the produce department, I have the double pleasure of having access to some of the greatest ingredients in the world and amazing seasonal fruit and vegetables. As apples come into season in the fall, I’m cutting them up and dipping them in dulce de leche – a sweet milk caramel from Argentina. In the colder months, its all about roasting winter veggies and drizzling them with oil and aged balsamic vinegar. And now that summer is here, its time to talk tomatoes.
My grandfather used to eat tomatoes like apples – straight out of the garden. Often he would sprinkle them with a pinch of sea salt or fry up some bacon and tear off a couple of pieces of lettuce to make a “dagwood” (which always confused me because it made me think of the cartoon character, not the sandwich of massive proportions). There was such a sensory connection between tomatoes coming into season and my grandfather’s house that it prompted me to start asking around for other memories. It seems that everyone has a tomato story that reminds them of the arrival of warmer days. Johnny Z., our cheese guru at the Center City Di Bruno Bros., talks about the way that his grandmother would take crusty bread and toast it. She would then brush some good, fruity olive oil on it, split a tomato and rub it onto the bread. Then they would take cheese, usually a sharp, tangy pecorino like Moliterno or Fiore Sardo and shave off pieces onto the bread.
Other stories involving tomatoes have equally inspiring suggestions for their use. A friend from southwest Spain told me that her grandmother used to make an incredible tomato salad that consisted simply of cubed pieces of day-old bread, black olives, black pepper and wonderfully ripe tomatoes. Dressed with olive oil – in this case, I would probably use Marques de Valdueza from Extremadura – and with a splash of sherry vinegar, the thought of this salad put a smile on my friend’s face. And mine too – after I made it that night!
The list could go on and on – from slicing up fresh tomatoes and our burrata (a fresh Italian cheese with mozzarella and cream on the inside and firm mozzarella on the outside) with Taggiasca olives, fresh basil, pine nuts, aged balsamic vinegar (Campari comes to mind…) and a great olive oil to simply eating tomatoes raw from the store with some Maldon sea salt sprinkles and a pinch of cracked black pepper – but I think the message is simply: food ties us to our family, to special people and places in our lives and its never too late to eat and reminisce or to start your own new food traditions. We love to share our passion for food at Di Bruno Bros. – we’ll tell you about our family and our food stories and we look forward to hearing your comments on Queso – Files!